All I Know is Love

Feeling grateful after I finished a major project for her, my supervisor (bless her heart) told me to spend the afternoon doing whatever I wanted with my time.  No surprise, I chose to write.  Posed at the keyboard and ready for whatever topic entered my mind, I felt a bit of lingering sadness in the air from the conversations surrounding the Las Vegas tragedy earlier in the week.  Thinking about this and other situations that have no answer for the “Why?” question, the following poem came to me.   Being inspired to write poetry is rare for me, and what I compose I rarely share.  Yet as the words poured out on the paper, they soothed me, so I felt the urge to post.

Peaceful weekend, everyone.


All I can do is love.
I cancelled the cable, gave away the television, limit Wifi.
The incoming media was stifling the voice of my inner spirit.
Of course, the stories still get relayed via the grapevine.
I have no power to stop the terrorists, mass shooters; the violence.
Yet I am able to make the choice to love, so I do.

I am aware of the lawsuits, mistrust, diseases, disposable relationships, unrest.
Some in my closest circles are hurting each other; themselves.
I put them in their light and help when I am able.
And always shower them with love. 

It is my desire and nature to bring smiles into another’s day;
kind words and deeds to friends and strangers.
Steering away from the politics and drama not in my control;
pushing forever forward on a path of joy.
Some call me ignorant, blind, living with my head in the sand.
Because I choose to see the beauty on the Earth; in this life.
And seek out those who know it too.
Because all we know is love.

Big love, little love, feel love, live love, spread love.
It is all my intuitive self leads me to do.
Lost in a world sometimes alone not knowing where to begin.
I remember that starting with love is always a good place.
So I manage to find a way.

Lead Follow or Get Out of the Way

Before my father passed away in his sleep at the tender age of 55, one of his favorite things to say was, “lead, follow or get out of the way.” I hear Dad repeating that as I venture down the road of eternal happiness. This trail is often conceptualized as one that is reserved for the afterlife and doesn’t exist on earth. Yet I’ve found it here, and though it is not frequently traveled, it’s a great place to be, even if it’s off the beaten path of our culture. When I first arrived on this road, I found it was a journey ridden with many bumps. Once I persisted however, the road smoothed out and became very scenic, filled with beautiful curves between breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, rolling hills and valleys, mountains and forests.   As I walk along now, I enjoy magic revealed as the curves unfold when I slowly and deliberately approach them fearlessly. Other happy hikers have led me here. Some I know personally, mentors coaches, healers, friends. Others are strangers who are likeminded and touch me through their words. All know this “secret” journey, and we are willing to share with those open enough to learn of it. This road can only be entered via a personal portal when one is ready to desire and believe.

There are many others who share this highway, some newly arrived needing help with their direction. They simply require some roadside service in the form of reassurance. Those are the ones who stumble as I once did and need encouragement in the form of guidance; instruction as to how to fine-tune their personal navigation systems. They do not know that they are perfectly equipped to attune to their intuitive selves, yet with practice they figure this out. Their backpacks are heavier; in the process of getting lighter. When they come into my path now, I hold their hands and point until they discover and break free on their own with a sparkle in their eye and smile on their face. You can tell when the parachute has kicked in and they find their way. They become confident travelers.

There are also those who protest and block the road. They hold up banners that say, “Let me tell you about how much life sucks” or get stuck in the deepest potholes of complaining, dwelling on circumstances or insisting that being happy all the time is not only not a passable route; it is a dead end. These are the people that you wish to tell to get out of the way so the rest of us who have found a way to be there can get by, yet our happiness does not let us know that meanness, so we give a smile and a wave and keep on going. After all, many of us have been there too. We who are busy walking this journey simply step around them and continue on. We remember the time when we were so caught up in what was holding up our lives that we could not find the easy way out that was always available in the form of people, resources, options. Fear is a strong barricade.

The nice thing about travelling up this road is that the further along you go, the more you realize there is no turning back. The belief that this is indeed a real route paved to paradise stays with you and is reinforced by those you meet along your journey. Not only is it viable, it is the only one. Why would you ever go back to where you were when this joyous journey to which you have aspired has always been calling you; paved by that which makes you uniquely amused.

On this road of life, I lead in love, but consider myself more of a follower, of my heart of my dreams, of my intuition. I wonder what Dad would’ve thought about that. He seemed like a pretty happy guy. Only seventeen when he passed, I’m in my fifties now and it took a long time to arrive on this road. He’s a constant companion now, his spirit close to my heart.   As I travel, I want to shout out, “Lead, follow or get out of the way,” because I am motivated to always move forward. But I whisper it instead, walking slowly to enjoy the company and the view.

Relaxing on Gratitude Day

From the Sanctuary:

The Universe has been kind this week, delivering a perfect fit job offer, which I enthusiastically accepted. Since receiving my nonrenewal notice from my employer a year ago, I’ve been part of a job search that I can only describe as humor filled. I’ve hit the submit button on so many different systems that I am almost hesitant now to click that captcha that reads, “I am not a robot,” seriously wondering whether I have become one.  I’ve had a Skype interview for a position down the hall, and a phone interview with a committee of five that was limited to ten minutes and one speedy question from each member that ended midway through a sentence with their declaration of, “Time’s up!”  I’ve received more electronic rejections for jobs I haven’t applied to than ones I have.  Bottom line, I persisted and prevailed.

During the process, I knew the Universe had a better plan waiting for me and all I had to do was be patient; ready to receive.  I will be working to serve the teen and young adult population I have grown to love during my career. In addition, I will also be working with refugees desiring to learn English and adult learners wanting to return to school. It is the perfect opportunity for me to exercise my passion to encourage and serve others.

To celebrate, I spend a contemplative Sunday of Thanks in the Sanctuary. Trust. Believe. Allow. Receive. Today it’s time to rejoice and receive. I look around and embrace the peace of understanding that if I just throw my desires out there and let myself be guided, they will manifest. I think this as I spend time interacting with nature’s late summer visitors. Grasshoppers, stink bugs and crane flies dot the screen of my enclosed porch. Henrietta, our resident giant garter snake rustles through the garden below, much to Baby Chewy’s (my kitty) delight.   After awhile, I grow uncomfortable in my seat, so I impulsively grab a beach towel and lie down on the deck sprawled out on my back like I used to as a teenager.  I let the sunshine warm my smiling face and meditate. I am overwhelmed by the gift of this new opportunity, which lines up intuitively with my vocational path.

After a time, the English Retriever grows restless, wanting to move, so I get up and take him to the creek. The water is quiet today and clear, revealing the smooth stones on the brown bottom; water skimmers on the top. We walk to the edge of the nearby field, which is alive with flowers, butterflies and buzzers. On the return trip, I notice the dandelions in blower form standing out from the manicured grass. Part of me wants to pick one and make a wish, yet I spare them knowing that there is nothing at this moment to wish for; today is a day centered on gratitude.  Tomorrow perhaps I will focus on those wishes and beliefs…the next book to be published, a White Jeep transport for my developing Capture Life nonprofit, a new creek bridge for the Sanctuary.  There’s always something to desire, but everything has its time.  For the moment I simply admire the sparkle and stature of the dandelions, leaving them to thrive in the grass.

Overall, this weekend has been a blast. Front row seats for a magic show Friday where the illusionist made my “Believe” ring disappear from a rope and reappear in his back pocket. Bonus, I was with a friend and her grandson who was picked to assist on stage, a thrill which he will likely never forget, judging from the smile on his face. Saturday brought an invitation from Son to attend the monster truck/demo derby event at the local racetrack. This wasn’t on my bucket list, yet I indulged and was impressed by those Big Boy Toys and the extensive education my own Big Boy enlightened me with about how they are built and run, so I add this to my list of spontaneous surprisingly awesome life moments instead.

As I close out Sunday’s sunset in the Sanctuary, I admire the word art facing me in my corner garden. “RELAX” is all the sculptured metal letters spell.  It is enough.  The deer come as dusk settles in and the last rays of the day penetrate the space between the slats of the fence behind it. I obey the message, trusting that the Universe is cradling, protecting and caring for me, rocking me gently into the approaching darkness.

Can’t wait to start the new position.

Shifting with the Wind

From the Sanctuary:

The wind is blowing heavily on this eighty-degree Labor Day—the Universe is working overtime as I like to observe, shifting the world to our liking.  It is playfully knocking over the plants on my deck, empty soda bottles in my kitchen and banging my screen door.   I go outside to soak in the accompanying sunshine and as I’m sitting there with my notebook, a gust lifts my patio table umbrella two inches up from its base.  I’m marveling at this feat when suddenly, not only does the umbrella pole lift again, but rises up through the hole in the table, clear across the yard, taking the umbrella with it.  I yell and giggle and chase it, grabbing it before it can hop the fence and land in the creek.

Once it is tamed, I sit back down to enjoy the wind through my hair and write.  In the Sanctuary today, the late summer shows its natural shift.  The bees are pollinating the yellow flowers in my butterfly garden and the jewelweed cluster that popped up in the midst of my fading lilies.  The goldenrod is up now bordering the field and grasshoppers are perched on the fence posts clinging in the wind.  I inspect the remnants of my garden from the summer.  A few petunias are still blooming from the hanging plants, and parsley, thyme and basil are thriving for my recipes from May’s farmer’s market and the peppers are there.  Ahhh yes, the peppers…six plants (three in pots, three in the garden) that are still six inches high.  I acquired them too from the May farmer’s market and, they have remained green and healthy.  However, they have not grown a centimeter or produced a single pepper since I transplanted them all those months ago.  Mother Nature’s reminder that she is still in charge.

As the wind shifts, I think of the reflecting shift in my life.  There is change happening in the form of a vast uncertainty and I’m facing that with a courage and vulnerability I have not known that I possessed until now.  I’ve said this enough through my decades in my roles as a Mom and as a coach to thousands of college students, “You have the ability and potential to choose any path in your life.  Do it according to your own values, virtues and unique definition of happiness.  Find your truth and live it.”  In the case of my children, I wanted them to find this based on their own standards, not mine or the world’s.  In conversations with my students, it was the same, except I would remind them not to limit their future pursuits based solely on their academics, consider their desires.

As time winds down on my structured career, it is time to follow my own heart and words; to expand my comfort zone beyond home and University into a world that so needs love, hope, kindness and joy right now.  Having just finished my memoir (my greatest gift as a writer) I have discovered that I have an overabundance of all of those from others, plenty to give away and still keep.  As a result, I realize just how much there is to share.  Reconciliation of the Heart will be my owner’s manual and Capture Life Writing, my nonprofit organization, my vehicle.

Moving forward with both is exciting.  Trust. Believe. Allow.  Receive.  Shifting with the wind, I’m taking off to and reaching the stars understanding that the Universe will meet me half way.   Time to put the umbrella away on this Labor Day and focus on what really matters; helping others.

Wishing you courage, joy and love in your own endeavors.

Celebrating All Nature’s Miracles

From the Sanctuary:

Sitting in the lanai at sunset, pen in hand, enjoying the stillness and quiet of the evening with the relaxing colors of the horizon as a backdrop.

The afternoon’s eclipse hype has passed.   I enjoyed a fun day with friends picnicking on the grounds of a nearby college campus with thousands of other people under the playful sun, sharing the purpose of witnessing one of nature’s miracles.   The crowd is much bigger than anticipated, so the free supply of cardboard viewing glasses gets dispersed long before we arrive.  No worries, we are prepared with our geeky empty cereal boxes, manipulated per Youtube instructions with scissors and duct tape.   We have no idea how to use these.  Thankfully, everyone is friendly here, sharing glasses, telescopes, boxes, texted photos from other vantage points around the U.S. and conversation.  There is joy in the air.

As the moon works its way in front of the sun, it creates a crescent shape that reminds me of a smile.  I imagine that the Universe, glancing down upon these thousands of people staring up, is thinking in a content, happy sort of way, “At last, I have their attention.”  Even more so when at peek time a collective cheer erupts in celebration.  The humans are pleased as well.  It is like a ritual.

At one point my friends head to the telescope line and I stay back on the blanket to babysit our belongings.  I smile as I people watch with pleasure, and contemplate.  Yes, the Universe has their attention now, yet the miracles that nature provides should not be limited to occasions that occur every few years.  They happen every second of every hour of every day.  The birth of babies, a minute seed pushing through and sprouting from its smothering soil, a shooting star, a spider spinning a designer web.  One walk on any path or under a starry sky is all it takes to encounter one if we choose to take the time.  My friends return and I take my turn at the telescopes, marveling at the close up view of the sunspots.  Shortly thereafter, when the crowd disperses, my co-spectators and I make a stop to raise a glass to the day, friends and nature.

I return home to a quiet empty house and the peace of my lanai, and as always, a desire to write about it.   There is a disturbance in the tall branches above me as a large bird lands.  A majestic red tail hawk comes to visit.  He jumps to a nearby dead pine tree and then to a live one.  When I lean forward more closely to admire his amazing stature, I frighten him, and he swoops away into the dusk.  A few moments later Mama deer brings her baby out to feed.  I love that she trusts enough now to allow me a close look and to speak softly to her.  I thank her for the family visit and she looks up at me as always, in caution before continuing to feast on the grass.  The sun is below the horizon now, leaving behind the deep darkening blue that brings out the bats and allows the stars to present themselves one by one.  Baby deer feeds from Mama and their silhouette against that blue has me put down my pen for a bit just to inhale and savor the scene.

Ah yes, the Universe is full of magical moments, and I’m grateful that my today, as always, was so gifted with them.



Nature’s Omens and the Armoire


This weekend for the first of my two days off I chose to avoid crabby grocery shoppers and take the Saturday morning 30-minute drive to interact with other joyful writers at my Writing and Well Being workshop. A few miles into the journey, I noticed the katydid clinging to my passenger mirror as I sped sixty miles an hour down the highway.   It was still there when I reach the parking lot, so I got out for a closer inspection. He/she was two inches long from start to finish; a stunning lime green with bright lemon yellow eyes and svelte legs and antennae. He/she looked up at me as if to say, “Thanks for the ride, loved the adventure.” Astounded by her persistence, I greeted her with a polite, “Hello there, Baby,” and headed to class.

When I came out two hours later, this amazing creature was still there. I chose scenery and a roundabout ride for the route home, along the Niagara River. Construction brought an unexpected delay of thirty minutes. Katydid minded not, holding on for the duration and still when I pulled into the driveway. I greeted her (my eventual gender assumption based on her level of patience) again before heading into the house, seriously doubting whether she would ever bother to use her legs again now that she had discovered her own personal, effortless Uber.

An hour later when my son returned home, I noticed that she had moved to the backside of the mirror, so I intercepted him on the sidewalk to introduce him. Impressed both by her story and beauty, he photographed her. By now it had been six hours since she followed me home, earning her “pet” status at the Dahl house, so we named her Katy. She was still present and photographed more when his friends arrived and met her one by one. There she remained until 5:30 pm when a downpour sent her away. I announced that her presence must indicate a good omen. My son doesn’t disagree. The remainder of the day held a glorious rainbow and an unsolicited hug from my sixteen-year-old nephew, miracles that validated my theory.

Sunday brings more to celebrate. It arrives with a clear blue sky, perfect for traveling by the water again. No workshop, katydid or construction this time. I’m instead on a mission. A trip across the bridge over the river begins with a delightful surprise when I get to the toll taker, hand outstretched with my dollar. There is a short pause before old friends meet eyes and recognize each other, followed with a delightful mutual declaration of “Hey!” He refuses my fare as we try our best to do the one-minute catch up as the cars line up behind us. We bid farewell as I enjoy a laugh out loud moment across the bridge about the chance meeting.

I proceed across to the island where I am scheduled to pick up a rare gift for myself that I’ve been coveting and putting off for decades, a jewelry armoire.   As a single mom, this has until now, always been considered a luxury purchase, so my trinkets have been stored in three separate containers including a Tupperware box.   Children grown, I finally deem myself worthy of the expense, the last of my material desires. Nothing in my jewelry collection, even the pieces handed down through the generations, has any financial value. The priceless definition comes from my association with the meaningful sentiments that accompany them.   The contents of my mother’s jewelry box when she passed away, my high school ring, charms from my father’s college days, my daughter’s bead creations from her earliest crafting days until now and dozens of treasures gifted to me from friends throughout my lifetime.

The friendly dealer and I carry the oak cabinet to my car and I drive back smiling along the river slowly and deliberately, enjoying the morning sun sparkling off of the water.   Back at home, I must wait for my sleeping son’s assistance to get the armoire into the house. In the interim I write in my lanai. A guest arrives during my session, a large garter snake sunning itself in the freshly mowed grass a few feet away. Her markings and size make her immediately recognizable and unmistakable. It is her third time visiting in a month, and she stays for half an hour. Sensing another good omen, I speak to her as well. In the afternoon we bring in the armoire and I savor the experience of delicately placing necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings in their new home. Each assignment accompanies the memory of the person and occasion from which it was received. My heart floods with gratitude for having so many special people and moments in my life.

I have been blessed this weekend by what to the casual observer may seem like the most mundane circumstances.   Nature visits by an insect, a reptile and a rainbow supplemented by the delivery of a used jewelry receptacle. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if all of them may be related in some way. Wrapped up in a hug by a sixteen year old, they are a reminder to this writer that her life is abundant and perfect.



Nature, “Chance” & Gratitude

From the Sanctuary:

The first cicadas of summer are making their buzzing debut—invoking a sense of relaxation whenever I hear it. Pretty soon the sharp snapping of the katydids calling out to each other will be joining them for the midseason orchestra that I love so much.

Passionately perched in my lanai, pen in hand, I am surrounded by color with my row of tiger lilies exploding in front of me, blossoming white rose-of-sharon with red centers and hanging petunia baskets of red, yellow and white. A new addition yesterday came as a complete surprise, spotted in a Western New York grocery store. There, next to a haphazard display of succulents was a healthy bromeliad. This caught my eye immediately because a close friend in Florida has them decorating her balcony and patio. The bright red flower was calling her and my names, so I carefully tucked it into the child seat of the cart and took it home. It’s ten feet away from me now, happy in its new place.

At dusk, although the sunset is less dramatic tonight, hidden behind clouds, I decide to take a walk by the creek to take in the pleasant stillness. When I reach the stream, I pause by the water to take in the fresh air. There’s a deer on the other side, and we startle each other. I smile and whisper, “Hello Baby.” He/she checks me out for a minute before scampering off, snobbishly waving a white tail. I continue on through the grass, lush from yesterday’s torrential rain. I pass a dirt mound where a solo Queen Ann’s lace towers toward the sky looking majestic, living up to her name. Her tall presence prompts a gratitude memory from a couple of weeks ago.

I was sitting alone in my office when I heard a voice at my door, “I’m sorry to disturb you, but yours was the only open door in the hallway.”   The looming man standing there was looking for a professor. I recognized his bald head, signature bow tie and larger than life stature immediately, yet he seemed out of place in an academic setting. Before I directed him, I said, “Are you a pediatric surgeon?” When he responded “Yes,” I extended my hand and smiled. What I really wanted to do was throw my arms around him in a hug. As tears of joy welled up in my eyes, I explained that he was responsible for saving my son’s life twenty years prior. It was a moment to savor for both of us. He asked questions about my son’s scar, and his condition and updated me on what to look for in future generations. I had the pleasure of telling him about the man my son had grown up to be. When you are alone in a dim recovery room holding a sedated infant and frightened and relieved at the same time, you don’t think about such things or have the words to whisper a proper thanks. So to have this opportunity to exchange the praises of gratitude was magical. When I came home that evening and told my son, he rolled his eyes, and I laughed thinking about how many similar gestures I would’ve missed without him.

I continued my walk past the dirt mound to the edge of the field where I stood with my hands on my hips. I inhaled the surge of love for my kids that came over me at that moment. Always regenerating itself, especially in moments like this when I look up at the sky and the magnificence of its vastness and the Universe beyond. The same Universe that set up a “chance” meeting of which there have been too many in my life to believe they are really chance. I’ve learned to enjoy them. And I did so watching the bats come out to feast and the beginning of the fireflies’ flashy show.