Thursday, May 23, 2013



Out in the woods of eastern Pennsylvania recently, I was kneeling in a grotto praying, and suddenly I had an overwhelming sense of not being able to contain myself! I wanted to burst out of myself, like a sprouting seed, or a bud exploding into bloom, or a chick cracking through its eggshell. We want to be more than ourselves! And then we come back to ourselves: meager, limited, broken...and then we get to laugh.

My mother died last fall and that is effecting a deep tectonic shift. When you're younger, you tend to think the childhood wounds will disappear with age; instead, I'm seeing ever more clearly how mine have driven me  all my life. As my friend Brian observed: "You've had challenges recently." That's Southern California-speak for near psychotic break.


  1. Oh, I would really like to walk the Way of St. James also. In 8 years will be another jubilee and also my 50th birthday. I wonder where Americans start from generally?


  2. I love "energy challenges"! I have been having those too. Learning the same thing about childhood wounds. How can I learn and grow from them since they are at the base of my being? Is that accurate, I wonder or just me being dramatic? Right now, I feel like they are anyway. I have a hard time understanding how God allowed the tender ground to be broken there so early. The seeds planted there seem so resistant to growing slim and green and arising out of that earth.

    Huh. You got me thinking. What gives?? I am ready to bear some fruit!

    I am sorry for the loss of your mother. I will say a Glory Be for you both right now.

  3. Dear and Sweet Heather: The path we walk is nearly the same. My mother passed a year before yours, and I have been indeed feeling that same "shift", as you called it. My sister, Mary, and I decided that since it was two years since we had seen our siblings and celebrated our mother's passing, we should go see the family. So we took off on a bright April morning from my small town in Texas and drove to California. What a trip, what a retreat, a pilgramage of sorts!! We put 7,000 miles on the car and saw everyone in California from bottom to top and then down again from Ukiah in the North to Williams and down to San Diego. My brothers and sister, Julie, live in the most beautiful space, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Los Osos. So perhaps we passed each other on the highway, you to San Antonio and we to parts unknown in California. What a journey! We prayed and laughed and sang each day and celebrated Mass on Mother's Day with Fr. Lucas in Los Osos at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish. He is the priest who officiated at the funerals of both our parents. My brother, Ray, and I are now the patriarch and matriarch of the family. What a difficult job when you take a very close look at the lives of your parents. The road is never easy. Often, I feel as though I am still that small girl who sat on my dad's lap (and oh how I wish I could now!), and also that little girl who tried to imitate the most beautiful woman the world, my mother. How I fail, but the good news is this: my children now love me as I loved my own precious mother. I am awed by the beauty we saw in California up in Sonora Pass and then down through the mountains and into San Francisco, places I had never been my entire life. I was raised in Eagle Rock/Highland Park and lived there until I was 30 years old.

    God bless and keep you, Heather. Keep on keepin' on, my friend. You are doing an excellent job. May the peace of Jesus be with you.

    In Him,

  4. First of all, that red puddle is creepy. Secondly--actually this comment should be first--if you really knew how incredible you are, you would just hug yourself and jump up and down and not have any psychotic moments....... My mom graduated heaven-ward 27 days ago. It was way too soon. We had plans! She was supposed to live another 15 years at least. Maybe I'll "shift" later. I'm not pondering, shifting, growing, or changing at the moment. I too raw.

  5. All mothers die but all mother deaths are unhappy/sorrowful in their own way(?)...So much sorrow and at the same time for me, freedom in certain directions...The age-old pacts I may be ready to START to let go of: I'm the responsible one, the one who has no needs, who has somehow pledged to feel guilty for not being strong enough, selfless enough, willing enough to stay stuck in the age-old pacts...which I and very possibly I alone signed!

    I have to do some major research on the Camino. I think a lot of people start from St. Jean Pied to Port:

    I walked by the red puddle yesterday and it's drying up.

    Love and happy long weekend to all--

  6. Dear Heather!
    I know about the tectonic shift in me as I ended my 30-year marriage. I know about childhood wounds. I also know about the sudden sense of not being able to contain myself during prayer and about my continuing desire to walk the Camino de Santiago.
    Thank you for continuing to share your journey! Seeing Jesus in you makes my heart soar.

  7. I'm going to take the liberty of speaking on ALL our behalves in saying THANK YOU FOR CARING FOR YOURSELF, Heather. I am personally encouraged to see somebody I have high regard for going through difficult times with the purposeful intention of pulling through without releasing their self-embrace. Continue caring for yourself, dear. ♥

  8. Dear Heather,
    "We want to be more than ourselves" - oh, you've described that bursting moment so well. Thank you for this and for everything, as always.

    Will you accept a two-cent donation in return, paid in the form of an opinion from someone who walked the Camino recently? First, a disclaimer: I found it so luminous that it's genuinely been painful coming's left me gasping and yearning for a return to a nigh impossible world... so be careful! haha. That's cent #1. Cent #2 is that if you can manage it, and if you can get by a little in French, it is very worthwhile to begin in central France. I started in Le Puy-en-Velay, which is a whole month away from St Jean perhaps not very practical...but it is far more beautiful (idyllic French countryside vs. largely urban Spanish highway-walking). It is also far less touristy: you meet fewer people in France, but get to know them a lot better, because you stay in intimate bed & breakfast-type places rather than large dormitories, and because the people on the French "chemin" are typically more sincere about the spiritual aspects of the pilgrimage, while many on the commercialized and popularized route in Spain (God love them) are there just to hike or have a secular adventure.

    I'd also note the very small, humble, "little flower"-type churches dotting the non-believing countryside in France like candles illuminating a void. The Church and camino there have a kind of mysticism of smallness that I suspect, from your own creative influences, you might like (versus the imperial, Baroque churches in Spain whose beautiful but overbearing sanctuaries look like jewelry boxes).

    Anyway, sorry to babble. I just got excited that you and some of your readers were considering a path that I found so meaningful last summer...

    I and so many (I am sure) of your readers continue to pray for you and your mom. I hope that all you do, your work as well as your retreats, may move you ever closer to the heart of God.

    Nicholas C.

  9. Nicholas, a belated huge thank you for your Camino experience/tip. I will get serious about researching the whole thing one of these days, I hope before I'm too old to walk, but your point(s) are very well taken. I can totally get behind the baroque, jewel box-type churches as well but the small humble less-trodden way, with less people and fewer cities, may very well be more my speed. At this point in my life, I am also SO not equipped for "large dormitories"--if I ever was...Anyway, bless you and I'm so glad for your own pilgrimage, and experience, and candle-hood, for surely you have done your own part to illuminate the void...


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