Turning Ughust Into Awegust

August is my least favorite month of the year.  There…I said it. (Well, wrote it.)

Typically, I’m not one to wish away time. But, after what is always a hot and humid summer in Texas, by August my spirit tends to lag.  August becomes Ughust.

An article from Texas Monthly magazine showed up on my Instagram feed.  “Think Seasonal Affective Disorder is a Winter Thing?  Try Living Through Texas Summer.”  The post was about how “exposure to excessive heat can affect our frame of mind: serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the body that regulates mood, fluctuates with the heat.

I am not alone.  It is a real thing!

Justified, I poked around a little more to find that August can carry heaviness as summer (regretfully) wanes, and we return to a more regular (mundane, to some) rhythm for September through May.  Some families feel loss as they experience their children growing older and going away as August is the threshold of the school year.  For me, the joy of gardening dims: the plants struggle in my flower beds and blooms diminish (with some plants getting downright crispy).  There’s the sweaty chore (no matter what time of day) of watering and the ethical struggle of how much water is fair to use in drought conditions.  Yes, Ughust is on.

Inspired by another article about “How to Preserve Children,” I pondered what I might do to preserve August – or, maybe better said, preserve myself in and through August.

And, so I have been working on a recipe for some Summer joy–adding a heaping cup full of outdoors (without whining that I wish it wasn’t so hot), pouring out a tablespoon of good reading, spreading out a creative sewing project, stirring in some fresh spiritual practices, whipping up some time at a local coffee shop (a change of venue for working and reading),…

The “shopping” for ingredients has called for some intentionality (and some spontaneity). 

  • A “Weekly Events” section in the local paper highlighted a session of “Forest Therapy”.  This was on a Sunday morning and the time outdoors became my church time that day. 

  • Waiting for a morning event to start in Houston recently,  I sat on a bench, listened to birds, watched lizards, and enjoyed a nearby water fountain.

Truly, the month is going by faster than I expected.  No, I’m not turning things upside down to be slappy happy.  Intentionally choosing some delight in order to “preserve” myself in this august month of August has allowed me to turn Ughust into a bit more of an Awegust.

On This Feast Day of Dame Julian of Norwich: Ancient Words for Modern Times


Icons of Julian will often feature her holding a hazelnut… and/or her cat.

Today, May 13th is celebrated as the feast day of Julian of Norwich in the Roman Catholic Church – May 8th in Lutheran and Anglican churches.


As an “anchoress,” Julian would have lived in an anchorhold like this one — a cell-like dwelling, attached to a church, in which she could live a solitary life dedicated to intense prayer and spiritual practice.

Julian was a lay woman who, in the 1300’s, dedicated herself to God — choosing a life of prayer and meditation as an anchoress.  Entering such a life was marked by a community dedication on the day the individual was enclosed (boarded up) in a tiny addition to a church building.  Access to the anchoress (or anchorite, when a man) was gained through a small window (a “squint”) through which they received Holy Communion, gifts of food, and prayer petitions from the public.  Sometimes the cell had a door which had access to a small garden.  It was customary for the resident to be given a cat to help control mice.  Julian was known to be quite fond of her cat and, in religious art, is often depicted with her feline friend.

Julian lived in an anchorhold (like the one pictured, above) for over 25 years.  Her squint opened onto a busy road in Norwich, a seaport town, and her spirit and grace and wisdom were such that her window became a popular destination for those who sought prayers and/or spiritual counsel.

Julian lived during a challenging era in England.  The Black (or Bubonic) Plague swept through Asia and Europe in waves.  Peaking in 1347-1351, outbreaks continued to ravage the continent for several centuries. Overall, the Black Plague caused the death of 30-60% of the population (far exceeding the devastation of the CO-VID 19 pandemic) and decimated economies. It is in this environment that hopeful, faithful, and deeply loving Julian thrived as a spiritual light in eastern England.

Julian was gravely ill, thought to be on her deathbed, when she experienced extensive spiritual visions.  These are recorded in The Revelations of Divine Love which is thought to the be the first surviving manuscript of a woman in the English language.

Her most often quoted writing is “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  In what she called her “showings,” these words were said to her by Jesus as she implored him about why sin was even allowed to exist in the world.  Jesus replied (and Julian notes that this was “said most tenderly”) that it was necessary to allow for sin “but all shall be well…”

Reflecting on these words and their larger context, one overhears three great truths for us, today:

First, All shall be well leaves room to acknowledge that things are not always well.  Certainly, during our days of sheltering-at-home and a virus that puts our people and economy at risk, ALL isn’t well.  (Isn’t it uncanny to realize Julian experienced an even more devastating pandemic?)

Second, notice Jesus “tenderly” answered Julian’s challenging question about why sin was allowed.  Julian challenged her creator with how he created!  God does allow us to go “toe-to-toe” with God about what troubles us.

Finally, Julian’s encounter with Jesus calls us to consider and claim the big picture of Life and Faith — that“all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Encouraging to hear these same words being used in contemporary settings.  A dear friend’s son co-wrote the following song (and recorded it with his band, “Blue Water Highway”).  Theirs is the hope that Julian’s ancient wisdom can encourage us in our current situation.  (Click here if you’d like to overhear a little bit more about the story behind the song.)




On This Week of “Earth Day”: A Lesson from the Forest

dangerfield state park

Daingerfield State Park

Years ago I was fascinated to read Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How They Communicate The following BBC News piece succinctly depicts the way trees “communicate” and share resources – making for a most fascinating “Wood Wide Web”: “How Trees Secretly Talk to Each Other.”  I hope you’ll find the 90 seconds it takes to view the story before reading on.

The connectedness of the forest floor suggests dynamics that can go unnoticed in our own backyards. There is so much going on to which we can be oblivious — until our ears and/or eyes and/or hearts are opened otherwise.

This time of pandemic has stirred a similar dynamic in my spirit. Connectedness.

Learning the Enneagram helped me to put some language to the sensation that can sweep through me as I experience moments that move me regarding to connectedness and belonging.  These connections are sensed in the moment when I look around our dinner table and bask in the gathering of family or friends; when, at major league baseball games, we sing the national anthem (even “Deep in the Heart of Texas”, for that matter);  a moment in Greece among the ruins of ancient Delphi (in Greece, referred to as the center or “the navel of the world”) when I felt an awe at a mysterious connectedness I was experiencing to a community that no longer existed (the same in Ephesus, Corinth and the city wall of Thessaloniki); when I join in the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed and know I’m in unison with millions of voices.

Identifying as a 9 on the Enneagram, I long for and honor connectedness. (The Enneagram is a self-awareness tool that depicts nine different personality styles– reflecting aspects of our godliness as well as tempting pitfalls.)  While this dynamic of connection is just one aspect of the “9,” it is nonetheless a key part of my so identifying.

So we experience an outbreak which became an epidemic which became a pandemic.  Along with the disorientation and alarm, I am moved by (and grateful for) the “togetherness” we are experiencing.  We’ve moved from hearing about “them, over there” to truly feeling part of a global village.  No longer “them and “me”/“mine”/“ours”, it is “we” and “us.”  We’ve moved from being oblivious to being keenly aware. “We are all in this together” is not cliché but profound.

This dynamic is God-made.
We ARE all in this together –
in nature and among humankind.
God has longed for us to know this from the beginning.
Adam AND Eve.
A garden to tend.
We have a God, a self, and neighbors to love.
We are more connected than we are usually aware.

Yes, the trees
and the forest
and this pandemic
(indeed, all of life!)
offer a lot of lessons.
The lingering question
is whether we are listening


P.S. If the “talk among trees” continues to intrigue you,
you might appreciate these TED talks by Canadian Suzanne Simard:

posted by Kathy Reiter on April 23, 2020


Listening to Each Other

Earlier this week, I met a lovely woman through our local food pantry.  This was her first visit to the pantry so we had a thorough interview ahead of us.  Her hearing impairment meant that I, with no signing abilities, would have to be creative in my communication.  Her impairment actually meant I had to pay careful attention to her while I communicated.   What occurred was a mixture of hand gestures, writing, and pointing to blanks on my computer screen.  Sometimes, when things got confusing, she’d look intensely at my face.  I’d try to speak clearly, she’d watch my lips and then nod and dig into her purse for the information required.  A couple times, I needed to get her attention and touched her knee for her to look at me again.  It seemed we both had to put energy into our time together.  Mostly, though, it really wasn’t difficult to accomplish what was required because of all the effort she put into “hearing” me.

As she waited for her bags to be brought out, she signed to someone she was “talking” to on her iPhone.  (The ability to communicate through video calls must be life-changing for these folks.) Watching her smile and sign and “listen” with animation was fascinating and, somehow, even refreshing.

In light of experiencing the effort she employed to listen to me, I’m struck by how sloppy I can be as a listener.  I make assumptions about where someone’s going in a conversation. Beginning to formulate my response, I quit hearing all that’s being said. I interrupt, afraid I won’t get to have input.  I physically multi-task and stay preoccupied.  Because I can hear, I think I am listening.

She knew she couldn’t hear so she listened to me very carefully.

It’s ironic – of all the people I’ve been with this week, she, with the worst hearing, made me feel the most listened to.

posted by Kathy Reiter on September 19, 2018