Why "Soulwork Adventures?"

EarthLife is amazing and if you aren't paying attention, it just may be passing you by. Slow down! Observe what is around you. Plant a garden. Make Your Own Food. Create Beauty. Meet People. Create.
Welcome to our blog. We love discovering what Earth has to teach anyone willing to be on the Growing Edge of life.

--Loretta McCarthy, Soulwork Adventures

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ritual: Remember John

Memorial for John
We gathered this evening on the east patio of the Mansion overlooking the road where John spent
Loretta and Christina honor John
Walking down the hill to the grotto
many hours clearing the gutters of leaves and weeds, so that the beauty of this place would be "unblemished". We were sprinkled with special water that John had brought here on his many trips. We sat in a circle and told stories of John - his generosity, impatience, love of Earth and of children, need for control, his transformation, and his deep gratitude for water and for the food placed before him. We read letters from some of his friends thanking him for the ways he touched their lives and the lives of their grandchildren. We listened to songs that spoke of "everything being holy now" and "our blue boat home"- both by Peter Mayer. We read the names of all the children to whom John dedicated his website. We sent "Love and Peace to the Whole World. Think It and Make It Happen" into the Universe. We celebrated the gift of John's life.

Christina Kemp and Sr. Beulah Martin
Impending Storm
And then, we brought John's ashes down the hill to a grotto circling a statue of Mary and returned him to the Earth he loved. Dark clouds had been gathering, so we hurried inside for a delicious meal. And then the rains and lightning and thunder came. What a blessing! Thank you, John!

The horse licked my hand

Denise holds up the granary

The horse-- now nicknamed  "licker"
Loretta and I hiked to the Belmead granery.  It was built in the mid 1840s, during the southern plantation era, by enslaved people.  Loretta and John were both instrumental in stabilizing the granary with the hopes that it would one day become an earth and environmental education center in the Thomas Berry tradition.  It now has a new slate roof and the large original timbers  have been reinforced, so that dream is indeed possible.  

On our return walk, we encountered two women on horseback near the riding stables.  Normally, I shy away from horses (allergies) but I was drawn to greet this horse and pat it on the nose.  I let the horse sniff my hand--and then it licked me!  A big wet slobbery lick right on the back of my hand.

I looked up the symbolism of "horse" -- it is reclaiming power to run and to vision.  The message for today: enter darkness, find illuminating vision and do not forget to play.  Strive for balance.  Heal mother Earth through compassion, caring, teaching, loving and sharing your gifts, talents and abilities.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Day at Belmead

What a day this has been! First, it has been a joy not to be moving along the highway - staying still and resting has been delightful. And even more delightful has been exploring the improvements to the building and the grounds since John, Denise and I were here three years ago. It is wonderful to experience the aliveness of this place and the many offerings being developed with and for the surrounding community.
The sign at the entrance to Belmead describes well what is happening here because a small group of women are gently and wisely caring for this precious piece of Earth and the story it holds. I feel sure that John is amazed also. He spent many weeks helping here over the years and believed this to be a special place. Be sure to check out their website at: http://www.francisemma.org

The day had a few "adventures" that make it clear that I am about tribute making as well as enjoying the great hospitality of the Sisters. I spent a couple of hours this morning searching for my car keys. I looked off and on in a peaceful way - eating breakfast, checking in my suitcase and other bags, writing in my journal, looking in the trunk of the car. No panic - Denise was helping and we had another set - no problem. I was very aware that I was grieving. Losing important belongings mirrors the loss I am feeling deep inside. So I continued to breathe, asked John for help, and found them where I had put them the night before.

John's photos, drying out after my mishap
The afternoon excitement came as I was doing a final sorting of the photos from John's many albums. Most of the pictures were neatly stacked on the desk where I was working. I reached for a glass of water - thankfully almost empty - knocked it over - and fifteen minutes later the floor was a vast array of scenes from John's life. I had often thought of doing that as an easy way of sorting. I just hadn't intended for them to be wet! Creating a tribute means dealing the messes that have been part of a relationship. I don't need to understand how, but all the feelings that have been part of this day are leading me to the core of this tribute - our ritual tomorrow: Remembering John.

Belmead on the James River

The Mansion at Belmead -- Our room is the second upper window from the left.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Happy Birthday John

Today John would have been 74 years old. It is his birthday and we are the ones who received the gifts!

1) a wonderful lunch with Carolyn Toben and Anita McLeod at Timberlake Farm (Whitsett, NC), where the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World holds its varied programs.
We had come unannounced, hesitated slightly at the entrance when we read a large sign: Visitors by Appointment Only, forged ahead anyway, and were very warmly welcomed. Our time there was truly blessed - good food, engaging conversation, story sharing, and a grand tour of the farm.

Carolyn Tobin, Anita McLeod and Loretta McCarthy
at Timberlake Farm Earth Sanctuary
Denise at the outdoor chapel, Timberlake Farm Earth Sanctuary
Read the inscription above the entrance in Latin:
"Bidden or Unbidden, God is Present."

Loretta leaves a gift with Kwan Yin
at the marsh creek bridge, Timberlake Farm Earth Sanctuary
2) our arrival at St. Francis / St. Emma around 7:00pm (Eastern Time) - another embracing welcome! More tomorrow - for now a good night's sleep.

Today: Thomas Berry Inspired Earth Centers

 From Timberlake Farm Earth Sanctuary to St. Francis/St. Emma in Powhaten, VA, today the presence of Thomas Berry was evident.  Serendipity led us to the beautiful meeting at Timberlake where we conversed about Thomas (and John).  I was taken with the place and the energies that created it and reminded that we need our great story to guide us along with inspiration from within.  I also found myself sharing so much about what was happening at home in Lake County around local food, timebanking and entrepreneurship and noticed an overwhelming sadness well up within me when I shared the plight of our local watershed and the struggle to protect it.
Timberlake Farm Earth Sanctuary in NC
Welcome to VA
Belmead, --St. Francis/St. Emma,
Powhaten, VA

Belmead Mansion --St. Francis/St. Emma, VA

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

At Home in the Rolling Hills

Today's drive felt very familiar. I have traveled these highways before: I-75 and I-40. Billboards advertised places I have visited: Knoxville, Asheville, and Gatlinburg, to name a few. A bit of nostalgia took hold of me as we drove through the rolling hills of Kentucky and Tennessee into North Carolina. I thought of the many years that I spent in Atlanta and the times John came by for a visit to help out at Maisha House of Prayer where I ministered. Even after I left Georgia, John would visit my friends and their families. They became his friends as well.

One of my Atlanta friends texted me this morning to let me know that she was praying with us as we traveled. Because our journey does not include Atlanta, Debby and I decided to chat via phone once I stopped for the night. I remember how much John loved to stop by and spend time with the Freel family. It felt so good to reconnect and then to read the post on the website about their remembering of John tonight.

In remembrance of John, we were telling stories around the dinner table with the kids since tomorrow is his birthday. They remember when he visited us to bring an Earth ball, Love and Peace t-shirts, books to inspire us. Mary said, "I like how he came here PERSONALLY to visit us and give us those gifts!" Yes, he will continue to inspire our family to love and protect our Earth, and love all the people who call Earth home. We miss you dear John...may you have Love and Peace in heaven and on Earth always.

Thomas Berry: The Dream of the Earth

From Hebron, KY
Through Tennessee

To Marion, NC
Fr. Thomas Berry

  Tomorrow we visit Thomas Berry's birthplace and the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World in Greensboro, NC.  Thomas died on June 1 of 2009 and John attended his memorial service. 

Thomas Berry's saw Earth as sacred reality.  Author of The Dream of the Earth and many other books, his work continues to inspire many earth workers, including me.

We have traveled a long way to arrive at this place.   

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Seeing John though Different Eyes

I have always loved my brother John. We are only a year and a few months apart in age. He was always there! In grade school we were even in the same classroom every other year. (St Casimer's was a small school in the Lithuanian Village with two grades in the same room with the same teacher.) We split for high school and then his time in the Marines and my time in formation as a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament. But from 1963 onward every place I lived John came to visit at least once - more often multiple times.

Today as we visited with two women of whom John spoke so highly - Sr. Mary Lou Dolan (Sister of Providence - St. Mary-of-the-Woods) and Sr. Karla Barker (Sister of St. Francis-  Oldenburg) I saw into John's life more deeply. Sr. May Lou was not expecting us. When I mentioned John's name, her face lit up and she said, "How is John doing these days?" I told her of his death and she responded, "Heaven is a better place now that John is there." My heart melted. After lunch in the Sister's dining room we had a chance to visit Sister at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice where she spends time "skirting" alpaca wool in the afternoon. She spoke of her delight in John's finding her when he stopped by each year - wherever she was on the campus John always tracked her down.

Sr. Karla spoke of John's bimonthly calls to her when she moved back to the Motherhouse from her long time stay as a staff member at Springbank Retreat Center in South Carolina and his visits to her place in Oldenburg, IN. John found it fascinating that she was living in a former bank building with the teller windows and huge vault still in place with different uses. We spoke of John's gentle spirit and his embracing kindness. I feel as if today I have been given a deeper insight into who John was - a good man - simple and steadfast in love and friendship. I am very grateful.

And oh, by the way, we were in five states today. How good  is that!

A Day in Pictures

Montage of the Day of Travel
...from Rockhaven in Missouri to Illinois to Indiana (twice), where we stopped at St. Mary of the Woods (White Violet Center for Eco Justice and CSA) and Michaela Farms and a visit with Sister Karla Barker, Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenberg, Indiana and then through Ohio to Kentucky.  I LOVE all the people we met who have devoted their lives to working for Earth.   Whew, what a day.

Loretta with Sister Karla Barker

Denise at Michaela Farm
Loretta in front of the CSA produce at White Violet Center

Monday, August 26, 2013

Resting a Bit

Today was a day off - off the road that is! We took time to enjoy the beauty of Rockhaven, the hospitality of the Jan, Diza and Maco, and the opportunity to share numerous stories about John. It is delightful to be with women who knew John so well and loved and appreciated him just as he was. We recalled his stroke here in 2007 and how he insisted that Jan and Diza take him to the VA hospital because as a Marine his health care coverage was there. Following his slurred directions from the back seat of the car, they arrived at a VA extended care center and administration office building. No more listening to John's advice - instead they took him to the nearest hospital where he was admitted and treated and then cared for at Rockhaven until he was able to travel.

It was at Rockhaven that John learned to honor the food that he ate. With the meal on the table, the blessing prayer included a description of the food and where it had been grown, how it had been prepared and who had prepared each dish. For a hungry man who sat down ready to eat, this was a challenge at first, but gradually John came to appreciate the ritual and enjoy the moment and the information shared. It change his relationship to food in a profound way.

I have felt John's spirit here in many ways. I am grateful that he is so strongly connected to this place.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rockhaven Hospitality

Rockhaven Ecozoic Center...  Feels like home.   We will take a couple of days here in House Springs to remember John and catch up with Jan, Diza and Maco. 

Loretta has hundreds of photos of John spread out on the dining room table...  recreating a photo album for his memorial service in Virginia in a few days.  Signs of John are everywhere here at Rockhaven, a place he loved and with people who loved him.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sun and Wind Power - NOW!

Today we drove through Kansas. No sign of "Dorothy or Toto", but abundant sightings of wind turbines creating energy as they turned slowly on the hillsides. Denise and I realized that this is a new addition to the landscape along I-70, from when we had traveled this way almost five years ago. There may have been a few then, but now they are plentiful.

John's passion for promoting his project: "Love and Peace to the Whole World" went through many transitions. In fact it started as " Mother Earth against Money" until he had a conversation with Denise in 2006 about setting up a website for his dream. She encouraged him to put a positive spin on his message and so, "People 4 Mother Earth" was conceived. Each year John created a new bumper sticker. In 2009 the message was: Sun and Wind Power Now! Though John recognized, as we do, the hazards that come along with wind turbines, he felt strongly that there was an urgent need to create alternative forms of  energy. Hopefully we will continue to find nonviolent ways to harness the energies that surround us.

Friday, August 23, 2013

One Day - Four States

The driving was easy - mostly straight and relatively flat. With a speed limit of 75mph, except in some construction spots, and two drivers we chose to travel over 720 miles so we could take it a little easier when we got into more congested areas. We started in Utah, drove through Wyoming and Colorado, and are ready for a good night's sleep in Goodland, Kansas. John is surely pleased with us. :-)

I've noticed that people ask one of two questions when we stop for gas or something to eat. "Where are you from? or "Where are you going?" We certainly have the look of being "tourists". Yesterday in Utah the first question was predominate. We usually answered with "Lake County" or "northern California", but when the clerk in a store in Winnemucca asked, we said Upper Lake in Lake County. Her response: "I used to live in Lake County: Lower Lake to be exact. I am going there next week to visit a friend in Hidden Valley Lake." Small world, after all!

In Wyoming today the second question seemed to be more popular. "Where are you going?" Telling them "Virginia" led to a puzzled look and a "that's a mighty long way" response. A wonderful opening for us to tell the story of our travel tribute in memory of John - his five cross country trips to help out at Earth Spirituality Centers during the last decade of his life. A simple story that seems to touch people and elicit hope and admiration.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Now in Salt "Lake County", Utah

We traveled a little over 500 miles today. My brother John came to my mind often. John would travel seven, sometimes eight, hundred miles, in one day and he always did the speed limit!! It took him a lot of hours, but he woke up early, stopped for short breaks when needed, and pulled into a motel before he got overly tired. He almost always traveled alone. (Hard to imagine since our day was filled with each other's companionship and conversation.) But John kept busy thinking through his next step for his projects, remembering his visit with the people at the center he had just left, and anticipating what was ahead at the next stop. He also carried on "conversations" with people he cared about. who had passed on: among them Sr. Bea and Mother Katharine, and with a small stuffed animal named Joey. His dashboard held many mementos: plush animals, pictures, etc. He found deep peace being on the road. Today we did too and we are grateful.

Angels travel with us

Taken in the skies over Nevada today

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

From California to Nevada

The day began with a flock of hummingbirds wishing us a joy-filled trip – right in the middle of the food forest at Dancing TreePeople. As we entered the Sierra Nevada dark clouds and lightning hurried us through the mountains. A brief stop at the Emigrant Museum at Donner Pass brought the farm back to our minds – among the native animal species displayed (stuffed, of course) was a ground squirrel – the “arch enemy” of organic walnut orchards.

The best part of our day was having lunch in Sacramento with Zac Sergio and his mother, Nina. They
have been friends with John for years. It was good to share stories from the past and to hear of present happenings and future plans. Zac is in college – his second year – and hopes to study psychiatry. I can almost see John’s smile and feel his pride – John followed Zac’s life as a loving grandfather would.

We had a simple supper at an Asian restaurant near our hotel – delicious noodle soup. My fortune: Connect with good friends at a distance. Tell them what is happening. Seriously that is what it said. Now it is time for a good night’s

Travel Day, 5:40am

We begin this tribute journey, from our place of beginning, with a ritual fire.  We bring with us Upper Lake cedar which we will share with other ritual fires at the Earth Spirituality centers we visit in the coming days and weeks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wonderful gathering - great send-off!

Our evening event was truly successful - delicious, mostly seasonal, food and plenty of time for networking. Plus a marvelous speaker on a timely topic: Access to Capital. After hearing that we would be leaving in the morning, everyone pitched in to help with the clean up. In fifteen minutes everything was put away, then conversations continued with many well wishes for our travels. We even watched the rise of a full moon. We feel blessed.
So off to bed tonight with grateful hearts. We will rise early tomorrow for some last minute packing and a few farm tasks yet to be done. And then we are on our way!

Our Starting Place

Dancing TreePeople Farm.
The evening before we begin our journey--Thrive Lake County hosts it's quarterly meeting.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Tribute Journey, flurry of activity.

Before we go...   fifty to a hundred people are visiting the farm tomorrow for an event.  Yikes.  Be sure to check back here to see if we have maintained our sanity... we set out on the tribute journey on Wednesday morning. 

I'm still figuring out what to pack, giving instructions to the caregivers at the farm, saying goodbye to the dogs and chickens, and setting an intention for the journey.

This is, first and foremost, a tribute to John.  In some ways, for me, it is a  reminder of how one person, with a simple intention, and inspiration, can make a huge difference in the lives of those he encounters.

My personal intention for this journey is to travel day by day with John's spirit in mind, and to pay attention.  I suspect there will be unexpected gifts and signs along the way.

In the words of John McCarthy:
"Love and Peace to the Whole World.  Think It and Make it Happen."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Tribute Journey -- Preparation

On August 21st, we will embark on a cross- country trip as a tribute to the memory of Loretta's brother John and his deep love for Mother Earth.  In the next weeks, we will share more about John and we invite you to both join us on a journey of tribute to him and to reflect on your own journey.

Loretta writes:
"I learned about “tribute making” in 2000 while participating in a twelve-week grief recovery program, The Phoenix Project, led by Dr. Jack Miller. Tribute making involves an outer expression of an inner truth that one has grown to understand through an honest and loving grief process.

Tributes can be a simple as writing a poem, as complicated as digging a new well, and as creative as producing a book or collage that captures the loved one’s life story.  It all depends on who is creating the tribute and who is being remembered. Creating and embarking on this trip as our tribute has unfolded as a powerful healing experience for both of us.

With this trip we want to do four things:
  1. Honor John’s generous, simple spirit,
  2. Collect stories for the book we will be writing about the last decade of John’s life,
  3. Spread John’s message of love and peace to the whole world as we travel and
  4. Give John one last trip across the country.
John deeply desired to make one more trip, but his diminishing health hindered him.  So we are making this final trip for him.  We will be bringing John's remains to their final resting place St. Francis/St. Emma in Powhatan, VA and will celebrate his life with a Ritual: Remembering John on August 31st at 5:30PM, followed by a potluck meal.

You are invited to come along with us in spirit as we travel.  You can do this in a number of ways: Join us in thought and prayer and/or contribute toward the expenses of our trip and, at the same time, support one of the places dear to John’s heart. If you live close enough, join us for the ritual of remembrance. For more information and a chance to participate in this tribute, please visit our Journey for John page at: http://www.people4motherearth.net

Loretta McCarthy (also known as Earthwalker) is deeply engaged in tending and cultivating the garden of the soul, through spiritual companioning and soulwork adventures.  Contact Loretta  here.