Saturday, June 28, 2014


          My tongue is dancing with delight as it licks around the edges of a spoonful of sweet, freshly gathered honey that Zet harvested from her beehives yesterday. This may be the purest, most soul-satisfying sweetness I've ever encountered, made even tastier by knowing that it came from our own backyard, thanks to large amounts of sweat and effort from Zet, our neighbor, Ginny and the thousands of bees that have been swarming around our neighborhood.

            Zet and I had long aspired to become beekeepers, because it seemed like a cool thing to do, in addition to the health benefits that eating locally produced honey is reputed to have for people like me, who suffer from seasonal allergies. And I really enjoyed the "Introduction to Beekeeping Workshop" that Zet, Ginny and I took two years ago from a very kind and knowledgeable Amish beekeeper. 

            But I started to get discouraged when we ended up spending more money than anticipated on buying our first two starter colonies, known as "nucs," (and then two more, when all the bees in the first ones accidently got overheated and died), in addition to the white body suits, veiled hats and various beekeeping paraphernalia required. And when I got stung the first two times we worked on the hives, despite wearing long sleeves, long pants, gloves and a veiled hat on a steamy hot day, I quickly said "No thank you!" to any further adventures as an apiarist.

            Fortunately, Zet and Ginny were more determined. They did additional research, bought a few more tools, and continued the work, even though they both got stung several times in the process. Zet also got a nasty burn on her forefinger from handling the hot metal smoker, in addition to having had a pretty strong reaction to thestings, resulting in her arm swelling and throbbing painfully for days.  
            Then, last year, both hives wereattacked by robber bees, leaving the colony queen-less and decimated, but fortunately notsimultaneously. Both times they were able to feed the remaining hive with sugar water for several monthsto keep the colony strong. All of these trials and tribulations in a relatively small harvest of just four pints lastfall, and it really didn't taste all that good.

            But their perseverance has definitely paid off. This time they gathered over 1½ gallons of honey, with the delightful prospect of harvesting that much or more again in just a few weeks. Best of all, I'm savoring the delicate, flowery aroma and taste of this luscious spoonful in my mouth right now, my enjoyment definitely magnified by the awareness of how much time, energy and commitment were involved in bringing this ambrosia to our kitchen table.
            Come to think of it, it's not unlike the process of being a parent, a husband, professional musician, or a spiritual director. All have been deeply challenging at times, but have brought an amazing sweetness and richness to my life, made even sweeter by the patience, power and perseverance that they required over the long haul. For which I'm deeply grateful.

With gratitude and blessings,

Friday, June 20, 2014


           Some things defy description. For instance, local folklore has it that the Cave Without a Name in Boerne received its name in 1939, when the owner of the property held a naming contest, and the winning entry was from a young boy who suggested it remain a "Cave Without a Name" because it was "too beautiful to have a name."
            I think I know how the boy felt. Even though this Saturdaymarks the 16th year in a row that we'll be celebrating the Summer Solstice with an Underground Sounds concert in that particular cave, I still find myself at a loss for how to describe this experience.

            It's not just that it's a highly unusual, richly-textured, multi-layered concert, performed on a wide range of instruments, each vocalist and musician specifically chosen for their distinct timbre. Nor is it just the crystal-clear reverberations and acoustic properties of the 40-foot domed, limestone ceiling, or the physical beauty of the Queen's Throne Room, with its awe-inspiring stalagmites and stalactites accentuated by creative lighting.
            Or the comfortable, yet highly dramatic descent each participant experiences, travelling down 126 stairs beforehand, literally climbing into the womb of Mother Earth, ninety feet under the surface. Or feeling the weight of the cool, moist air changing with each step down, while hearing the hypnotic sounds of water drip-drip-dripping as it seeps through the ancient limestone walls, continuing the age-old process of creating these eye-popping rock formations, one drop at a time.

            Or the startling, pitch-black darkness that immediately envelopes the chamber for 15-20 minutes when all the lights are turned off halfway through the concert - much less the mesmerizing sound of the didgeridoo reverberating through the dark, accompanied by the resonant sounds of Tibetan bowls and the throbbing drums.
            Or the open-ended invitation to harness the collective group energy, as well as the creative pulse of the Summer Solstice vibrations, to help set specific goals and intentions for the future.
            But, put all those factors together, and the result is a deliciously nuanced interplay of all of the factors above, creating an experience that is... well, frankly... beyond naming or labeling, but well worth encountering.

            Guess I'll just have to leave it at that - and invite you to come share this amazing experience with us, then come up with your own description, if you can.
            Advance tickets are still available for just $20 ($25 at the door), and you can click here
 to get yours now. And if the cost is a factor for you, consider volunteering as an usher by contacting the Circle office at210-533-6767.
            In any case, I hope to see you there, or somewhere around the Circle sometime soon - and wish you a blessed summer.

With joy,

Sunday, June 15, 2014


 There we were. Looking up into the night sky, remembering our sweet friend, Cascade, who had died two days earlier, on the morning of the June Full Moon. In her final exit, as with so many of her entrances, Cas had a soft, easy touch and an excellent sense of timing. I wouldn't see her for months, even years, at a time. And then, there would be those twinkling eyes smiling at me from the middle of some grocery store aisle or just there on a city sidewalk. But whatever the location, she would invariably appear in the middle of an otherwise difficult day - just when I really needed the joy and encouragement she always seemed to carry with her.

           Now that Cas was gone, a bunch of her friends and family members were hanging around the house with her husband Dave. He was trying hard to be brave, and we were all trying equally hard to be helpful and hopeful in the face of her seemingly senseless death from cancer. Normally we would have stayed inside their cool house on such a hot night. But it was clearly a night to be outdoors honoring our dead sister's deep love for Mother Earth. So we strolled outside, leaving the house in ones and twos, taking the path out to where her ashes would be scattered later, in her favorite oak grove, a couple of hundred yards from the house. As we walked, the last drops of daylight soaked through the branches of the Spanish Oaks and cedar trees overhead. When we got to the grove, we tried to light a large Mexican candle someone had placed in the middle of a circle of stones. But it wouldn't stay lit; the breezes came too strong and too often to let the flame live.

           That didn't stop us from drumming, chanting, listening to the sound of the sun sinking into the horizon, watching the light reflect from each other's eyes in the gathering darkness. Someone had brought a flute, someone else two Brazilian rainsticks and a guitar. Only one person had a handkerchief, but nobody needed it. For during the time we sat in that circle together, we were strong and brave, connected as we were by the total mystery of such an unkind death. The questions were mostly unspoken, lurking in the backs of our heads: Why Cas? Why one so classy, so young, so strong for so long? Why would Death want to come claim someone so vibrant, so talented, with a teenage daughter and husband who loved her so deeply?
           The Big Questions don't really seem to go away or get solved by addressing them to God/dess. But it does seem that engaging in sacred rituals can help us mortals find some measure of peace in the presence of the great mysteries, can help us remember that there is much more to the histories of our lives than what we can measure with our eyes, account for with our spreadsheets, organized within the boundaries of our appointment books. Shared rituals seem especially helpful when a difficult life passage needs to be maneuvered by folks who would otherwise feel ill-equipped to handle their thoughts and feelings.

           So, there we were. A score of middle-aging Flower Children and several of our teenaged charges - singing, talking, listening, praying and swaying for a surprisingly short hour. Then suddenly, Jane, one of Cascade's best friends, spotted the Moon making her grand entrance above a nearby pasture. One by one, we stopped singing and drumming and drifted over to where Jane stood transfixed. By the time we'd all gotten to the clearing, even the youngest of the children was quiet. Everyone had run out of words. The only thing that made sense was to stand there in total silence, facing the moon, asking our questions, feeling the evening breezes, embracing each other and our memories of Cascade.
           One of our chantsongs from earlier in the evening had travelled a quarter of a million miles, echoed off the face of the moon and came back to reflect in my inner ear:

"Sister is gone, but She's still here.
Sister is gone, but She's still here.
The wind is blowing through our tears.
Sister is gone, but She's still here.

Sister is gone, but the Moon still rise.
Sister is gone, but the Moon still rise.
Sister's shining through our eyes.
Sister is gone, but the Moon still rise..."

With love and blessings

Friday, June 6, 2014


           I'm sitting in the basement of the Bexar County Courthouse, along with several hundred other people who have also been summoned here for Jury Duty. Most of us will go through a jury selection screening process; only a few dozen will actually be selected to serve on a jury; the rest of us will be dismissed sometime later in the day. But all of us have been sitting here, doing nothing but waiting for three hours already, with the potential of many more hours of waiting still stretching out ahead.

            Lots of folks are grumbling, and the air is thick with boredom and resentment, but I find myself feeling quite peaceful and content. Why not? Normally, this would have been another full day of office work and errands. But, thanks to this jury summons, I've got nothing else to do today but simply sit and be mindful. What a gift!

            And when I do find myself drifting off into the cloud of negative thoughts or feelings being generated by the folks around me, it's relatively simple to shift my attention and reconnect with the affirmation with which I began my morning, as usual, just before sunrise. The words may change a little from time to time, but the intention remains largely the same - and I choose to engage it again now:

I greet this moment with enthusiasm, willing to face and embrace any circumstances I encounter with an open mind and a compassionate heart.

Sitting in silence, centering in Spirit and breathing in fully, I feel deeply grateful for the many blessings in my life.

I acknowledge that some of my brothers and sisters are struggling with hatred, pain and poverty, but I choose to focus on my purpose, which is to experience and express the free flow of Life, manifesting as Love, ease and abundance, here and now.

Whenever I become aware of feeling resistance to another person, persons or situation, I choose to release those feelings, re-connect with my sense of purpose and rest in the awareness that all is well - and all shall be well. And so it is.

            The odds are good that I won't be called to serve on a jury this time after all, and that I'll be dismissed sometime this afternoon. No doubt I'll encounter other challenging people or situations on my way home, or sometime later today or tomorrow. Soon enough, I'll have another opportunity to become aware of the resistance I'm carrying, then practice getting centered, aligning with Spirit and remembering my purpose again. And again. And again.  And... that's just how it is. No need to judge myself -- much less feel guilty -- for re-encountering this same lesson over and over again. And now is as good a time as any to practice the process.

With gratitude and blessings,