The Spiritual Path

I walked at the Stormont Estate in Belfast. Very pretty.

At the airport  gate, I chatted with an older woman who had just walked the Camino in Spain. I’m not really sure where the Camino is. I’m too jetlagged from my Ireland trip to google it. But I think it’s a pilgrimage following in the footsteps of some beloved saint.

The 70ish woman carried only a small backpack. Her feet were tired she said but her boots were sturdy. She lifted a boot to show me.

“Nice,” I said although they were just plain old hiking shoes, not attractive at all. I guess hiking boots are not supposed to be attractive. “They look functional.”

“Some people do hike the Camino in sneakers, but I think you need these.”

“I am going to do that – a spiritual journey,” I nodded.

“Any walk can be a spiritual walk,” she said. “Like you told me you’re from New York. You could walk the Hudson River?”

“Really?” I said. “What’s spiritual about the Hudson?”

“I don’t know. Maybe do Vermont then,” she said.

This is a path Dan Wakefield and I walked at the Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat in Pennsylvania.

I am attracted to the idea of long walks like the Camino, wherever that is, or the Appalachian Trail. Yes, the AT’s cool. You start in the spring in the south and end in the fall in New England. But do you sleep in a cozy bed? I don’t think so. I love a bed and breakfast where someone – not me – makes me coffee.

Maybe I should consider the wise woman’s advice and see the Hudson as a spiritual path. I could blog about it. I might call the new blog, Hiking the Hudson, A Spiritual Journey. Oh, I like the sound of that. The Hudson is beautiful in the fall. Maybe I’ll do the hike this fall when my darlings go back to school.

Wait. The Hudson is too ordinary. I want to do an extraordinary hike — Mount Kilimanjaro or K2 — a climb that will make me famous. Or at least make me feel alive. I might encounter rattlesnakes, freeze to death, stare down a wild boar. But will I sleep in a soft place? I don’t think so. Maybe I should stick with the Hudson and then I can head home every night to my cozy bed on the Upper West Side.

Maybe every walk can be a spiritual walk, just like the elder pilgrim said. Every journey can spark lofty thoughts, philosophical ponderings and celebrations of God.

I believe God is found in nature and in chance encounters on the daily  journey. Maybe God even resides in the ordinary river that I pass every day.

Maybe I don’t have to make a pilgrimage to some distant land and blog about it to find my spiritual path.

I wrote this post at the Ecumenical Library lunchtime writing group at the Interchurch Center led by Tracey Del Duca. The next God Box writing group meets on Aug. 10 and 24. 

5th of July



Give yourself away. I’ve been thinking about the freedom of having less and doing more. When Cate came back from kayaking in Alaska, she said she had very little — like two changes of lightweight clothes, but that she was given so much — whales breaching, bears lumbering, sea otters playing. If you have a lot, give it away, and you will have more. But it will be given to you in experiences, not things.

Any way, this is my hope for my summer decluttering journey. I want to give it all away. You can’t take  your stuff and your bank account to the grave. You can’t take anything. So make memories.

Yesterday, I intentionally dialed down my social media use. And I’ve planned a few days in the next month when I can be off the grid.

New York City is a perfect place to immerse yourself in experiences. My nephew’s visiting from Chicago-land. We started at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ended up across the Brooklyn Bridge. We passed through Chelsea, the Village, SoHo, Chinatown, the Courts.

We hopped on bikes and rode. We used Citibikes. I have a yearly pass, but I purchased a daily pass for the boys. You get the bikes for increments of 30 minutes in the one-day pass (45 minutes in the yearly pass.) When you stop, you can slam them into the stand and walk away.

Citibike is coming north to the Upper West Side, I hope, this summer.

We ended our 4th of July on the West side, too wiped out to head East and South for the fireworks. But we saw fireworks at the end of the path and across the Hudson in New Jersey. It was quiet.

And getting quiet, turning off the chatter, was pretty nice.

Fireworks south of us, as we took a walk along the Hudson River.
I love this store, Muji, and the boys loved their bean bag chairs after all of our bike riding and shopping.
We biked across the Brooklyn Bridge.
We shopped at uniqlo.
We got caught in the rain, in the Village, during a small street fair.
St. Patrick’s Church is going through some repairs. The boys imagined climbing on the scaffolding.
Rockefeller Center
St. Patrick’s Cathedral

This is what we did yesterday.

Join Me at Bloomsday 2015

Last year I pretended I was going to Dublin as I celebrated Bloomsday with the Irish American Bar Association in Lower Manhattan. But this summer I really am going to Dublin for the Dublin Writers Retreat (Join me!)

Just goes to show that sometimes you dream on your blog and your bloggy dreams come true.

I am going to dream (and hoist a few) at this year’s Bloomsday celebration again and see what dreams may come. (Join me!)

JoyceUlysses2Let me remind those of you who were not English majors and who do not live with your noses in books: Bloomsday is celebrated June 16th, chronicling one typical, working class day in Dublin, 1904.

Joyce found the extraordinary in the ordinary. But I don’t think he did meant to write some exotic literary masterpiece. He meant to recreate a city’s ebb and flow. And now, every year on June 16th, dozens of places in the world read or enact or discuss or celebrate this literary day. And I am one of them.

I find that Bloomsday is a more authentic holiday for the Irish and the Irish American diaspora than St. Patrick’s Day.

In the US, the book is also one reason we do not censor. It had been banned until 1933 because it was deemed obscene and pornographic. Judge John Woolsey lifted the ban, writing:

“In writing ‘Ulysses’ Joyce sought to make a serious experiment in a new if not wholly novel literary genre.

“Joyce has attempted- it seems to me with astonishing success- to show how the screen of the consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries as it were on a plastic palimpsest not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious.

“The words which are criticized as dirty are old Saxon words known to almost all men, and, I venture, to many women, and are such words as would be naturally and habitually used, I believe, by the types of folk whose life, physical and mental, Joyce is seeking to describe.

“If one does not wish to associate with such folks as Joyce describes, that is one’s own choice.”

So, zoom back in your consciousness, people, to present-day Ireland.

I believe Marilyn Monroe was super smart. She dug Ulysses too.
I believe Marilyn Monroe was super smart. She dug Ulysses too.

Who are ‘such folks’? A minute ago, ‘such folks’ were marginalized. But today, isn’t Joyce rolling in his grave? Don’t you wish that Oscar Wilde could somehow know that Ireland is accepting of homosexuals — the first country to legalize same-sex marriage? Whoah! I am even more ecstatic to visit Ireland now. For a spirit of openness and tolerance and — dare I say — love for people is blowing! And this can only be good.

In other news, our vice president’s 46-year old son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer on May 30. And this reminds me: gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Life is short. So short. Too short.

Celebrate Bloomsday. Celebrate every stupid, ordinary day! For in the ordinary, there is magic.

I will be at the Irish American Bar Association of New York’s Bloomsday celebration, pontificating on the beauty and wonders of the ordinary. Join me.

Get all the details and purchase a ticket here.

A View of the Hudson

april, cherry blossoms in central and riverside parks
april, cherry blossoms in central and riverside parks

At the end of the day at my coworking community, New Work City, occasionally, we’d get jello shots delivered to our work stations. Now I get chocolate chicken chip cookies and hot chocolate. My career has shifted from corporate-y to entrepreneurial to teaching.

And the river runs through it.

I started writing this blog post on Pajama Day last week. Yes, I got up and changed out of one pair of PJs and put on another pair. Working in a classroom is so way better than working in a cubicle. If only for pajama day. (At New Work City, I could’ve worn PJs, I’m sure; but not at GBGM.)

I asked my husband last night, “Do you think I’ll ever want to go back to corporate-y or non-profit work?”

“No,” he paused, then added, “But you did love your office.”

Ah, gone are the days of having a beautiful office on the 14th floor overlooking Grant’s Tomb and Riverside Church. With a big desk (containing a drawer full of shoes) and an expansive view of George Washington Bridge spanning the beautiful Hudson River…Those were the days… (Here, I enter a reverie state…..)

february, the view from my old office
february, the view from my old office

Ahem. Back to reality. From my shared Green Room drama classroom space at the school, I have a drawer in a desk. And still, to be sure, a view of the Hudson River — this time from the first floor.

Between the school buildings and the river, the children run, play, scream. I love the outdoor space of the country school. I love that the kids breathe in cold air between classes. Fresh air is enlivening. I love running outside myself between classes. Hugging my heavy sweater tightly around me.

And all along my pathways, the Hudson River is my guardian angel. Watching over. Gliding beside. Big-shouldered and steady. Freezing over and then, thawing.

I do believe the big floats of ice will melt. Our parkas will be replaced by sweaters. And we’ll see the muddy ground.

First crocus. Then daffodil. Raises her hand. And asks, “Is it my turn?”

Spring asks Winter, “Isn’t it my turn soon?”

Winter hesitates.

“Can I go now?” Spring asks. And then, Winter takes a sabbatical.

Yes, yes, and yes. Spring, it’s your turn.

And all along the way, the river glides by.

Winter Birding

Saw tit mice, blue jays, cardinals, nut hatches, woodpeckers, maybe a goldfinch. Of course, pigeons, sparrows, grackle.


Love the elegance of the Bow Bridge. And the turn of this cardinal’s head. “You lookin’ at me?”image

No one is lounging on the bench. But a pigeon flew into my frame.image

Is the San Remo the most beautiful apartment building in the world? I think so. image

And when I walk into the park around Strawberry Field, it is like walking into church. I question faith and death and life’s uncertainties. And there’s always some dude strumming John Lennon, even in the cold. image

In the summer, you don’t notice Central Park South in the Park because of all the foliage. image

And you may not notice all the birds either. image

I went birding with this hearty crew. We dubbed ourselves Charlie’s Angels. If you know Charles (Chessler), you know he has a great zest for life. image

He invited us birding through a Facebook post.

I asked Charles how he stays so friendly. Like, during his winter street fair experience – he was selling his work in December. He said he talks with people “without agenda, expectation, or judgment.” Pretty cool. I aim to do that too.

And yay, it was pretty cold today too! I’ve been warming my hands against the heater all day.

Incidentally, I took all of these pics with my new phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. (I did not use filter, or edit any of these pics!)

Check out Charle’s pics. 

Violent Images

Last night Chris and I saw the play Tamburlaine. At the 30-minute intermission, I told Chris, "This is the best production of Tamburlaine that I will ever see. And the worst." I said that about Cymbeline too. Glad I saw it. Don't need to see it again. 

John Douglas Thompson (photo courtesy of Nigel Parry and NYMag)

It has my favorite actor, the Marlon Brando of our time, John Douglas Thompson, in it. Tamburlaine reveled in his own psychosis and had such a lusty love of blood-letting.

Thompson, in fact, is a gentle man, a bit of a friend. He played MacBeth when Chris played the porter in the Scottish play. Chris says of him, “He doesn’t shy away from the big parts.” (Othello, Emperor Jones, Julius Caesar). He is all in. So good. Exciting to see such commitment. And the whole stage rocks with turmoil.

But to what end? The play is loaded with buckets of blood and plenty of gore, including a scene where a tongue is cut out. Eeeeew! The play by Christopher Marlowe was first staged in 1587.

I overheard an audience member say, “This hasn’t been done since 1957 on Broadway.” And with good reason. It’s just an endless parade of marauding death.

On the way to the beautiful Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn, Chris realized he forgot his medicine.

“Do we go back home?” I asked.


“I will just be slow.” Chris’s Parkinson’s medicine helps him move. Without it, he freezes. After the play, I put a hand on his back. On the way home, I pushed him along.

He was extremely slow walking to the subway, heading back to the Upper West Side. Then we got home and I had to tell Catherine she could not watch Django Unchained.

“It’s not a problem,” H. said. “She looks away during the violent parts.” He loves having a companion with whom to watch movies.

“I’m sorry. No,” I said.

“You’re too protective.”

“Yes,” I said. Believing that they secretly like that. Even thinking maybe Catherine wanted to be told not to watch that.

“Why? Why can’t she watch it?”

“I don’t want her to have those images in her head — of such violence.” I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve heard. And yet, Tamburlaine filled my head with violence too. I don’t think I’m worse for it. Maybe it would’ve been okay. I don’t know. We live vicariously. But plays are different. The cast comes out for a curtain call.

We know it’s fake. We love the artifice.

We go slowly home.

Autumn in New York

They write songs about New York City in the fall. Jean jacket weather. Burning bushes. And Central Park. Ah. Don’t tell me about the polar vortex. I can’t hear you. La. La. La.










Jury Duty

Although I cannot discuss the criminal trial I am being considered for, I can disclose what happened in the hallway.

Apparently, a very large light-skinned bald man (Large Man) ran out of his courtroom and ran towards the elevator bank and a set of open windows.

We were on the 13th floor. (The building does not have a 12th floor, but has a 13th floor? What?)

Earlier, I had been talking to Juliana on the phone from that very windowsill. I had been sitting, taking notes when a glamorous cop told me, shaking her head, “Do not sit on the windowsill.” I complied.

I swear. At that time, I had thought, someone could so easily jump out these windows.

And that, I believe, was the Large Man’s intent. I did not see him run, pursued by cops. I was in a nearby stairwell, (again, on the phone). We were on break from this loooooong jury selection process.

But I did hear and see a cop came running down the stairs next to me. I followed him. There was some police action right in the hallway.

Another juror told me that she saw it all — the Large Man, hand-cuffed, running down the hall with several cops in pursuit. When he climbed up on the windowsill, they pulled him down. I did hear the thump on the marble when the Large Man hit the marble floor.

The Large Man started screaming. Another cop told me later that the Large Man was screaming to get his handcuffs off, but the court officers could not comply. (My fellow juror told me he wore two sets of handcuffs.) Another officer shoo-ed us out of eye shot. But later, he told us, it was for our own protection, and not because Large Man was being hurt.

All 50 or so of us jurors looked at each other, slightly worried, eyeing the elevator bank, where all this commotion was happening, until they wheeled the Large Man on a stretcher out through the service elevator.

I said to my fellow juror, “That must’ve been traumatic to see him up on the windowsill, wanting to jump.”

She said, “Didn’t see much. I got out of the way in case the cops had to shoot him.”

I know I mostly blog about how much I love NYC and how beautiful and safe NYC is. And you can see from my photos of trees, flowers, picnics, museums, and Broadway shows, it’s true. But I guess I must admit there is a seamy side to the city. Fortunately, I only see this side every four years when I serve my stint on jury duty.

This was the surreptitious photo I took of the incident — after the cops told us, basically, ‘Move along. Nothing to see here, folks.’ And this incident is why jury service at the criminal courts in Manhattan is not for the faint of heart.


Not Worried About Ebola

When I saw that the NYC doctor with Ebola had worked at Columbia Presbyterian ER, I did feel a little a butterfly flutter in my stomach. That’s where Coco and I spent the night on Friday. (And I had told her, at the time, “Let’s get out of here as fast as we can. You can get infections in the hospital.”)

But I’m not scared. I’m proud that our favorite hospital’s doctors work with Doctors Without Borders.

Borders are made up. Borders are moving. We are all brothers and sisters in this world. Trace us back, and we all descended from some fireside circle. We come from hunters and gatherers — women and children gathering berries in handwoven baskets. We are all eking out our survival. Even now.

I got so lucky in my adult life when I worked for so long (too long?) for the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. I met so many brilliant people — people very similar to Dr. Craig Spencer. They are trying to lift the whole world out of particular miseries — illness, poverty, loneliness, oppression. Through their efforts, for example, and in a joint effort with lots of other do-gooders, malaria is practically history.

I’m also not worried about Ebola because I know that the things that will get you in this life are not the flashy front page diseases or airline crashes. But the less sexy — heart disease, cancer. And it’s better to take care of your daily health — floss, eat right, exercise — than stew about infectious diseases.

That’s why today I’m going for my annual physical and my twice-a-year dermatology exam; on Monday, I’m going for my annual gynecological exam.

I remind myself in this media swirl: It’s the little things that will kill you, not the big things. And I’m trying to take care of all the little things today.

The ER at Columbia Presbyterian – great people doing great work:


Extraordinary Meal Planning

I stave off uncertainty by systematizing.

We have always been very loose about dinner times and meal planning. But we always aim to sit down to dinner together.

Since this school year’s launch, we have set a goal to eat dinner at 6:30 every night. And now we have a dinner plan:

  • Meatless Monday
  • Taco Tuesday
  • Prince Spaghetti Wednesday
  • Comfort Food Thursday
  • Fish Friday*
  • **Clean the Refrigerator Saturday
  • **Sunday Supper

*Friday might be pizza. (The kids don’t like fish).
**Saturday and Sunday might be FFY, Fend For Yourselves. 

So far, so good.

Chris loves to eat but he takes forever to cook. And he is a messy cook. So having this schedule get keeps him moving and motivated. (I think the Parkinson’s meds have affected his executive function/planning.)

Besides, the kids are starving when they walk in the door from various afterschool activities at 6:30 pm. (They leave the house at 7:35 am — long day!)

Last night, it was FFY, because the girls and I went to see Pippin on Broadway for their birthday. How fun was that! The understudy was on and I can’t imagine the real lead, Kyle Dean Massey, could be any better than the understudy, Mike Schwitter. (Chris’s friend John Dossett played the king! Other highlights: Rachel Bay Jones as Catherine and Lucie Arnaz as Grandma Bertha.)

I think the message of the musical is find the extraordinary in your ordinary.

It’s a highlight of the day to eat dinner together. It’s the ordinary.