Snippets

I have gleaned some of my texts, emails and posts, in order to capture a glimpse of these days. Each of these paragraphs stands alone, an anthology of sorts, in reverse order. I feel the desire to compile them in one place.

It is curious to watch how difficult it is for me to quiet my mind , like the rest of us I presume. From my vantage point in life, I know we will be changed by all of this. There will be no “getting back to normal”. It will be a new normal.

I pray for no atrocities, and try to hold up the goodness in human beings.

Some of the stories I read keep me awake at night.

My own traumas have informed me during this time . Sometimes triggering, but more often, I hope, giving me wisdom and calm. For many, this is their first feeling of loss — loss of control, loss of niavete, loss of how they imagined their life would unfold, loss of hope, powerlessness to something happening to them they did not choose, fear of the future. It’s like a mass trauma. A saving grace might be the shared nature of it…no shame, no feeling of “why me”.

The trick is to hold the feeling awful (compassion) alongside the wisdom that they will be deepened by this ..carved out, if you will. Of course, we do not wish suffering on anyone even when we have come out the other side and know the gifts it can bless us with, but it can be important to hold that vision for the other.

I have begun reading my way through Etty Hillesum’s diary once again. Her courage, her ability to find beauty, to love humanity and find the face of God in us, as a young Jewish woman in the midst of our atrocity, speak deeply to me at this time. This quote jumped off the page at me this morning, “If you have given sorrow the space its gentle origins demand, then you can truly say: life is beautiful and so rich. so beautiful and rich it makes you want to believe in God”

I am struck at the juxtaposition of the old and the new, by the way we are simultaneously thrust into old, slow ways of doing and being — quarantine as medical intervention, isolated nuclear or extended families relying upon one another, making lists and shopping in bulk rather than making convenience stops, cooking and eating meals at home rather than eating out, a generation of women experiencing being stay-at-home moms — while at the same time relying upon modern technology to do things in new ways- church services streaming, businesses meeting on zoom, social media connecting.

A story of a young man being struck suddenly and severely with the disease, one hour talking with his grandmother (a friend of mine) over lunch the next unresponsive and on life support has struck me deeply. It speaks to the randomness, the frailty of human life, the preciousness of a moment. The sharing of her story has redeemed social media connections, which some see only as shallow. Her words were “Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your loving presence via this. For us who are quarantined at home it is a huge gift to have this feeling of interconnectedness with all of you. Quite frankly, It is priceless”

This young man’s case also makes an important point about looking at numbers. The good news is that it appears the young man is rebounding from what the medical staff at first deemed “End of Life”. He will show up on data as part of the 20% hospitalized, and of them the ones requiring ICU . But he will likely not die. As a younger person he is more able to withstand the assault, which an older person wouldn’t. But stats don’t reveal how very serious it was for him and his family. Stats only show that old/vulnerable people are the ones who are dying (as if that is ok??) not necessarily the suffering that many (1000’s?) of others go through.
Stories like this give human flesh to statistical figures that say ‘x’ number of people will require ventilators. It’s not just machines. It’s human beings

” We can live out of love or we can act out of fear. We can anchor our response to the happenings around us in tenderness and hope, or we can live in a more hollow and grasping place of negativity and anger” – Claudia Cummins

“We are waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, and flowers from the same garden.” Roman philosopher, Seneca, posted on crateloads of masks shipped from China to Italy

‘Touch’ one person today with Compassion. It will spread exponentially

Perhaps this phenomena is something like the rush on toilet paper, except it is happening now in virtual space. We really don’t need that much after all, but there is something in us that grasps onto anything in times of uncertainty and becomes obsessed with it. Try not to add just one more, out of despair. The energy will settle here too…and we will be able to see what is truly needed, to choose only what is vital
There is the story of Indra’s net that always brings me home. In it, each of us imagined to be a jewel, called to hold our own place in the net. If we don’t do so, the whole thing comes unraveled. I think of that jewel, holding the threads that spire outward from it, as having maybe 6 strands. My job is to hold onto just those… and you to hold onto yours. That’s the way we hold onto one another. One by one. To try to grasp the entire mind-boggling vastness of that web would be an exercise in futility and exhaustion for me.
So thank you for all that you offer and hold. I trust that each of us, and all of us together, holding one onto the other will hold this fragile web together.
Find one thing you can do. One person you can attend to. One loving word , or prayer you can share. One moment of quiet. Small things. Great love

The same as I can’t control what is happening in the world with this epidemic, I also cannot control how others will feel or respond to it. I thought I was okay with the first one (even feeling a bit haughty about surrendering to that powerlessness) but I see now that I was not ok with the second — the inability to control the feelings, responses and actions of others.
That’s a completely different invitation to letting go.. Not everyone has to feel or act the way that I do. I’ll begin practicing that today.

Yes, you can

It seems to me that a midwife/doula is what we all need. Someone to remind us that we can get through this time of transition and confinement. In our culture, we’re not used to things happening to us, out of our power to stop, forcing our lives to change all at once…except, as women, we are.

This baby (new life, new way of living) is coming, no matter. That pain of transition is necessary. That adjustment to the new normal, the loss of social connection, (once upon a time post-partum days were literally ones of “confinement”), loss of our previous ways of life, loss of identity, loss of freedom, with no option to escape or to say ‘I won’t do this”, was reality

Just as in the transition stage of birth, we’re not used to pushing through difficult spaces. We want an easy way out, but life itself emerges from that discomfort.

And we did it. We stayed with the discomfort because we had no choice, until it passed into a new life. Until the new way of being felt both normal and blessed. Until we were transformed into someone new.

It feels hard, reality-altering, impossible at first..oh, those first weeks… but after the transition, life shifts. We think in our heads that it’s too hard, but living through it in our bodies, day to day, week by week, rather than escaping the discomfort of the moment into something we think feels easier, reveals unexpected, unthinkable, previously unknowable blessing.

Even if there is trauma, even if the birth ends in NICU babies requiring months if life support,, or special needs infants, or even tragedy, we rise, we are transformed.

We thrive. We become

It’s coming, it’s here, no matter what. Now push through.
Yes, you can

Awakened by the steady percussion of rain on the porch roof outside my window, early birds singing in concert, I was reminded that spring had dawned.
Later this gray day, Don and I walked about 5 miles on the trails behind our house. We were utterly alone out there We felt so grateful for our fortune, living where we do, having each other. The Earth was so mucky, fecund, we were also grateful for boots!!
The understory is aflush with greening buds, twigs are flushing red. Our mental health was given a breath of fresh air..

We want to know , always, but the truth is we never really do. Letting go into the unknown and living into our own humility really can lead to Peace, my friends. Stay out of the chaos. Choose Love.

“I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up.
Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now.’ -Danusha Lameris

Sometimes, humility is in order. Perhaps the time is now to practice deferring to experts, such as epidemiologists, who have years of education and experience, and authorities (local, state, federal, secretaries of health, healthcare institutions, medical professionals, CDC, Dept of State etc) who are being guided by that expertise, rather than blindly hanging on to our own biases and good opinions of ourselves. Sometimes it’s ok to realize and to say, “I don’t know” and to let go of that fearful conceit into something bigger than yourself.
I realize that trust has been broken in our society, and that its also hard to know what is true in this age of mass “information” overload, but fierce reliance upon your own opinion and your own self interest (I will only get a cold) in this case could put the lives of many at risk.
Greater good, folks. We need to watch out for one another.
And so what if we err on the side of caution. We can risk foolishness for the sake of another.

making meaningful connections

Each morning for over a week now, I have sat down, intending to write, and each day, I get a just few paragraphs down in my journal, before the distractions besiege. I suspect what I am noticing is more than simple distraction, though. Yes, I am having difficulty quieting. Yes, there is worry, obsession, and anxiety. Yes, my mind is racing. Yes, I am being re-minded (of my own cataclysmic, life altering experiences). Yes, I am afraid of missing some vital piece of information or connection. (FOMO overload) Yes, there has even been an overwhelming amount of positive offerings of human connection — poetry, art, reflections, spiritual practices, phone calls. Yes, I am being ‘fed’ with (consumed by?) so many ideas of things I could “do” to fill my alone time that there doesn’t seem to be any room in my bloated belly to just “be”.*

But this morning I had the thought that perhaps the inability to turn inward during this time, to listen for that still small voice within, is that my attention is being drawn outwards from my center for good reason. How can I withdraw from the world at a time such as this?

This has surprised me. I expected my introverted nature to relish the permission to practice isolation, though I prefer the word, solitude– and therein lies the rub, I suppose. It is, in fact, much more difficult to practice solitude, to fall into its grace and gift, during a time when we are being forced into isolation while at the same time being poignantly reminded of our interconnectedness, our shared humanity, and our need for one another. I find myself wanting to see, wanting to hear, wanting to feel, wanting to know, wanting to hold, wanting to care –about my fellow human beings.

So , I also find myself wanting to share my experience, not to inundate an already oversaturated world with more words, but to connect. I pray it is not merely self-centered indulgence to do so. This is after all a ‘shared experience’, unlike perhaps any other. It sometimes feels a bit like the sharing birthing stories. Mothers all have one– each one unique even in its commonality, each one needing to be told over and over — and those stories welcome us into the fold of motherhood/humanity, bringing intimacy and communion.

Something I began imagining a few years ago, after my first granddaughter was born, was that was iwriting to my great-great-granddaughters, and I have sporadically followed that nudging call. Once, that impulse rose in me while walking through a nursery bed of young hemlock, nestled together atop a ridge, which rimmed a valley carved by the poetically named, Love Run. At the time it was feared that all of our hemlock were dying from the pandemic of the day, the wooly adelgid outbreak. I felt such tenderness and hope for those young hemlock, seeded in the death throes of their mothers. In telling the story of them into the future, I realized I also wanted my great granddaughters to return to that place with me, to whisper back to me what the future looked like.

That instinct in me has risen again in response to this pandemic, speaking into the future of what it is like here today, imagining a future that wonders what it was like in those days for their mother’s mothers, when the world was different. How we felt, how we feared, how we were the same as them, how we changed the world through our Love for it.

But that letter will have to wait for tomorrow, because it is already 1 o’clock in the afternoon and the distractions(connections) have squandered(blessed) the morning away.

*I wrote about this feeling of being overwhelmed on a Facebook post. I have copied it below

Ok introverts, how are you doing. Feeling overwhelmed? Emotional and informational overload? Remember, an aspect of solitude is also simplicity. Try to keep from filling even this space with noise.
Information overload is perhaps an even greater concern when you are sheltering in place. And phone calls and texts to friends and family, while they can fill the day with vital connection and support for us, can also drain.
I’ve noticed even the sudden flood of generous connective offerings here on social media has begun to make me feel oversaturated. (I know from my years of watching my diet that gluttony can be a thing even when overconsuming healthy food!) so I’ve decided to wean, knowing I will probably miss some tender wisdoms, profound words of healing, connective offerings, thoughtful essays, elegant museums tours, shared experiences, new learnings, art courses, etc, etc, etc
But I don’t think my human brain is made to process this all, and I am trusting that what I do choose to taste will be nourishing enough, as will that which you find, even it comes from a vastly different food source. You really don’t need me to share the latest tidbit that I have found tasty or satisfying … you also will be led to what your own spirit craves. So, I can slowly savor that poem or newsbit without having to regurgitate its profundity for your benefit.
So, yes, I have decided to wean. I’ve chosen one news source to check in with twice daily for 10 minutes each. And just a few offerings of community. (For me, I’ve realized that if I have a previous connection in the real world with what is now a virtual community, that the offering feels more connective for me, rather than trying to plug myself in to a something new). I am seeking mostly spacious containers that bring quieting and peace.
For introverts like me, it is an intimacy thing, really. We do deeply treasure human-to-human connection but it has to feel authentic, slow, soft, deep, and never too many (at once, or in succession). However, I also believe this is true for all of us… we are not meant to be processing/consuming so much.
Perhaps this phenomena is something like the rush on toilet paper, except it is happening now in virtual space. We really don’t need that much after all, but there is something in us that grasps onto anything in times of uncertainty and becomes obsessed with it. Try not to add just one more, out of despair. The energy will settle here too…and we will be able to see what is truly needed, to choose only what is vital
There is the story of Indra’s net that always brings me home. In it, each of us imagined to be a jewel, called to hold our own place in the net. If we don’t do so, the whole thing comes unraveled. I think of that jewel, holding the threads that spire outward from it, as having maybe 6 strands. My job is to hold onto just those… and you to hold onto yours. That’s the way we hold onto one another. One by one. To try to grasp the entire mind-boggling vastness of that web would be an exercise in futility and exhaustion for me.
So thank you for all that you offer and hold. I trust that each of us, and all of us together, holding one onto the other will hold this fragile web together.
Find one thing you can do. One person you can attend to. One loving word , or prayer you can share. One moment of quiet. Small things. Great love

Hope in the midst of loss

I have been thinking about loss

Again.

Earlier this week, reminded of my own devastating losses by the flood of images of late-term fetuses appearing on the internet, in response to the current escalation in attention to abortion laws, I found myself revisiting those pregnancy loss experiences. (I have carefully chosen the word ‘reminded’ over the word ‘triggered’ here, because ‘triggered’ can indicate an irrational, uncontrollable emotionally laden response, and my attention to these images was more mindful- an intentional gaze). I wanted to see if my memory of those one-pound, 20 1/2 week babies – whom my body had failed, and for whom I had labored and delivered into birth and death, then reburied in the womb of the earth – was accurate (it was)—because, from stories I have been told, I seem to have lost a few weeks of my memory around those periods of time.

In my explorations, I learned that, while I have always referred to these losses as miscarriages, it is more accurate to call them stillbirths (although even that distinction feels inaccurate to me, as one of those girls lived outside the womb for an hour, or so I was told).  It was also satisfying to find that some of the stigma and shame has been lifted, that the understanding of and compassion for that particular grief has improved, and that supportive environments for that bereavement have evolved. There are women out there who are allowed to hold their dead 21 week babies for as long as they need. (there are youtube videos out there of this) No more propping of hips upon bedpans while the doctor swears under his breath because the placenta (not realizing its job has prematurely ended) won’t come loose, or sending a naïve candystriper, who has experienced a miscarriage, into the hospital room the next day because no one on staff knows how to talk to you when they come to administer the drugs to dry up your engorged breasts. No more having the room filled with medical students, gazing at the anomaly between your stirrupped legs, where the amniotic sac descended to blow up like a water balloon before it ruptured.

No more is the loss diminished as irrelevant.

I have digressed. (Regressed? Progressed?) There is a relevant point I wanted to make here, some connection made in my brain between these visitations I made earlier in the week and the expressions of sadness I saw flooding the internet last evening.

Yesterday, I watched women I love try to come to terms with, accept the new reality, and begin to openly grieve their own losses in the ending of Elizabeth Warren’s campaign.  Unlike the last loss, at the end of the election of 2016, which felt so traumatic and unexpected (like a full term pregnancy, so full of expectation and hope, showing no signs of distress one day and the next was suddenly over, leaving the emptiness and shock of stillbirth in its wake), this one was indeed showing signs of trouble. This time, there was (at least?) some time to prepare, emotionally, to accept that the hope for which you longed was dying.  Still, there comes that moment when the final blow comes -one minute there is clinging hope and the next it is stripped away- when the miscarriage is complete. Still, there is shock, at least disbelief. (It feels unreal for a moment). Then there is blame, anger, self-hatred… or, sometimes, even numbness.

There is always aftermath.

Watching them, I noticed the similarities, of course. The way we invest our hearts in a dream of a future. The way we fall in love with Hope. The way that it feels like a blessing. The way it fills us with promise and joy. The way we imagine a fresh reality. The way that we Love. The way that we feel connected, valued, important…. Beloved even.

It is right to grieve after a loss such as this. It is also good to hold onto that vision for as long as you need. … to drink it in, to count its fingers and toes…and then to let go.

I noticed in myself a deep disappointment, a sigh of sadness, but nowhere near the devastation I had experienced the last time. Perhaps the pregnancy hadn’t gotten to the point of viability for me? Wasn’t yet something ‘real’? Or perhaps I had withheld some part of my heart from investing, kept myself numb?

It is true, I have disconnected ( I don’t think the proper word here is ‘dissociated’ for, like the word ‘trigger’, it connotes a lack of conscious choice). In my own healing from the grief of the last election, I realized how swept into the narrative of devastation (and demonization) I had become. I needed to look for goodness in a worldview, which was clouded everywhere by the pain of that seeming volcanic eruption, in order to find healing and hope and clearer vision of humanity.   In my personal healing from the grief of pregnancy loss I had also needed to learn to rename and reclaim, to choose language that was healing and redemptive, to tell a different story. Hatred (of self or other or life itself), cynicism, the overarching sense of unfairness, and/or hyperbolic fear keep us stuck in the narrative of ugliness and despair.

We are meaning-making beings.  It is important to take care with our storytelling.

I don’t think it was exactly that I didn’t want to invest myself again in hope; rather that my hope- my sense of life’s goodness and possibility-  was not based upon a specific outcome. Perhaps I am blind to myself though (we all are, aren’t we?) . Perhaps I chose not to care. Perhaps I was numb. Perhaps I was burying my head in the sand. Perhaps I was afraid to feel the pain of loss again. But I don’t think so. This felt more like a choice to see beneath the ugliness and beyond the chaos, to stay centered within the storm. To know that Hope is always here.

The trauma of loss affects us all. Sometimes it makes us so fearful we won’t take a chance again, knowing firsthand the devastating consequences of the last time we hoped, the last time we felt safe. All fear, after all,  is not irrational or unconscious. Fear can also make us wiser (don’t touch the hot stove). It can also make us – to follow its consequence down through the spectrum of human response—more thoughtful, deliberate, cautious, timid, apprehensive, anxious, or even paralyzed.  If we let it make us wiser, we learn resilience (buzz word or not). We grow stronger with it. We grow bigger than it.  We know the story is not over, nor is it the totality of the story contained in that one experience. Our losses, failures and suffering teach us about our strength and reveal to us our beauty.

And, miraculous beings that we are, we try again beyond all ‘reasonableness’. To conceive again the image of a new life, trusting in our innate goodness and our ability to love (despite what the misplaced shame in our history/herstory wants us to believe about ourselves – our worthiness, potential, possibility or our ability) . We nurture the seed. We pump our breasts to keep the next preterm neonate alive. We even let the machines do their job.

We know that life goes on.

waking up

“Love is the cure, for your pain will keep giving birth to new pain, unless you constantly exhale Love as effortlessly as your body yields its scent”- Rumi

I awoke this morning thinking (although perhaps it might be more accurate to call it listening, as the thoughts seemed to be in my head for me to hear upon awakening) about shame. The voice was a gentle corrective reminding me that shame can never be the way forward, that the image of humanity as a plague is not a helpful one, no matter how that image sought to turn itself in the end to one that was worthy of deep and tender-hearted compassion, received with grace by a forgiving earth. Understanding humanity as a prolific family of squirrels perhaps, as a humble part of the natural cycle (rather than a noxious aberration!), might be okay, but to follow that idea down the path of shame, where the bandwagon of scorn awaits to carry me to the angry  mob that has gathered, threatening to reject humanity as unredeemable, is a grievous error.

Shame never uplifts. It oppresses, pressing those beneath its heavy shoe into shadows of self-contempt. Many of us have been led by individual experiences to believe that who we are is unworthy. It doesn’t help that we also seem to be veritably swimming in a culture of blame and despair. ‘Just look at how horrible we/you are!’

I wonder about the backlash of shame. As it cannot lift, does it perhaps give rise… to the shadow? What does that shadow look like? Defense mechanisms and defensive maneuvers?  Mirrored contempt? Reciprocal scapegoating and blame?

Sadly, it happens on both sides, an ironic side-effect of our passion to protect that which we hold dear is to despise that which we perceive as threatening it.  So, when I use the language of shame (plague) when I fear what we are doing to the earth, I am guilty of scorn-mongering. My small mind can rationalize an awful lot of wrong-headed ideals, but I risk my heart dabbling in that place. I must take care not to move in to there. Soon I will be pointing a crooked finger at all that is broken and wrong, spewing my own version of apocalyptic doom.

Instead, I must practice exhaling Love.

Mercifully, I find that if I spend too much time dipping my toes into those toxic waters, I quite soon feel as if I am drowning, overcome by the harshness of the judgments, the woeful appraisals of humanity, the apocalyptic doom….. and I am repelled by it back to middle ground.

Where a voice whispers, Abide in Love. Let Love abide in you.  

And so, I wonder again if this inclination in me, to stand in the center, as paralyzing and ineffectual as that sometimes feels, is the very place where I am called to Be and to Hold— to behold. I wonder about that voice that awakened me this morning, imploring me to ennoble the ignobled, to recall that we humans are also ‘ Beloveds in whom I am well pleased’, only ‘slightly lower than the angels’, proclaimed to be ‘good’. Perhaps my ‘work’ then is to re-mind, to uplift, to restore to grace.

Of course, this does not mean that we/I/humanity can and will do no wrong, nor that we are not misguided and blind (our minds are small, after all) , terribly imperfect, but it is to recall our innate goodness, our lovability, and to lift that to the light rather than squash it into the shadows.

Look for the good, and you will surely see it. Look for the brokenness and you will find that too. Both are worthy of abiding love.

If I am to equate humanity to any other aspect of the natural world, I want to be filled with wonder for humanity in the same way I fill with wonder for the forest, to come alive when I come across a lichen-speckled human, to be delighted by a chattering bushy-tailed human dropping the plethora of pinecones next to my head. When crossing the boundary into the human realm, I want to Kiss that signpost in the same way that I delight in the one that announces that am crossing into any other wilderness zone. But I want to see it as more than a de-fining label, remember it truly as the wild place it is, and enter with an attitude of receptivity, recognizing the same potential for unorchestrated spiritual encounter.

I want to simply Love humanity, with all its flaws and ferocity, because it truly is a wondrous thing of wild, untameable beauty.

Love in the time of Cholera

Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on the brow of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing

– Galway Kinnel

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, talk of Love is in the air. This morning, I read the first chapter from the next book on my stack, a collection of essays, stories, and love poems, released just in time for the holiday, entitled, Earthly Love, by the editors of Orion Magazine. This first essay left me feeling the full spectrum, the bitter and sweet, of Love for- and Love in- this beautiful Earth, which we are gradually losing (whether you believe that loss to be of an individual nature- as each of us will one day have to let go of life in this place at our personal deaths, or of the more global loss of Life on this Earth, as we know it, now perhaps in its own death throes).

Of course, we always have been losing it. Each day, life here marches ever closer to death and we all fall off of that cliff in the end, but somehow, it feels much harder for us to embrace the death of us/it all. Yet, being willing to look closely, it seems evident that this will surely come to pass, as we seem to be consuming the earth so voraciously that She will no longer be able to sustain us.

It seems to be in our nature to live ‘as if’ we are not dying, to turn our eyes away, keeping them trained instead upon the current pleasure or peace, for to do otherwise can send us into meaningless despair. Throughout most of our existence, some ironic survival instinct allows us to live as if we are above it, until we at last are brought low to come face to face.

Perhaps there is something in the idea of our continuity through our progeny that also keeps that ultimate despair at bay, holds off the harsh reality that life leaves us. Subconsciously, perhaps, this is the Hope we cling to, this notion that some part of us lives on through them. So, it’s much harder to look at ourselves as a species coming to an end, as merely one of the Earth’s cycles of life, an apex species that will prey upon the earth until it is subdued.

Actually, sometimes I imagine we are more like an explosion of rodents— squirrels, for instance, proliferating exponentially during a time of apparent, but misleading, permanent abundance to overrun the resource of nuts in the forest such that the forest cannot reseed itself. Of course, in that scenario, the rodents are eventually brought back into balance. Their sheer numbers no longer able to be sustained, they succumb to starvation, or to population drops via smaller litters, or to the influx of predators who follow along behind such mast years. Of course, soon enough, those predators also will starve or move on, having likewise proliferated and consumed all of their resources for food, and the patient trees will once again produce seeds in prolific abundance to replenish the cycle, ensuring that some of their own will survive.

If the entire Earth itself is the ecosystem of the human, when will these cycles tip to bring us into balance, taking care of our numbers by such a natural culling? How will that look? Will we be unable to bear children? Will we slowly starve? Will we be overcome by unknown predators (of the microbial variety perhaps?). Will we merely dwindle to sustainable numbers , or will we simply cease to be, as so many of the earth’s creatures seem to be doing during this period of mass extinct?

This story is a bleak exercise of imagination, indeed…. save that enduring patience of the forest.

For some reason the title of a book, of which I am aware but have not read, is evoked in me. It surfaces from time to time, actually, the seed of its title evidently having nestled itself into the soil of my imagination. ‘Love in the time of Cholera’.

What does it mean to Love during such a time as this?  To witness the one that you love slip so quickly from your grasp, wasting suddenly, spewing the putrid contents of its unwitting contamination, after taking in what appeared to be safe, what once WAS safe before it was polluted with sewage? If we humans are the plague, what does it mean to love the contaminator itself… to let the contaminator in us be Loved?

There was this line that I underscored in this morning’s essay – ‘How to love straight out of my heart without it getting all gummed up in my brain’. If I think about this over much, I can get lost in hopeless but rational despair (hmmm… does despair reside in the head? Or the heart?) for my mind is so small and I know enough to know that I don’t know how to fix this (or even if it needs to be fixed, for that matter!).

Of course, that’s the thing about the head, it gets caught up in the idea that ‘to fix’ is ‘to love’, and while tending, healing, and restoring are indeed acts of love, attempting to fix can sometimes be a way to protect the heart from feeling the full catastrophe of love.  It can be a denial of- a refusal to look at – the one whom I love, slipping away in my arms, when S/he instead begs to just be embraced. As she is. Should I be blessing this one that I love instead, anointing it with Kisses as it passes?

What would it look like to bless this earth, to anoint it with kisses?

Oh! But perhaps the earth is not the one that requires my love and my blessing in this scenario I have laid out. For the earth is not perhaps the one dying, slipping from grasp. E.O. Wilson asserts that ‘we could take the Earth all the way down to her microbes and she would find a way to recover’. Once she rids herself of the plague that is humanity, she will heal herself. So then… what does it look like to bless the plague of humanity itself? To love it with all of its flaws, to forgive it its shame, to kiss its putrid lesions, to anoint it with blessing, to behold it with tenderness and mercy. To open my heart fully to the fatal flaw of our humanity and embrace it as lovable, refusing to turn my face from its terrible beauty, to let it be broken AND beloved.

______________________

Later this afternoon, I read an essay written by an Unupiat woman, in response to the question, “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?” Part of her response was this, “It is taught that our lives are not written in history books or put into archives, but are written in the stars, the rivers and lakes, the mighty ocean, the land that provides’.

While it may be true that my very body becomes these other ones, its elements and essences absorbed and recycled by the earth into something new that retells the story of who i was (and perhaps, if you believe in such things, my spirit may inhabit them as well), this is not, I think, the way We bless them… with our decaying lives….but the way that they Bless us.

What will the rivers and lakes, the land, look like in the future, after the plague that we are has been dumped into them? How will the earth re-member us, with or without our grandchildren in its arms? Will it remember us as Beloved or Curse, or both. What is the fond or horrific story of us that it will tell?

If we have become a toxin, spewing the sewage remnants of our rampant consumption into the waters of life (both literally and metaphorically) how might we clean up ourselves, make of ourselves something safe enough to drink, safe enough for the earth to take us back into its life blood, safe enough to be recycled into blessing, once again, so that our children might drink of her beauty too?

What is the antibiotic for us?

I don’t believe healing ever comes from cursing the one who is ill, by scorning the one who has faltered, by judging with contempt the ignorant. It’s hard to see ourselves as such. We want to believe we are respons-able, that we are capable, intelligent, pinnacles of the earth. But what if we are not. What if we are, as late arrivals in this place, merely immature, merely the unwise, less evolved than our earth’s kin, and their patient tolerance of us is nothing short of compassion for our weakness, embracing the error of our ways and transforming them into Blessing.

To recover from Cholera, one must rehydrate.  Might we rehydrate the blood of this planet with the blessing of being known as Beheld and Beloved as children here, let Love heal us until we are recognizable to the earth once again as something safe, as a source of blessing. Perhaps the Earth itself will do the healing, receiving us as we are, transforming our brokenness into its wholeness, cradling us in its patient arms.

Or…. perhaps not. Perhaps we return dust to dust, our time in this place run dry, and we will be forgotten, nevermore. If that is so, then how do we grace-fully say ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, ‘forgive us’ with both grief and love in our hearts.. How do we, at least, leave this place with Love intact.

my soul in silence waits* – day 8 – listening

At the end of this journey, I am promised Peace, a sense of wholeness and harmony, if I live a life rooted in Love. In an enlightening glance at the etymology of the word translated as ‘repay’, (as in, your deeds will be repaid), I learn that at its root is the world Shalom.

Conversely, when I am feeling discord, perhaps it is because I have forgotten, or forgotten how, to root myself in Love- the connection blocked or broken so that there is not flow, rather stagnation or draining emptiness. (here again is that water metaphor that fills me so)

I wonder how this journey has subtly shifted, deepened perhaps, from the innate knowledge of Hope, from whence I began, to Peace. Simply, I notice that the source seems to have a different center. The All is Well of “Hope” alone was perhaps distant/outside of myself, a trusting deeply in something bigger and more powerful than (my) humanity, perhaps even something impersonal that would continue beyond and indifferent to human beings, an assurance that Life and Love would go on, with or without us. This Peace, however, is centered within my very humanity, rooted in my own power to Love and do Good, to be a Part of that Hope.

Empowered Peace almost feels like an oxymoron, but today’s reading implores me to see the relationship between Love and Power. Love is not a wishy washy sentiment, ineffectual and (im)passive. Nor is power, devoid of Love, a force of Hope. Pure power is not to be grasped as a solution for apathy (Do Something! Anything! rather than stand, paralyzed, wallowing in the center of compassionate uncertainty), for power, unrooted in Love, would also leave me feeling the emptiness of purpose.

I am brought full circle, yet I am at a brand new place, arriving ‘where I started, to know the place for the first time’, for here I am again, seemingly at the same place where the invitation to name my longing (day 1) opened the door to naming what it is that is the source of my comfort and strength. On that day, I sought a language of prayer that might make of this Pervasive Energy of the Universe, something accessible and personal. Something into which I might root myself, draw strength and power, as well as comfort and sustenance- a more intimate presence.

To abide in Love, however, and for Love to abide in me, feels closer even than the boundaries of my skin. This is a prayer that moves beyond the rational, scientific-only coldness of pure energy (power), to a feeling of being infused by warmth, encompassed, enveloped, supported and imbued by Love. Power and Love, intensity and intimacy in One.

The Power to Love is ‘here in our world, accessible to us all’. Power to Act. Power to Be. We are not mere spectators of an impersonal, if wondrous, calculation, but participants in the dance.

Waiting for the fog to life, I stick close to the shoreline, move slowly and watch closely, seeking the shape of something by which to discern a course.

This is a power, I am told, that is ‘insistent, yet tolerant’. If I am to act from Love, as I am called to do, I may indeed err in my judgment of ‘right or wrong’, of where to place my compassion or my empathy. But I am to use that power to Love, nonetheless, assured that there will be not only grace (tolerance) but blessing. Not regret, but Peace, the peace of being rooted in Love. And if I listen, carefully, I may discern, feel the resonance of Love within, feel the filling from without (empowered?) when I am in alignment with Goodness. I will know that I am standing upon Holy Ground, where Who I am is Where I am called to be.

In Harmony.

I think of all those pithy quotes ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Buechner) or “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’ (Thurman). They are speaking also of this Power infused by Love. Of Holy Passion.

Fear not.

It is said that the fruits of fear are not only ‘violence’ (hatred) but also spiritual deadness (apathy). Is this fear of loving in the ‘wrong’ place, or the wrong thing, or the wrong way? I am called instead to be a wildly expansive lover, as is the universe itself. Wildly expansive can hold it all, while still choosing to express itself here in this place and time as particular….

Shalom is my reward. Inner peace from the torment of getting it right, or being enough.

The fog enshrouded lake returns to my imagination. I am in the canoe feeling my way carefully. The morning is ahush, the dipping of the paddle soft as I can make it. Earlier, I pulled onto the shore, disembarked to wait, until I could detect a subtle lifting– the hazy ball of light on the horizon coaxing it to lift– and now subtle gradients of gray indicate an edge. Following that edge, soon a passage opens, the curtain lifts, ushering me across the water, into the clarity of – not black and white but – Blue.

* this series of posts were my responses to the blood , “My oul in silence waits”, by Margaret Guenther

breakfast with Don

‘How do you determine what is truth?, I asked. I’d spent a bit of time early this morning perusing commentaries on the current state of affairs in our country, trying to decide if I should be alarmed or if what I am reading might be alarmist, if I am being blind, or conversely at risk of being influenced by blind by rage. I had read about how easily we are micro-targeted to be fed bits of information based upon what is known about us. Information, knowledge even, then is not the same as truth, and while it is easy to point at the information that those on the ‘other side’ are being fed, it’s much harder to accept that the same is happening to us ‘good’ people on this side. Some of the articles I read are written by respected academic scholars, students of the topic infinitely more versed than I, and yet I also am aware that even these are largely influenced by the lens through which academia has been bent to look. Alternately, I read the more heart-centered lamentation by a quaker spiritual leader, whom I respect (albeit he had conferred with a political scientist for help). In this world, where the truth is turned upside down and where catastrophizing has become the language of justice (Is that really new? Or are we just more aware of it today? Or has the viral speed by which mistruths are transmitted made it more of an epidemic?), how do we discern when we are being deluded? What is your measuring stick?

Don’s answer, as is my own, was Love. And yet, even Love is not black and white when it comes to right and wrong. Am I acting out of love when I want to save the jobs of the family who depend upon it, which may mean disallowing another family from that opportunity? Is my husband acting out of love when he uses violence to protect me from harm? Is it loving to extend grace to a family in our community that has been unable to pay their share of taxes when another family has gone without? I have also been poor and unable to pay. The lines are fluid, and ironically, I think that often persons on both sides of a divide believe they are acting from Love.

I believe it was Confucius who taught the model of expanding one’s circle of grace and compassion. Along the journey, at first we love our self, then we love our immediate family (if someone comes to the door needing bread and I have only enough bread to feed my child that day, would I give it away?), then our extended family, parochial community, nation, world, earth….

I have heard it said that the Ten Commandments were a way to codify Love, at a time in human evolution when we were not yet able to act from the seat of Love—when we were perhaps in a place of survival on the hierarchy of needs. This same argument led to the idea that during Jesus’ time, those same laws (along with others) had become corrupted, into a zero-tolerance kind of administration, whereby compassion and understanding could not be used to weigh the circumstances. According to this line of thought, Jesus preached Love as the measuring stick I seek.

I’d like it to be both/and, but I realize even that is often impossible to implement.

In order to live in community, and in order to benefit from the gifts of that community of diverse gifts and resources, ideas and talents (none of us are self-sufficient), I relinquish certain freedoms. I sign on to the greater good, such that even when I disagree with certain decisions that are made I submit. That happens in a marriage, in a career, in a nation. If, for my community, not cutting trees is decided to be a value we hold as important, I give up my ‘right’ to cut the large tree that may one day fall upon my roof. Again, each of these choices could be viewed as based upon Love—or its flip side, fear, for what is fear but the desire to protect that which we love?

Sometimes, I just want absolutes. I want it to be wrong to rape, for instance (and that is not even one of the Ten!), yet even that seems to be a slippery slope. What exactly is consent? What is seduction, coercion? What is retrospective shame? I want it to be wrong to bomb. I want it to be wrong to beat a woman, (here, I admit, I can find no relativism) I want it to be wrong to beat a man! I want it to be wrong to cheat. I want it to be wrong to abuse and intimidate….

Heaven help us.

Perhaps the world of humanity has always been thus. Perhaps this internal conflict is the source of all religion, philosophy, ethics. I have heard it said that the impetus of all religion stemmed from the harsh reality that something must die in order for us to live. Within that harsh reality, we struggle with the ideas of justice and mercy, kindness and compassion. ( Is it just, compassionate, or merciful that the baby seal dies so that the baby shark may live?) This afternoon I caught a PBS program about the lowly weasel.A program for our times? What is the truth about this diverse family? Is it an unsavory, untrustworthy, treacherous, deceitful, betraying, tormenting, harassing plague…. Or a cunning, intelligent, persistent, delving, problem-solving, super-sensed, , flexible, feisty, fearless, accomplished, Brainiac, innovator.

We have hidden from view the physical/visceral realities of that. We no longer witness the deaths and butchering of animals that feed our bodies, no longer witness the burning of the earth that offers us warmth- those fires are hidden too. Perhaps we too have forgotten how to balance.

God have mercy.

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