In the Winter of Peril

“Conflict is seductive- navigate it consciously.”  Lee Harris

So fellow travelers, one week ago here in the United States, new leadership took charge of our country, and in the week since I have become gradually aware of waking up with a growing sense of relief and a marked absence of background anxiety, even as we begin to navigate what President Biden calls our “Winter of Peril”

Not that this shift in leadership means a herd of magical unicorns will bring rainbows of namaste that “heals our country.” Given the backlash I’ve seen so far, a herd of enlightened T-Rexs might be more useful. (Yes I know that is a triceratops in the photo- but come on- have you ever tried to get a T-Rex to stop roaring long enough to take it’s photo? )

Hyperbole aside,  that backlash has done it’s best to reinstate the anxiety created by the trauma of being, as I referenced in my previous post,  “held hostage” for four years. I have struggled to find the balance point between judgement and compassion. While recognizing the intricacies of what forensic psychologists refer to as “shared psychosis” it is still difficult to dig up compassion for people still posting vitriolic comments in response to posts my friends have shared. My own social media feed is fairly calm mainly because I have zero tolerance for BS. Civil discourse on differing opinions are welcome, everything else gets deleted and persistent purveyors of misinformation are unfollowed.
Understanding why  “people who harbor delusional narratives tend to bulldoze over reality in their attempt to deny that their own narrative is false,” ( Scientific American ) has not given rise to the level of compassion I have come to expect of myself.  The best choice I can make right now is to disengage from the irrational diatribe, at least until I have more clarity on how to engage without escalating anger.  So, I will, as a personal mentor recently recommended,  simply “stay in my lane” for a while and draw inspiration from the words of Rev. Silvester Beaman’s inaugural benediction*, “In discovering our humanity, we will seek the good in and for our neighbors, we will love the unlovable, remove the stigma of the so called untouchables, (and) we will care  for our most vulnerable…. Neither shall we learn hatred anymore…”

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Peace settle in our hearts

 Note: *Rev. Beaman’s prayer is well worth hearing in its entirety. Listen to it here https://youtu.be/tjc1dHaC-jA

Mythbusters

So fellow travelers, thirteen days ago, at precisely the same time as the clock above my desk shows right now, I was working on a new blog post when my phone started “pinging” with notifications. Determined to focus on writing, I resisted the temptation to pick it up, but then I heard my husband, who was on his lunch break say something. Although I could not discern exactly what he said, the urgency in his voice was unmistakable, so I went downstairs to see what was going on.

Much like this image I shot on a hike last week, at first, I could not make sense of what I saw on the large flat screen TV which dominates the far end of our living room.

When I realized what was happening on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, a switch somewhere deep in my brain flipped on.

It was not until later in the day that a comment from my husband helped me realize what the events on Capitol Hill had triggered in my brain.

I  was  living in the Philippines when President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 23, 1972. It left an indelible impression on my teenage psyche. Since then I have, as my friend Tom Atkins so aptly said in a recent post, tried to “extract sanity from madness.”  In the end, I had to accept that the intensity of my emotional response exhausted my capacity to remain engaged. At which point I am once again reminded that “disengaging” is, in fact, a privilege – one which friends who are BLPOC or survivors of abusive relationships do not have. Yet I cannot provide support or reassurance when my own well of faith is empty. 

So I have spent these days leading up to tomorrow’s Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in deep contemplation, because I know everything we react to externally is a reflection of something within ourselves. I have searched deep into myself to uncover what conflicts are raging, what fuels the fire of my intense anger and why judgment of others has overridden my innately compassionate nature.(Photo of a contemplative sanctuary on the lake trail)

For four years I have felt as if we were being held hostage by a madman, and yes I felt that coming well before the events that exploded on January 6th. I felt increasingly betrayed by those in power who enabled this to escalate and I felt helpless. The more events reinforced that feeling of helplessness and betrayal, the angrier I became. This is the same mindset (albeit for different reasons) of those who violently opposed the Congressional vote on January 6th with one crucial difference-the choice to resort to violence and act with full intent to bring harm to others. 
Our choices always have consequences. The attack cost six people their lives, many more were injured. Accountability is a cornerstone of equitable justice and it has been shamefully scarce in our country’s history when dealing with racism. January 6, 2020 will be forever earmarked as a day of our reckoning for that lack. For that, at least, I am genuinely grateful.
This country has been exposed as anything but “great again.” The effects of allowing racism to run largely unchecked finally hit a broad enough target to expose America’s “greatness” as a myth created by white washing the pervasive and growing inequalities inherent in “the American Way.”
And yet, there is hope it has also generated enough forward momentum to enact lasting change. That’s not going to happen overnight, nor even within four years, but for the first time since January 20, 2016, we will be free again to embrace the potential of a more equitable and justice future for all, not just some, Americans.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

Gentle Blossom

So fellow travelers, yesterday brought a gathering of cousins and another farewell. My husband’s aunt passed from this life peacefully, a week ago today.

Aunt Mary was the oldest and, at 102, also the last surviving of her seven siblings. She always insisted she would live to be 100 and like anything she set her mind to she succeeded beyond expectations.

(Photo: celebrating Mary’s 100th birthday November 2018)
She had no children of her own, so her nieces and nephews became her support system as she aged. Fiercely independent, she held onto her life at home as long as possible and when she moved to into long term care, my husband and his cousins continued to provide additional support and visit when possible. Last spring, Covid19 protocols changed “when possible”  to “not possible.” While our deepest regret is not seeing Mary before she died, it is reassuring to know she received the best of care right through to her last days. She died peacefully of natural causes.
Yesterday morning, I rose early to feed and walk our dog before we headed into the city for her memorial. Sunrise painted the winter sky with brilliant colors of pink and rose. I thought about a plant we brought home from her house ten years ago. The day after we received the news of Mary’s death, it bloomed for the first time in several years. From those two moments, came this haiku in her honor. 

Winter sunrise glows
Sacred flower gently blooms
One soul rises free

(photo: Mary’s Christmas cactus (schlumbergera truncata) Monday Jan 4th)

I am grateful my husband and I were able to gather safely with ten of his fourteen living cousins, many of whom we have not seen in several years.  The Russian orthodox service was beautiful and, even through his mask, the young priest singing the liturgy invoked a beautiful, compassionate angelic presence. I have no doubt Aunt Mary’s soul carries all our love and respect as she continues her journey home. 

Mary Lyboult (neé  Dominica “Minne” Rahalski) November 23, 1918- January 3, 2021

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

America is…

So fellow travelers, this will not be a “zen moment” haiku post….

and for my readers who live outside the maelstrom of the United States, bear with me as I speak directly to my fellow Americans. At best you will gain some insight into what the experience of the past 24 hours has been like for the majority of us.

So fellow travelers here on the ground in the  United States, if you, like me, woke this morning with a pervasive feeling of unease because you do not feel safe in your own country welcome to the daily reality of just over 40% of the US population. Let that sink in and then, before fear paralyzes you, understand that this can be a  “truth will set you free” moment. 


My social media media is full of people declaring “This is not America .”  The point of what happened at the Capitol Building yesterday (in fact exactly 24 hours ago, as I write this) is the clear, in our face truth of This IS America and by that I do not mean this is what America “has become.”
What we witnessed is indeed what America is because the majority of us have ignored racism because we can. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s good because it means you are open to changing that. Even this kid from the Bronx, who felt the sting of being called “slant eyes” and the confusion of being told “Oh, those kids didn’t mean that” when she knew damn well they did, who grew up with a burning desire to make a difference, who made every effort to raise her daughters to live in awareness, whose life and career choices focused on being a champion for the disenfranchised, under represented members of her community, still failed to fully take in what it means to live within a racist power based system.
My one saving grace lies in not being surprised (shaken, yes, but not surprised) by yesterday’s violence; at least I immediately recognized it not as an aberration but as the culmination of years of instigation by the leader our government’s power base willingly sold their souls to. Their one saving grace might be the stark reality which hit as they sheltered under chairs or behind lock office doors. It appears to have had an effect, as they pushed back against fear and refused to be intimidated. Our elected representatives returned to the secured chambers and completed the formal count of electoral college votes and at 3am this morning, certified the results of the Presidential election. Democracy survives, flawed and wounded, though with hope not fatally. 

As a former educator, my colleagues and I know the challenge of “resuming the business at hand” after sheltering in place during an “intruder incident.”  I posted a call on my social media for friends and followers to contact their representatives and express their appreciation. After doing so myself, I took my dog for a long walk yet still felt unsettled. I asked for a sign of hope. What I found was this tiny plant- still bearing brilliant autumn colors, refusing to succumb to the ravages of winter’s killing season.
I knew I needed to do more.

So here I am at the keyboard attempting to put words to this awakening which carries more weight than one haiku would hold.

So Now What?
If what we are finally seeing is not the country we want it to be, where do we go from here? I do not have many answers beyond the simple truths which serves as my personal moral and spiritual compass:
Everything I react to outside myself is a reflection of something within me. So, I ask: what does what I am seeing happening in my country say about me?  By starting with my place in this crisis I refrain from the trap of laying blame as a conveniently “righteous” way of avoiding responsibility for the one sure element I can change- myself. That also does not mean I stop holding others accountable for their actions. The lack of accountability is the main reason “things have come to this.” The BLPOC community has been telling us this is for decades. We need to do more than nod our heads in agreement. This crisis does not end on January 20th; the work of equitable change will go on for years. Expect to hear a lot more about that here and yes, there will zen moment haikus included for balance.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let hope Light the way

Haiku for a New Year

So fellow travelers, sitting down to work on a new post, I discovered my New Year’s Day post did not publish. 
Hmmm.
So much for the WordPress pre-scheduled publish option which I know I have used successfully many times. Perhaps that glitch was just 2020’s parting side swipe.
No matter.
I simply composed a revised intro (which you are reading now) and reposted.

(Photo: Sunset at Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park, Maine USA 9/30/2020)

Angels in the sky
Divine Love made visible
So we remember

I hold no illusions that working through the aftermath of 2020 will be as simple as reposting a missed entry. That the year still held moments like the one captured above is an affirmation of just how much brighter Light shines when all seems darkest. Eyes on the horizon Hope is not cancelled.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way


So Long 2020 and “thanks for all the fish*…”

So fellow travelers, today there will be a pervasive narrative of “Goodbye and good riddance to 2020.”

 

Before we take that on as our story know this:
Yes, I too will move forward from 2020 with tremendous relief because, make no mistake my friends, the past year was just the beginning. This first year of the new decade set in motion seismic shifts in human consciousness which are creating much needed changes across every system in society, all across the globe.
As with all significant change, there will be pushback from the status quo and attempts to distract us from the potential of greater good. Do not be drawn in. Change is inevitable, focus determines its trajectory. Our energy is too valuable to waste on senseless conflict and our focus must not be co-opted. Be mindful of what holds your attention.

With all its chaos, suffering and loss, 2020’s true gift has been revelation. We cannot heal what we do not acknowledge. Now, ignorance is no longer a viable excuse.  We either accept the intolerable or we help each other up off the ground and walk through this portal into a new year with mindful intent to not only embrace change but to consciously participate in creating it.

Walk gently on the path and let Love light the way. See you all in 2021.

Editorial Note: * The quote in the title references Book 4 of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe. Its a strange and humorous series which makes complete sense after experiencing 2020.

In Search of Magic

So fellow travelers, rising well before dawn to greet the Solstice, a glance out the window in my meditation space revealed this gift

a moment which provided the last key to finding what seemed lost.

Tis now a season
made strange and unfamiliar
by required distancing
in full contradiction with
the inherent nature of the day
when gathering together to celebrate
the gift of Love made manifest on Earth 
is everything

indeed the only thing
on your list this year
and the one wish which will remain

not granted
So you search long and hard
far and wide
past and present
for that  “magic of the season “
and just as doubt weighs heaviest
The glow of snowkissed lights
 clear tones of a favorite song
sweet cinnamon cookies and tea

fragrant wafts of balsam
and just now

a gentle Angel’s kiss at dawn
There at last you find it
right where it was hidden all along
Peace
Love
Joy 
Magic is indeed alive and well
deep in your heart

Walk gently on the path my friends and blessings of the Season to you all.

Digging Deeper

So fellow travelers, last month I promised a post on my core experience of Christmas “becoming” magical.

Honestly, this year, I find myself digging deeper than ever to feel that magic and, knowing I am not alone in this, I remain committed to creating that post. As it germinates in the creative sanctuary of my heart, waiting to sprout words in my brain, a cold front pushed temperatures back to more seasonable digits and our first winter storm slowly turned the view from my studio into a snow globe.

I recently started spending an hour in my writing space everyday, as the “golden hour” sets in not to write, but to simply watch the light change as it surrenders to ever earlier nightfall. The cycles of nature are a reminder to me that change is the only constant in life. Day to night, season to season, the waxing and waning moon, all continuous cycles. The experience is infused with profound longing, and inexplicable joy.

To surrender to the inevitable changes in life is to cast hope into the future, like seeds sent forth as a plant’s last gift before it too becomes part of the Earth. For the first time in my life, I witnessed all of humanity struggle against the force of wave after wave of change over which we had so little control. While the tide is turning, this global transformation does not end with the flip of the calendar and a change in the year’s end digit from zero to one. When we emerge from the other side of the effects of this pandemic, our lives will look and feel very different, which is why there has been such deep persistent resistance to accepting what we know we all must do. For humanity to move forward, we must embrace the opportunity to participate in creating a more equitable, more compassionate and yes, more hopeful life for our fellow travelers. Clearly not everyone has embraced this, however I earnestly believe the balance tips in favor towards the willing as creating enough force to shift the narrative for our future.

It feels like a daunting mission and yet a moment in the opening of a recent livestream show with my five favorite musical humans, Switchfoot, brought up this quote:
“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what you have.” Ernest Hemingway / The Old Man and the Sea. *

So for now I offer this chance image, captured on a recent walk and the words it brought :

Winds of change roar in
Faith takes hold digging deeper
Reaching for Earth’s strength

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

*Editorial Note: This quote is similar to one I first read in Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography originally published in 1914. “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are. ” The quote is always attributed to Teddy (who stands as my favorite US President) however he clearly stated the quote’s origins as Squire Bill Widener of Widener’s Valley, Virginia. It remains one of the foundations of my personal perspective.

Sunset Zen

So fellow travelers, catching a sunset never fails to give rise to a wave of emotions for me.

Gratitude is always a component, even if it is simple gratitude for a challenging day’s end and the gift of a chance to rest. November’s short damp days often end with cloud cover so thick it obscures the setting sun. So the vision of banks of grey clouds turning rosy pink the other day created a moment of insight and these words~

Swaths of grey blush pink
from the setting sun’s kiss and
promise to return

The constants of sunrise and sunset are my reminder of a Promise: no matter the darkness we pass through, the Light will return. In my teens I came across a quote which radically shifted my perception of life. The phrase from The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus, “Panta Rhei” is usually transcribed as “Change is the only constant,” although it actually means “everything flows.” Which, in fact, it does when we relinquish our resistance to the inevitability of change.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way


The Decision

So fellow travelers, it is Thanksgiving Day here in the US, a holiday I enjoy even more than Christmas ,

and I have always loved Christmas!

.

Even the few times when I was alone or grieving a great loss , Christmas Day always becomes* magical to me. Still to me Thanksgiving is a celebration of the two things in life I treasure even more than the magic of Christmas: family and food.

This year, with the increasing momentum of the COVID19 pandemic’s second wave, staying home became the only responsible choice for me. It took a long, strenuous hike to work through the emotions that hit me the day I cancelled my flight to Portland to spend Thanksgiving with our kids. We won’t even be traveling to see family in cities close by. Decisions my husband and I reached out of simple, genuine concern for the well being of others, more than for ourselves. Decisions we had to make because of another, perhaps more dangerous, outbreak plaguing our country- a viral lack of concern for the impact our choices have on each other.  Decisions which it’s clear even more people will have to make for the December holiday season. So waking this morning with a deep need to shift that mindset of loss, I sat in meditation at sunrise.  The comfort I sought came as these words

In this moment here
reach for hope find peace and joy
now and yet to come

One small ray of Light banishes darkness. Nothing outside ourselves has the power to stop us of from the decision to be that Light.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

*PS~ The “becoming” part of Christmas Day’s magic is a post unto itself. Those thoughts are simmering with the traditional Turkey Soup yet to come.