Deep Dive

So fellow travelers, as we hit the long slippery slope leading to election day here in the not-so-United States I reached a point of near desperation to comprehend what madness is driving the hatred flying around.

When the demise of my 02RavCamper kept me home bound for several weeks back in September, I found myself needing a diversion to ward off the depression brewing from giving up several weeks of camping plans. Since retiring last June, I’ve looked forward to Fall camping because this year I could finally camp for  long stretches of weekdays when the campgrounds and trails are quieter. While my search for an affordable vehicle did take up much of my focus, I found myself with just enough spare time to become increasingly aware of the high emotions flying around as election campaigns ramped up, inspite of my consciousness choice to limit time on social media or TV news.

“Get Curious,” is a phrase I hear often from a trusted mentor in personal development. As a kid with an insatiable curiosity about everything I was often told I asked “too many questions.” Finding a path of growth where curiosity is not only encouraged but brilliantly supported has been a gift beyond measure.

So, what better way to master the anxiety driven by vitriolic emotions than taking a deep dive into the psychology of hate. It’s like the moment just before I start a particularly challenging hike.

Until I take the first few steps there’s always the option to get back in the car and drive to a diner for a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. But, seriously, I’ve come all this way, going back without exploring what’s ahead just seems pointless. Those first few yards on the trail become my commitment to take on the challenge and meet the source of any fear head on. And that pie and coffee will be waiting when I get back down. (Photo: Blue Mountain Trail hiked in August 2018)

The past six weeks certainly have been vastly different from my original plans for this first Autumn in retirement. To be honest, this research “dive” into the psychology of hate has been exhausting and would have been impossible to manage if I was still working. I regret nothing, not the sleepless nights, not the painful personal insights, not the intense frustration of even needing to be excavating this graveyard of systemic dysfunction. I am exhausted yet profoundly grateful to have reached a point of comprehension.

Earlier today I came across this quote from Neale Donald Walsh which summarizes my conclusions:
The impulse to help each other is built into our genes; it is coded within our species. We have a “soul contract” to help each other. I’m convinced of it. We all, each of us, feel this impulse.”1
I know the immediate reaction is to think it’s impossible to believe this is true for people spreading hatred and engaging in violence.

However, the deeper I dove into the research on hatred the more evident it became that because humans are “wired” for connection, whenever we deny it and try to cut off that connection, it creates a downward spiral of shame, guilt and eventually an overwhelming fear. Left unacknowledged and unhealed those feelings fester until they explode as anger. On some level we have all been in that spiral; part of my exploration has been uncovering and healing those emotions within my own psyche. 

Understanding this has allowed me to step back from engaging directly in the fight around me. It is futile to try reasoning with anyone living with that level of fear and it is not effective to employ guilt in an attempt to change people already steeped in shame. People acting out of hatred are always in a defensive mode and that is not a state of being conducive to change.

Understanding does NOT mean I accept hatred nor does it absolve people who have chosen violence, oppression and fear mongering. Understanding has simply given me an acute awareness of when engaging is a waste of precious energy, energy better directed towards being an active participant in the kind of society I want to live in.

Angel sighting Sunset view from Cadillac Mountain Acadia Natl.Park 9.30.2020

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

 

1 The Storm Before The Calm. Book One: Conversations with Humanity series. Neale Donald Walsh. Random House Publishing

Lanterns of Friendship

So fellow travelers, the cumulative effect of the year so far has been an emotional experience I can best describe as what happens right before a tsunami:

One moment I am standing on the safe warm beach, wrapped in a blanket of sun infused happiness. Suddenly the ocean unnaturally recedes so far out it doesn’t make sense. Then comes the moment when confusion becomes terror as the reality of what is happening hits: a tsunami on the way. 

Internal equilibrium has been a challenge to maintain this past few months, hence the periodic weeks of silence here. Sometimes fear and anger run so deep, it feels too dangerous to speak of, as if my words would tip the balance of power in the struggle to keep darkness from taking over my Internal GPS. Words reflect belief and belief creates experience. 

In times like this having friends we can rely on is a resource of immeasurable value. I mean the kind of friends who hear your need when you are silent and send a quick message to touch base or ask you to text when you arrive safely, the ones who right on cue post a meaningful message that reminds you hope is never cancelled, dawn always follows the darkest night and in time love prevails. The ones you, yourself do not hesitate to lift up when their spirits need a boost, knowing the hope and Light we give is always returns even brighter. For my tribe of friends,  these words came while exploring the wilds of Maine.

Navigating paths
Holding the lantern by turns
Transcending distance

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

Autumn Flags

So fellow travelers, the colors of my favorite season are peaking here in Upstate New York.

Autumn waves its flags
releasing what’s done with ease
with joy I follow

This glorious season of ephemeral beauty and joy is too brief to spend indoors. The Acadia trip posts will just have to wait.

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

A Line in the Sand

So fellow travelers, RaVan2.o’s maiden voyage was a glorious success and musings on our explorations at Acadia National Park will follow soon.


That’s a promise made as much to myself as to you all, a binding intention to hold a focus of forward momentum, because right now I want nothing more than to hunker down in a blanket fort for the next four weeks.

The outrage is beyond exhausting
the frustration feels unresolvable
the apprehension becomes immobilizing
so you let the gravity of grief pull you down
and you sit in silence 
all tears long since spent
you sit with the emotions
because there is no where to go
where the anguish is not
and in the stillness of staying with
comes acknowledgement of what is
of what perhaps has always been
and finally given permission to exist
resistance relinquishes
you breathe
as if pushed up for air
just before drowning
a breath of commitment like your first
unclenching your fists
you rise, draw a deep long line in the sand
turn your face to the sun and walk away
never once looking back.

I’ll be back with the wonders of the Acadian Expedition just as soon as I get that blanket fort set-up.

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


The Silver Lining

So fellow travelers, as I referenced in the last post, September became  an emotionally intense time.

Zen dog meditation buddy

Honestly, as odd as it may sound, I think the demise of my little Blue Rav4 “camper” brought to the surface all the grief embedded in these months of quarantine. This was not just about losing a vehicle. This loss set in motion a continuous chain of what I first perceived as losses. From our early morning drive down to a favorite lakeside trail where Delilah could conduct squirrel patrol while I watched for early fall migrants, to cancellations for several camping trips to catch early fall colors. Ironically, my husband’s old car was also sitting dead in the driveway, so I found myself grounded while I searched for another vehicle.  And as that search evolved it became clear the better options would require an investment which would postpone my plan to buy a camper van, because now I had an immediate need for another vehicle.
Why not buy the bigger van now? Because that’s not a vehicle I would want to drive through our snow bound, corrosive road salted winters. And it seems likely I will remain here this winter, thanks to the pandemic pushing my cross country road trip out into next year.
Once I got my head out of the initial wave of frustration and disappointment, I began yet once again to re-set my future plans ( yes, I’m an eternal optimist, I actually do believe there is a future worth planning for.) Moving the camper van build project further out on the timeline, opened up different possibilities and after a lot of research, number crunching and visits to local dealerships the right vehicle presented itself-

Farewell Little 02Blue

Welcome  Rav “2.0”

-just in time for a trial run up to the one National Park located here in the Northeastern US. Stay tuned….Photos and adventures to follow…

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

The Road Forward

So fellow travelers, September continued with it’s theme of significant losses. Thankfully, by Divine Grace, none were from the living. Still, the loss of a companion of a different sort created a domino sequence of changes which has yet again altered my path forward.

Farewell Little Blue RaVan

On the first evening of Autumn, after bidding farewell to the little blue Rav which has been my camping haven through this summer of disorienting losses I walked to a nearby road and watched the sun set. Once a year, the setting sun aligns exactly with the gap at the far end of this road and turns it into a golden pathway.

There’s a moment when
all comes in alignment and
the path turns to gold

In a year which has brought changes of a magnitude no one could possibly have accurately foretold, this ninth month became a crossroad from which there is no turning back. And as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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


‘Til we meet again……

So fellow travelers, this 31st and last day of August 2020 brought me to a gathering at the beautiful Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse to mark the passing of a friend and colleague.

The last time most of us gathered together was 13 years ago when we threw Jim a 50th birthday party at the assisted living center he had moved to. Jim had Multiple Sclerosis. In the ten years I worked in Video Production I never saw him once give ground to it, no matter how hard he had to push to get things done. He ran the video department for the Catholic Diocese with a commitment inspiring to see and he brought that same focus and energy to the hundreds of hours he spent on our local cable television crew. I had the great fortune to share the sometimes wild and wacky experiences of all kinds of productions from local studio talk shows and Common Council meetings to bigger more exciting events like the NYS Empire Games and SU basketball loud and live in the Carrier Dome.

Jim was perhaps the only person on our production team who could out talk me in a conversation. If you’ve met me you know that’s a Herculean feat of verbal aptitude. As differently-abled as his body might have been, Jim’s wit and memory for detail was unparalleled. It hurts my heart to know his final years were steeped in struggle and at times great isolation. When reflecting back on my own 63 years, I often say I have no regrets; with Jim’s passing I can no longer say that with absolute conviction. While we stayed in contact through social media, I wish I had been able to connect with him in person one more time.

Ironically, just last week. sorting through photo albums (a project I started back when quarantine kept me homebound last spring) I had come across an album with dozens of photos from those video crew days. There are no coincidences right? When the Facebook message thread posted with news of Jim’s death, I added a couple of the photos he was in.

And when our small group of friends met at the Cathedral, the memories we shared brought Jim back full circle to those days when he would jump down from the back of the production truck, saying “I got it,” and dash off to get whatever was needed at that moment. And while my friends caught up on where other members of the crew are now and shared our current life details from kids to career changes it dawned on me how much of who I am today is rooted in the friendships and experiences of my past. How blessed I am to have shared so many amazing experiences with truly good people throughout my life.

If who we are now
is the sum of all days past
friendships count the most

Somehow I don’t envision our friend Jim “resting in peace” wherever his Spirit moves now; in fact I expect some Universal project just found it’s new on site manager and God can expect major progress is gonna happen. So stand straight as you finally walk free, my friend. Laugh long and loud among those night stars, I promise I will be listening.

James Funson August 4 1957 – August 14 2020

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

… on maintenance mode — Just Ponderin’

(Editors note: Guest Post from writer and friend Lisa Dingle- It says so well the reasons my own Thoughts on the Path have been on hiatus )

The Inn’s garden path, in maintenance mode this past week. A few seconds ago, I logged into this very space to write a new post and there was a message, which was pretty much this: “Hey, Lis, WordPress 54.3 is available. Do you want to upgrade now?” Feeling somewhat conform-ational, I went ahead and hit…

… on maintenance mode — Just Ponderin’

Stretching Time

 So fellow travelers,  flipping the calendar a few days ago brought a moment of peace I was deeply grateful to take in~

For the first time in 21 years,  turning the calendar to August did not generate a rush of urgency fueled by the impossibility of “fitting in” all my planned adventures in the remaining weeks before going back to work at the end of summer.
Yes, eventually summer heat will give way to the welcome crisp air of Autumn, my favorite season for hiking and camping. However, this year, the end of summer does not bring an end to my free time because I retired last June. So I stood for a few minutes and looked with profound gratitude at August’s small white squares of days so graciously open to possibilities.
Of course as Pandemic2020 rages on in these not so United States of America, possibilities are not as easily translated into plans.  In this too, being retired has helped me embrace the simple joy of stepping into each day with a heart open to what the day has to offer. That is a big (but very welcome) shift for an organized, over-thinker who makes lists and starts packing weeks before a trip. 
In fact as I write this post, Isaias’ path up the Atlantic coast has shifted westward just enough to dump “tropical rainfall” here, which means delaying my intended departure perhaps until tomorrow for this week’s camping trip. No worries- my favorite little campsite is reserved through the end of the week and waits, just like Inner Peace, for me to show up and claim it.

Walk gently on the path, my friends and let Love light the way.

Life’s a Beach

So fellow travelers, yesterday’s adventure started with a this view

Which, after packing up camp, I traded for this view

Favorite picnic spot on Lake Ontario

The pandemic of 2020, as I’ve mentioned, has created several changes at our state park campgrounds. Check in times are later and check out times are earlier. So the birds obliged my requested wake up call at dawn, giving me time to catch that fiery sunrise before breaking camp.

It’s been a quiet few days, but the Fourth of July-ers started showing up yesterday. Lots of loud music at newly occupied sites and several rounds of small fireworks, which thankfully stopped not too long after the posted quiet time. Although one extremely loud rocket did send a young raccoon scurrying across my campsite. Later that night it appeared at the screen door of my tent and peered in at me, almost as if to ask if it was safe now.

Although a bit startled by it’s return visit, I did not want to frighten such an obviously young one so I whispered gently, “We’re gonna be alright.” I swear it gave a slight nod before rambling off.

But I laid there, wide awake for a long time wondering.

Are we? Are we really going to be alright ?

Eventually, the night time chorus of frogs singing by the marsh lulled me into a deep sleep.

A gentle round of Qiqong stretches while watching that fiery sunrise helped me find balance. There is something innately reassuring about the consistent rising and setting of the sun. And now, sitting with my feet in warm sand, waves rising and falling in steady calming rhythm, Wisdom speaks again

Eyes on the horizon
let the lessons of all yesterdays

remind us we can not move forward
if we only look back
and here, in between, what was
and what is yet to come,
to be present in this now moment
is to begin anew.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Love Light our way.