Pádraig Ó Tuama

I’d like to share this poem by Pádraig Ó Tuama. It can be found in his book, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World.

Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom…
and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit.
But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway.  So every morning I sit.
I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping

that I’m being listened to.  There, I greet God in my own disorder.
I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet
my Beloved…I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my
controlled and uncontrolled story.  I greet my untold stories,
 my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body.
 I greet the things I think will happen and say hello to everything
 I do not know about the day.  I greet my own small world and
 I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.  I greet my
 story and hope I can forget my story during the day,
 and hope I can hear some stories, and greet some
 surprising stories during the long day ahead.
I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet.
Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys
of North Belfast.


– Pádraig Ó Tuama

Learning From Nature

Logo for the “On Being” Podcast

I fell asleep to a podcast last night, and then, they played all night. When I woke up, I heard this conversation between Krista Tippett and Janine Benyus on an episode of On Being — “Biomimicry: An Operating Manual for Earthlings.”

These were the first words I heard today, and I’d like to share them:

Krista Tippett: I’ve been thinking in these last years about how culturally, I think we essentially ask capitalist questions as our starting point just instinctively: “How soon?” “How much?” And I’ve been paying attention to the questions in the chapter you’ve mentioned and other questions you’ve thrown out there, like “What’s worth doing?” “How shall we live here?”… the questions, “What would nature do here?” “What wouldn’t nature do here?”

Janine Benyus: Yeah, there’s this set of questions that we ask because biomimicry looks at nature as “model for emulating” — measuring to judge the rightness of our actions… The questions that go with that are, “What would nature do here?” and “here” is the most important part of that, because that’s the context. “What would nature do here?” “What wouldn’t nature do here?” is that measure part. And then, “why?” and “why not?”

That’s the mentor part. That’s the part where, if you have a mentor at work, and you’ve been there a while, something weird happens. You don’t know what it is. You go in, close the door, and say to the mentor, “Why did that just happen?”

“Oh, let me tell you about that.”

So life knows how to live here. Over 3.8 billion years, you know? It does. We have spent 250 years of Western science, asking about nature, and now, we’re starting to ask to learn from nature. It’s exciting! It’s a completely different way to do science to learn from rather than to just learn about, right?

That’s the switch. That’s really the profound switch. It calls on us to sit down, get out our notebooks, and pay attention in a whole different way than when we were just measuring. You know, natural history — my field — started out with, you went out in the jungle, and you didn’t ask. You shot it and brought it back. Our natural history museums are filled with drawers, and that’s when we were asking the “What” question. “What are you?” Not, “How do you live here?”

To Bloom Again

Sheet Music — Mahler’s 2nd Symphony

My local choir is performing Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony later this month, and I’m really looking forward to this concert. This Symphony is often called “The Resurrection Symphony.” The music and the text of the choral movement are so powerful.

Our choir director typically writes in translations for us over the text we’re singing, so we can know its meaning. I love how he translates it in the word order of the sung language rather than phrasing it for English. Because of this, sometimes, the literal phrases grab my attention.

As I was singing in our rehearsal, I had one of those moments with this phrase:

To bloom again were you sown
To bloom again were you sown

Perhaps that’s a phrase we might need to hear. And so I’ll cast it out today, letting it mean whatever it needs to mean for each of you.

To bloom again were you sown
To bloom again were you sown

Renee Roederer

Listen to the Birds

A perched, baby robin.

A Stress Relief Hack:

Listen to bird songs.

A recording will definitely do, but if you can listen to the real birds outside chirping away, even better. Bird songs calm our nervous systems.

Fun Facts: The sounds of birds are lovely, and they remind us of spring (great things). But they’re also calming for evolutionary reasons too. When our early human ancestors heard birds chirping and singing in the trees, that meant there probably weren’t any predators around. So everyone could be more calm and less on guard.

And our bodies remember this. So listen away!

Bird songs, along with other forms of calm, activate our parasympathetic nervous systems. And in times of stress or collective trauma, this is what we need. Our autonomic nervous systems have a 1) sympathetic nervous system which ramps up our ‘fight or flight’ responses, and a 2) parasympathetic nervous system which calms them down.

So in times of stress and trauma, we want all the life hacks we can muster to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

Bird songs are a good one!

Renee Roederer

Give Yourself a Hug

A red cartoon heart with white arms gives a self-hug.

A Stress Relief Hack:

Give yourself a hug.

Sure, you may feel silly, but try to put that away for a few reasons: 1) It’s good to give yourself self-compassion, 2) no one is watching, and most importantly, 3) this has great health benefits because it releases stress.

When we hug, our brains reduce chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine (big, feel good chemicals) and you know what? While it’s certainly great to hug another person, our brains don’t fully know the difference between an other-people hug and a self-hug, especially if we place good intentions of self care into that hug.

Hugs also stimulate the vagus nerve. When we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, that calms our fight or flight responses. The vagus nerve is a special hack to know about, because it plays a big role in that system. When we hug, we stimulate pressure points in our skin called pacinian corpuscles, and these receptors fire signals to the vagus nerve. Among other things, the vagus nerve plays a role in regulating blood pressure. Hugs, including self-hugs, activate this system and frequently, lower blood pressure.

So give yourself a hug. Give it a try!

Renee Roederer


A rocking chair near a tree. Public domain.

How are we taking time to rest these days, or how might we?

Rest is often the first priority to go. Rest is often culturally railroaded.

In order to receive it, what do we need to clear out of the way? What do we need to prioritize?

Just some questions to think about.

Renee Roederer

Trauma Responses in Relationships

Trauma often reveals itself as a cluster of reactions, rather than a set of memories.

On Instagram, @Somaticexperiencingint and @igototherapy shared these images about fight, flight, freeze, and fawn reactions in relationships. We might see these emerge in friendships, romantic relationships, among family members, or within workplaces.

Here’s the post:
Instagram Post

Buy the Paper, Renee

This is a confession.

As I was walking into the grocery store, a person asked me, “Would you like to buy a paper?”

This man was selling Groundcover News, a local newspaper. Their mission statement reads, “Groundcover News exists to create opportunity and a voice for low-income people while taking action to end homelessness and poverty.” We can find folks selling the paper in a number of locations, often downtown on street corners.

I answered him, “Yes. But would it be okay if I did that on the way out?”

“Sure thing,” he said.

I wanted to get some cash when I was checking out. And that’s what I did. I used my debit card to get some cash back, and I brought it back outside.

I handed it to the man, and I said, “I don’t need a paper, but I can give this.”

In all honesty, this was because I was unlikely to read the paper, at least beyond the front cover. Not because it isn’t worth reading, by the way. It is, and there’s some good stuff in there. I just know myself, and I get busy. Why take the wares off of this person if I’m not going to read it? Doesn’t that take one more that he then can’t sell to someone else?

“Actually, I’d like it if you’d take the paper,” he said, “It makes me feel like I’m doing something.”

“Oh, you are. Sure,” I said.

He handed me two.

“Thanks for giving me two,” I added as I began to walk away.

“Well, you bought them.”

I walked to my car, and I thought, Oh… Renee. Sure, I was trying to save his papers so he could keep selling them, but in handing this guy some cash, I was undercutting the fact that this guy has a job. He felt more dignity in selling the paper. Plus, wasn’t I kind of dissing the work that went into the paper?

And his answer was, “Duh, well you bought two.”

This is my confession today: How easy it is when trying to support others, and in trying to “do good,” to just keep the same stratified roles that a paper like this is trying to bust. “I don’t need your paper… but you need my money.” That’s not what I was thinking internally, but that was absolutely the impact. And that’s gross.

Buy the paper, Renee.
We can all buy the paper.

Renee Roederer