Yearly Archives: 2013

It’s All About the Coze!

In this world of increasing metals, plastics, and iClouds, I am finding it more important than ever to help surround my granddaughter with the warm and fuzzy elements of our lives that emphasize the organic sensibilities of a young human. What a lovely task!

Winnie’s parents are especially good at filling her world with soft blankets, squishy toys, and gentle fabrics. She is treated to long walks in the sunshine, rain, and snow. She has come to know the morning smell of a bagel shop and the aroma of brewing coffees at the local café. Screens are not a big part of her life but the sky over Brooklyn seems to fascinate her.

I am always on the lookout for toys that operate under their own steam, and was as delighted as Winnie with the little wooden elephant that walks down the wooden inclined plank quietly but determined to reach the end.

Much of the music Winnie hears is sung to her, and she responds to the human singing voice by joining in. It may be nineteen degrees on the other side of the window, but when her father picks up the guitar and sings with her mother, Winnie is treated to the coziest of afternoons. Her grin and rapt attention let us know she’s on board.

For the first five months of her life, Winnie has heard the sirens, horns, subway screeches, and elevator dings that urban kids come to know. Computer clicking and smart phone ring tones are ever present. But she sings when she is cozy. Now, more than ever, it’s all about the coze.

Walking the Labyrinth: An Imaginary Vantage Point

To become deeply involved in the spiritual practice of walking the labyrinth is a simple matter for people. The desire to walk comes first. Then predictably we experience ourselves as figures on the pathways. Then we recognize others, real or imagined who may be walking with us. Slowly as we walk over and over for a period of time we go beyond the limits of our personal outlook. We begin to perceive everything as a wonderful whole. We identify with as many people as possible. We seek and search for an imaginary point from which we can expand our vision as much as possible. The vistas of human spiritual life spontaneously present themselves.

These steps along the path into and out of the labyrinth don’t happen according to a predetermined schedule. Walks may number in the hundreds before a sense of meaningfulness emerges. Years may go by before time changes our usual outlook. Transformation won’t be hurried and it can’t be faked. Walking the labyrinth doesn’t leave room for posturing or pretending. Spiritual practice demands a space and time of its own.

As we practice, entering the center of the labyrinth encourages us to take the time we need to exercise our imaginations. What are our sensations? What do we perceive? What is happening to us in this particular surrounding? What do we see and hear? What in our thoughts and feelings is clarified? Is walking really a prayer?

Holy Scripture tells us many stories of the kind of expansion of spirit that occurs when human beings strive to encounter God. The stories recount that God is also searching for us. These experiences occur in a variety of settings, although the time and place is always made sacred. Perhaps the Labyrinth can be viewed as a space that humans and God have agreed upon as having the potential to be sacred. The labyrinth looks and feels unique, as it has for centuries. In churches, especially it shines forth as poetical, artistic and it draws people forward on to its pathways, into its center. It’s not an impossible idea to think of it as an imaginary vantage point where human spirit meets divine glory, is it?

Labyrinth Walking and Creativity

Where do writers and painters find their inspiration? How are creative artists motivated to work? What’s behind the impulse to create something novel and artful? Perhaps many of us ask ourselves these and other questions about our own creativity.

I want to suggest that walking the labyrinth assists in manifesting creativity, especially when walking routinely happens. Matthew Fox, an Episcopal priest, says that creativity is the time and place “where the divine meets the human.” He suggests that “the most prayerful, most spiritually powerful act a person can undertake is to create, at his or her own level, with a consciousness of the place from which that gift arises.” Walking the labyrinth has an ambiance which encourages us to focus our attention on our personal creative impulses. It quiets the mind to make space for transformation of vague notions into potentials and beyond into actions. As the walk goes forward, the spirit of creativity can soar.

As this spirit shines, some of the time in spite of ourselves, there develops a sense that if we keep on the path maybe it’s possible to create something different from what we do in everyday living. Perhaps we contain within ourselves more and better talents than we acknowledge. We might perceive that being busy and productive isn’t the only goal in life. A realization may waft over us that other “contents” need to be worked out of ourselves. With these experiences our mood changes. We may accept that the divine, likely, is breathing on us. What a fantastic idea that is! Anything is possible. “All is well; and all manner of things shall be well” said Julian of Norwich. We may become, quite literally, part of God’s creation.

As we return along the labyrinth path, we may feel eager to share the gifts of insight the walk has facilitated. Yes, we respond, I will make beauty, I will give blessings, and I will bring my best self to my community. In thanksgiving for my creativity, I will grow my heart.

The Labyrinth and Time for Reflection

It’s the season to be jolly. It’s the season of joy that most of us look forward to all year. It’s also a time when the quiet of the labyrinth beckons us to reflection. Standing at the start of a walk, we pause to discern what purpose we might have that fits this time of year.

Reflection may include those things we need to let go of in order to find space within ourselves for the joy and jolliness of the season. Evelyn Underhill, mystic and author, suggests we pray, “O Lord, penetrate those murky corners where we hide memories and tendencies on which we do not care to look, but which we will not deter and yield freely up to you, that you may purify and transmute them; the persistent buried grudges, the half-acknowledged enmity which is still smoldering; the bitterness of that loss we have not turned into sacrifice; the private comfort we cling to; the secret fear of failure which saps our initiative and really is inverted pride; the pessimism which is an insult to your joy; Lord we bring all these to you, and we review them with shame and penitence in your steadfast light.”

Reflection may lift us above the ordinary to find a truer inspiration of the holidays. Reflection strengthens our resolve to express thanksgiving, gratitude and love. We take this opportunity to take the time that we need to feel and think our way into the spirit of the season. Contentment, wrote Francis de Sales in the sixteenth century, is feeling the providential care of God. God’s supreme gift feels as a child feels going out for a walk with her parents. Holding hands, picking fruit and delighting in the world might be the path to jolliness and joy for all of us.

These reflections and so many more come easily while walking the labyrinth.

Margaret Rappaport
Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator

We sixes and sevens are growing at an astounding rate in America

Hello again,

We sixes and sevens are growing at an astounding rate in America. Currently 13% of our citizens are 65 or older. In thirty-five years, this number will increase to 22%. Politicians already pay more attention to us, because we vote. But younger generations will be forced to treat us more fairly, if not better because of our size.

Our life expectancy has ballooned. In the 1940’s the average American lived to 47. Now it’s 76. This is very good news. The tough part is navigating your later life years while having enough resources to enjoy a reasonable quality of living. Let’s be honest, our Government is not exactly flush. Soaring debt in the U.S.A. has been met with support from the Federal Reserve to keep our economy going. The Fed would like to get out of its quantitative easing policy, but it is in a bind. First, it has a new and very dovish Chairman due to take over next month. Her name is Janet Yellen. Ms. Yellen does not want to do anything to hurt the economy in 2014 when the mid-term elections are due to take place.

Fittingly, she cannot and will not risk causing a major hiccup to the stock market. on the other hand the data is neither improving nor collapsing, so the question is what purpose is now being served by this extraordinary policy. The answer is they simply are afraid to find out what a “tapering down” of fueling the economy might do.

Secondly, there are many programs firmly in the pocket of funds earmarked for our checking accounts. Vast sums of money are being paid out to sustain ballooning costs of welfare, disability, unemployment and illegal immigration. Toss in a new debate about doubling the minimum wage, and you could see further pressure on our already stressed economy.

The key, is to have a financial plan in place, or at least a household strategy to hold onto what you have earned over your lifetime, and try to grow it conservatively (if possible) at the same time.

My father turns 91 near Christmas day. He is part of what Tom Browkaw famously penned the “greatest generation”. A World War ll veteran, Charles is all set with a modest retirement account, monthly social security checks and reasonable outlook on his future. He earned those benefits, and can live comfortably on them. Many of us are not as lucky. Different times require a sharper pen to be sure we can enjoy the golden years as well. After all, we are growing!

Have Grandchild, Will Travel

Although they are separated by three thousand miles, my friend Jane is one of the most loved and trusted people in her young grandson’s life. Modern technology has made this possible. I know that Jane is appreciative of her ability to Skype on a daily basis as well as her good fortune to live in a time when she can climb aboard an airborne conveyance and, in a matter of hours, kiss her grandson goodnight. Because of these and other inventions, Jane is able to be a participating grandparent.

Born too soon for the computer and jet aircraft, my grandmother said good-by to her mother, boarded a ship for Ellis Island, and never saw her mother again. How different her life, her daughter’s, and mine would have been with the power and convenience available now! So many scenarios run through my mind. Face Time with her mother, or possibly an overseas flight, could have made the life of a young immigrant, soon to be a young wife and then mother, easier. My own mother might have known the richness and depth of a grandmother’s love. Many stories would have crossed the ocean, as well as answers to questions we could never ask.

How many of us travel to be a part of our grandchildren’s lives? Whether it’s crossing a bridge, an ocean, or an entire continent, every mile is worth the hugs and shared lives at the journey’s end.

Walking the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice

The joy I feel when I walk in the labyrinth transcends age. I was uplifted when I was young. I was energized when I was a busy professional in mid- life. Now I am astounded by the appreciation I feel for this contemplative opportunity. I am a mature adult in the prime of my life and I realize how much I value this particular spiritual practice.

There is purpose and meaning that reveals itself as I walk the labyrinth. I have an increased awareness of aging and its importance. Walking guides me in adapting to changes that accompany my sense that time is more and more precious. I have thoughts of cherishing myself as I am right now. I feel the letting go of who I was in favor of who I am. I look forward to the challenges, struggles and the surprises that make my life unique. I believe God is with me as I walk. I feel heartened on each and every walk.

Most of what I know about the purpose of living a long, active life I learned from boating with my grandfather and praying with my grandmother. They were the ideal people I loved best as a child. One from my mother, the other from my father, they are still my guides. They both prized healthy bodies, satisfying relationships and most importantly earnest spiritual lives. I always knew I couldn’t go wrong if I followed their paths. The spiraling path of the labyrinth is more than a metaphor for me.

Walking the labyrinth raises my expectations not only of following my grandparents’ example but also developing my own spiritual goals. I know meditation is an essential part of mind, body and spiritual wellness. I think I need thoughtful moments, freedom to imagine, time to feel around inside my inner privacy. Truly, walking the labyrinth facilitates these experiences for me. I am grateful for it. My life is enriched because of my devotion to it.

Margaret Rappaport
Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator

The Labyrinth Is a “Thin Place”

Let’s consider what makes a “thin place” before we look at the way the labyrinth fits the description. The term,”thin place”, like the name”labyrinth” has ancient origins in many different cultures. The Celtic people used it to indicate mesmerizing places in the environment. They suggested that heaven and earth are only 3 feet apart but in thin places that distance is shorter. Thin places are deep however, and they afford us glimpses of transcendence, infinite time and space, the divine.

Early Christians viewed a thin place as a meeting place between the material world and the spiritual realm. It is where the eternal seeps through to the physical world and thereby to us. For them, thin places were often sacred spaces in Basilicas and Churches. Mirea Eliode, author of “The Sacred and the Profane” discusses the religious context of thin places, “some parts of space are qualitatively different from others.” Thin places transform us and we become more fully ourselves having been inspired by being in them.

Buddhists tell us that sacred spaces get us in touch with “suchness”. While these places may not be beautiful or tranquil, as we might expect, they usually jolt us into fresh ways of thinking and feeling. We find within ourselves new, unanticipated sensations and perceptions that stir us. We become quiet, relaxed and beguiled.

Perhaps you can see the comparisons emerging. If you’ve been following our progress in understanding and walking the labyrinth in this blog space, you might realize that you can plan for encountering thinness. You need not wait to discover thin places, although that will always happen. You can choose to increase the opportunity to find this solitary experience. I recall the Apache proverb, “Wisdom sits in places”. Some or many of us may find wisdom in the labyrinth. One person’s walk in the labyrinth will not be the same as another’s, of course, but often when we walk together we enhance each other’s awareness of what we seek from our time on the spiraling pathway.

As usual, have no expectations and don’t follow another’s style. Simply let loose, unmask, lose your bearings and find new ones on your walk in the labyrinth.

Margaret Rappaport
Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator

A Grand Thanksgiving

My granddaughter is about to experience two family traditions through her four-month-old senses, and this both delights and reassures me.

Winnie will be in the arms of her parents, aunt, or grandparents when the menorah is lit and Chanukah begins. The Chanukah story can wait for a few years, but the candle glow, the singing of prayers, and the hugging will make an impression on her. We will repeat this ritual for all the Chanukah nights she spends with us. She will receive a little gift each night, taking in the crunchy sounds of the tissue paper (funny how I wrap presents differently as a grandparent) and bright colors of the ribbons and bows.

As her family gathers once more for a full day of Thanksgiving, her senses will once again be on alert. The smell of roasting turkey, Poppi’s stuffing, and fireplace embers will mingle with the sounds of laughter, conversation, guitar strings, and her name being said over and over again. Will she come down on one side of the apple cider versus dry brine debate? Probably not, but she will feel the words and the voices as she is held, and she will learn the traditions of her family, who gathered from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey to enjoy the pleasure of her company … and a terrific meal.

And if we continue to gather and share traditions when we can, and if we include Winnie in our conversations and celebrations, our family will continue to be strong and hearty in the face of anything that comes our way.

Labyrinth Meditation

The place to start a meditative walk in the labyrinth is before you step on the path. Prepare to be open to the unexpected places the walk will take you. Stand at the entrance for a period of time and think about yourself. What feelings or images, needs or concerns occur to you? Calmly gaze at the patterns that make the labyrinth. Commit to a self-contained experience, free from distractions. Walking the labyrinth is a gift to you. There is treasure to be found and cherished.

As you walk inward toward the center of the labyrinth, breathe deeply and relax your body. Trust the path to guide you to a significant thought, feeling, image or insight. These may come to you in simple ways or in flashes of the miraculous. You may notice things around you as though for the first time. Serenity may evolve from the peacefulness you discover. Resilience might shape your perspective of something troubling. You might identify a new source of energy to carry you forward. Pay attention to yourself as you walk.

Time spent at the center of the labyrinth allows you to deepen the meditative state of your mind and body. Here you can acknowledge that you are a seeker, a pilgrim, and a petitioner on a life’s journey of your own. Here you can recognize the support you are ready to ask for or accept. Here you can frame the love that keeps you strong in the most personal way. Don’t hurry out of this part of your walk. Take the time you need.

Walking outward on the spiraling path you may now be somewhat lost in your sense of time and space. Have confidence in the pattern to make you feel safe. The pace may be slowed, your thoughts may be fleeting and disorganized. Try to give up routines of self-observation. Refrain from judging yourself. Take advantage of the remaining minutes of the walk for appreciating what you’ve gained from walking the labyrinth.

Margaret Rappaport

Playing an Infinite Game in the Labyrinth

Theologian James Carse, Professor at New York University, and author of”Finite and Infinite Games” identified two types of games. Finite Games are familiar and Infinite Games are novel. Finite games end. They have a winner and a loser, even when only one person plays. I’m sure you can list all the ball games and the card games and the puzzles that are finite games. Infinite games, however, are games that don’t end. They are games that stay in play from time to time and from place to place. These games are observable if you are prepared to look for them but describing them is hard.

Walking the labyrinth is an infinite game. As long and as often as we walk it never has an ending. When our current walk concludes, we are aware that there is a next time and the labyrinth will always be the same. We may not be the same and the walk won’t be the same but the space will be the same welcoming shape it always is. Our experience will be different and familiar at the same time. One walk is in some ways like another yet in most ways it is unique.

Walking the labyrinth gets us in touch with the infinite as the spiral paths won’t yield to our sense of time management and control. We are unable to predict our pace and our thoughts and feelings as we walk. Often we have an awareness that time has slowed down or sped up. We feel detached from everyday life and yet we find ourselves in the insights that come to us.

The infinite game of walking the labyrinth doesn’t have an outcome. It begins and continues. We pick up unconscious currents that shape us. We may experience transcendence from the ordinary without fearing loss of control. It is an infinite game that is played to lose our usual sense of security. As an infinite game it is played to embrace freedom. The labyrinth is an infinite game because it is played to find out, to find ourselves, to go beyond.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport
Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator

Working Gram

Many grandmothers today are employed, and I am one of them. Like all the others, I had nine months to think about how my life would change when a grandchild arrived. But I never anticipated the strength of Winnie’s tug at my heart from across the bridge and how it makes me want to drop everything and go to her.

And I do. On weekends and holidays and days off, I look forward to spending time with my granddaughter and her parents. And her parents are key in allowing me to continue working at a job I love, as I watch them nurture Winnie and guide her through her days and nights, and accept the responsibility they are so fortunate to have. No one does it better than they do, and though we help, we know this.

So I head to work each Monday morning with a head full of Winnie thoughts and visions, and learn as I teach. And across the bridge, Winnie is doing the same, learning at an incredible rate and teaching all of us to parent and grandparent in all good ways. How fortunate we are.

Practice Patience as You Walk the Labyrinth

Each time we enter the labyrinth an opportunity presents itself. The thought may come in different ways to each of us but it often contains a question. “What is in my heart?” “What are the things that are unresolved in my feelings?” “What will I experience today since I can’t look at everything in my life in a single walk?” “How can I trust myself to find meaning and answers to my most pressing questions?”

When I facilitate a group walk, I suggest to people that they try to embrace, even love their questions. Don’t search for the answers; live the questions! The point is to live now, here not there. Live the questions and be present with your quest. Think of your questions as though they are spoken in a language you don’t understand or barely hear. Tell yourself that answers would not be recognized if you got them. You are still in a questioning phase of your life journey. You’re at the start or at some middle point, not the finish and that may be a reason you’re walking the labyrinth.

Walking the labyrinth is an exercise in valuing the “gradual”. It raises our awareness that, without noticing it, we live our way into our choices and decisions. If we are patient with ourselves and honor our questions, we will, perhaps, find meaningful answers. The resolutions may be near or far but they are often in our future. We can’t know that place and time. We must patiently wait for it.

Walking the labyrinth encourages us, of course, to access our spiritual resources for guidance in our questioning. We may not, however, get answers but only more deeply felt questions. Be patient. Just as the walk requires an attitude of patience; (you will eventually walk out of the space!), so living well and happy is best done in a spirit of practiced patience.

Labyrinth walks are always a friendly reminder of our loves, our limits and our life long need for learning. Try to live and love the gradualness of a labyrinth walk. It perfects the practice of patience which benefits our journeys.

Margaret Rappaport
Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator

Respite in Walking the Labyrinth

So much of modern life is exciting and stimulating. Part of the time that suits most of us. We are motivated to keep up with the demands of knowing as much as we can, performing at our best and staying on top. If we’re smart about it and we get the right amount of sleep, make the best nutritional choices and put some time into exercise we are golden.

There is something lacking in this pretty picture. Don’t read on unless you dare to consider there is probably very little respite in your routine and you need some. Respite is an important pause, a rest, time away to breathe and think and feel something besides the rush of living.

Living well requires that we sort through our daily choices. Like accomplishing our spiritual goals, such as making time for prayer, we have to arrange and plan for respite. It can’t just happen and you know yourself it usually doesn’t in the day to day hubbub. Our lives are spent in the blare and glare of the technology age. We are distracted by the sounds and lights urging us to keep going rather than looking forward to our health and happiness.

Walking the labyrinth is a practice, really a tool that helps us dial back and shut out the blare and glare. In place of the demands and the distractions the labyrinth focuses our attention on our inner lives. We come to experience our private thoughts and feelings. We exalt in our personal worth, detached for fifteen or twenty minutes or an hour, from the external conditions of worth. Dare I suggest we find ourselves?

And the most interesting aspect of walking the labyrinth is that we can do it together, if we wish. Community doesn’t invade our respite at all.

Margaret Rappaport

Winnie Space

Along with her parents, my granddaughter Winnie has been staying with us for a few weeks while my daughter’s wrist heals, and her presence has taken over every minute, every day, every night, every room. There is no space into which she has not made her presence known. But this weekend she returned home with her parents for a brief homecoming visit, and our house is empty.

Once again I am struck by the impact the past three weeks of living with Winnie, and the past three months of knowing Winnie, have made on my life. She has made my busy life busier in a way I had forgotten about; every moment is about the present. There is no time to reflect, which my students will tell you is one of my favorite tasks, unless I am writing, because there are so many ways to interact with this captivating baby.

Until a month ago, I often sat back with a cup of coffee in the late afternoon, and thought about life and death and staying and moving and doctors and technology and my aging wardrobe and chocolate and the need to stare at the ocean.

Now, as I hold Winnie in the late afternoon, I think about her lips forming words, her eyes taking in the room and her ears the sounds, her hands grabbing for what’s just out of reach, the way her sudden smile becomes the best part of my day, and how much I don’t care when she spits up on any of my aging wardrobe. I remind myself to master the technology that allows me to visit with her when she returns home.

Staring at the ocean will always inspire me but right now I’d rather stare at Winnie. She, too, holds the peace and the wonder and the eternity that the ocean allows me to feel.

I can’t wait til she returns. I think I’ll have a piece of chocolate while I wait.


Hello again.  If you have a retirement plan of any type, odds are its tied in some way, shape or form to the performance of our U.S. equity or bond markets.  The good news, is that since the recession of 2008-2009 began, those asset classes have staged a steady, if not impressive comeback. Your “pile” has probably grown, net of any needed withdrawals. The not so good news, is that stock and bond markets don’t always go up, and eventually, some sort of correction is bound to occur.

According to an analysis of the latest census data, the typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35. We have more investments to protect. But we are living longer as well, so striking the right balance between investing and security has never been harder to achieve. I remember years ago, when as new broker at Morgan Stanley, they encouraged us to employ a “clients age in bonds” strategy. In other words, if you were 69, 69% of your portfolio would be invested in bonds, 31% in stocks… If you were 50, it would be more of an even split between stocks and bonds. This thinking doesn’t work in our current world.

Interest rates from bank CD’s and Money Markets, which used to help pay utility bills or at least a nice dinner out, are so paltry, they don’t cover the cost of inflation. Unless you go into speculative bonds, the yields aren’t much better. If you are counting on your retirement dollars to get you thru, those investments need better returns, and by definition, somewhat more risk.

Dividend paying stocks have become one clear answer. Solid companies which pay quarterly or monthly dividends can give an investor a way to achieve a reasonable rate of return, say 3% – 8%. At the same time, the value of the stocks owned  can increase with a rising stock market. This may be out of some Sixes and Sevens comfort zone, but the new normal requires us to be at least more aware of this low interest rate environment which has been with us for several years now, and will most likely be with us for several years to come.

Remember, the stock market is at all-time highs, and someday there will be a correction. But that day hasn’t come yet. I heard plenty of smart people on Wall Street claim the markets would crumble in 2013, and they were not even close to getting it right.

Labyrinths Large and Small

With some confidence we can say the labyrinth symbol is more than 4,000 years old. Jeff Saward wrote a thorough history of small labyrinths from many cultures in the ancient world. They were drawn on rock faces and pottery and notably coins. His work is well worth reading, not because what is known is conclusive, but because what is known about the labyrinth over time is important for understanding its meaning and use.

Over two thousand years hence, as the appearance of the labyrinth became more prevalent, its popularity continued to grow. Our certainty also increased about its importance in people’s experience. For example, when Christianity pervaded the territories of the Roman Empire following the conversion of Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea in 325CE, the labyrinth symbol was absorbed into Christian philosophy, architecture and domestic life. European labyrinths abounded during and after this period.

Today there is another astounding resurgence of interest in labyrinths, large and small. There are organizations, libraries, schools and health centers focused on the labyrinth as a source of spiritual development, as well as health and wellness. A good resource for information on the current world wide popularity of the labyrinth is

Many recently built labyrinths are large enough for individuals or groups of people to walk. They are made like gardens and often are associated with towns and neighborhoods and other civic institutions. They are indoors and outdoors. Workshops and facilitated walks are offered to guide people to the potential power of walking the labyrinth design.

Simultaneously, there is a brisk market in table labyrinths, finger labyrinths and small labyrinths to look at and ponder. What do we do with the labyrinth when it is too small to walk? As the ancients did, we take contemplative exercise. We gaze at the design and we think, feel and imagine just as we do when we walk. The longer and more concentrated the looking, the greater the spiritual impact and the better our physical and mental health.

Margaret Rappaport

Watching the Words

Locking eyes with her father or mother, Winnie stares open-mouthed as they repeat a sound or word. Soon she purses her lips and, when she’s ready, imitates the sound. I am enthralled.

Both my daughters acquired language successfully, and named names and sang songs and even made up their own words while playing with syllables. But I don’t remember taking the time to watch and appreciate the process. They learned to speak while I cooked, cleaned, did laundries, and chatted with friends on the phone. We sang together during bath time, but I was too busy soaping and rinsing to observe lips pursing and words forming.

But the world stands still for a little while when Winnie’s language tutorials take place. Winnie  enjoys the gift of her parents’ complete attention. Their smiles and coos and kisses encourage her. In their laps, she is safe, fed, and ready to learn. Her parents’ delight washes over her. She speaks through smiles.

I know this because I am a grandparent, and the privilege of observation is mine. I have the time. I make the time.

Walking the Labyrinth as a Metaphor of Life’s Journey

Standing at the entrance to the labyrinth, one thing is certain. Beginning the walk calls for a self-expressive response of one kind or another. Some people approach this moment with resolve, even eagerness. Others hesitate and look around for cues. This describes those people who show up for a walk. Some never expect to walk and withdraw from trying because of misgivings. Walking the labyrinth prompts asking questions of oneself. Walking the labyrinth opens a space within that requires a response to those questions.

Response is a very interesting word. The Latin verb “respondere”, to engage oneself or to promise shows us the meaning of “responding to our own questions.” Walking the labyrinth is the epitome of promise and engagement for everyone who is earnest about their experience.

As we walk the labyrinth we make a requisite act of trust. We breathe deeply and mark a new point in the intimacy with ourselves. We ready ourselves for ideas and insights about living, here now, in the past or in the future. We take on the walk as a metaphor of our life’s journey. We release the limits of description and explanation and embrace the events and mysteries that move us. We seek the heart of ourselves. We recognize that the response we make is spontaneous. The response is freely mine and it is mine alone. We respond to ourselves because “we feel like it.”

Some of us think this is a wonderful way to live our lives. Our responses in the labyrinth are really quite simple. To be ourselves uncluttered, without calculating all the “ifs”, “ands”, “buts”, “however” and “maybes” that punctuate our lives. No need for qualifiers and clarifiers. Our value and worth is determined by our inner honesty. Our spirits are uplifted and we know ourselves better.

Margaret Rappaport

Financial Markets

Financial markets have now become a function of how investors are guessing the drama in Washington, DC will play out. Stock prices on Wall Street are moving up or down based on the latest debating points emanating from Republicans, Democrats and the President.  On the world stage, we are not looking very grown up as the world’s greatest democracy. There will be a resolution, of course. A compromise will be hammered out eventually to preserve the full faith and credit of the United States. But the public relations cost has been an expensive one.

When it is clear that our country has not fallen off a cliff economically, our will focus will turn back to our own financial situation. In our first update, I spoke of the great concentration of wealth 60 and 70 year olds possess. Many of us have worked hard and achieved much. There is, of course, a flip side to this coin.

According to a recent New York Times report, more Americans 65 and older are descending into poverty at a faster rate than ever before. 3.1% of women are now classified as extremely poor, and 2.3% of men. This is not good. The Census Bureau considers someone with a yearly income of $11,011 or less, living alone as extremely poor.  The increase in poverty requires our attention. For the most part, Social Security has protected older Americans from later-life destitution. But some older Americans are among the long-term unemployed, whose jobless benefits have been cut or run out. Or, they could be having trouble qualifying for benefits from the government in the face of administrative cutbacks at the state and federal levels.

My grandfather told me back when he was in college around the start of the first World War,  “we all learned to paddle our own canoe”.  In other words, he and his classmates were expected to take personal responsibility for their situation. Some 100 years later, it’s never been for difficult for less fortunate Americans to keep their heads above water, let alone keep the oars moving.  And the trend is still edging lower.





Mindfulness in the Labyrinth

When we are mindful, we feel rested and content, although we remain awake and alert. The sensations and perceptions we usually experience as a result of internal and external stimulation are slowed down. They are still bombarding us but we are less attentive to them. Their urgency is diminished. We take our time, all the time we need, to accommodate them.

Being mindful is a more serene encounter with ourselves and the world around us. We have permission to drift a bit as we think and feel and act. This deliberate or mindful meditation isn’t evasive. It is a choice we make to change channels. Instead of being pressed into motion, we ask ourselves to be quiet.

When we walk the labyrinth we enter this special space of quiet. The walk quiets are steps. We slow our pace. The walk suggests that we hear only the whispers of our hearts because we don’t speak unless it’s time for communal prayer or conversation. We observe unique and polite manners in order to leave quiet space for others. We actively breathe correctly in order to nourish our bodies and spirits.

Walking the labyrinth, alone or with others, awakens us into a state of mind that is much harder to experience (unless we practice, practice) in everyday living. It’s a special time and place because we suspend the usual and dare to suspect there is so much more to our experience. We allow for being our best selves. We strip away the worries, the demands, the motivations, and all the trappings of our lives in order to be mindful of what really is and might be. We quietly search while we walk, aware that there are answers of all sorts, all around. Perhaps inkling will brush by; maybe an insight will shine forth. Looking forward, we are mindful.

Grander Still

I knew I was a Mother when I realized, with a fierce passion, that my baby’s well-being came before mine. As a grandmother, I realized again that my granddaughter’s well-being was once again more fiercely important to me than my own. I carry a huge basket of good wishes for my daughter and granddaughter and the pleasure of carrying that basket is all mine.

What was hard but heart-warming was watching my daughter put her daughter’s well-being first as she struggled with a fractured wrist and a determination to keep Winnie’s days wonderful and healthy. As she rallies her support troops and gives clear instructions to guarantee Winnie’s needs are met, she coos through the pain and makes Winnie giggle. She juggles endless lists in her mind and makes the best of a difficult month for her and a loving month for Winnie.

It might seem that the Grand Life is a little less grand right now, but, in fact, it’s grander. I have the privilege of watching my daughter be the mother her daughter needs no matter what, and I am comforted by it all, as the meaning of “grand” expands again.

Silent Reflection in the Labyrinth

“Breathing is the first act of life, and the last”, remarked Joseph Pilates describing the foundational principle of his fitness method. “Therefore, above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”

Walking the labyrinth is the perfect place to learn and practice breathing. Stop at a place of your choice on your walk. Place your feet flat about a hip width apart on the pathway or in the center or along the boundary. Put one hand on each side of your lower rib cage with your fingertips touching. This gives you a tactile point of reference so your breathing is regular and rhythmical. Slowly breathe in through your nose. Visualize the movement of your diaphragm and feel your ribs move laterally into your waiting hands. Your fingertips will separate to accommodate your breath expanded diaphragm. Don’t lift your shoulders; let your mind and core muscles do the work.

Then reflect on exhaling. Your body’s core is like a cylinder from the pelvic floor to the diaphragm. Breath fills the cylinder when you inhale and leaves the cylinder when you exhale. Again rest your hands lightly on your rib cage. Exhale through pursed lips until your fingertips meet. Exhale as fully as you can.

Inhaling and exhaling in this way is called cleansing breath. It is a ritual which improves with practice and customization. It brings refreshment, calmness and deep inner satisfaction. Outwardly, you sense a keenness of perception and a quickening of energy.

Breathing in silent concentration and reflection during your walk in the labyrinth lets you experience the path to a healthy center. With time you may find cleansing breath to be your habit in and out of the labyrinth.

Margaret Rappaport

Grand Scale

The arrival of a grandchild certainly has made life richer, fuller, busier, and definitely grand. I now often think on a grander scale, on into the future that now will have my children’s children in it. Suddenly my children’s lives will extend another century, and my thoughts travel there often, that world that will present them with pleasures and perils that I will never know and can not help them with. But I look at my two-month-old granddaughter and already see such strength and determination, and I know she will be worthy of the challenge.

Winnie had her first vaccinations this week, and for the first time, something painful was purposely done to her, albeit for a greater good, but caused her pain just the same. Oh, the insult of it! Her reaction was a wailing cry that her mother had never heard from her before, a cry that lasted a full minute. Nursing soothed her somewhat but was interrupted by cries. She settled down on the walk home, but I could not help but wonder what she was thinking. What did she learn from the unexpected shock? What does she think about now that she did not before that afternoon? How did she file away this new experience? By the next morning, Winnie was all smiles, woke up smiling, and spent a lovely day taking in the world.

Back to the grand scale. This episode in my granddaughter’s life made me wonder once again about other babies, and what they are experiencing in parts of the world where there is no safe place, not even for them. How are they processing the noise and pain and lack of things babies need to thrive? What life lessons are they taking away? Do they have days when they smile too, wake up smiling?

Thinking on a grand scale has become unavoidable for me now. I have never felt as challenged, or as privileged.

Strengthening Your Faith by Walking the Labyrinth

When you enter the labyrinth there is an immediate sense of flow. The path starts to spiral and your steps change pace. You know this is a novel place. You feel ready to surrender to the design. You immediately give up any idea of making something happen here. You release your will to control the walk. In fact, you are aware that there is no longer the need to decide anything about the walk. An easy acceptance settles over you. Things will flow as they will and you will flow with them.

How does this flow experience connect with faith? How is faith strengthened by letting go and letting flow do its work in the labyrinth?

Faith flows naturally out of love for your relationship with God. A sense of security and centeredness is present because God is always there in your thoughts and feelings. You’re in a state of perpetual trust in God’s sight. Vulnerabilities and imperfections and life’s painful experiences are balanced by the significance of your faith.

I’m suggesting that the experience in the labyrinth and the experience of faith are linked. Flow leads to learning and to exchange and to relating in both instances.

People thrive through a strong faith. They value and respect each other. They give and receive trust. They serve one another from a genuine love and concern. Walk the labyrinth with other people sometimes. I’ll guarantee your faith will be affected and strengthened.

Margaret Rappaport

Guidelines for Walking a Labyrinth

After considering the unique American labyrinth in which people ride, perhaps it’s a good idea to look at some guidelines for walking a labyrinth. Don’t think, first of all, that there is a right way or a wrong way. There are guidelines not requirements and the only purpose in following those is that one wants to walk the labyrinth. People need not walk perfectly, nor are they expected to perform in exact ways. To walk freely is the point and the first guideline.

The patterns that make a labyrinth require that people do what comes naturally when they meet in the labyrinth. They step aside or around each other with or without acknowledgement. This casualness comes easily to most people because it mimics walking on trails or on roads and sidewalks. When people know each other and are walking together they greet each other in whatever way seems appropriate at the time. People are always allowed to be alone on their walks. Therefore, spontaneity is the second guideline.

Walking the labyrinth is self paced, not prescribed by others or dictated by the forms and shapes of the patterns. Walkers follow the pace that suits their own inward and outward needs. Some people walk very slowly, even stop at various points. Others prefer dance-like movements through different parts of the labyrinth. At various ages, people often show distinct styles of movement during a walk. The third guideline is to be ourselves. Following a personal flow enhances the experience of metaphor and imagination.

Think of the labyrinth as a tool to help people nurture the spirit, the body and the mind. All of us know instinctively how to use the tool. No need for self-conscious poses and attitudes. Just go for the walk and be encouraged.

Walking forward,

Margaret Rappaport
September 19, 2013

Being There

When I was about four years old, my mother would put the Nutcracker Ballet record on the Victrola, and my little sister and I would spin ourselves silly to “Waltz of the Flowers” in our tiny living room in an apartment I think of often, over my grandmother’s liquor store. Usually, as we reached the point of dizziness close to collapsing on the rug in giggles, my uncle would call from downstairs to tell us that “the bottles are doing the rumba” and begging us to stop. My grandmother would be laughing in the background.

This memory, at this point in my life, reminds me how important it is for Winnie’s family and extended family to welcome her into our nest with love and laughter. Whether it’s traveling over a bridge or two, or Skyping, or using FaceTime, Winnie will know I’m there, and that she makes me smile, and that her smile is important to me.

This memory also reminds me how much fun it will be to enjoy a performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet” alongside Winnie, giving her a memory not only of beautiful music and dance, but of music that her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother enjoyed.

No clue what her opinion of the music will be. But I look forward to hearing it.

A Unique Labyrinth in America

There are numerous labyrinth designs. History shows us designs on the ground, on rock walls, in buildings and on objects. It took America, however, to devise a labyrinth that takes the design from the ground to the sky. I’m talking about the roller coaster. Yes the labyrinth that we see and experience at amusement parks all over the world originated in the late 19th century in the United States. One design was developed in Russia at about the same time. It was called in Russian “American Mountains” Later in the 20th century,  the American space agency, NASA, used a roller coaster as a means of escape from a rocket that might fail to launch.

Think about it for a minute. The roller coaster consists of a track that rises and falls with many inversions in a pattern that begins and returns to the same place. It’s not a maze because it has a single path. It also may not be viewed by some as a true labyrinth because people ride it at breakneck speed rather than gently walking it. It is however, a spiraling pathway that directs the visitor to follow. It transforms time and experience although briefly. It takes our breath away and some find it genuinely enjoyable.

What does it mean that this unique labyrinth design requires that we sit in a locked seat as we speed around the pathway? What does it mean that we think of this labyrinth experience as a thrilling ride?

It may not mean anything in particular but the roller coaster labyrinth certainly peaks our imaginations.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport

The Luxury of Walking the Labyrinth

What if every time you walked the labyrinth you accepted a sense of power to change the world for the better? What if I told you that your imagination could be so stimulated by the experience of walking the labyrinth that you could make change happen? Would you believe me?

Bear with me, for miracles large and small do abound and people are often the catalysts. The imaginative process released while walking the labyrinth is real. It comes as a truly luxurious experience. It grows like magic as you practice. The more you do it the more progress is made in hope and ideals and wisdom. That result alone is enough to change the world for the better. What would the world be like if many people believed in this consequential change and began in earnest walking the labyrinth?

Let’s imagine that we want to change the way our culture encourages us to degrade our environment or promote health crises through poor nutrition decisions. Suppose we take the time to center these ideas in our mind. Then let us take them into the labyrinth and walk with them. Enjoy the luxury of quietly thinking during a rhythmical and slow walk on a single pathway. Try to feel the importance of unspoiled nature. Try to aspire to healing, health and happiness in your own life. Espouse to the community the possibility for positive change in interacting with the environment. Unleash the wonder of dynamic healthy behaviors. When you step out at the end of your walk breathe deeply and exhale luxuriously.

Enjoying the luxury of walking the labyrinth we embrace the age-old human skill of freeing our imaginations. We bring poetry to life and that’s a change from the ordinary.

30 Love

After thirty days of being a granddaughter, Winnie is now able to lock eyes with her grandfather and me and smile, and continue to smile while we enjoy the magic of her enthralling gaze. I do believe Winnie can feel the love I feel for her, and when her smile and her eyes return it, I can look nowhere else. She’s got me.

The U.S. Open was on the television screen, but even Roger Federer couldn’t capture my attention for an entire volley. Winnie was the magnet. The power behind the Williams sisters’ serves caught my attention but couldn’t hold it when Winnie was in the room.

I watch Winnie stretch as she slowly awakens, extending her arms above her head and her legs straight out with all her strength, and I am again impressed with her might. Mighty Winnie will hold a tennis racquet herself one day, and when she does, I will think back to the 2013 Open, when she had no competition. She’s got me.

A Single Path

The most striking difference between a labyrinth and a maze is the path. The single pathway into and out of the labyrinth encourages us to enter with reverence because we recognize that the end is the same as the beginning. Only life experience at its most fundamental can be characterized that way. That awareness makes us focus. In the labyrinth we are urged forward without regard for choices or direction. The beginning will eventually become the end, although there is no way to know how long the walk will take. There is also no way to prepare for what thoughts or feelings, images or whisperings of the heart we might find along the way.

In a maze there is mystery and fun. Direction requires discernment and making good choices if we are to enjoy the experience. Whether walking, running or hiding in a maze, our actions are not prescribed or predicted by the pattern. Solving the maze takes our attention. The maze distracts us from the rest of our concerns. It encourages us to play. All human cultures construct mazes, just as they create labyrinths, but the purpose of each type of garden or structure are not similar.

People seem to require the renewal we get as we walk in labyrinths and wander in mazes. Time spent in them relieves the urgency of living. Each is a means of learning about us. Each offers encouragement to the seeker, the weary, the puzzled and the unwell. Each changes our frame of mind, our behaviors and our spirits.

The labyrinth urges reflection and for some, meditation and prayer. The maze urges relaxation, freedom and play. They both call us away from life as usual for a period of time. We benefit from listening to those calls to be well and fully human. Some of us believe we should pray often, laugh and play more because it’s the way to love one another.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport

Brown ground beef?

I have had people ask me in the past why supermarket ground beef is red on the outside and brown in the middle. Surprisingly, due to the nature of the pigment in ground beef, that is actually an indication of fresh ground beef – as long as it is bright pink on the outside and about half an inch into the package you see brown spots or brown through the center but pink on the outside. You only need to worry about ground beef if it is brown on the outside. That is an indication that it has been out too long. Ground beef has 3 normal color states – bright red (oxymyoglobin state), dark red-purple – deoxymyoglobin (no oxygen) and a state called met-myoglobin that is brown.

The meat starts out in a state oxymyoglobin (bright red) just after it is ground. When it goes into a package the inside portion isn’t getting oxygen any more, so it turns brown (met-myoglobin) before turning purple red (deoxymyoglobin). It takes about 2-4 hours for the ground beef to turn dark red after it is in the package. It has to go through the brown color before turning to the purple color – if you spread the package out and leave it in air it will re-bloom to bright red in 15 to 20 minutes. If you look carefully the first 1/4 to 1/2 inch; the meat will still be red. Sometimes it is splotchy brown because oxygen is getting to parts of the package but not all the way through. If the meat is old it gets brown on the surface first when it runs out of met-myoglobin reducing capacity. The meat at the surface runs out first and gets stuck in the brown state once the enzyme system runs out of energy.

Basically if the meat is brown on the inside when you open it up, and pink on the outside, the brown meat will turn pink in a short period of time showing that the meat is fresh.


Thoughts on a Labyrinth Walk

As I walk the labyrinth it is sometimes hard to sort out what’s what. Although I feel the meaning of being in this space and I have many reasons for walking here, I am quiet but still unsettled. It’s hard to separate what inspires me from what dispirits me. Distinguishing the high spirits from the false spirits occupies my thoughts as I slowly walk the spiraling path.

The labyrinth is a symbol of centeredness and it puts me into greater awareness of my spirit. St Augustine famously said, “Solvitur ambulando”; “It is solved by walking”. I agree. I walk the labyrinth by following the path inward and then outward from side to side. It helps me understand where I have been and where I may go.

At times I walk the labyrinth with other people. I celebrate with them the winding pattern that connects our stories and our life journeys. I imagine the coincidences that have brought us together. We all have something to learn from this connectedness. I find the sense of community uplifting.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport

Power in the Patterns of the Labyrinth

Taking the Chartres style labyrinth as our example we are immediately struck by the patterns we see. There are six rosettes that make the center. There are lunations, small half circles, around the outside edge. As we begin to walk we experience the lines that outline the lanes we are following. We walk the lanes into the center and walk out from the center following the same pathway. There is one single lane but there seem to be many lanes. This spiraling pathway is 860 feet in length.

The patterns both expand and limit our choices as we walk. They give us the sense that our steps count for something because the slow walking changes our breathing, not just our pace. Walking the spiraling lane we become aware of “things changing” and of “transformation” as we can’t see ahead or behind. We are just on the path; we turn inward; time seems to expand.

Every walk in the labyrinth is a journey of self-discovery. Every walk in the labyrinth is a connection with people here and now and in times past. Every walk in the labyrinth connects us more fully to ourselves and to people in hundreds of diverse cultures.

Another set of patterns within our human bodies may be the inspiration for the sense of connection to self and to others. For example, the winding lanes resemble the cerebral spirals of our brains, as well as the structure and motion of our gastro-intestinal tract.

Spirals in nature abound and we may recognize them as we walk the labyrinth. We remember Fibonacci spiraling sequences in roses, pinecones, daisies and that we are dazzled by them. In shells and vines and galaxies we sense connections, convergences and coincidences in our experiences in the labyrinth.

Awareness of the myriad spiraling in nature and the similarities in patterns we experience in our bodies lead us as we walk the labyrinth to a greater understanding of the meaning of images, ideas and feelings as we live our lives individually and in community.

Margaret Rappaport

Vocabulary Lesson

Our granddaughter Winnie was born on a lovely summer Saturday, and the moment was immersed in tears and relief and joy, and words. Rather quickly I realized that the descriptors I needed didn’t exist. I needed a lexicon of appropriate words to describe a variety of observations, experiences, and emotions that being a grandparent demands.

So I’m putting it out there – the inadequacy of our language at the time one becomes a grandparent can be remedied if we all try. You know the transitional state you might find yourself in between the time your daughter gives birth, and the relief you feel, and the time you realize that there is someone else to concentrate on – your grandchild? There is no word for that transitional time from mother to mother/grandmother. I needed that word.

There was no adequate word to describe Winnie’s face as I first saw it. A newborn’s face deserves its own adjective.

Parental exhaustion – those words do not begin to cover the bone weary, sleep-deprived condition of new parents at this emotional, overwhelming time. Need a word.

Mother love perseverance demands its own descriptor. I watched my daughter love, feed, and nurture her daughter moments, hours and days after Winnie’s birth, when she herself was regaining strength and dealing with the days after delivery. What might seem impossible on an ordinary day or week becomes the norm for new mothers, and watching my daughter embrace her baby with love, patience, and intelligent response to every need and cry put me at a loss for words.

There’s a dearth of words for father love as well. As I watched my son-in-law’s face during the hours of labor, I could see how much he felt her discomfort, and it was empathy and love and concern rolled into a word that does not exist. Now, when Alex holds Winnie in his arms, their eyes lock and he soothes her in a gentle yet fiercely parental way, and I imagine she feels safe and loved. This love needs a word. And for the love and care he extends to his wife and daughter, I am more than grateful. Need a word.

Two words, however, are just perfect the way they are, and I am delighted that granddaughter and grandparent now describe Winnie and me.

A Not So Modern Human Need for the Labyrinth

Origins of the labyrinth remain a mystery. Although these designs date back 5,000 years and examples are found throughout the world in many diverse cultures, there is no definitive explanation for the labyrinth. From the earliest examples in Europe on rocks, tiles, pottery and stone and wooden tablets to the reemergence of the labyrinth today, the only thing known for certain is the importance of the labyrinth for people.

Labyrinths are designs featuring a single spiral path that leads from the outside to a center space. Walking in or on the labyrinth follows the path to the center and back again to the outside. In the western hemisphere, Native American tradition features the labyrinth as the Medicine wheel and in Man in the Maze designs on baskets. In northern Europe and throughout the Roman Empire, Celtic people called the labyrinth the Never Ending Circle and it appears often and in random places. In Judaism the labyrinth is referred to as the Kabala and is thought to have mystical power. Not all labyrinths lay on the ground to be walked but when they are made of earth or stone they are usually used for walking. The labyrinth, however, is a compelling example of artistic expression as it enhances human environments whether seen on doors, wall plaques, gates or on inside floors or outside on the earth.

Walking the labyrinth or seeing it displayed may help people feel centered and more peaceful in living their lives. This has been described by some as a clarity which promotes a connection between the body, mind and spirit. People also describe a quieting of thoughts or of having an innovative, meditative state of mind. Others say walking the labyrinth fosters insight and self-reflection. Many wellness advocates say practice in walking the labyrinth reduces the stress of life and opens space within people for celebration and happiness despite external circumstances.

During the middle ages in Europe, the labyrinth design started to appear in churches, on village greens and even on off-shore islands as far north as the Arctic region. Now again, in the twentieth century, communities of people are building labyrinths because of a resurgence of interest. In the United States labyrinths can be found in parks, churches and cathedrals, schools, medical centers, spas, cemeteries and memorial parks, retreat centers and in many yards and on other personal property. The materials these labyrinths are made from are as various as their locations and uses. The central distinction, however, is that people are building them and gathering in and on them for a purpose that, apparently, reflects a human need to meet in concert to follow a meaningful path.


My granddaughter carries a name that was unexpected, and it has become my joy these past ten days to watch her own it. The way she holds her head, darts her eyes, purses her mouth – I hold her in my arms and feel her Winona-ness. She is teaching me who Winona Louise is.

I brought no pre-conceptions to the name Winona Louise both because I’ve never known a Winona and because the name came, as the poet says, “out of the everywhere into the here.” My face registered surprise and wonder when my daughter Lis told me her three-hour-old daughter’s name. Winona?

Winona is a Sioux name meaning “first born daughter,” Lis informs me. Winnie Mandela is one of the strongest, most respected women in the world, my friend Julie reminds me.

But Winona Louise is herself, simply herself, and she is teaching me who Winona is. And that definition will be correct and ever-changing, and unexpectedly wonderful.


A face the size of my palm has the power to completely enthrall me. It is Winona’s face, the face of my ten-day-old granddaughter, and it has become what in the world I want to see.

Winnie’s face is more expressive than much of what I read or even write. Her mouth purses into a heart, or stretches into a cavernous yawn, and I am captivated. Her two blond eyebrows rarely knit together, but when they do her concern or concentration or frustration rocks my grandparent world.

From the moment of her birth, Winnie’s eyes, now the color of slate, have been intent and thoughtful and serious. She’s a Brooklyn girl all right, a New Yorker to her core, and her fierce, intelligent eyes remind me of that.

People look at Winnie’s face and see other people: her mother, her father, her aunt, a far-flung relative. I see only Winnie, owning her face and all that it conveys, all the beauty it presents. And I am beginning to interpret the world by reading Winnie’s face. It’s telling a good story.

Hamburger happiness means just a little more fat

There is good news! Your hamburger doesn’t have to be the expensive hockey puck which happens if you use ground beef that is too lean. Based on my years of experience as a butcher and some insights I got during my Ph.D. research, I have come to the conclusion that ground beef provides the best hamburger eating experience when you start with 80 % lean (20 % fat) ground beef. Anything leaner tends to have the consistency of a hockey puck. The best part is the edible portion of a burger which starts at 80% lean, is fairly close to the fat level of a leaner burger. During cooking, the fat melts out leaving voids in the patty – these voids make a less dense texture and also leave a place for the other juices and aromas of cooking burger to accumulate. Then when you bite into the burger, you get a “blast of taste and aroma” which improves eating satisfaction.

The really lean patty will shrink into a dense, void-less mass that is tough, and has no place for the juices to stay in-so they all evaporate, and the lean patty is dry as well. Finally, since most of the cooking loss in a lean patty is moisture, you have almost as much fat in the patty you eat as one from a fatter starting point. If math isn’t your thing take my word for it: eating a very lean patty doesn’t improve the nutritional value of the edible portion. However, if you want to understand a little of the science behind my hamburgerology, read the paragraph below.

If we start with (2) 100g (about 3.5 oz) patties, one with 80% lean and 20 % fat and the other with 95 % lean and 5 % fat, and we put both of these patties on the grill to cook, we’ll end up with 2 cooked 80g (2.8 oz) cooked patties – cooking loss is about 20g for each patty. The interesting part is that the 95 % patty loses about 19.5g of water and 0.5g of fat, so it ends up with 4.5g of fat in the 80g cooked portion. Therefore, in the cooked portion, there is 4.5/80 = 0.056 or 5.6 % fat in the finished patty – not bad – except it is tough and tasteless. The 80% lean patty loses about 13g of fat and 7g of moisture, leaving 7g of fat in the cooked portion, or 7/80 = 0.875 or 8.75% fat in the final patty. So for just a little more fat, you have a much tastier hamburger !

On Walking the Labyrinth

Whoever you are and wherever you are in your life’s journey, you are invited to explore walking the labyrinth with me here At Sixes and Sevens Multimedia. If you are seeking a resource for inspiration, some new ideas about the power of labyrinths to enlighten and heal, or simply a place for support through whatever the changes and chances of life bring you, there is space for you in the labyrinth.

We who are walking the labyrinth are a growing community in the United States and in many other parts of the world. The ease and practicality of walking encourages all ages to get involved but is especially attractive for people in their sixties and seventies. Being in the labyrinth offers us a wide range of opportunities to learn or relearn about ourselves and each other. Walking the labyrinth engages the whole person and the entire group of participants in a meaningful activity that has remarkable consequences. The benefits of walking the labyrinth cannot be overstated. I invite you to get to know the labyrinth better. In future posts you will find information about labyrinths in your local areas.

I will share the various reasons for walking the labyrinth for wellness, stress reduction, spiritual growth, solace, and the development of wisdom. You will also read about the history and design of labyrinths, including why they have particular structures and are made of various materials. I will offer virtual facilitated walks that you and groups can take into familiar labyrinths near you.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport

Yells, Bells and Qvells

Finally, the royal wait is over, and a future king has been born. As I write, my screens are filled with live coverage of the easel birth announcement, and the colorful announcer on the hospital steps sporting a plumed headdress and large brass bell, calling out pertinent information to the cheering crowd.

I scanned the easel for the bit of information I’d been waiting for: both mother and son are doing well. Mothers of mothers need to know that first.

Soon, I’m sure, Prince Charles and the Queen and the Middletons will begin the royal qvell,* to which they are mightily entitled, not because a future king has been born, but because they are grandparents and great-grandparents. Kate and baby are fine and this child will be exceptional (do all grandparents feel this way?). Royal or not, “Baby Cambridge” is someone to love and cherish and fuss over and sing to and grandparent. Life is good.

And the Duchess and Prince? They had the birth they had planned for, we are told. They are not only Duchess and future king. They are lucky ducks. And as I wait for my own grandchild to appear, I am eager to quack myself.

*qvell is an old Yiddish word meaning to burst with pride

Wait For It . . .

As of this post, no text or call has alerted me that my grandchild is ready to meet the world. So I must do what is hardest for me to do: wait.

My daughter, on the other hand, is gracefully dealing with the last days of pregnancy in ways that delight me. We joined the expectant couple for a long walk to a late dinner last Saturday night, in the middle of a New York City heat wave. And yesterday, at her suggestion, we went to the beach, where 96 degree sand led to a cool ocean. Watching my very pregnant daughter swim and laugh and emerge refreshed reminded me how it is possible to bring style and joy to the last weeks of the ninth month. I watched her, under an umbrella, enjoying a summer plum, and allowed myself to relax a little, too.

How do grandparents-to-be pass the time? I’m hoping that the phone will ring before I run out of ways. Until then, suggestions are welcome.

Baby Prep

In a week, perhaps two, a new baby will grace our lives and change our world forever. And although we’ve had months to prepare, I’m still left with a list that is not entirely checked off. So I wonder, is it possible for a grandparent to ever be ready?

We began with our immediate surroundings. We deemed a glass coffee table, one that our daughters had grown up with, dangerous for small children, and got rid of it. We went from room to room, de-cluttering the girls’ childhood home and reclaiming space necessary for the baby’s visits. A chess set and table was removed, after thirty years in the den, to the attic. Things were re-arranged, removed, or banished.

Next came the ordering of necessary grandparent items. A pack-n-play, still boxed, sits expectantly in the den, where the chess set used to be. Leaning up against it, also still boxed, is a collapsible cradle, and a borrowed infant bathtub. A stroller, now part of what is called a “travel system,” sits alone in the living room near where the glass table used to be. Check!

Lower down on my list are the items to have on hand, swaddling blankets, washcloths, towels, bibs, and toiletries, to make a trip across the bridge easier and more tempting for the new parents. We’d like to be able to say, “Just bring the baby and yourselves” – but none of these items have been rounded up yet. Tomorrow?

As time draws near, and the baby readies itself to meet us, we are still scurrying. Will we, the new grandparents, ever be ready? Luckily, this wonderful baby will decide for us.

Waiting With Music

First grandchildren can take a while to arrive, and the trick is to pass the time without counting each minute. My daughter unknowingly helped me with this by reminding me of the songs she remembered me singing to her when she was tiny. That set me off.

All week I’ve been singing or whistling tunes I haven’t sung for years. I don’t know how many infants these days are treated to “Come Josephine With Your Flying Machine” but my grandmother sang the first three lines of this song to me, over and over, and I know I will pass it on to this sweet new child who lives in a world of rather sophisticated flying machines, to say the least. Although I don’t know who first sang this song to my grandmother, the mystery and music will be shared with my grandchild. She’ll ask, I know she will. Curiosity gallops through her veins.

I may not do them justice but I will try my best to sing the sweeter songs of Billy Joel, as I did with my daughters. And Joe Raposo’s songs are high on the list, as are the Beatles. I can sit on the porch and remember such sweet music surrounding the baby in my arms and me, and I marvel at the chance to be surrounded again.

What Mothers Know

To hear my mother and grandmother tell it, at the age of two I began lifting my pointer finger in the air and pontificating on whatever it is I knew at the age of two. I apparently did so with urgency and determination, so convinced I must have been of the importance of my twenty-four month wisdom and the need to share it.

Sixty years later I am often overtaken by the same compelling need to share accumulated wisdom, and nothing compels me more than having a pregnant daughter. From food choices to delivery room advice to nursery décor, there are things I know.

But I hold my tongue.

For the past nine months, my daughter has taught me. Midwifery, doulas, inoculations, wardrobe, rocking chairs, hospital policies, pacifiers, diapers, baby food . . . the list is long, and I listen and learn.

I know to make way and respect the discoveries of a soon-to-be mother. Holding my tongue forces me to listen and even re-position my ideas on pregnancy and infancy.

My daughter joins the ranks of knowing mothers because her child has already captured her mind and put it to work. Soon it will capture her heart. I know.


July will bring a new person into my life, a brand new earthling, a thoughtful, wondering, open-eyed individual who will wrap my brain, body, and soul around a new life, for the rest of mine.

This person is scheduled to meet me, and everyone else, sometime in July, and the waiting is hard. And yet, selfishly, I don’t feel quite ready. Am I wise enough? Grandparents should be wise. Am I calm enough? I don’t want to impart fear or worry; infants sense those feelings immediately. Am I able to love this baby as completely and devotedly as I love my daughter? The universal answer seems to be “yes,” but I hope I’m of that universe.

Someone asked me today if I thought the baby’s first words would be “grandma.” My answer was, “the first word will most likely be an exotic vegetable, perhaps fennel.” First words are not often “grandma.” That’s as it should be. And this particular baby will be surrounded by mangoes and shallots and kiwi (now there’s a great first word) and lots of fennel. I will not try to compete.

The word “grandmother” holds so much dignity and wisdom and generational significance. It’s laden with expectations and promises. At first, this word will have no meaning for my grandchild. When she begins to connect faces to words, she’ll find a suitable name for me. Whatever she decides, when she calls it, I’ll be there. I hope she finds me worthy.