Play. Rest. Play. Rest.


This is one of my favorite photos of all times. It’s from the internet, but I feel I know this kid.

I recently came across this quote, “Rest until you feel like playing, then play until you feel like resting, period. Never do anything else.” — Martha Beck

Did you see that flash of light? Followed by the low rumble of thunder? That was me, getting struck by lightening.

I have long understood that pacing mattered. If I had no meaningful work, I was bored. If I had too much meaningful work, I was exhausted. Finding the balance in this work/rest cycle has been an ongoing discovery. My interests changed. My energy levels changed. But I felt that I had a handle on the basic questions.

But this is revelation! It is not supposed to BE work. It is supposed to be meaningful PLAY.

Say, What?  Meaningful play? What does that look like?

Well, from the outside, it might just look like meaningful work. But from the inside, it’s just fun, fun, fun until you get tired.

Real life example from last week: Through the Quaker Peace and Justice Committee, I attended a training session on how to canvas a neighborhood of registered voters on two local ballot initiatives. I value the work these folks are doing, but the closer we got to actually going into the neighborhood and knocking on doors, the more my body was screaming, “NOOOO!” I personally did not want to knock on the doors of busy strangers and engage them in a political discussion. I bailed on the activity.

Fast forward five days and I am out in a 100 degree F heat index digging up an old footing. This footing is a remnant from the old meeting house sign, which was broken when a Bradford Pear [invasive species-bad, but has large canopy-good] threw down an especially large branch during a storm and broke the sign.

I am working to remove the footing, because we want to get the new sign posts in the ground before the native species plants arrive on October 6, so the new plants won’t get trampled installing the posts.

South St. Louis is known for it’s beautiful 1860’s brick buildings. What is not so well known is that when disasters struck in the 1800’s (think earthquake or large fire), the buildings that could not be rehabilitated were pushed down and the refuse buried.

So, the place where I am trying to dig out a footing has more broken brick and limestone parts than it does actual dirt. There is a utilities line close by. I start with a spade, but that proves ineffective and I end up working with a dandelion fork and gloved hands. It feels a bit like trying to escape Alcatraz with an ice pick and a teaspoon.

And yet, despite the heat and the sore muscles in my hands and the frustration of having to remove those broken bricks and stones one by one, it felt like play.

I have a vision in my head of this beautiful old building, cleaned and restored, as a place of worship open to all. And a vision of our landscape as a garden that welcomes both locals and visitors to the neighborhood.

So what looks like work from the outside is play. Lesson– I would rather dig in the rock and brick than do a political canvas of the neighborhood. Good to know.

Back In Class


Gourd bird house decorated by me.

It’s September and I took two classes last week. On Friday I made this bird house out of a gourd. I’m going to hang it in the courtyard of the Quaker meeting house, which we have cleaned out and  started planted with native species. It makes for a better photo than the other class, which was far more interesting.

The first class I took last week was on “Rainscaping,” that is using bio-swales and other landscaping techniques, including moisture tolerant native species to slow down run off water and allow it to sink into the ground, rather than going into the sewer system. The Quaker meeting house borders an area that has high levels of pedestrian traffic, erosion, a sewer drain and multiple invasive species. I got lots of good ideas about how to landscape this area in the future to address the needs of the community. Plus I met some cool gardeners.

Open and Curious Relationships


Is not every relationship a winding path?

I would be hesitant to publish this post, if not for the insightful and articulate comments of my regular readers. Honestly, it feels as if I have dropped in as a substitute teacher to a room full of gifted students, who already did the homework and are expectantly waiting for the extra credit work!

For those of us on a spiritual path [and let us be real here–we all are. Some of us know it and are ponying up to the bar. Some of us won’t acknowledge it until the universe has hit us upside the back of the head for the twelfth or fourteenth time.] So- for those of us on the spiritual path-we want to maximize the opportunity and minimize the agony. I have for you all just one instruction:

Remain open and curious in your relationships. Ask yourself, “Is this my work? Does this work belong to the other person?”

And just so you know, the first response for almost all of us is, “This is not my issue/work/problem! This belongs to that other person who is ignorant/lazy/wounded!”

So ask yourself again, with all the kindness you can muster: “Is this my work? Is this their work?”

Signs that the work belongs to you: you have a history of multiple divorces, exclusion (i.e. you will not visit with or go to the home of a blood family member*) or that whatever is wrong in your life is “because of” other people.

Another sign that the work belongs to you-this same thing has happened multiple times in your life. Different flavors, same issue.

Signs that the work does not belong to you-Whatever was said about you makes you raise an eyebrow, say “Say What?” or giggle inappropriately during the finance committee meeting. If any relative will not set foot in your home, that is a sign that it is not your work. [Again certain caveats apply-are there legal actions? Religious restrictions? Etc.]

And let’s pay attention to encouragement vs. shaming as motivations. When babies are learning to walk, we encourage them. We get down to their eye level, we hold out our hands. We remove dangerous objects from the rooms they will be learning to walk in. We do not scold them each time they lose their balance and sit on their bottoms!

One of my children was ashamed that his first grade math sheets [you know, you’ve seen these: 1+1+2, 2+2=4, 1+3=4] had erased pencil mistakes on them. Hooie! First grade math sheets! In pencil! Mistakes!

You would think this was not a problem, but it was for this young man. And I spent several months working with him on the concepts of competence, responsibility, and that childhood was a time/space for play/inquiry.

So: again, to review when you have relationships that are causing you pain: ask yourself, “Is this my issue?” “Does this work belong to the person that I have conflict with?”

I do not want to give false hopes. Humans can be difficult. But in my own family, I have seen, through patience and concern, that a person that would not cross the doorstep of her son’s home, now goes there every Sunday night for dinner. [credit to her son and daughter in law.]

*Just want to point out that some people have lived through terrible, toxic family situations. If this is you, it is not your job to rescue and heal all of your relatives. Again, the most important part of this work is the question, “Is this my issue? Does this issue belong to the people I am interacting with?”

And to all of my beloved readers: Be embraced by the goodness that loves you.