Unburdened

The final resting place for the uncommon

Though only in body

Dust and tinges of bone remain

beneath the knobby spring terrain

Markers bearing just a snippet of an earthbound vitality

Entry and Exit

Beloved wife

Former headmaster

Dedicated alum

Distinctive author

Her verse exposed this land’s second original sin

Time-worn graves

mossy and copper stained virescent words, faded

An existence forgotten

These spirits rattle and hum

The sound carried in the first season’s whipping winds

I settle in to listen

Day 15.  A walk and a picnic in a campus cemetery. Spring is just beginning to speak.

A Quest for Compassion

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When the powerful gather and circle their wagons to reshape the narrative in pursuit of their own desires,

How do you respond?

Are you rendered powerless?

Do you become passive and accepting?

Do you fall into deep despair?

Or do you rise up in anger?

Are you fueled by fury?

Flushed with frustration?

Or do you seek a third way?

Where is your compelling counter-narrative?

The heavy dose of compassion?

  The goal of sustained transformation? 

The answers are elusive

But not impossible

They lie not in the hatred

or disdain

or deliberate hurt

 of the other

But in our ability to meet at the crossroads

And arrive at an understanding

A cognizant contemplation of the far-reaching consequences

Born of our self-righteous and selfish actions

 

Day 7. This poem would not be possible if not for the inspiration of a morning walk. I listened to two podcasts by Rob Bell. He surely gave me some of the words today, most especially “the coherent counter-narrative”.  I am grateful always for his calming, wise and humorous perspective! Thank you also to Emily with whom I spoke at length yesterday in a small moment of despair. Among other things, she mentioned Sally Kohn and her TedTalk on emotional correctness. I watched it and am sharing it with you as well.

 

Holier than Thou, How?

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  Image courtesy of: Two Spirits | Native American Gender Diversity | Independent Lens | PBS

Am I to drown in a lake of fire or am I heaven bound?  

Is my sin only manifested in one man

Fallen and depraved and under continuous damnation from God?

Am I truly the apex of all creation?

Am I a mere helpmeet unworthy and incapable of godly leadership?

Or is the Energy of The Spirit not bound in a book or the walls of a building?

Is it not flowing through rivers and streams

And the vast oceans that encompass this Earth?

Is not water the most Holy and High of all creation?

The One from which all life has sprung forth?

Is not water life itself, without which all living beings will perish?

Does The Spirit not speak to me in the blowing winds and rains and snows?

Is the message not heard in the noisy gong of birds at dawn?

And seen through the long looks of deer in the fields?

I say The Kingdom is within me

With each breath and prayer and call to action

I will persist against the evil and damning forces within our midst 

So keep me from your heartless judgements

Your parochial beliefs 

Your confines of complicit catechisms

Speaking Truth to Power is my road to Glory and Salvation

Day 5. I think I have said enough today.

Take Action, Keep Sane, Make a Difference

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I am dedicating this post to my late mother, Pat, who would have turned 79 today. She remains with us still.

12 days feels like 12 years. Is this what it’s like to be in a boxing ring getting pummeled by your opponent?  The daily news is like getting a dose of bad tasting medicine- except the symptoms of my illness are getting no relief. I was telling my husband on Monday that the feelings that I am currently experiencing are similar to the ones from a decade ago. The agony of my divorce and its aftermath played out in all kinds of excruciating ways over the course of four years. Sound familiar?

Then I remember that I survived and thrived because of my relentless vigilance in the face of overwhelming odds. I didn’t let the bastard break me and I am not about to let this one either! I spent Sunday calling Senators voicing my concern and opposition to the Previcater-in-Chief’s Cabinet nominees and his outrageous Executive Orders.  I signed up for an event sponsored by our local League of Women Voters. Tuesday came. I talked with Emily who was hosting an action group with others up north. On Thursday she gave me ideas of how I can be effective efficiently. It was a God send.

It is difficult for me not to feel a sense of urgency. In my conversation with Jenn Wednesday, we shared our frustrations about our nation’s situation as well as our irritation with others who aren’t taking action.  The truth is,  we can’t expect everyone to jump in immediately- it doesn’t meant they are apathetic. In fact, they may be doing things to hold us up. Laura spends time meditating and praying for guidance from the Divine Mother. My husband gives me a soft place to land, a listening ear and delicious meals. He reminds me that I need to continue to live my life, to take time and be still, and that joy still exists along with the laundry!  I continue to remain grateful for my work as an educator. I make a difference every minute of every day in the lives of young people. They are the starfish stuck in the sand. And we adult citizens are too. The beach is filled with miles of us. Still, we must continue this long journey together. We will despair and be tempted to surrender. We must be patient and prudent. If we take care of one starfish at a time, we can prevail.

 You may ask what can I do that will have an impact? The simplest means is making a phone call to your local representative and/or Senator. This has been made so much easier by the blessed organizers out there. Here are some sites that will help you decide what you can do (with thanks to Emily!): 

Remember: the forces of evil will attempt to overwhelm us at every turn. We cannot let them win. We cannot be silent any longer.

Troubled Waters

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 Image Courtesy of: abbottphotoart.deviantart.com

Sunrise Thursday. The pull of the day threw the covers off my sticky body. The desire to escape the weight of worries, the seemingly endless sound of sirens, and the unforgiving concrete drew me to the water.

Finally! A cool morning was at hand. The sand was cold beneath my aching feet, providing immediate relief from a few punishing days of running. The tide was out and the wind was up, giving the waves a bit more vigor than usual. I walked along past my ankles, enjoying the ease. The beach was nearly deserted and still, except for the sound of the surf.

My mind is restless. I  am living with a sense of foreboding that I find difficult to escape. Mother Earth has always been a release valve, a respite for me, a place to gather thoughts and make sense of things. Since the mountains are far, I must find peace at the beach for now.

Sunrise Friday. Repeat. When I go to work, I tell Laura that I walked in the water. She misheard me and thought I said that I walked on the water, a phenomenon some attribute to Jesus and a well-known passage in the Bible. Others use it as a parable or a metaphor for rising above the negative material realm into a more fully realized spiritual self.

Sunrise Saturday. One more time. Before the day got away from me, I wanted a few moments of getting my feet wet. I appreciated the lack of noise from my fellow amblers. Perhaps we were all on edge. Waiting for the great national implosion.

Sunday. Another trip. But this time I run to the water and down to the pier. On the way home, I run through the quiet streets which are a few blocks removed from the noise of the boulevard. Ideas dance in my head.

The Sunday paper was chock full of the topics I thought of writing about, but  the writers, reporters, essayists, and editorials said it better than I ever will. However, I’d like to share one that was particularly compelling. Derek Black, a former white nationalist, wrote an essay entitled “David Duke is My Godfather.”  You can read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/opinion/sunday/why-i-left-white-nationalism.html?_r=0. One line that stood out to me was the last sentence of his essay:  “It is the choice of embracing or rejecting our own people.”

This is the thing that has bugged me the most. People-supposedly godly people- simply rejecting and judging everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their view of our nation and their view of religion (for some they go hand in hand). For example, on my way to a writer’s workshop Saturday, I saw a church sign that said: “Make America God’s Again.” I asked myself, “Whose God? Does it mean the Fundamentalist Christian God of hell-fire and judgement, the one that thinks we are all sinners? Would I be among the many who could be persecuted because I don’t believe exactly as they do? Would they create laws in this country that will blur the lines between state and church so they can make America God’s again?”

I texted my oldest son the quote and his response was “Cool.” I was surprised. Then he said: “Depends on what you mean by God’s I suppose. Love your neighbor, turn your cheek. Nice God.” I told him that I had a more negative reaction called “Fear of Religious Right.” His response: “Ah, lunatic God. No wine and cheese parties.”

I like his way of thinking.  I told him that if every house of worship had that sign ( Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc), then I think it would have the feel of less ‘lunacy’ and more love.

Sometimes I feel surrounded by others with a singular state of mind when it comes to their faith. Because they feel “right” in their beliefs, they assume I am just like them. I respect their beliefs but I don’t necessarily share all of them. And I am not sure they hear the harshness of their comments about times when they encounter situations where they may feel out of place, especially when it’s not Christian. They tell me they feel as if they are in “another world”. Then I share that I attended a predominately Jewish university as an undergraduate and that my experience as a non-Jew opened my eyes to newer perspectives and understandings. I hope their silence means that I gave them something to think about.

In essence, it comes down to active listening to others who may not agree with you or at least have a different perspective and experience. Derek Black says as much when people have asked him for a way to change the minds of Trump supporters. He states: “That kind of persuasion happens in person-to-person interactions and it requires a lot of honest listening on both sides.”

I cannot imagine living in a world or nation that is not diverse. There’s a richness to the various layers of our humanity and increased opportunities for deeper personal connections. We need to find a way to rise above the insidiousness that has made its way into our nation.

I’m leaving soon for another walk in the water, this time with a friend. I’ll close with a quote from Kenneth L. Samuel, Pastor of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia:

Every child wants to belong to a parent. Every individual wants to belong to a country. Every loving person wants to belong to a partner and a family. Every believer wants to belong to a faith that affirms and values who he/she is in God.

 

 

Speaking Up and Speaking Out

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Image courtesy of: WritersCafe.org

Thanksgiving. A favorite holiday and this year a welcome respite from the cruel vagaries of the world. I had many conversations yesterday, of course. Two stand out because they are the inspiration for this latest post. In an exchange with my oldest son, he asked me if I had been writing lately. When I told him that I have been too overwhelmed by current events, he encouraged me to express myself. Later, after dinner, I was talking with one of our guests and sharing my fears. Wisely, she reminded me that those worries would be released into the universe. Instead, I would need to remain hopeful.  I hope this latest musing is a positive beginning!

When I woke up this morning, I made my usual cup of coffee and then took it back to bed with me. Instead of reading the news like I have done every morning for years, I read a few chapters of a Louise Penney mystery (http://www.louisepenny.com/). Lately, I have straddled the line between the need to stay informed and the increasing anxiety, the nerve racking fear and the crushing depression of national shifts that I cannot stomach. I have been wanting to write posts for weeks now, but I have been afraid that I may slip into overwrought opinions about the presidential campaign, the resulting election, and now its early aftermath. These days, taking any public stand is risky business and an invitation for uncivil discourse and cruel judgement. But this is something I cannot avoid; I feel as if I might burst from lack of self-expression! Admittedly, I want my opinions to be thoughtful. Perhaps this is why I have kept quiet in my posts lately. I feared being less than meditative. Plus, I refuse to be categorized, stereotyped, or labeled as a particular ” kind of woman” when I openly state my feelings or express ideas that may be considered “non-traditional”. But I also refuse to bow to the obscene practice of the monolithic grouping of people. This idea has been publicly played out in order to stoke fear and to provide a false sense of renewed power to those who have felt marginalized and silenced for decades. I believe the cause of this splintering is based in the unrelenting greed of those whose silver spoons are still in their mouths. The ancient practice of Divide and Rule has cultivated a sense of distrust and hostility between and among our citizens in order to lay blame on -take your pick- feminists, black and brown people, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, etc.

Hate, condemnation, suspicion, and negativity are easy paths to follow. They hold the deceitful promises of a return to the “good old days” (to which my stepdaughter once queried: “What do they mean, segregation?”). It is hard for me to fathom a return to a time when laws suppressing the rights of others in any and all forms will become the new normal. I have seen it being chipped away in seemingly harmless ways (i.e. new voting rights laws, women’s health care), and it is up to us to remain vigilant in the face of further future repression.

I believe that our purpose here on earth is to make it a better place to live. To not only raise up and help others, but to also take care of our precious resources in order for future generations to enjoy its unique beauty. We cannot dismiss other people as less worthy because of where they’re from, how they  choose to worship, or whom they choose to love, or because they don’t look like us. It is simply wrong.

They are many people that I have met and know in my life who do not share the same viewpoints as I do. We agree to disagree and can also thoughtfully engage in discussions that help further an understanding of each others’ perspectives.  We may hope to change another’s mind but no one is interested in changing laws that would suppress another citizen’s constitutional rights. Everyone has a story or two to tell that has helped bring them to their own set of beliefs.  These personal tales of tragedy and triumph are essential to listen to and understand if we are to grow together and make the world better and more free for everyone.

I’ll close this piece with the grace I shared at the Thanksgiving table. Many thanks to Mary Luti, UCC Pastor and seminary educator (http://www.ucc.org/devotionals_by_mary_luti) for this gift to my email ‘s inbox yesterday:

for it’s an immeasurable gift to say grace with one eye on your neighbor, to give thanks with joy complicated by concern, to count your blessings while repenting your sins, to know yourself in a muddle, trying to be good. It means you’re awake and not sleeping, alive and not dead. It means God is poking away at you, and you’ve let God in.

The Gift of Time

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Image Courtesy of: www.pinterest.com

How many of us awaken unconscious and unaware, deluged by the usual daily dread of work, caring for ourselves or loved ones or besieged by other obligations that pull at our energies before our feet have yet to hit the floor? I imagine many of you feel this way constantly, or at least from time to time-because really, who hasn’t?

We are only reminded of how fragile time is when a sudden illness or death or when Mother Nature’s fury unleashes herself on us, halting our daily routine in its tracks and-at its worst- upending our life for a long period of time.

I have often written about staying present, mostly when I am aware of being on the verge of a major life transition. During this juncture, I want to capture every moment, knowing that it will soon become just a memory. Then, when my life becomes more ordered and wrapped in routine, I quickly forget to take things in and savor what’s right in front of me, even if it’s not particularly exciting or positive-like being stuck in traffic at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Of course, I am not advocating that you should rejoice when you’re in gridlock; I remember being aware of how much time was wasting away during the 65 minutes it took me to get to my destination on Tuesday and how angry it was making me!

Then Hermine began to whisper in our ear Wednesday, staying well into Friday afternoon. Schools were closed; thus giving me an unplanned five-day weekend. I had much to do; the start of any school year is always overwhelming. The days fly by and there is truly never enough time in a work day to keep organized and plan ahead.  Much is left to be done after hours.

I recall waking up Thursday in a state of agitation. My thoughts were scattered. Speed work had been cancelled the previous morning due to thunderstorms. But early Thursday arrived with what was to be a brief respite. I knew a good workout would begin to clear my head. Sure enough, it was exactly what I needed! Not long into the run, I looked up and saw a great blue heron, my steady animal sign that reminds me to be patient. I saw still another wading at the edge of a verdant pool in someone’s front yard. I sent out a prayer of gratefulness to the universe; this is exactly what I needed to be doing!  My restless night and worries sloughed away.

While it is important to keep the boundaries of home and work separate, I felt as if Thursday and Friday were unexpected presents-not only to relax- but to gather myself a bit, work wise. I slowly began to check off the tasks that had been stuck in my head overnight. The sense of urgency disappeared; my mind was clear and a weight was lifting.

I write this not as a reminder to be constantly productive but as mental cairn to be open to moments that point us in the right direction. The signs are always revealing themselves; we just need to pause, take a breath and look around.

(This image was taken by me a month ago. However, the post and the image were also inspired by Emily.  She was out on a local hike up north yesterday and she texted me this message: “Just saw 2 blue herons flying at Weir Hill. Cool breezes, warm sun, blue sky. It’s my church today. Peace, sister.”)

 

In the Meantime….

Do you ever notice your shadow when you’re outside on a sunny day? I’ve never paid much attention to it; perhaps because cloudless days are fewer in New England or perhaps because I no longer have that childish wonder at the sight of it. On a run last week, I noticed the full and extra long length of mine and it got me thinking about my current life’s path.

I still remain surprised that I live in a place of palm trees and low lying land. I drive to work as the sun makes it debut (it rises just a bit later on this side of the Gulf) and wonder, “How did I get here?” (A line from the Talking Heads “Once in  a Lifetime” comes to mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98AJUj-qxHI.)

Then I start to think about the  2016 Lenten theme of my faith community up North. “Walk with Me” is the one for this season. Admittedly, I missed the deadline for getting it published in the booklet so I decided this post would be an alternative means to share some thoughts.

I am old enough to know and accept and embrace that life’s path is never straight.  Even if you operate under the illusion of the straight and narrow, sooner or later you wake up to the fact that you actually may be going nowhere. (Again, cue another Talking Heads classic “Road to Nowhere”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWtCittJyr0.)

It occurs to me that the precursors to the seismic changes in my life came about on walks with friends or other loved ones. I distinctly recall a question posed by a friend back in 2005: “Are you spiritually hungry?” Realizing that I was in fact in great need of fulfillment, I entered a community that opened my heart, mind and spirit and, in turn, helped my sons gain some safe ground in a time of severe turbulence.

Then I think of the long walks I took with my husband before we were even dating. First, a morning  hike in the woods and later, a longer walk on the beach (the very same one we were to be married on years later!). Intense, open and honest conversations took place that day in late 2008. Our lives were never the same after that time together; we began a journey that overcame distance and trying times in our independent lives.

A steadfast and true walking companion will always be Emily. My heart warms at the memories of Sunday afternoon ambles in the bird sanctuary with her dog Blaze. These trips were never wholly planned; usually a text or call to drop whatever and go. Things were shifting both in small and large ways during those times. Mother Nature allowed for openings in the clouded spaces of our thoughts and worries.

Surely, I would be remiss if I did not speak of those wondrous mountain hikes with my youngest son (joined on occasion by Emily and older brother). I have written about all of them in previous posts but in looking back, I believe they were symbolic of a relationship that had come full circle. The rough patches were behind us; we could manage the toughest and steepest paths knowing the reward was waiting for us at the summit.

Still, there was something larger at play, I think. A force or spirit or a higher power that reminded us to stay present because it was present. The moments became richer and sweeter as a result.

So here in this new place and space, I bring my full self. Each day is different; I feel as if I am in a tremendous labyrinth with many paths I can follow. So I do. I remain open to new possibilities along the way, knowing my journey and my destination are one and the same.

Heaven’s Newest Star

Credit: drearoblivion.blogspot.com

 

An afternoon stroll

Spring Sunday just beginning to reveal its glory

A walk with the tribe

My small band of pilgrims paying homage

Honoring a life well-lived

In the grief a sprinkling of joy was present

Certainly love was winning the day

Though you lived many years you left us too soon

A memorable woman whose heart beats within us

 

Day 12.  A dedication to Barbara. A long time member of our faith community and our town whom we lost 3 days ago. Married for 6o years, mother to many, she leaves behind a legacy of love and kindness and earthly wisdom.

 

The Road to Completion

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The moon was lightly veiled in a frosty mist, hanging low in the western sky. I turn right on the road that serves as a low ridge for a sunrise view. The day was just barely breathing, trying to add its muted glow to this dead zero day. I am encased in Gortex, winter proofed and multilayered. Surprisingly mobile and agile despite being sealed and wrapped from head to toe. It takes mere minutes for my eyelashes and bangs to create miniscule icicles, the results of my warm breath meeting the crackling cold air. I’m reminded that my nostrils have hair, as they,too, stiffen in the chill.

Getting out the door for a walk or run in this long winter requires a different kind of dedication. Smart preparation the night before, added time in the morning to layer up and a sheer determination to just do it. Forget physical ability. If your head’s not in it, go back to bed!

I would like to think that my obsession with fresh air and morning movement helps me be less fearful, allows me to grow an extra skin layer of grit and toughness, maybe even a kind of boldness, a clarity for the day ahead.

I am immersing myself in this season mostly because I know it really is my last in this climate. I’d still be out there anyway but I feel more purposeful now. Time is roaring past me; the days seem to spin into one another. They fold and unfold in ways that put me in the dual role of observer of and participant in each moment.

Would I have this same outlook if I were not departing? I cannot answer that question fully. Would you dear readers feel the same?

Maybe we all need to be right in the midst of the microseconds of our life. Maybe we need to embrace the Grace, the Holiness and the Wholeness, the Light and the Dark, the Here and the Now.

 

There is no path to happiness, happiness is the path

~ Buddha