All posts by Mary Herbert

About Mary Herbert

I am a gentle listener, a woman of few words. My journey through life has been a spiritual one, as well as a physical one. My daughter, Katie, and I thought it would be interesting to combine some of our giftings/talents in a blog and see what happens. Let us know what you think!

My Environment

Right now my environment is in chaos!  We are getting ready to have our living room and bedroom re-carpeted.  We have odd furniture in the kitchen and other rooms, and the room that was set up as quiet space is filled with years of clutter from sentimental accumulation.  I miss this room.  I feel it’s absence because I had gotten used to the aroma of the scented candle and the routine of entry into that quiet space with it’s slanted ceiling.  There are things that I can’t find right now because the usual place has been misplaced.  But, Lord willing, this chaos is not forever.  I will bring order, a new order with fewer possessions, by the end of the month, after the new carpet is laid.

Outside the leaves are changing color.  It is cooler and the wind has begun to pull the leaves from the branches of our hackberry tree.  It is here, in this environment that I sit in silence, listening to the wind and the migrating birds.  Giving peanuts to my neighborhood squirrels, who have gotten used to me.  I seldom see my neighbors, even though the fences are low.  It seems we have become an indoor society, venturing out only to deposit our garbage in bins or to mow.  So if I walk the neighboring blocks, where the houses have numbers, but the people inside have names, I will seldom if ever encounter any of them.  But, my backyard, with it’s blooming mums and nasturtiums, is a place, an environment that holds a peace in this changing season.  It welcomes me when I accept the invitation with its aroma of autumn.

In some ways, my interior environment seems to be a reflection of the environment I live in.  A mirror of sorts, or maybe the source?  My interior is both a place of chaos and a place of changing color.  I find myself sorting through an accumulation of interior sentiments.  Anger as I walk through the election process and read about racial injustice.  I feel the frustration of being held in isolation.  I am sad, angry, frustrated… right along side my feelings of delight and enchantment… at seeing pictures of grandchildren, or feeling satisfied in the deep discussions with family and friends.  But I’ve also lost inner places or things that have grounded me in the past, things like scripture, or journaling, and centering. For those seemed to require a place that is lost in the chaos of carpet.  I find that it is in my outdoor environment, my natural environment where I find a place that my mind isn’t circling and cycling from one thing to the next.  But, where it rests and wonders.  Where thoughts of what’s next can take root and maybe grow.

So maybe this quote by Parker Palmer applies.  With its background idea of letting go of ego, and instead of being the spotlight, fading into my environment.  The acknowledgement of patience…extreme patience, as I give myself to attentiveness and openness to what it next.  It seems as though it is not an invitation to fade into and sleep as Rip Van Winkle did, but rather to go quiet, let go of my fears and become awake, fully alert and attuned to the environment.

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.” -Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

To continue in the dense underbrush, the frenzy and chaos that is part of my interior and exterior life, will not sustain me.  It is a place of safety, not sustenance. So I will go to the place that has opened for me and if I can let go and go quiet with patience, I might hear, see, or experience something wild that becomes the voice of the Sacred for me.

The Stranger We Meet

 I have been meditating on the parable of the Good Samaritan for about two months in relationship to the death of George Floyd, and then the poet, David Whyte in a recent online seminar talked about the Good Samaritan as meeting the stranger!  It got me to continue thinking about different aspects of the parable.  Wondering if I was the wounded person?  Well I’d written a poem about that.  Wondering if I was one of the people who walked by?  And why would I do that? What would I be afraid of?  Wondering if I was the Samaritan and did I walk by only to come back?  And what drew me back?

Wonder if I’m still the wounded person and I find myself looking at me? Do I know where those wounds come from?  Am I willing to help this wounded me or will I walk on as though I haven’t seen?

Yesterday (July 22) I was out for my walk and almost home.  A little girl ran up to me and told me her name, I told her mine.  Then she spelled her name for me.  She is 6 and had just turned 6.  She was riding a little scooter with pink wheels which I appreciated very much.  She couldn’t have a birthday party because of the virus….didn’t I know.  She is in kindergarten like my grandson and where does he live?  Very far away.  And her tooth so loose it is dangling, hanging by one thread and I think it will come out today and she is very excited, because it’s her first!  Well, I should go, I told her (because she is talking to a stranger and I worry about her openness).  Which way am I going?  Up the block and to the right.  So I’m going this way and then that?  Yes.  Ok, let’s go.  Wait, I say and ask, do your parents let you go around the block?  Yes, my dad says its ok.  So she rides the sidewalk and I walk the boulevard.  I notice the slope and am sure that it is fun to ride down and then hear that the other side of the block is better and she will show me.

I move onto the street and around a car, and there she is waiting for me, because she is faster with her wheels than I am with my feet.  I move around another and there she is again loving the game she is creating out of absences.  And when we reach the other side of the block, I stop and watch as she sails down the slope of the sidewalk to the alley.  She knows I have watched, and when she stops, she turns and waves and yells goodbye.

I met a stranger yesterday morning and so did she….but, which one am I?

The Good Samaritan

I stand looking at the body
whose blood 
lays in rocky ruts,
the angles are all wrong.
Here I stare,
standing with this person
whose breath 
is jagged as the rocks. 

 … Third in line, yet all alone,
I stand as outcast 
so tempting to pass on.
To simply move aside.
For who am I?…
   Not my problem.
   Not my neighbor.
   Not my friend.
   Not my business.
… I could pretend 
that I have not seen.

Yet I cannot unsee
how ugly are these wounds,
or move along alone.
I cannot move aside.
From some unknown place
I must find the strength 
to heft this body
into healing space

…I must pay
for I cannot move aside.



As I’ve thought and wrestled with the tumult our society finds itself in…the political divide and the racial wounds, the parable of the Good Samaritan came to mind.  The story of a man, a person, who had been robbed and beaten, and left half dead on the road must be prefaced with the question that was asked of Jesus:  Who is my neighbor?  So Jesus tells the story.  

First came  a priest, then a levite, and both passed by.  Then a Samaritan (third in line) came along and had compassion on the fellow who had been beaten and left half dead.  He bandaged him, put him on his donkey and took him to an inn.  He took care of the man’s immediate needs and then paid for his lodging till he returned.  

When Jesus is finished telling the story, he asks, “Which of the three who saw the man was the neighbor?”  It was the third in line, the one who didn’t move along alone.

We have seen some painful things in the recent months.  Pain that has been with us for centuries.  Can we continue to pretend that we have not seen?  It is hard to watch the history.  Hard to listen to the stories.  Hard to see the anger.  It is real work to create safe spaces for those who have been wounded…but that is a small payment and I cannot move aside.


…the presence of air

every parent listens for it
   tip-toeing into silent room
      to watch the rise and fall
the chest of sleeping child
…a quiet, perfect
      angelic form.

aeolian movement
   within aveoli
      from the moment of birth
air becomes gold
   by the tiny cry of life
for breath is sacred
   and the veil is thin

children laugh
lovers whisper
the grieving weep
we have voice as
breath goes in
breath goes out
a sacred respiration
   oh, the veil is thin

flute is played
   and breath is drawn
clarinet, bassoon,
      all infused with breath

but when breath is gone
   and trumpet sounds
we wait
   …and wait
      …for breath again
but the veil is thin
and breath is sacred

breath goes in

…breath goes out

   breath goes in

   …breath goes out

      breath goes in

      ……breath goes out

…the spirit, the soul


I stood beside her,
…in her mourning.
   In the grief wrenching,
      soul shaking,
She’d stood for hours,
love, streaming down her cheeks.

But, in the end,
when he’d looked at her
…she knew,
and I stood beside her.

She’d seen him
…in the morning of his life
when breath was firmly grasped.
She watched him
as breath expired…
    on timber frame.
Now, soul shattered,
her mother’s heart is crucified.