Sunday, March 29, 2015

Naikan - Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 13

During the 13th week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I read Naikan - Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection by Gregg Krech.

Some highlights include:
- The word "naikan" means literally looking inside.
-  Naikan involves self-esamination; that is, we examine our own life, no the actions of others. How often is our attention wasted on juding, criticizing, and correcting others while we neglect the examination and lessons of our own life?
- While we can do little or nothing to control how others treat us, we can do much to control how we treat others.
- While we are powerless to impose our choices on others, we make choices about how we shall live, moment to moment, day to day.
-  Naikan reflection is based on three questions: What have I received from ______________? What Have I given to ___________________? What troubles and difficulties have I caused ________________?
- As you list what you have received from another person, you become grounded in the simple reality of how you have been supported and cared for. In many cases you may be surprised at the length or importance of the items on your list, and a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation may be naturally stimulated.
- Begin making a list of what you have received during the past 25 hours. This type of daily reflection is called daily Naikan.
- Examine your "life balance." When you have examined, in detail, what you have given and received, you can determine this balance. You can compare your giving (credits) and taking (debits) in relation to a single person or between you and the rest of the world. You can examine a period of time ranging from a day to a decade.
- What is more appropriate: to go through life with the mission of collecting what is owed us, or to go through life trying to repay our debt to others?
- Make a list of what you have given to others during the past 24 hours. What did you actually do for others?
- The third question is the most difficult of all: What troubles or difficulties have I caused _______________?
- When we reflect on ourselves, we spend at least 60 percent of the time considering how we have caused other trouble. If we are not willing to see and accept those events in which we have been the source of others' suffering, then we cannot truly know ourselves or the grace by which we live.
- Take ten minutes and make a list of the specific troubles and difficulties you have caused others in the past 24 hours.
- Doing this type of daily reflection, or daily Naikan, can be done before bedtime in 20-30 minutes.
- Gratitude requires attention and reflection. If we don't pay attention, the countless and constant ways we are supported go unnoticed. If we don't reflect, we fail to acquire the wisdom that comes with perspective.

If the only prayer you say your entire life is 
"Thank you," 
that would suffice.
- Meister Eckhart

- When our attention is focused outward we notice opportunities to give to others. But when our attention is focused inward on our discomfort, anger, inconvenience, or desires, then such opportunities go unnoticed.
- Instead of the question "How can others be of use to me?" we can ask "How can I be of use to others?"
- When we shift our attention to the reality around us, to our spouse, our car, the service station attendant, we see countless opportunities to care for others. But those who are most preoccupied with themselves suffer the most. They also fail to experience the satisfaction of attending to the needs of another.
- In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character. In his autobiography, Franklin listed his thirteen virtues as:
  • Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  • Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  • Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  • Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Pine Needles

Withered, brown pine needles
dangling from a web of lush, green branches.
They shall be washed away
by the same spring rain
which gives life
to the sleeping buds.
- Ho Sen

- Disappointment, resentment, hopelessness - all arise from our efforts to "work out" the lives of others rather than ourselves.
- Throughout the day, when someone does something for you, say a "mindful thank you." Do this by saying thank you and then identifying the act for which you are expressing appreciation. For example, "Thank you for opening the door" or "Thank you for pouring me some orange juice." We can easily get into the habit of saying "thank you" mindlessly: we say the words but pay little attention to what is/was actually done for us. A mindful thank you requires an extra pause to pay attention and consider what we are receiving from the other person.
- Prior to each bite at mealtime, silently thank one person or thing that contributed to the meal. For example, thank the farmer who grew the corn, thank the soil, thank the truck drive who delivered the corn to the store. This is also a great way to slow down your pace if you tend to eat quickly as I do.

If you judge people,
you have no time to
love them.
- Mother Teresa

- New Year's Naikan Reflection:
  • Reflect on your mother, father, or other people who have supported you during the past year. You may have received things during an earlier time period, but still benefited from them during the past year.
  • Make a list of 100 things you've received this past year without providing any compensation or consideration. These could be things you received as gifts or things you used without payment.
  • Make a list of 25 important services that were done for you during the past year.
  • Reflect on your lying and stealing for the past year.
  • Reflect on your speech this past year. In what ways have you spoken critically, harmfully, or inappropriately about others. How did this cause harm or trouble?
  • Reflect on ways you mistreated objects during the past year.
  • What have you learned this past year? Who taught you? Make a list of all the people and objects that helped you to learn and grow, personally, professionally, and spiritually.
  • What thank you letters to those who have cared for you and served you this past year. 

-Thanksgiving Blessing:

We give thanks for the food that gives us life and for the beings that have died so that we might continue to live.

We give thanks for the cars and planes and roads that allow us to be together this day.

We give thanks for the health that remains in these temporary bodies of ours.

We give thanks for this shelter that keeps us warm and dry even while we sleep.

We give thanks for our jobs that help us pay for what we need to live.

We give thanks to our parents who brought us into this world.

We give thanks for the mysterious force that keeps our heart beating and our life flowing through our bodies.

We vow to wake up, to live each day fully, to see reality as it is, and to use our life for the purpose for which it was intended.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spiritual Practices A to Z: Forgiveness

For the sixth spiritual practice this year, I am focusing on Forgiveness. These ideas came from the Spiritual Practices website which has a wide variety of ideas for bringing this practice to life.

Spiritual Practice: Forgiveness
Enhances: Freedom
Balances/Counters: Vengefulness

The Basic Practice

There are two kinds of forgiveness, both interrelated. There is self-forgiveness, which enables us to release our perfectionism and guilt. And there is the forgiveness we extend to others and receive from them, intimates and enemies alike.

All the spiritual traditions raise up the value of forgiveness, but many people still find it to be a nearly impossible ideal. Just start somewhere. Look truthfully at one hurt you have not been able to forgive. Identify any associated feelings you might have, such as anger, guilt, denial, embarrassment, or shame. Imagine what it would be like to live without feeling this offense. Then let it go.

Other steps may be necessary for healing — a confession of your contribution to the conflict, changing behavior, making amends, a commitment to the community — but giving up your claims for, and sometimes against, yourself is where to begin.

Why This Practice May Be For You

We all know the obvious symptoms that could be relieved by forgiveness — feeling so wounded that we want revenge, constant brooding over petty grievances, feeling so guilty we don't know how to approach someone we have offended, worry that the hurt could happen again.

Bitterness and stubbornness also can be signs that forgiveness is called for, especially when these attitudes are associated with a need to be recognized as the one who is right.

In contrast to these limiting behaviors, which usually place walls between others and ourselves, forgiveness is freeing. It means that we can move out of our previous position and move on with our lives. Best of all, it enables us to be reconciled with our neighbors so that once again we feel part of the greater community.


Without forgiveness, life is governed by 
an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.
— Robert Assagioli quoted in Gospel Days by Joan Chittister

If you want to see the brave,
look at those who can forgive. 
If you want to see the heroic, 
look at those who can love in return for hatred.
— The Bhagavad Gita quoted in Legacy of the Heart by Wayne Muller

Never forget that to forgive yourself is to 
release trapped energy that 
could be doing good work in the world.
— D. Patrick Miller

Forgiveness means 
giving up all hope of a better past.
— Jack Kornfield in The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace


The Spiritual Practices website recommended Radical Forgiveness by Antoinette Bosco. She forgave the man who killed her son and daughter-in-law in their Montana home and has worked tirelessly against the death penalty, provides an in-depth examination of the Christian practice of forgiveness.

I accidentally ordered a book with the same title from the library, except it was written by Colin Tipping. I had actually read the book a couple of years ago and wondered why - as I began reading it - it seemed very familiar. So, I went back on the notes I kept from the book, and revisited some of the key points that were ones that still resonate with me.

The other book that relates to forgiveness that I am in the process of reading is Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey - Nine Steps of Forgiving through Jesus' Beatitudes by Flora Slosson Wuellner.


An Unfinished Life, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, has some violence including domestic abuse and language. I ordered this from the library, but it still hasn't come in yet.


Music can intensify our emotional responses so that we experience a breakthrough to a different level of awareness. That is why it often helps to listen to sad songs when we feel depressed. And that is why Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima by Krzysztof Penderecki is recommended for the practice of forgiveness.

The Spiritual Practices website said, "This song of mourning and lamentation realized through an avant-garde musical score is a jarring sound-world of strange chords, ominous crescendos, and startling breaks. The effect is cathartic, just what is needed to set the stage for forgiveness."

I actually found the music to be more scary - almost eerie - than reflective of the spirit of forgiveness. This song, though, is exactly how it is described with strange chords and startling breaks. It's a very disconcerting song...and perhaps that is the point when one is thinking of what happened at Hiroshima.


Rembrandt's painting The Return of the Prodigal Son captures the climactic moment in Jesus' parable (Luke 15: 11-32).

Looking at the father's expression and his hands on his son's back, I could sense his forgiveness of his son. On the side, the elder son looks on, and he's obviously unhappy with his father's display of unconditional love. Interestingly, it shows that sometimes it is not easy to tolerate or accept forgiveness.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

• Shaking hands is a cue for me to practice forgiveness. I don't shake hands that often given my life now. For the few times that I recently did it didn't cross my mind to practice forgiveness. Rather, I ended up focusing on the person more than I did forgiveness. Perhaps at some time in the future this cue might be one that I would use. However, at this juncture it didn't seem to be a good fit.

• When I clean my room, I am reminded of the cleansing and restorative power of forgiveness. For some reason, these cues aren't coming to mind as I do these activities. Maybe I need to be more mindful of these cues or write them down and refer to them as I go about various activities. At any rate, this week's spiritual practice wasn't as present in the things that I did during the past couple of weeks.

Practice of the Day

Forgiveness is an embrace, 
across all barriers, 
against all odds, 
in defiance of all that is mean and petty 
and vindictive and cruel 
in this life.
Kent Nerburn in Calm Surrender

To Practice This Thought: Embrace in your heart everyone you need to forgive, including yourself. 

Spiritual Exercises

Dale Turner in Grateful Living advocates forgiving small infractions, like dialing a wrong number.

Journal Exercises

These are questions that are ones that are better for journal writing than blogging, but worth sharing here nonetheless:

Make a "confession of sins." List instances in your journal when you have hurt, betrayed, lied to, ignored, or used another being. Note times when you have failed to do the right thing and left good things undone. At the bottom of your list, add a prayer for forgiveness.

Write a letter to someone who has died asking for forgiveness or expressing your forgiveness. Write another letter in the voice of this person back to you agreeing to or acknowledging your request.

Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing

As noted above, these also are questions that are ones that are better for journal writing than blogging:

• Tell the story of one of your most vivid experiences of forgiveness.

• Do you think repentance-an admission of wrongdoing, a sign of remorse, or a commitment to change-should be a prerequisite for forgiveness? Why or why not?

• Are any acts unforgivable? If you think so, give examples and explain.

Household, Group, and Community Projects

The need to resolve conflicts and forgive each other becomes very evident in the close confines of a home. Without discussing a particular grievance, talk together about some ways you can facilitate forgiveness.

Some couples, for examples, don't let the sun go down on an argument. Others use rituals to reinforce a desire for reconciliation.

Weeds Covered with Frost and Snow
Weeds in the winter.
(Taken on December 24, 2008.)

This is a good idea from Ardath Rodale: Pull a weed to remove a grudge; then plant a seed to indicate the sprouting of new love in your heart.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Progress on 2015's Nature Goals

Now that one-quarter of 2015 has almost passed, I wanted to check in on my nature goals that I set for myself.

1. Visit three new national wildlife refuges in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas. ACCOMPLISHED!

- Delta National National Wildlife Refuge in Venice, Louisiana.This NWR is near the very end of the Mississippi River.

The river is very wide at this point and has clearly picked up a lot of sediment along the way.

There is a bench and some informational placards to describe the significance of the area. This actual location did not have a lot of visible wildlife.

However, there's another nearby road that leads to the southeastern most point of Louisiana and that had significantly more birds and waterfowl that were visible from the road. I pulled over many times (as did others) to watch the wildlife - or, in the case of local people, do some fishing.

- Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe, Louisiana. This NWR spans a large amount of space and can best be seen by driving through it on a couple of paved roads. There is a small stop that has a wooden boardwalk/pathway that leads into the bayou.

The sounds of ducks and birds swimming in the water and hiding in the reeds is constant.

There was some vegetation that I had never seen before - like the tree pictured below with brown seed pods. The pods were dry and would rattle. I'm not sure what type of tree it is and could not find it on the internet.

Perhaps my favorite part of the walk was coming across this little tree frog that was nestled in a reed. The reed looked like bamboo, so I wanted to take a closer look. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked inside it and spotted this little green face looking back at me.

- Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge in Hollandale, Mississippi.This NWR wasn't on my list of places to see, yet it was on my way to Greenville, Mississippi where I was spending the night. I thought I'd take a brief detour to see it, and am happy that I did.

Although it was a bit early in the season, there was a monarch waystation at the NWR. It is an enclosed area with a few benches, trees, and variety of plants. The plants - or where they will be - are all marked with signs. There was a little area with water for the butterflies and other wildlife that visit the garden.

Along one of the roads, there was an area of slough. In the Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions areas that were slough, but I had no point of reference since I had never slough before. Now, having visited Yazoo NWR, I know to what she was referring.

There is quite a diversity of landscape within the NWR. The picture above is right across from a wooded area pictured below.

2. Visit three new national historic parks in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas. ACCOMPLISHED!

I was able to see three historical parks, sites, or parkways while in Louisiana and Mississippi:

- Audubon State Historic Site in St. Francisville, Louisiana. This was on my must-see list and, thankfully, I arrived in time to go on a house tour and see the grounds.

The Oakley Plantation is where John James Audubon lived for four months. Yet, during that brief time he painted 32 of his bird pictures here.

The grounds had pathways that led through open and wooded areas.

There were old buildings where people were demonstrating what life was like back in the 1800s.

The displays showed items typical of that time period as well.

The main pathway leading from the interpretive center to house was once a carriage road.

Leading to and from the house, the paved road for cars goes under beautiful old trees.

- Natchez Trace Parkway in Natchez, Mississippi. I didn't take many pictures of the parkway since much of it looked like the photograph below. Although the entire parkway is 444 miles long, I was only on it for a small segment.

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful drive and I enjoyed the break from driving on the freeway.

According to the National Park Sevice, "The Natchez Trace Parkway forms an almost continuous greenway, or transect, from the southern Appalachian foothills of Tennessee to the loess soil bluffs of the lower Mississippi River.

"Over its length it crosses four ecosystem provinces, eight major watersheds, and twelve physiographic regions. Forest types range generally from oak-beech in the far south, to oak-pine mixes covering the vast middle section, to oak-hickory dominating in the north.

"Habitats represented within the park are diverse and include: streams, lakes, swamps, riparian woodlands, bottomland hardwood forests, upland hardwood forests, pine and mixed hardwood forests, prairie, fallow fields, and agricultural croplands."

If I ever have the chance, it would be interesting to drive the entire Natchez Trace Parkway.

- Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.It was raining on the day I visited this park, but I still left the car at some spots and explored different historical points and monuments.

It is a 16-mile, self-guided car tour through the park which is quite large - much larger than I thought. The road passes by many monuments that are tributes to soldiers who fought and/or lost their lives in the battle at Vicksburg.

The land was rolling in parts and forested in others, with deep trenches in many parts.

There were beautiful, pink blossoms on trees. This picture below doesn't do justice to how vibrant the blossoms were against the dark tree bark.

I was surprised at how much diversity there was in the land in terms of hills and ravines. For some reason, I pictured battlefields more level. The images I always saw in textbooks were of flat battlefields - nothing like what is pictured below.

The visits to these historical parks provided a completely different and much more engaging view of American history. I'm so happy that I went to each one of them.

3. Visit six new state parks in Minnesota as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails (St. Croix, Afton, Fort Snelling, Minnesota Valley, Frontenac, and Forestville/Mystery Cave).

I have not done this yet.

4. Visit two new national wildlife refuges in Minnesota (Sherburne and Upper Mississippi) as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails.

I have not done this yet.

5. Identify and journal three new birds. IN PROGRESS

On my trip to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas I saw four birds that I have never seen before:

- Boat-tailed Grackle in Venice, Louisiana.

- Northern Mockingbird in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

- Black Vulture in between Vicksburg and Greenville, Mississippi. I didn't get a picture of this type of bird because I was driving. There were about a half dozen of the black vultures in the median.

I also saw a vulture on the side of the road driving from Vicksburg back to New Orleans. Since there were no cars behind me, I stopped on the side of the road. The vulture just looked at me - much like the bird pictured below - and didn't move from the carrion. It was not going to give up its meal.

- Double-crested Cormorant at Lake Chicot, Arkansas as well as in northeastern Louisiana.

I have photographed the birds, but not completed entries in my nature journal because I want to include pictures of them.

6. Identify and journal three new types of wildlife. IN PROGRESS.

On my trip to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas I saw three new types of wildlife that I have never seen before. I have photographed them and want to include pictures of some of them in my nature journal. So journaling will have to wait until I return to Minnesota.

- Nine-banded Armadillo in Greenville, Mississippi. (Unfortunately, the armadillo was road kill, but I was able to it up close.) Rather than show what I saw, I found a picture of a living armadillo.

- Brown Anole in St. Francisville, Mississippi.

- Eastern Carpenter Bee in St. Francisville, Mississippi. The bees that were visiting these flowers were huge - way beyond anything I have ever seen. They were focused on flying from flower to flower and didn't seem aggressive or bothered that I was so close to them. It gave me plenty of time to enjoy seeing a bee that does not live in Minnesota.

7. Take 12 hikes throughout the year. IN PROGRESS.

- Hiked briefly at Leroy Percy State Park on Saturday, March 21st. The rutted, muddy road that is pictured below was next to the sign for the state park.

As I drove for probably a good mile on it, sure the car would get stuck the mud, I turned around when I came to a gate to the right hand side indicating this road was not the road to the park, but rather would be the next road over.

No one was at the welcome gate or at the visitors center, so I drove around a bit to see if there were any trails. I didn't see any which is quite different from state parks in Minnesota.

I ended up driving to a section where there were cabins and parking at one where no one was staying. The cabins all were along this river that was clearly flooded.

The ground around the river was very saturated.

Many of the trees were submerged in a couple of feet of water. Since it was raining, I didn't spend too much time outside. It was, nonetheless, nice to get out of the car and walk around a bit.

- Took an extraordinarily brief walk through Winterville Mounds State Park on Sunday, March 22nd. Due to the torrential rain and super-saturated grounds, it was not conducive to a pleasurable hike. Yet, I wanted to go to this park because of its historical significance.

The mounds were build by prehistoric Native Americans and the mounds range in height from between 1-2 stories tall.

There were no large animals used for work at the time, so the mounds were all built by hand. The Native Americans took buckets of soil, brought them to the mound, stomped it down, and then repeated the process. 

- Hiked at Lake Chicot State Park on Sunday, March 22nd. The lake is 22 miles long and 1 mile wide. Is is shaped almost like a crescent moon or the letter "c."

The trail that they had at this state park was partially submerged in areas due to all the rain that this area of the state has been receiving.

Eventually, I came to a path that someone made using logs. The first and middle parts were rather secure in the mud. However, the last few logs still had some movement in them, thus the intention of keeping one's shoes dry did not work.

Despite the water-logged path, it was well worth the time spent. All around were countless birds singing - many of which I had never heard before. Periodically, the red-winged blackbird would chime in - a familiar - and welcomed sound in the spring in Minnesota!

8. Visit 6 nature centers at the state parks and wildlife refuges. IN PROGRESS.

None of the wildlife refuges that I visited in Louisiana and Mississippi had nature centers. Rather, they had outdoors displays with information about wildlife typical to the area.

Lake Chicot State Park in Arkansas had a nature center that I visited and learned quite a bit at about the largest lake in Arkansas, some of the wildlife in the area, and the historical significance of the area.

Saw an alligator, though it made me sad that it was in such a small aquarium.

There was a display on the wall with different patches of fur. You could touch the fur and then try to figure out which animal it belonged to using the images on the wall to help.

There was information a bout the Mississippi Flyway - something that the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl team I am coaching has been learning about over the past few months.

9. Post a nature photo each week based on the Nature Photo of the Week Prompt List. IN PROGRESS.

I wrote about the first 12 weeks of the challenge HERE.

10. Do nature studies at least three out of four weeks of each month (36 entries) both online and in my journal.

Not doing so well on this goal.

11. Try 2 new outdoor sports.

I will be waiting until warmer weather to try some sports.

12. Have 6 picnics when the weather is pleasant and we aren't battling with mosquitoes.

Still waiting for consistently warm weather.

13. Go camping twice during the year at new state parks.

In a few months it will be warm enough to go camping.

14. Learn 3 new outdoor skills and/or hobbies.

Nothing new learned here yet. I'm waiting for late-spring and summer to work on this goal.

15. Attend 4 workshops, classes, or activities at state parks.

Programming for the spring and summer has been posted, and I have classes and activities on my calendar now including nordic walking, outdoor cooking, and archery.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 12

For the twelfth week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I read Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey - Nine Steps of Forgiving through Jesus' Beatitudes by Flora Slosson Wuellner. The author uses the Beatitudes as a way of framing the nature of forgiveness.

Some of the highlights from the book include:
- Forgiveness is a major release: a release from the prison and burden of the past. This release does not mean release from responsibility for what what done. Nor does release necessarily mean release from paying a penalty in this world. It means release from the chains of resentment and guilt that hold us back from...freedom [and a] new beginning.
- Mourning includes more than anger and sorrow. Mourning can include a feeling of vulnerability after we have been hurt. We feel like a target. Now that such a hurt has happened, we wonder if it will happen again. We feel unprotected in a hurtful, dangerous world, wondering whom we can trust.
- Shame is often a response to being wounded...We may feel humiliated, somehow rendered unclean and unworthy when we have been abused. It is a well-documented fact that victims of abuse....often do not name or report abuse because they feel shame and embarrassment that such a thing has happened to them. They may feel they have brought it on themselves and are unworthy of help.
- Healthy forgiveness is usually impossible if these feelings are pushed past too quickly in the name of forgiveness. Such feelings do not go away until they are healed.
- In situations that are not...critical, we may well need a time of emotional distancing. We may need to stop meeting or talking with the other person for a while, taking the space and time we need before we interact again.
- Even when dealing with hurts that are truly trivial, it is wise to create an inner safe space, an inner distances, if only for a few moments to face what has happened and what we feel about it. We can go into another room, take a walk, gaze at a tree or plant, take a few breaths at an open window, close our eyes for a few minutes.
- Meek: not self-effacing, passive, or submissive. He knew his worth, and he knew that his intentions had been good. But he listened, he was open to change, and he responded to this experience out off an inner power rather than force.
- In this wounded and wounding world we will always be in some less-than-perfect relationships.
- Abusiveness is an addiction to power exerted over another, and mere communication skills do not heal it. Setting limits is absolutely necessary in such cases.
- The best reparation we can offer is to become compassionate toward those who mistreat us the way we mistreated others, releasing them from resentment. For example, instead of taking offense at a friend who had forgotten or who was too busy to call or white me, I would try to remember how often I too had become distracted and overwhelmed by daily chores an neglected others.
- If we split our energies, if we try to serve two conflicting purposes, if we say one thing and do another, we are living dangerously fractured lives.
- We will need to release our expectations that past history can be changed or compensated. That is past. Yes, something was lost, and harm was done. I grieve for it. But now, I am in a different spiritual and emotional universe. I see with different eyes. I am a new person now. -

Nature Photo of the Week (Weeks 1-12)

One of my goals for 2015 is to take 52 pictures using the Nature Photo of the Week Prompt List. Ideally I would have been taking one photo per week since the beginning of the year. It hasn't worked out that way. It would have been helpful to have printed the list the first week of January to refer to, but I didn't do that.

Now, I'm going back on photos that I've taken during the past three months and matching them to 12 of the prompts to get me back on track.

Cold: The first thought that comes to mind when I see snow is "cold." The animal tracks are evidence that life continues even in the snow and cold.

Self-Portrait: Sophia was putting a scarf on me as if we going outside at the Music & Memory program. This is a program that we helped launch in January at the nursing home where we volunteer. One of the residents also wore this scarf, and was singing and laughing as she listened to the music that we personally selected for her.

To me, this picture reminds me of the power of music, and how it can transform a person affected with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease by unlocking good memories of time long passed. It also reminds me of my father who had Alzheimer's Disease and how much he loved nature, wildlife, and birds. His love of these things was passed onto me which is and will continue to be an integral part of my life.

Wood: These holes are in the bark of one of the pine trees in the front yard. They are from some type of woodpecker. I don't think it's a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker because the holes of that type of bird are more orderly and in a row. However, perhaps the bird that left these holes in the tree was interrupted as it was drilling holes looking for sap and insects. We'll never know!

Sign: A stripped pine tree limb is a sign that a squirrel has been busy eating the bark off the tree as a source of food. Squirrels prefer to strip branches that are horizontal, but have been known to strip trunks too. The damage can be extensive. Thankfully, the squirrel only stripped the bark off of one limb of this tree.

Bark stripping usually occurs in late winter, but it can occur in the spring if trees don't produce mast.

Top: This is the top of the tree that is near the mudroom roof and bedroom window. The berries aren't eaten by the birds until spring. Robins and cedar waxwings visit the tree and in less than a week it will be cleared of berries. The birds are clearly hungry and welcome eating the berries after their long migration back north.

Shadow: This picture was taken at Fort Jackson in Louisiana. It was 82 degrees outside and the sun was behind me. Part of the fort and fence can be seen in shadow on the grass. The Mississippi River is in the background.

Bird: This is the Boat-tailed Grackle that I saw in Venice, Louisiana. It was almost near the end of where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. I had never seen this bird before and was happy that I could find what it was. It has a very long tail that is scalloped - which is a distinguishing feature of it.

Peaceful: This photograph also was taken in Venice, Louisiana. This heron found a raised section of vegetation that it chose to rest upon as it looked out at the river. It was as if it was in its own world - noises and other birds didn't seem to bother it all.

Motion: These 18 little ducks quickly swam away as I approached. They are all about the same size, so I don't think it was parents with their ducklings. It seemed more like an adult flock of ducks.

This is in Venice, Louisiana, during March so it could be that they haven't started making their way back north on their migration journey or they could be local ducks that prefer this type of environment.

Old: These beautiful oak trees are at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. The double row of live oak trees form an alley or canopied path that is about 800 feet long. The trees were planted in the early 18th century – long before the present house was built. The alley runs between the house and the Mississippi River.

Trail: In a way, I kind of hesitate to use the "trail" prompt on this picture, yet it is reflective of what much of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas (the three states I traveled to in March) are having to deal with because of heavy, prolonged rain.

This trail is at Lake Chicot State Park. Someone put these logs in the middle of the trail so people could pass from one part to the other and not step in about 4"-6" of water. The first part and middle part of the wooden log pathway were relatively secure, but those last few logs still had some movement in them, and resulted in some rather wet tennis shoes. Oh well...walking on the trail was well worth it as I listened to all the birds singing around me and overhead.

Makes You Smile: This little tree frog was nestled in a reed at the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe, Louisiana. The reed caught my attention because it reminded me of a thin bamboo reed. As I pulled the reed towards me, I looked in and saw a little face looking back at me. It stayed very still and didn't move. Perhaps it thought I couldn't see it. It still makes me smile when I look at it tucked so nicely into its tiny reed home.

As I look back on the photographs, I'm happy that I've waited until now to do this post. This trip to the trio of southern states that I'm visiting has motivated me to get out again and start exploring new areas closer to home. 

The National Wildlife Refuges and park systems (national, state, and county) are rich with natural treasures. I'm excited to see what the rest of the year holds in terms of discoveries!