Posted in Essay, Photography/Photographer, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Joy



When I look at this photo of my oldest son (who is now 21–yikes!), I cannot help but feel pure joy! His joy is so strong that it overlaps out of the photo frame, across time, and into my heart. This tells a story of being present, being fearless, and being immersed.

Being present to the experience allows us to put away all the “what ifs” and “I shoulds.” Leaving the past behind (what if I had…) and leaving the present in the future (I should do…). Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stay present to what is happening right now. What is happening right now? I hear the rushing wind through the open window of cars rushing along a distant road, the scrape-scrape-scrape of yardwork, indecipherable young voices traveling along buoyant air waves…

Being fearless lets us experience new things, but it also gives us the courage to express ourselves. What you can’t tell about this photo is that this is the waters of the Puget Sound. And the average water temp is 50-55 degrees. In other words, it is cold-a** water!  But he is present to the experience and it enables him to let his emotions travel across his entire body! To me, the photo screams joy! Exhilaration! And he doesn’t care if everyone knows it. What feelings need to be expressed that require courage? I have been having real bouts of depression lately. I think it is important that people outside my inner circle know that.

Being immersed in the experience removes the possibility of detachment. Maybe it is just me, but it seems that there is a way to be present, feel your own feelings, but to be detached from All That Is. Detached from creation. Detached from one another. It is almost a selfish experience of religious ecstasy. Now, bear with me for a moment. I have had religious ecstatic experiences. In a certain theological mindset, the experience is all about me & the divine experience.  It leads nowhere. To no outside experience of love and service. Then, when the experience abates, there is a seeking out of the next divine experience. Almost like an addiction. Over and over, seeking ecstasy. But there are three parties in the cosmos. Me, All That Is, and You. You is a lot of things.

  • People
  • You
  • Creation

And all that is in it and outside of it. If we are attached to one another, we will step in to stop injustice. We will work, together, towards a better future, realizing joy in the here in now. In Christian tradition, it is called the Kingdom of God. It is important to me to reach out to the lost, the least, and the lonely. Especially those in the LGBTQ community that have been harmed by religious tradition. It is important to me to also reach out to the least among us that have been affected by incarceration, especially young people whose histories are not yet fully written.

What would our lives be like if we stayed present, fearless, and immersed? Better yet, what would the world be like?

by Terri Stewart
by Terri Stewart

Shalom and Amen!



Posted in General Interest, Jamie Dedes, memoir, Poems/Poetry, poetry

and then a new generation

10358082_10152372768442034_1234373728_n…and then a new generation …
a boy, an old soul
but a merry new story
fresh at bone and marrow
adhering to Conrad’s dictum
with little shocks and surprises
in every sentence of his book
his life, his metaphor . . .
wearing Truth as his dermis
seeking tears, not blood
and he, like all good art
changed me for the better

© 2014, poem, Jamie Dedes, Photograph courtesy of my cousin Dan, all rights reserved, from the family album, please be respectful

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Posted in Blaga Todorova, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry

I Can Write Another Poem Tonight

450px-Tango-Show-Buenos-Aires-01After Pablo Neruda …

I can write another poem about the distance tonight.
Something about chants over shivering seconds and stolen lights,
about his mahogany eyes and forgotten Milonga dance.

But the night burns with treacherous sparks,
with thousand butterflies over cliffs and tides.

I can write another poem about him, how I craved
his lips, his words, his hands and sometimes he did too.

In nights like this, within crested dreams, he desired me
and sometimes I did too. And how couldn’t I?
The world in his eyes, I was the only one allowed inside.

I can write another poem about love and passion under
the never-ending violin sounds and voluminous skies;

when I know that everything is bound to break,
even the perfect curves chasing the ocean.

To feel that with every crash of the waves I have lost him.
To hear the whispers of his soul, faraway whispers,
even more without him,

when the night ignites under the moonlight and
poetry drops heavily on my heart, just like
the rain that strikes everything dead or alive.

And that’s all there is. In the distance someone plays
Morricone on the piano. In the distance.

My mind does not know harmony. My heart searches for his.
My voice longs for the breeze that would carry my secrets to him;

how I no longer hate the darkness of the night without him,
it’s true, but maybe I still do. Longing comes so suddenly, settles
comfortably in the shape of a precious hug and never dies.

Because in nights like this he always held me in his arms,
through the imaginary miles apart,
while poetry drifted into the distance, silently, lilac like and sad …

– Blaga Todorova

© 2014, poem and protrait (below), Blaga Todorova; photo credit ~ Dancing Tango in Buenos Aires by Jenny Mealing and licensed under the CC A 2.0 Generic license.

unnamed-6BLAGA TODOROVA (Between the Shadows and the Soul) ~ was born in Bulgaria, lives in Greece and doesn’t stop dreaming about finding new country for herself. She doesn’t consider herself a writer, but just someone who sometimes is lucky enough to be at the right place, with the right person, with the background of the right music that will bring the right words.

Blaga has been blogging for many years now and has won the friendship and following of other poets and writers for her insights, humor and sense of romance and of justice. English is not her first language, but she uses it well and it is her favorite language for her favorite artisitic persuit, writing. She has a novel in progress. She is also a rather accomplished photographer.

Although we believe Blaga was named for a relative, it is interesting to note that she shares her lovely first name with Blaga Dimitrova, the Bulgarian poet and former Vice President of Bulgaria (1992-1993) who was the inspiration for John Updike’s short story, The Poetess. We have invited Blaga Todorova to write about Blaga Dimitrova and hope to present that work on The Bardo Group blog one day.

Posted in Essay, General Interest

Joy in January

The temperature on my car dashboard said -10 degrees this morning.  A “polar vortex” has moved into Milwaukee, and my partner Steve is a US Postal Service mail carrier.  He will be working outside today despite warnings (no doubt escalated by our sensationalizing media) about frostbite and hypothermia.  However, he is excited about the opportunity to live in the moment, make decisions one after another, and flow with the realities of the environment.   His attitude reminds me that we can choose to feel victimized and we can choose to feel joyful.  The following is a post on Joy that I first published 2 years ago.

Joy to the World

Gift of the Universe #22:  JOY!

I truly believe that joy is available to everyone.  No one is denied the opportunity to be joyful.  Many people on this planet will never have a full stomach or adequate shelter or enough material wealth to climb out of poverty, but believe it or not, some of those very people know joy.

“Joy is not in things; it is in us.”  – Richard Wagner

“Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”  – Joseph Campbell

My late husband was ill for many years.  He went under the knife for open heart surgery when he was just 31.  He suffered a host of medical problems stemming from diabetes, always believing that he would get the disease under control.  When he realized that was not going to happen, he said, “Okay, I’m sick.  I can be sick and miserable, or I can be sick and happy.  I choose happy.  Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”  I really admire him for coming up with that maxim, and for embodying it.  The night before he died, he called me at work and asked if I’d like to go out to dinner.  Our daughters were out for the evening, and he took the opportunity to enjoy a ‘date’ with me.  We went to a local sports bar & grill and enjoyed veggie appetizers and sandwiches.  Our youngest called from rehearsal to say she was not feeling well and was coming home early, so we went home to be with her.   Jim was tired, so he took his medications, hooked up to his dialysis machine and CPAP and watched some TV.  When I came up to bed, he turned off the TV and the light.  We fell asleep holding hands.  He never woke up.  And he never complained.  Some people claim that “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything”.  I don’t buy that.  Jim didn’t have health, but he had joy and love and he knew it.

Many people would foreswear food, health, housing, and money in order to find joy in an ascetic lifestyle.  Mendicants, yogis, monks, and priests of different faiths have adopted austere practices in order to experience the bliss of enlightenment.

“Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”  – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.”  – Julian of Norwich

This is a deep and serious topic, and much too heavy for me to write about today.  My brain is circling closer to Dr. Seuss and The Grinch who puzzles how the Whos could be singing without “ribbons and tags, packages, boxes and bags”.  Perhaps joy means a little bit more than the glee we feel when we get a shiny, new present.  Happiness is fleeting.  Joy is deeply felt.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  – George Bernard Shaw

I’ve got to say that the way I have most felt this joy of being used for a mighty purpose and force of Nature is through mothering.  I know what it is to be thoroughly worn out and joyful.  I know what it is to feel like nobody is devoting himself to my happiness and not to complain because I am finding so much joy in devoting myself to someone else’s well-being.  Not that I didn’t complain occasionally (hey! I’m human!).  I always felt that mothering mattered.  That I was truly making a difference, a big one, to at least four people in the world.  I smiled at my babies even when I was not feeling joyful, and joy emerged.   Never underestimate the effect of a smile.  Check out this Still Face Experiment by Dr. Tronick on youtube.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

My joyful (and crazy!) kids

Are you smiling every day?  I’m sure I am.  I even busted a belly laugh today as Steve was describing a Giotto fresco…of Mary and Joseph… kissing at the gates of Bethlehem…with Snoopy in the background.  He speaks like a nerd who knows everything, and then I realize he’s joking with me.  I fall for it all the time and then get to laugh at him and at myself.  Steve’s identity motto, which he came up with at a psychology school retreat, is “I am the joy in change and movement”.  I am really benefiting from his perspective because I am often afraid of change and movement.  I so don’t need to be.  There is freedom in allowing joy into your life.

Let Heaven and Nature sing…and see if you don’t find yourself singing along.  Rejoice, my friends.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2011, 2014, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Posted in Music

A Gift to Share With You … whether or not you are celebrating Christmas




From The Bardo Group Core Team

John Anstie

Naomi Baltuck

Terri Stewart

Corina Ravenscraft

Jamie Dedes

Josepth Hesch

Karen Fayeth

Victoria C. Slotto

Liz Rice-Stone

Michael Watson

Niamh Clune

Priscilla Galasso

Lily Negoi

Charlie Martin

Posted in Film/Documentaries/Reviews, General Interest, Music, Teachers, Video

Life Lessons from the Oldest Living Pianist, 109 year-old Alice Herz-Sommer

Our thanks to Laurel D. for contributing this film clip.…
The Lady in Number 6 is one of the most inspirational stories ever told. 109 year old, Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor, shares her views on how to live a long happy life. She discusses the vital importance of music, laughter and having an optimistic outlook on life. This powerfully inspirational video tells her remarkable story of survival and how she managed to use her time in a Nazi concentration camp to empower herself and others with music. See the entire documentary at:

Posted in Art, Photography/Photographer, Spiritual Practice

Wake up … and smile …

Our appreciation to Happy Smiles for this charming photo and inspirational thought.

Posted in Contributing Writer, John Anstie, Poems/Poetry

The Secrets of Life … Of Family, Friends, Community and More

“Ha-ha!” I might hear you say, on seeing this headline, “I must read this… the secrets of life” or, more likely, “not another promise of everlasting joy, health and happiness… I don’t believe it!”

Well, maybe you should, but don’t get too excited, at least until I’ve told you what it’s about!

So, if I were to tell you that it takes some lessons from classical Greek mythology, a legendary Italian Poet, Dante Alighieri, who is, some say, the father of the Italian language; a knock on the door of our own Poet and Playwright, Mr William Shakespeare, by reference to that famous soliloquy in ‘Hamlet’, as well as from a little known South African, Eugene N Marais, who did some fascinating and revealing research on the social life of ants; and that it is a poem called… The Secrets of Life then will you have a different reaction? Or will you think it’s a bit overly preachy?

I hope not and trust you will give it a read and tell me what you think about it and, perhaps, give me your alternative views.

What it does come down to for me is the need for some contentment, a reduction in the stress induced in all of us by, on the one hand a fundamental, genetic and unconscious driving force and, on the other, a conscious material greed; one which can help us survive, the other can cause us to fail to find happiness. There is a balance, somewhere.

I’d like to invite you to read the poem that follows, and tell me where you think that balance is, for you.

Thank you for reading.

The Secrets of Life

The riptide pulled and weighed us down,
swimming in our shoals.
It bent us in our will to win,
oh weary, sorry souls.

Oh tiresome, terrifying days
when scholars moved to preach
that all of Christendom was ours,
but always out of reach.

Oh weary, sorry souls, I cried
for all of us, who’re driven,
wherein unconscious mind, so tuned,
lays bare the ego given.

Always, it seems, beyond our reach,
genetics never fail
to teach us how we must survive,
not how to trim the sail.

Ego’s given winds may blow,
but odysseys must end.
For quests beyond our human bounds,
Inferno may portend.

Just when this sea of troubles weighed
too much on mortal coil,
the magic of encircling arms
became the perfect foil.

So I reset the sails for home,
embracing Vesta’s heart;
discovered Marais’ secret strength:
in concert, ne’er apart.

– John Anstie

© 2013, essay, poem, and portrait (below),  John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).


John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Posted in Essay, Meditation, meditative, Music, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart, Uncategorized

Let Your Light Shine On

Finding Light
The Light Shines On

Where is your light today? What is leading you? What is giving you hope? Joy?

“When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, …..

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, …..”
― Paul McCartney

A note about the light fixture:

I photographed this light at the Merchant’s Cafe in Seattle, Washington. It is the first cafe in Seattle and has seen several iterations of its business as it was built, burned down, and built again. The interesting thing is that it is in the oldest part of Seattle (of course!). It was built in a building near first avenue. The tidal flats used to flood in every day, twice a day, up to third avenue. This makes doing business quite difficult! Seattle then had businesses build their buildings at least two stories tall. Then they raised all the roads, surrounding the existing buildings with raised roads. For a while, they put ladders at the streets so people would go off of the road, down the ladder, into the businesses.

Finally, they built sidewalks that connected the streets to the second story level of the buildings. So today, in Pioneer Square, when you enter the buildings, you are, in fact, entering the second story of the buildings that were placed there. If you look down, you will notice odd glass squares in the sidewalk. Those were originally skylights so that the first story of the buildings were kind of like an inside shopping mall with a view to the sidewalk above. So even there, in the midst of a buried first floor of these buildings, the light was still able to shine!

Such a fun history!

Shalom and Amen.


© 2013, post and photos, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved, originally posted at

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at,, and  To reach her for conversation, send a note to

Posted in Marlene McNew, Poems/Poetry


The Path that Skis Take is a video poem by Marlene McNew.

Marlene McNew"Veni, Vidi, Vici"
Marlene McNew
“Veni, Vidi, Vici”

Marlene McNew ~ is a contributing writer to Into the Bardo. She began exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (P.D.) nine years ago. Her blog (Strange Gift) is a vehicle for sharing her interests and her experiences with P.D. Marlene is a master skier and triathlon competitor. She expresses her beautiful spirit through poems and paintings.  Her YouTube channel is SkiDisiple.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #14: With Heart Divided


Excerpt from With Heart Divided



Donna Swanson

What do you say about dying?  Holding a hand that is already like a skeleton with skin stretched over it?  Standing in back of his lounge chair and putting your hands gently on his shoulders for fear of hurting him?  Kissing the top of his head where only a few strands of those once thick curls remain?  Saying, “I love you.” trying to make up for all those times you did not say it before?

On the night before our son, Mac, died, Jacob stopped by his daddy’s chair on his way to bed and said, “Goodnight, Dad” Mac answered “Goodnight, Jake.” John and I and Dennie had been there all day and about 10:00 I went home to get some sleep.  John stayed because Mac had begun to get really agitated in his hallucinations and he was afraid Mac, though weak, could throw himself out of his chair or hurt Shelby.

At 5:30 the next morning the phone rang and Dennie said I’d better come quickly.  By the time I arrived Mac had just won his war.  Satan had played his last card, death, and though he won a battle, he lost the war.  Mac died with his father’s arms around his shoulders and his wife’s arms holding him.  Shelby let the boys sleep until the undertaker had gone, then she sat in her chair with a child held close under each arm and told them their Daddy had gone to Heaven.

When we went with Shelby to make arrangements, the first thing she said was, “I never expected to be doing this at 33.”  Both the visitation and funeral service were held in our Church for there was not enough room in the funeral home.  The Director said he had never held a service with so many people in attendance.  Shelby and John decided to bury Mac in the little cemetery about a quarter-mile from our home.  Arrangements were made and now Mac’s grave is close by.

Of course Mac is not there.  He has changed the landscape of Heaven for us. No longer is it a place just to be talked about in sermons or read about in the Bible.  Now it is where Mac is.  And we wonder what he’s doing today.  We see Heaven through the eyes of sorrow and joy.  And death has truly lost its sting.

My family has lost many members to cancer; two sisters, a brother, my mother and several cousins.  When the battle is done and the tears have dried, the heart regains its equilibrium and life goes on.  But for the poet, part of the healing process is putting into words our thoughts and the thoughts we see reflected in the eyes of our loved ones.  These are written for my son, Mac, and my sister Jackie who died of ovarian cancer.


I step back into the shadow,

beyond the light of my family’s


Storing memories

that must last through eternity.

I watch for the last time

each milestone celebration;

each small moment.

I take in the wonder

of the ordinary:

The smile of the morning,

The uncertain rest of the night

and the miracle of a day renewed.

As eternity beckons

I reach for the temporal,

for one last touch of mortality.

But I watch from the shadows.

© cover art, narrative, and poem 2011, Donna Swanson, all rights reserved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Donna Swanson was born during the Great Depression in 1938 to an Indiana farm family.Youngest of eight children and a twin, she has lived her entire life in Warren County, Indiana.  A high school graduate, she chose to marry and raise a family rather than attend college; although she took classes in art, Koine’ Greek and psychology after marriage.  She has written nine books: Mind Song, published by The Upper Room in Nashville, TN; Rachel’s Daughters, The Windfallow Chronicles (a double trilogy), self-published; Splinters of Light, yet to be published, and the present autobiography.  A poem, Minnie Remembers, has become a standard tool in the study of gerontology, made into a documentary film by United Methodist Communications, and given the Golden Eagle Film Award.  It has been reprinted in most denominational publications and over twenty-five books. Mrs. Swanson is a Bible scholar and taught adult Bible classes for over forty years.  She began prayer and share groups for women in two area Churches and hosted a teenage “rap” group in her home for four years.  She counts among her mentors college professors, authors and ministers. Donna blogs at Mindsinger.

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry





Jamie Dedes


Midnight blue, so long and empty

it swallows the moon to fill heart

and still the strings of that beat

playing amber vibrato on the

dew breezes. It stings with lusts of

whispered secrets, of river speak.

Listen, before the mourning dove.


Pink pale love found, lost again.

Time and mind drift on ‘til there sets

a lotus peace. In that place full now

with chiaroscuro pleasures, neither

the moon or the sun, nor even stars.

Pure internal verities, unalloyed joy.

Photo credit ~ Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain