Grist for the Mill 

Because I derive a great deal of happiness through service, this month I am contemplating how best to proceed with the potential of service in my early semiretirement life. So far, about a year and a half in, I am quite active day to day. Teaching online and prepping a new course for the Spring, assuming an outreach role with my spiritual organization regionally, contributing as a member at large to my neighborhood housing association board, caring for my beautiful dog Sophie and cat Emily, writing, blogging, being active with family and friends, providing for the household and my home family; in short, I am very happy!

My brother at one time expressed the view that there are “producers” and then there are “servants” and that the former are inherently ‘better’ than the latter. I disagreed then, since teaching is my primary profession and teaching is most definitely a service role, and I love it! Now I see that service is a product in its own right. Service is a productive activity, not only supportive, and being supportive is a good thing too. It is not only about helping others, though I am happy to be of service in whatever capacity I can for another. It is about sharing from the foundation of accumulated knowledge and acquiring some measure of wisdom in the process; it is about giving, and giving back, to Life Itself, with love and gratitude.

Learning to be of greater service day by day provides grist for the mill, fuel for the dynamic expression of energetic outflow. That sounds rather lofty, yet simply expresses a dedicated sense of purpose. We breathe in and breathe out, every breath a divine energy of life. To receive and to give forth at least in equal proportion maintains balance, connection, and provides a grateful contribution to the Whole.

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In Service Is My Reward

For 45 years I have participated in service activities with my spiritual group, and I have taught university courses first as a grad student then  as a professor and author for forty years altogether. Service is baked into my sense of identity and purpose. I would feel bereft without the opportunity to serve, wherever and however I can be of use. A credo I have adopted is:

In service is my reward.

I put this out there because this month’s question is about how to be of service in a new location after semi-retirement, which I feel is a fundamental necessity for continuing growth and development. Living your Dream, Now!, which is the through line of my book, Your Life Path (see right panel), does not mean “settling” into an inert, less than active life. Quite the contrary; Living Your Dream means to be following (in Joseph Campbell’s terms), yet I would say, manifesting your Bliss! For as you achieve one facet of your fulfillment, this opens doors to pathways leading forth to many more.

In Indian traditions (both continental Indian Hinduism and some Native American cultures) conceptually a lifetime can be understood to be comprised of four stages or cycles. Elder-hood can be a period of reflection that bears the fruits of Wisdom, not just head or fact knowledge. Wisdom is expressed as service to one’s community based on the wealth of experience an elder has attained. Giving back, offering insights from a life well lived, is a vital stage by which the generations turn in the gyre of transformation and continuation of growth and enlightenment.

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So I am ready to step forward, to volunteer in my new community and to forge continuing pathways forward with writing and other creative activities. I find that having made this commitment, already avenues are opening. I dreamed of an advertisement for my life mapping services. I will add some info in the blog tabs shortly. Plus I have been welcomed to help in a political context, and ideas are flowing for writing.

Service and love are one and the same, as forms of reciprocity in community.

I welcome YOUR story, and comments.

How to Be a Johnny Appleseed

Organic Farmer Sowing Seed Woodcut Retro

A legendary example of the NOURISHER Archetype is John Chapman, the historical person remembered as Johnny Appleseed. Chapman was a professional nurseryman who traveled by foot across several Midwestern U.S. states, sowing apple seeds to create abundant orchards. Mainly these apples were used for making  hard cider or applejack, and Chapman established use of the lands he sowed so he amassed a large amount of property. But he also had noble ambitions, e.g.:

“ Johnny Appleseed’s dream was for a land where blossoming apple trees were everywhere and no one was hungry. A gentle and kind man, he slept outdoors and walked barefoot around the country planting apple seeds everywhere he went.”

Save Plant

Some of Chapman’s apple seeds flourished while many did not. But he scattered so many seeds that enough would take root to spawn fruitful orchards that would last for many generations. Here was a NOURISHER who never stopped giving of himself through his knowledge and his literal ‘legwork’ to accomplish his dream.

In what ways might you practice a Johnny Appleseed ambition? What can you do to give abundantly of yourself and to realize your greatest talents, simple as they might be?

My sister has a good friend who has retired from high school teaching. In recent years after a trip she took to Nicaragua, she has formed an informal organization through which she collects donations and then buys and furnishes school books and she also gives out scholarships to Nicaraguan children who might otherwise not be able to attend or to afford school. Many of these students have by now gone on to higher education and to useful jobs. My sister’s friend continues to give from and to grow this fund. She receives nothing in return financially from this act of love and service; she gives because she can; and, because she cares.


Planting seeds is a great metaphor for any endeavor. Even maintaining positive, good thoughts might be a Johnny Appleseed sort of activity; your good thoughts can bear many fruitful outcomes. Pruning negative thoughts and replacing them with strong, life affirming, generous beliefs and ambitions can help you sow a lifetime of golden apples!

Apples in a basket on rustic background