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Happy Birthday, to a Woman Who Used a Crisis to Benefit Humanity

Born two-hundred years ago in 1821, Mary Baker was raised by a doting mother and strict father. By the age of thirty, she had endured personal crises typical to privileged white girls. Lost lovers and unfulfilled dreams. Her mother died when Mary was twenty-eight. She married her second husband, Daniel Patterson, in 1853, fancying he would make things better. But in 1857, while ill in bed a few weeks, forlornly pining her mother, Mary noted in her scrapbook, “My dear dear…Mother waits for me in the far beyond and through the discipline, the darkness and the trials of life, I am walking unto her.”

In 1861, Daniel urged Mary to investigate mind-cure and wrote a letter to up-and-coming practitioner, Dr. Phineas Quimby, to make plans to travel from their home in Rumney, New Hampshire, to Portland, Maine, to get Mary treatment for her periodic spinal and emotional challenges.

But the plan was interrupted by another crisis that appeared to disillusion and transform Mary. The American Civil War (1861-1865).

Spring of 1862, President Lincoln called for volunteers to fight for the Union. Surely with Mary’s support, Daniel traveled to Washington D.C. for an assignment. But before getting the assignment, he became a civilian casualty, captured by Confederates and taken to Libby Prison in Virginia.

At the news of Daniel’s imprisonment, Mary’s mental and physical health broke down. Her executive sister, Abigail, checked her into Vail’s water-cure center where Mary languished for months. A far cry from her previous ten years of being the center of Daniel’s attention.

Historical records show that Daniel professed his love in a letter to Mary as the only woman he wanted to marry. Both were intelligent and educated. Mary had written for publications and Daniel was known as an honest, expert dentist.

That first summer of the Civil War, within the confines of a disease festering prison, echoing agonies of pain, Daniel succumbed to illness. He survived the sickness and was taken to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina, to suffer more hunger, lice, and probably guilt for not doing more.

End of September, in the dark of night during a thunderous downpour, Daniel escaped through a third story window and over a ten-foot fence. He began stumbling at night, hiding by day, and foraging or stealing food. He was dodging Confederate sympathizers.

Daniel crossed the Alleghany Mountain range on his four-hundred-mile trek to safety over the Union line in West Virginia, while mid-October, Mary asked her brother to take her to Portland, Maine, for mind-cure treatment from Dr. Quimby. Through Quimby’s mind-power therapy, Mary received physical relief like never before. The healing caused her immediately to place her faith in Dr. Quimby. 

Mary and Daniel were reunited in November of 1862 in New Hampshire. Daniel’s relief was probably clouded with post-traumatic syndrome disorder. Mary’s relief was probably spilling over with unrestrained excitement at her renewed health.

Next spring, the Pattersons settled in the busier town of Lynn, Massachusetts, closer to Dr. Quimby. Daniel resumed his dental business and supported Mary while she wrote and tested the waters of public speaking in Maine on subjects varying from mind-science to supporting the Union troops. Mary’s days were filled with new ambitions and frequent, lengthy absences from Daniel, while she also probed Quimby on mind-cure.

Records show that Daniel worked in Lynn, paid their bills, and dealt with poorer health due to deprivations in prison. July 1864, in extreme hundred-degree temperatures, Daniel contracted a bacterial infection. Mary was home, after being in Maine for more than two months that spring, and wrote Quimby on July 8, “My husband was seized 2 days ago with fever and what is called erysipelas… His face is a purple red and swelled horribly. I feel alarmed about him for fear it will reach the brain as he knows the M. D.’s opinions. I have watched and waited upon him till I am not a little out of tune, feel tired and it hurts me now to move. Can you not prevent my taking it and send relief to him?” Apparently, Mary traveled to Maine after July 9 and left Daniel alone to recuperate.

Mary returned to Daniel in October with greater confidence in what she was learning about mind-power and more experience at keeping the attention of an audience.

Quimby died in 1866 and Mary faltered. She literally slipped and fell on ice, becoming bedridden.

I can image that after losing everything during the Civil War, then discovering it with added hope and trust, only to lose it all again after the war ended, that Mary felt disillusioned. Like hundreds of thousands of Americans, reeling with resentments and anxieties after forced losses and gains. After compulsory revisions to enslaved and enslaving lifestyles.

Mary’s written memories of her ice fall experience show contradictions, but her recovery indicates a scientific breakthrough or revelation. Something she could work with. Faith in herself, rather than faith in Quimby.

It seems Mary tested her faith in healing by using logic and discovery. What didn’t work to benefit mental and physical health was corrected by new ideas.

Early 1867, Mary taught a factory worker, Mr. Crafts, how to heal with mind-power. Ready to turn her mission into money and start a healing business, Crafts agreed to be the face of Mary’s business while paying her royalties for each patient healed, in his hometown of Taunton, Massachusetts. In April, Mary moved to live with Mr. and Mrs. Crafts while Mr. Crafts and Mary rented an office in town.

Daniel didn’t move with Mary. He permanently moved to the quieter, rural Rumney, New Hampshire and continued his successful dental business.

As for Mary’s business, it didn’t last half a year. People were healed but Mr. Crafts quit. The rest of 1867 is a blur of Mary living in different towns, but she didn’t give up fine-tuning her method of applying mental health to physical healing.

In 1868, she moved to Amesbury, Massachusetts and picked up a few more students. Including Richard Kennedy, a nineteen-year-old who worked at a box factory.

Summer of 1870, Mary made her next mind-cure business attempt in Lynn, Massachusetts with the young Richard Kennedy, who had learned from Mary how to massage patient’s heads and stomachs and think good thoughts to heal illnesses.

For two years, they rented a space to live and work in together. Documents show that Mary and Richard Kennedy developed a love-hate emotional affair that lasted fifteen years. Written manuscripts show Mary tenaciously blaming Richard or Mr. K_ for her problems. Undoubtedly, it was a terrible mental burden.

After physically separating from Richard and before divorcing Daniel in 1873, Mary stopped teaching and spent a reflective three years thinking, writing notes, and living in Lynn.

I believe that this is when Mary’s faith in her own mind lessened and faith in a greater reality, called infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, took hold.  

Compiling her notes, Mary published, Science and Health, in 1875, a book she revised constantly until her death.

Science and Health showed how to translate the emancipation of African American slaves to the emancipation of mental slavery.

Science and Health was originally intended for the general public, not for religion or church. Mary, using Christ as her model healer, pointedly wrote in the first edition, “Creeds and ritualism never enable us to follow Jesus’ example, and give the demonstration he gave of God.”

In 1877, Mary wed one of her students, Asa Eddy, ten years her junior. He served her dutifully until he died five years later. During this third marriage, Mary established the Massachusetts Metaphysical College and became nationally known. She helped thousands of regular people and Civil War veterans experience physical and mental health. She organized The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. It would be another fifteen years before Science and Health was grafted to the church.

Curiously, the Church Manual that Mary left behind for members to follow, indicated a brief future under her control. The book of rules was written and revised in present tense, commanding her personal consent and approval for critical decisions. A task not possible when she was dead, making the Manual impossible to follow in the future.

Perhaps Mary wrote the Manual in present tense because revisions and scientific modifications are necessary to continue benefiting humanity.

By time I was born in 1961, Mary Baker Eddy and her church were fading. But the power of mind and the idea of an infinite were gaining hold. The discoveries of an infinite cosmos more easily translated into infinite possibilities.

Except, I grew up believing that reliance on prayer was the best healer, limiting my possibilities.  

Until, as a young adult, that belief unraveled after reading this sentence in Eddy’s Science and Health, “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized.”

Prayer is a ritual, like getting vaccinations. In other words, prayer is not synonymous with the truth or truthfulness that sets us free.

Not that I quit praying.  

Prayer helped me stay calm and take on new daily rituals last August when closing my small business, a casualty of the Covid epidemic.

I also prayed while getting fully vaccinated against Covid.

My prayers and the vaccination won’t set me free from the troubles that come with the crises common the human beings, but using them to benefit the humane in humanity sure feels freeing.

Happy birthday, Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910).

Bio: Cheryl Petersen received a scholarship from Religion Newswriters Association and studies Christian Science. She is author of, 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health. She lives in New York. Cheryl can be reached at and 4CherylWrites (at)

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And have a peaceful day.

Road trip, 4

Salem, the capital of Oregon, was our next stop, to visit an uncle and cousin, father and son. The father is in a senior center and has been required to eat alone in his room since March 2020. The son lives with his family nearby and shops for his dad and was able to visit when lockdown relaxed. We were able to meet in a room down the hall as long as we wore masks and passed a temperature test at the front desk.

As with many cities, Salem is challenged by homelessness. The covid epidemic makes homelessness all the more visible and demanding to remember we are all human beings working out the spiritual in ways we understand. A homeless individual is no less human than an individual who owns one, two, or three houses.

Houses don’t make or break us, hopefully, and we can use the situations attributed to houses or lack thereof, to demonstrate kindness and cleanliness and security.

Rather than sympathize with a physical situation and assume we know the answer to the problem, we can use our power to express, gracefully, the element of humanity that listens to meet immediate human needs.

I’ve found that when I house my consciousness in modest expectations, human needs are met more regularly, and grandiose, unrealistic expectations fade.

“During the sensualist age, absolute divine Science may not be achieved prior to the change called death, for we have not the power of demonstrate what we do not understand. The human self must be evangelized. This task God demands us to accept gracefully, and to abandon as fast as practical the temporal, and to work out the spiritual which determines the outward and actual.”—21st Century Science and Health

Road trip, 3

Road trip, 3

Corvallis, Oregon was our next stop, to visit another cousin and his wife. He is a professor at Oregon State University, and she works in the music industry.

When touring the University with my cousin, we noticed mini-robots on the sidewalks, used to deliver food, messages, and probably things I can’t imagine. I have to admit, the robots were a hoot. The programmed-wheeled contraptions travel the main campus and avoid people.

Because my cousin works in the agricultural research department, we drove off campus to “the farm,” which is up my alley because plants and trees have always interested me. He researches hazelnuts and it was fun to catch up on the latest discoveries.

After lunch, his wife took us to her work of business, dealing with sheet music for choirs. It was fascinating to hear how much record keeping and finesse is required to be a middleperson between singers and musicians.

If we had more time together, it would have been fun to get my violin and jam. My cousin’s wife is quite the singer and I’ve always appreciated her love of music.

They also had wonderful stories to share regarding their two children, both doing well despite covid. In fact, just before shut-down, their daughter, husband, and grandchild moved to Corvallis. So, we got to talk about how much fun it is to be grandparents.

 “If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“For centuries—yes, always—natural science has not really been considered a part of religion. Even now many people consider the conventional sciences to have no proper connection with faith and spirituality. However, mystery does not obscure Christ’s teachings. Truth’s instructions are not theoretical and fragmentary, but are practical and open to new discoveries that reveal ongoing completion and law. And being practical and comprehensive, God’s laws are not deprived of their essential vitality.”—21st Century Science and Health

Road trip, 2

Leaving Iowa and entering Nebraska, the speed limit increased to 80 miles per hour. The Impreza hummed louder on Interstate 80 and drove through congenial weather. Doug continued quizzing me on state capitals and I struggled most with Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We arrived in Winston, Oregon to visit Etta, eight-four and still flexible and spry. She can stand straight, spread her legs two feet, and bend at the waist, back straight, to touch the floor with both her hands, nearly flat to the ground.

We’ve stayed in touch with Etta for decades, especially after her husband died. She lives in her own home within a treed area, and loves getting together because we talk freely about spirit and love.

Etta hopped in the car with us, and we drove up, up, up, to see Crater Lake, still surrounded by snow and magnificence. The English language has no words to describe the water’s superb blue color.

Crater Lake is one of 423 national parks in the USA.

For more than a hundred years, in the lake, floats a Mountain Hemlock tree trunk, dubbed the “old man.”

We had lunch under a blue sky.

“ And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”—Luke 2

Click here for Road trip, 1

Road Trip, 1

After Memorial Day, with an old-fashioned map of the United States, that listed the capitals, populations, and distances of and between states, Doug and I got in our Impreza and left New York to drive west. Our goal was to stay in Washington state for a month and visit family and friends.

Times have changed since the first of June and I have no plans to travel now. So, I will write a series of blogs on our trip west.

We carried our covid-vaccination cards in our wallets to be on-the-ready to show and sooth concerns. Each state we passed through and each business we encountered had their own guidelines which were easy to respect and follow.

Iowa was our first stop, to visit a cousin and her husband.

We caught up on family news. Although the topic of covid came up, it wasn’t the highlight of our conversations. We compared and shared how we’re adapting to our world’s different circumstances and yet keeping our sanity and happiness.

Our cousin established a huge garden and opened it to neighbors. They also showed us extraordinary paintings, accomplished by our cousin’s husband and their daughters. They raised two talented, wise daughters who were living independently in nearby towns.

On the road again, Doug and I tested one another on state capitals.

Sometimes, Doug would give me clues, when I couldn’t remember a capital. “It’s a big river between Washington and Oregon.”

Columbia, South Carolina.

“It ends with furt,” he told me. Nope, I couldn’t get it. “It begins with Frank.”

Frankfurt, Kentucky.

“Admitting to our self that person is God’s own likeness sets us free to master the infinite idea.

“The less that is said of physical structure and laws, the higher will be the standard of living. The more that is thought and said about moral and spiritual law, the further human beings will be removed from imbecility or disease.”—21st Century Science and Health

A thing to do in time

My last week was a kaleidoscope of time periods, no one time period more distinguishable than another. 

On a whole, it was a glimpse of eternity. A glimpse of, no time.

My husband and I traveled to visit family on the other side of the United States.

We stayed with his family most. Although we’ve been connected by marriage for thirty-eight years, I can’t remember a time without knowing and loving them.

My husband and I also stayed one night at a cabin in which I went to regularly on weekends with my family. Many of the old knick-knacks still hang on the wall and sit on the shelves. Weird hot-chocolate cups, still there.

With that sameness, came evergreen trees in the forest that have filled in and reorganized the scene. The spaces we used for sledding, walking, and corralling horses, we can’t so much anymore. Yet, it felt like yesterday when we were sledding on snow and walking and riding through the woods.

The potential to do that, and more, is still there.

Good memories, bad memories, mostly good memories. But it felt like one big blob. Is it a dream?

I guess it doesn’t matter if it was a dream or reality because all those thoughts together can glorify God, the love I have and do feel despite an inability to define it clearly. 

When I watched the sun rise over the tree tops and felt the breeze that moved the tree branches, I could glimpse an unending life that survives my dreams and realities.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.—Ps. 34: 1-3

The nowness of snow

The snow is melting. Rats!

Snow has always been my favorite part of winter. I grew up sledding with my sisters and brothers, racing down the hill, through the trees of the Blue Mountains in Oregon. Sometimes, we ran smack into trees, but oh well.

When older and visiting Palo Alto, California, in the summer, on a gorgeous seventy-five degree day, the friend I was staying with, a permanent resident of Palo Alto for seventy years, said, “I love this temperate climate. I’d never move.”

I had to think about what she said.

First off, I was there in July, when it was one-hundred-five degrees back home in southeastern Washington State. The seventy-degree weather indeed tempted me to believe temperate weather had appeal. But to live in it, year round? No dice.

I like the four seasons to be noticeable. Clear. And snow in winter is clear. I love watching snowflakes drift. I don’t even mind when a howling wind makes the snow fall at a sideways angle. Give me a scarf to wrap my face in and I’m outside.

This year’s snow in upstate New York where I live now, has been superb. A blessing, after a year of lockdown due to COVID. Not that my year stopped or felt lockdown. It hasn’t. I’ve been practicing violin again and play duets with our daughter on the piano. We play sacred songs, country songs, and broadway songs. I also started writing a book about Daniel Patterson and am nearing the end. Just in time for the snow melt to show dirt. Where we will be planting more trees. How can we not plant trees after watching Diana Beresford-Kroeger in her tree documentary, Call Of The Forest – The Forgotten Wisdom Of Trees?

We’ll also be planting a garden according to Ruth Stout.

But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the melting snow, keep praying, and clean off my desk.

From, 21st Century Science and Health: “Genesis 1:14. And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.

“Spirit creates heavenly or celestial bodies, but outer space is no more celestial than our earth. This text gives the idea of the diffusion of thought as it expands. Divine Mind forms and peoples the universe. The light of spiritual understanding gives glints of the infinite, even as black holes indicate the immensity of space. Mineral, vegetable, and animal substances are no more contingent now on time or material structure than they were “while the morning stars sang together.”[1] Mind made the “plant of the field”[2] before it appeared on the earth. The events of spiritual ascension are the days and seasons of Mind’s revelation, in which beauty, magnificence, purity, and holiness (the divine nature) appear in spiritual beings and the universe, never to disappear.”

[1] Job 38:7

[2] Gen. 2:5 (NASB)

In the Purple

A text from my sister asked me what childhood memory I have of Christmas. I remember receiving a bright, deep purple bedspread that resembled shag carpet of the 1970s. Two-inch long shag. Sounds awful doesn’t it? Well, it was.

I shared a room with this very sister and therefore, we had a bed each, meaning she also received an identical gift and we had not one, but two of these imperial purple beauties gracing our small abode.

Our family of seven lived in an old farmhouse in the state of Washington, built before wall-to-wall carpet was a thing. In other words, the place had old linoleum flooring. So, maybe the bedspreads were a form of compensation for lack of carpet.

That Christmas morning, we five kids sat giddily around the tree, unwrapping gifts.

When unwrapping the soft package, I noticed first, the purple. I like purple, not lavender or violet, to fluffy, but dazzling bold purple, so this gift was looking pretty good, until I finished unwrapping and stared at the hunk of shag material. “It’s a bedspread,” said Mom.

Mom was perceptive. I’m sure she heard me think, “What is this?” I’m sure she also knew my verbal, “Thank you, Mom and Dad,” was strained. But that could be because we all knew, every gift was purchased by Mom from the Montgomery Ward catalog. Dad did not shop unless it was for a potato harvester or pipeline.

I sweat under the heavy coverlet. But sweating under shag aside, this gift, I attribute to my present day attitude toward gift giving. Super nonchalant.

The attitude started as “helpful hints.” I’d tell Mom what I wanted. She abided and even made it easier by asking me to mark, a month before Christmas, no next-day delivery back then, my druthers on the Montgomery catalog pages.

After getting married, my attitude took a necessary diversion. It believed that I enjoyed the first year of selecting gifts for in-laws who I so badly wanted to be a part of. But, Christmas Eve, when the in-laws gathered, I could tell, the blouse I got my sister-in-law wasn’t what she liked, therefore the next year, I simply wrapped the gifts I choose along with the sales receipt, for easier returns.

The in-laws abided by doing the same. But “returning” items irked me. So, my attitude shifted to a protest. Hopefully, I said it kindly, but I said, “I don’t want to draw names anymore, thank you.”

At first, the in-law family was a bit curious as to my request.

Which by the way, my request wasn’t reversed by my husband, who himself has zero patience for shopping expeditions of any type. He did not offer to shop for his family.

But after a few Christmas gatherings, and the in-laws watching me nonchalantly, smugly, sitting in a chair eating Norwegian Lefse, not opening ridiculous gifts, low and behold, gift giving plunged in the important factor.

Did we notice? Not really, because my ever-growing family knows the best gifts are singing carols, saying grace with one another, and laughing until the cows go home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

God’s burning light of genius

While our granddaughter walks a few feet, indoors, to her laptop, to attend virtual school, I remember walking a long driveway and riding the school bus 45 minutes to the nearest rural school. Eight hours later, in reverse. We each, however, have jobs to do after school.

In the fall, my job took me to the freshly harvested 400-hundred-acre potato field. The job required tumbleweeds, a pitchfork, and matches. Fire.

Southeast Washington state, where I grew up on the family farm, grows bounteous crops of tumbleweeds. Highly combustible tumbleweeds. Capable of igniting infernos especially when mixed with dry cheat grass and sagebrush, common vegetation on the west coast.

You can imagine, I was trained to apprehend fire. I don’t fear fire as much as anticipate the need for immediate action to make sure the good caused by fire outweighs the bad.

I appreciate cooked food, but I also follow Smokey the Bear’s instructions on proper fire handling. I support laws prohibiting celebratory fireworks. And it became natural to install solar panels to counterbalance climate change.

When a kid, fire was used to counterbalance the tumbleweed threats of fire and of barricading plows.

Because the weeds are round prickly conglomerates of stems that grow three to four feet in height and width, the bunches made it impossible to plow the ground. So, with pitchfork in hand, I’d walk the field, jab tumbleweeds and carry them to pile. Once the pile was fairly large, I’d strike a match and produce a bonfire.

Four hundred acres required a lot of piles.

To save matches, or rather, to save myself from getting frustrated because the match sticks kept breaking, I first built multiple piles of tumbleweeds and lite only one pile. Within half a minute the pile was in flames. I’d then jab the pitchfork into the fire and pull out a clump of burning weeds before running, carefully, with the clump to insert into the next pile to catch it on fire.

I came home smelling like smoke and with an appetite for dinner.

No longer a kid in the potato fields, today, the smell of smoke continues triggering an appetite for improved strategies to counterbalance devastations produced by fires. I keep an ear open to the genius-spirit that moves people, calmly, persistently, and solidly, to design improved strategies, despite the howling noises produced by blame and animosity.

When young, I learned to plow fire breaks around fields and houses to help reduce fire damage. It helped but plowing isn’t a cure-all, because of countless shifting variables, because of unknowns.

Unknowns exist, no matter how much human beings believe they can know or control everything. But unknowns aren’t as scary when we’re open to the genius-spirit.

Even in the face of today’s weirdness, practically mocking our controlled schedules, I see the genius-spirit moving people to develop approachable programs to fight fire damage or help children learn. It’s happening. And I can support its many forms by grabbing clumps of this enlightened genius, before leaving behind, and moving away from, my burning outgrown passions.

We read in 21st Century Science and Health: “Pay attention! Make sure that the motive for prayer doesn’t embrace the desire for human admiration and instead encourages pure sentiments. It is physical emotionalism, and not Soul, that triggers a nervous passion for God. Allow spiritual sense to guide your higher experiences, because fanaticism and self-satisfied devotion do not promote spirituality. God is not influenced by human beings. The divine ear is not an auditory nerve. The Divine is all-hearing and all-knowing Mind, recognizing and supplying our every need.”

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