Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Simple Beauty

 From Color to Black and White - the first real snow of 2012

Those who know me, know that I am not a big fan of winter.  After all these years, the cold does things to my body, that do not allow me the flexibility of my youth.  That said, I do love how the snow looks when it is fresh and newly fallen.

We have had a very dry winter.  One freak snow storm in October, which took down many of the trees, but very little after that.  This concerns me in that the plants, flowers and trees here in western Massachusetts need the snow to grow properly. 

Then, today...Snow!  The first flakes were tiny and hardly noticeable, rather like the way the Blizzard of '78 began.  I will never forget that blizzard.  I was 8 months pregnant and the whole of Massachusetts came to a standstill!  I went for a walk, after things were plowed...I looked like a penguin waddling down the snowy, deserted roads.

Thankfully, my evening classes were cancelled, so I took some pictures.  I am always amazed at how pristine the snow makes the world seem.  There is just something about the white against the gray/brown of the trees that is so beautiful to me. 

 Same tree just one hour later - Color and Black and White 2012

Simple Beauty at its best!  No need for frills or bling, just white snow against the trees.  I originally took the pictures in color, but to me they already seemed to be black and white, so I enhanced them.  

Changing them to Black and White inspired this poem:


no extras needed here
simply what is
the delicate round of your face
the soft brush of your hair
eyes that look clear and deep
like glacial pools on a hot summer's day

no extras needed here
natural beauty
the curves of your body
the bounce of your step
lips that open to joyous sounds
like angels speaking the secrets of heaven

©2012 Linda M. Rhinehart Neas


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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Collaboration: SPARK 15

A bit back, I introduced Amy Souza, an amazing woman who encourages collaboration between artists and writers through a project she developed called SPARK.  SPARK came into being in 2008.  Since then, Amy has been bringing artists and writers together four times a year with results that are just inspirational, to say the least!

Personally, I have participated in several such collaborations.  This session, though, I took up the challenge to work as an artist, rather than a writer.  The results have been wonderful! 

Today I will share with you the work that Heidi Mordhorst and I have done together.  She sent me a poem she wrote for inspiration and I sent her a photo I had taken and digitally enhanced.  The results, I think, were wonderful!

Here are our mutual shares:  First, Heidi's inspirational poem with my response picture:

Side by Side in the Outhouse

One night late I’m brushing my teeth
when my dad says, “You know, son,
we’re poor.

“Here we are three bathrooms in the house--
one of them with double sinks--
and nowhere to have
a midnight two-seater talk.
Here, when you have to go in the night,
it’s a lonely affair.”
I have to ask what he’s talking about.

“When I was a boy in New Mexico,
if I had to go in the night,
I’d wake my father up. Together
we’d take our flashlights and
head to the outhouse.
Side by side we’d do our business,
alone in the deep dark of the desert.

“And then, since we were there, and up,
my father and I would sit for a while,
side by side in the outhouse,
in the cactus-flower glow of the flashlights,
with the Sears catalog handy for
paper and inspiration, and have
a midnight two-seater talk.
Yessiree, we’re poor these days.”

I hang up my toothbrush; Dad turns out the light,
and we sit down
side by side on the edge of the tub.

~Heidi Mordhorst ~all rights reserved

 "Tub" by Linda M. Rhinehart Neas 

This next collaboration is my inspiration piece and Heidi's response to it.

"Window Pains" by Linda M. Rhinehart Neas


To ash the hands who built the frame
to dust the hands who hung the drape
which taking pains to hammer nails
and taking pains to stitch and so

Painstaking made a house and home
to hold the combs and loaves and soap
that close and fill all cracks and holes
but open doors just out of sight

Blew the weather in and out
wore the boards and warped the house
how time and climate tore it down
the cloth to rags uncovering

Glass the last to fall holds in
panes taking gray gone finger prints
pressing through the house’s skin
a spirit of the hands intact
~Heidi Mordhorst ~all rights reserved

Later, I will post the other collaboration I did for SPARK 15.  In the meantime, I encourage my readers to visit the SPARK site and enjoy the wealth of creative work found there.

Thanks to my collaborators, Heidi and Anthony for this experience and of course to Amy Souza, for bringing us all together!


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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Forgive?

Asking For ForgivenessAsking For Forgiveness (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

In the last post, my guest blogger, Margaret Norton, began a dialogue on the Gift of Forgiveness.  Since that post, several people have emailed me to say, "How can I forgive?"  "Why forgive? They only keep hurting me."  "If someone hurts someone else that I love, they hurt me, too.  But, it's not my job to forgive them."

To these readers and others of like mind, allow me to repeat a truth that I can testify to wholeheartedly - Forgiveness is the greatest gift you give yourself! 

What does this mean?  The gift you give yourself when you forgive someone, is the ability to go through life without carrying around a bundle of hate, despair, fear, outrage, anger, disappointment and so on. 

An old wise man once asked me if I would carry around a bag of excrement.  I, not surprisingly, was appalled!  "Of course not!" I stated most vehemently.  "That is totally disgusting!"

"Well," he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "why are you toting around that bag of pain from all the hurt in your life?  Don't you know it stinks?  Don't you see how foul it is?  You have a bag of shit weighing you down!  Get rid of it!"

His direct approach floored me; however, after thinking about what he had just said, I realized the truth.  The anger, pain, hurt, fear, etc. that I felt towards those in my life that had wronged me was keeping me from living a full and happy life.  This bag of emotional excrement was actually causing me to be ill.  The stress of maintaining my pain and anger was lowering my immune system, causing me to be victim to every virus and bacteria within close range.

How did I release all this and forgive?

For me, what worked was to go to the beach.  I sat quietly, picturing each person in my life that had hurt me.  I consciously made an effort to see them as children. This allowed me to see their divine nature, thereby, allowing me to forgive.

Others, I have known, have used journaling or letter writing to release their anger and pain.  While others, found it helpful to speak directly to the person that caused them pain.  Honestly, the way we come to forgiving is as diverse as we are.  The point is, by forgiving, we release ourselves from the bondage of pain, anger, fear, etc.

Here is a beautiful song that illustrates this concept.


Before I end, let me say that forgiveness does not mean that we allow people to use us as doormats.  His Holiness, the Dali Lama has said that we can show others loving-kindness, forgive them, but set boundaries so that they do not continue to hurt us.  Remember, a snake is a snake.  Keep one as a pet and you could get bit.  Forgiving others does not mean we must be their best friends or even casual friends.  What is does mean is that we attempt to see the Divine within the other person.  However, we can do this at a distance, which allows us not to put ourselves in continued peril.

May we all learn to see the Sacred, even when it lies in the souls of our enemies.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Gift of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a gift we give guest to the blog today, Margaret Norton, shares her thoughts on this subject.  Margaret is a writer, speaker, personal life coach, and It Works! distributor. She is running a blog comment and Twitter contest in February to coordinate with the re-release of her book, When Ties Break, and turning 60! For more information and to enter the contest to win a free life coaching session or copy of her memoir, please see the end of this post.

Words from the Heart. What a wonderful name for a blog! Like Linda, I too am fascinated by words. I’m amazed at how careless we are when speaking to others – especially those we love. The spoken word has the power to help or hurt – all too often it is used to hurt. Relationships are damaged and lives are changed as a result of the words we speak. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes, all you need to do is offer an apology. But for many individuals, this is as difficult as the thought of donating a kidney. 
As we approach Valentine’s Day, reminders of love are everywhere. Love is not always easy, certainly isn’t perfect. I’ve never understood why we mistreat those we love. But, through the years, I’ve learned the importance of forgiveness. This did not come easy for me, but life is much better now that I try to practice the act of forgiveness. These are some of the lessons I’ve learned:
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. When you harbor angry feelings against someone it festers inside you like poison. Many times the other person never admits any wrong doing or never asks for forgiveness. People react differently to hurt and some wrongs are more painful than others. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong – people are entitled to their feelings.  

Not forgiving someone prevents you from having a fulfilling relationship with them. You might feel like you are getting them back by not forgiving but you are only hurting yourself. For the Christian, forgiveness is expected. Christ said we are to love our enemies and forgive those who mistreat us. We are to forgive someone not seven times but seventy-seven times.
We should always try to forgive others but forgetting is extremely difficult. We can forgive the people who hurt us the deepest but often events trigger our memories. That’s normal. The memory is not a reason to remind them of how bad they hurt us, but rather a reminder to us to set boundaries. We should forgive those who mistreat us but not allow them to continue hurting us. You can learn to forgive others, while keeping them at a safe distance. Forgiveness is never easy, but it is a behavior we can cultivate and it is always worth the effort.
  • People don’t always deserve forgiveness
  • People don’t usually ask for our forgiveness
  • We can’t continue blaming our parents or others for our problems
  • We must take responsibility for our own lives
  • Forgiveness is the ultimate gift we give someone else, yet it benefits us the most
  • Forgiveness is not a license for bad/abusive behavior to continue
  • We must learn to set boundaries to prevent others from hurting us
  • For the Christian, forgiveness is not an option, it is a command
Leave a comment on this post to enter into Margaret’s Celebrate 60 Blog Tour Contest. Margaret is celebrating her 60th birthday by giving away three grand prizes: a 30-minute FREE life coaching session (by phone—for U.S. residents only), her memoir in paperback (for U.S. residents only), and her memoir in e-book (for anyone!) format. 

Each blogger participating in the tour will randomly select one winner from all the comments and enter that name into the grand prize drawing. Margaret will contact the three grand prize winners for their choice of prize the week of 2/27 and announce winners on her blog on March 2. 

***For extra entries into the contest, please tweet about the contest, using the hashtag #Celebrate60 OR tweet about why you love being the age you are! (Don’t forget to use the hashtag.) Anyone who tweets with #Celebrate60 will get an extra entry into the contest for the three grand prizes. Any questions? E-mail Margo, Margaret’s publicist, at

Monday, February 6, 2012

What Do We Mean When We Say, "Love"?

Love hearts. Based on FML's image Image:Love h...Image via Wikipedia

I love words, but, unfortunately, the English language is sorely lacking when in comes to ways to express feelings and attitudes that all get clumped together under the single four-lettered word - love.  

Think about it.  We love our spouse, our car, our job and our best friend.  However, each of these forms of love is dramatically different.  For instance, we feel romantic, soul-connecting, physical attraction type love of a spouse.  On the other hand, the feeling we have for our car comes from the fact that we find it dependable, comfortable and easy/fun to drive.  As far as our job goes, if we feel passion for what we are doing and when we feel appreciated and valued, then we use love in an entirely different definition.  Finally, the feelings we have for a best friend come from a shared understanding of each other, an ability to trust and care for that person as well as shared experiences.  

As you can see, there is a BIG difference in all this love we throw around in our daily lives.  

Since this is the month associated with Love, I thought I would look at another form - agape.  The dictionary defines this type of love as - "unselfish love of one person for another without sexual implications; brotherly love."  In someways, it is the same as the love for a best friend; however, it is different in that we may have agape love for strangers.

Agape is when we see the Divine within another person, recognizing it as sacred.  This is what happened to me when I first became acquainted with Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke, the founder of Possible Dreams International, as well as the people of Swaziland.  As I read Maithri's words describing his work in Swaziland, as I met the people through his articles, I came to love them all.

Agape love is what spurred me one and inspired the creation of Gogo's Dream: Swaziland Discovered.  For the love of these people and the work of Maithri and the team of volunteers in Swaziland, I had to do give something of help them.  Creating this book of poems was my gift.  

Believe me, if I ever have the finances to leave my home for a period of time to travel to Swaziland in order to work with the people there, I will run to the nearest airport!  Until that time, I will continue to do what I can to raise funds for the work of Possible Dreams International (PDI).  To that end, all profits from the sales of Gogo's Dream: Swaziland Discovered goes directly to PDI.

If you are interested in reading my poetry and supporting the work Maithri and the PDI team does in Swaziland with the orphans and Gogo's (grandmothers) who care for them, please go to:

Let's share agape love this February! 


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