Welcome to the middle path

My photo
Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


 The pies are baked, the cranberries saucing, the squash stuffed and the counters overflowing but clean.  The oven is ready for the next round.  In between, I danced in the kitchen.  The rain does its November thing, and in the moat of our driveway, bird are taking wildish baths together. 
For a change, there is time to rest before the meal.   
I am grateful for this day, for my family here and away, for my place in Oregon with its wet beauty, for work I love, for my loyal dog who follows me room to room.  I counted my blessings until I ran out of breath.  I could do the same with my troubles, but they can wait, and I'll let them.
Thanks & blessings be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want - for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.
~ Rafael Jesus Gonzalez ~

Friday, November 13, 2009

Reeling in the Years

Birthdays serve as my New Year-- a chance to reflect on the past and rechart my course.  I spent the days leading up to it in the loving embrace of my beautiful sisters and eldest daughter.  We walked in the woods, talked til all hours, laughed til our cheeks hurt, did art, ate slow food.  I fully immersed myself in their shower of nurturing and left reinvigorated and deeply grateful to have been born related to such an amazing bunch of women.  On my actual birthday, I enjoyed a quiet morning of writing and reflection, an afternoon in the forest mycogeeking, and a great dinner with my family.

I am looking at my time and seeing that it is finite.  How do I want to spend my days?  I am looking at my habits and seeing which ones I want as part of the next decade, at my relationships and how I can deepen them, and at my values and how I can live them more fully.  I am counting my many blessings and thinking of how I can honor them. I invite you to do the same. 

Even if you aren't having a hallmark birthday in this season, think about prepping for your own new year.  The dark short days offer us encouragement to slow down, rest and turn inside for a time.  Take time for a personal inventory.  Spend a quiet evening or a rainy day in contemplation of where you have arrived, and redirect to where you want to end up. 

ps-- the picture is of a dahlia, still blooming even in all this cold dark wetness.  I like the sleeping bee nestled in there--

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Living with Dying

"I don't have time for epics"-- Anselin Reed, 1986-2006

In early November,  it is traditional to honor those whose who have died with celebration and rememberance.  In my faith community, we celebrate All Soul's Day with an alter decorated with pictures and token reminders of lost loved ones, and music and thoughtful readings to help us reflect on their gifts to our lives.

It's rare, in America, to be allowed public time for grieving and memorial of those who have died.  Even our national holiday has been minimized to a day off and a weekend of sales.  Americans have a peculiar need for closure, and a strange idea that grief work has a time limit.  I have found that grief comes in waves.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's work on the stages of loss was never meant to indicate an ABC orderly procession that ends neatly.   

It's two weeks today since my father died, quickly, of a heart attack.  It's not that surprising I frequently forget that he's dead and think of something I'll tell him when I visit.   Denial of this sort doesn't mean we aren't in touch with reality.  Denial is a gift, allowing time for us to adjust to big changes. Other moments I wish I had more of it, when I am gripped with the sadness of having no living parent, and the end of access to some of my history.  You live long enough, you are going to say a lot of goodbyes.

Krista Tippet said recently:  "Mortality is not at all special, but it is something we manage to avoid an awareness of, especially in Western culture."  We like to think there is all the time in the world to mend those fences, hear those stories, figure out what we need or believe.   But as the old saw goes:  "One hundred years from now, all new people."  

We can't and shouldn't live in fear about the very basic fact of life that is its certain outcome.  What we can do is spend a little time thinking of the little time we are here, and what we want to do with it.  We squander so much.  And I am not talking about leisure activities, which are a necessary replenishment (there was an alarming article in CNN tonight about how Americans forfeited 34.3 BILLION dollars worth of vacation time this year).  No, I'm talking about the amount of time we spend worrying about ridiculous things, such as whether our thighs are too fat, or what to wear in the morning, or whether we are Right and someone else is The Bad Guy.  I don't think it's a bad idea to think about our own inevitable death, and how we want to live in the interim.  I'm doing that this week.  I've not come to any profound conclusions, except I want to spend less time avoiding stuff  (I am a master procrastinator) and more time living the life I say I want.  I haven't got very far into practice yet.  I hope to spend some time figuring this out.  And I want to remember that I can't count on how much time I have.  I want to use it well.