seeds of hope

Dear Loves,

Still dwelling in the midst of this great unknown, I am drawn to check in with you again this morning. I find myself this morning wondering, as you look back upon this time in history, if this will be seen as a turning point in the human story, or if these days will fade into time, a blip felt only by those of us who are living it. Will this change us? If so, how? Will we grow more fearful, isolationist and protective? Or will we come to more fully understand our communion with and responsibility to one another…and the earth.

In recent days, I have found myself turning my own attention more and more inward, close to home, away from the national news and the sloothsayers, opening that window to the world for just brief moments here or there, so as to stay aware, but not obsessed nor overtaken by the odor of fear that wafts in through that opened window. Perhaps what I detect in the air is the smell of death… not literal death, though that is happening too… but the death of a culture.  I wonder what will grow from that decomposition , what future way of being – more compassionate, more careful/tender with our choices and our actions- might blossom from this, our own potential spring awakening.

I am aware that there are those who are protesting, feeling their individual rights are being stripped- their right to act freely according to their own sense of what is right or necessary to do. “Give me liberty or give me death” seems to be their motto, as if liberty to act in whatever ways we want has ever been what it means to be fully human. The truth is we have never been truly free to act with abandon in such a way, especially when our actions do harm (which, in the thorny paradox of life, they always do—something always dies so that we might live). We have only acted as if that liberty were true, been unwilling or unable to see how our choices for self so often negate anothers—human or other.  Of course, I also can see how some of these ones feel as if the government’s overarching decision to shut down is negating their own right to life—including their own basic human right to food and shelter (Although theoretically that is being provided for them during this exceptional time, is their ability to be able to do so in the future being destroyed in the process?) I realize it is always too easy for folks (myself included) who live lives of relative ease, who don’t have to worry about cash flow, to judge those who must make choices that fly in the face of our (and sometimes their own) ideals.

Life is always a dance such as this. Some may pretend it is not, for a while at least, the powerful moreso, I imagine, than the powerless. This is the universal dance of life, this dance of birth and death.  Of east and west.  Of freedom and commitment. Of individual and community. Of us AND them.  We are not separate beings, able to be rent free from one another, and the world supporting us, without consequence. We hold one another up or we fall together. How to maintain balance within that dance, grace-fully, seems to be the universal human quest of ages. How to embrace our freedom within life’s constrictions.

Again, mostly, as I mentioned, I have been choosing to focus my attention up close. I’ve noticed that if I broaden that gaze too widely –at world leaders’ decisions or media rantings about those decisions or apocalyptic forecasts– I begin to feel lost, anxious, even helpless. It feels like focusing too much upon fear and death. Perhaps in narrowing my focus I can grasp onto some sense of hope? Perhaps I am ‘choosing life’. Or perhaps this is merely acceptance — of my smallness, knowing that I cannot truly change, control, or even have much impact at all on something so large as a nation. It’s rather like accepting one’s smallness in the face of the universe, or the laws of nature, or of God, if you will. The alternate, to rail against it,  seems an exercise in futile despair. My only choice seems to be, in this case, to Live and to Be Love up close… and to trust that this kind of Love spreads exponentially too, like the proverbial ripples in the pond, like Ghandi’s Be the Change.

I have been thinking a lot about ‘facts’ too, a word that is being bantered about these days, often alongside the words, ‘false’ and ‘fake’. As if, if we had the absolute true facts, we would know what to do, how to think, what to believe, how to feel. Yet, I know that basing one’s actions upon facts can justify any ideal, any belief, any action or feeling. Facts contradict—even true ones. It is a fact that people are dying from this disease. It is also a fact that people are losing their livelihoods, unable to feed their families. It was a ‘fact’ that purity of race was being degraded a century ago, too. It is a fact that farming degrades the earth. It is also a fact that it nurtures us. To live one’s life based upon facts alone sets up a false rationalism, stresses a dichotomy between the head and the heart. Perhaps we need less to ‘check’ our facts, and more to ‘check’ our hearts. How do we ‘use’ the information taken in to our heads and apply our humanity—our wisdom and compassion- to that understanding. This is also a perennial challenge.

I wonder how you are balancing these in the future, my child. Have you figured it out? Have you grown into your humanity—grown deeper your roots, been less concerned about the growth of your crown, perhaps?

Which brings me back to the present. These roots I am nurturing in me. As I wrote about the odor wafting in the window earlier, I had to smile at myself, for last week I carried a dozen or so bags of compost in the back of my car to my son’s home, where I have begun planting a garden. (hmmm…planting these seeds in my son’s soil… that feels meaningful). The odor inside that car, windows closed against the still chilly spring air, was potent. All of that decomposing humus I was carrying with me, to lay in the new bed. Death nurturing hope— hope for new growth, for blossoms, for fruit, for nurture.

I have noticed that the act of planning a garden fulfills some need in me, the pouring over of plotplans and seed catalogues establishing a framework within which a vision for the future can unfold—in its own way and its own time. I cannot control the weather that will befall it, but I can tend it, nonetheless. I’ve also noted the similarity between this season of planning and planting with previous ones of planning and planting seeds for backcountry canoe trips. The planning of routes like the planning of beds, the planting of seeds and spreading of compost like the preparation and dehydrating of food (which I have been also pouring myself into in earnest during these weeks of living close to home, having prepared now enough meals to carry Don and myself into the backcountry for 2 months, if that possibility should ever unfold for us) Both are acts of love whose hope for fruition lies somewhere in the future. The dream of that future brings joy in the present. The imagining of that juicy ripeness, or that place of deep peace and intimacy, makes the work of the present a pleasure.

And I wonder /hope if that is what we might be doing in our world today. The opportunity is here, to plan and to plot, to plant and to tend, a dream for the future for you. I pray that we nurture it well.

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