All the Beautiful People

From creative friend and fellow blogger Denise Gainey. Moving words full of compassion, grace and acceptance, all of which we need to raise up even more in these troubled times

The View from Here


I was the only white person in the treadmill room at the Y yesterday evening, pretty typical for our wonderfully diverse Downtown YMCA in Birmingham. The television was turned to the news, and as we all listened to the madness of recent events, I listened to my friends around me react and discuss- men whose parents and grandparents very well could have been a part of the Civil Rights Movement here in our city that was Ground Zero for so much of that sad time in our nation’s history. A few minutes later, a Jewish man came and stood in front of the tv, listing earnestly. What must they be thinking? How must all of this make them feel?

I had gone to a rural middle school earlier that morning to help new beginning band students try the clarinet to determine if it would be a good match for them…

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Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Six: Signs

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”  Theodore Roosevelt

So fellow travelers, in the process of writing about the time I spent at Sagamore Hill I struggled to find words which would convey my feeling of reverence without being trite or glorifying beyond reason a man I greatly admired.

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The Roosevelt family motto over the porch doorway.  It literally translates as “Who plants preserves” which could be interpreted in many ways; to me it speaks both to the responsibility of  tending to as well as leaving a legacy by what one creates

Theodore Roosevelt was as flawed a human being as any of us. What sets him apart from many significant icons of history is his open recognition of his own shortcomings, something he wrote and spoke of candidly particularly in his letters to his family. In everything he imparted to his children, he was acutely aware of his own need to improve. Impatient, mercurial, and stubborn, his hawkish military policies, voracious desire to hunt, manipulation of the press and bellicose attacks on political enemies stand in sharp contrast to the leader whose missions championed the common citizen, family values, wildlife conservation and a desire to promote peace through understanding.

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Walking along the boardwalk leading back to the trail from the shore I thought about why coming to Theodore’s home had meant so much to me. To see the one place on earth which TR loved more than any, the haven his restless spirit called home, was to be within the energy which fueled his soul. Perhaps I hoped to be blessed even fractionally by what I found; certainly I was deeply moved by the unique vibrancy and living presence I sensed, something I do not often feel when traveling to historic sites. For me, TR embodies the struggle to reconcile who we are at our worst and who we strive to be at our best. He embraced life with its heartache and challenges. He heard and responded to the call to serve others beyond his own interests.

 

True greatness lies less in who we are and more in how what we impact others. To live with the integrity to be oneself yet still think and act beyond that self for greater good is to live an honorable life.

Just as I came up off the beach, a large white egret flew over the boardwalk and into the tall grasses at the edge of the wetlands, a breathtaking moment that stopped time.

Eyes to the skies,  feet on the ground. One of my favorite of his mottos.

The majestic bird moved too fast for me to get a photo, but it didn’t matter. I knew what I had seen and I gratefully accepted it as a sign of adventures to come.

So many National Parks are waiting.  Ride on TR, I’m on my way.

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Great Egret photo taken by my then nine year old daughter at Fair Haven State Park. NY  an image of another breath taking, timeless moment on one of our annual birding treks

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Zen Moment: Small Things

So fellow travelers, today someone made a difference in my day with a simple “thank you.” It came via email, as I was working through an unrelated problem born from a minor misunderstanding. The misunderstanding itself was minor but carried an emotional impact because it is part of a serial communication problem that surfaces periodicially in a key relationship.

The simple note of appreciation allowed me to feel heard and understood, even though it came from someone else. In turn, that moment of grace gave me some insight on how to move beyond the impasse I felt caught in. It was a gentle reminder healing and hope can be granted if we ask and release any expectations on when and how they are granted.

Forget not small things

Acts of kindness and thanks~ Grace

given and received

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Walk gently on the path my friends and remember kindness matters.

Editor’s note:  The photo is from a hike I wrote about in this preview post.

Guest Post: It’s So Much More Than a Dream

So fellow travelers, in the space of these two weeks since January 20th,  I have taken on the role of moderator for two new groups.

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One is a labor of love, for a crew of local rescue volunteers (more on that perhaps in a future post, for now a few photos  of my recent overnight guests will have to suffice) and the other was born out the desire to support a small yet determined group of fellow local activists in these challenging times.

I know~ as one of my cherished blog followers messaged me recently~the beautiful photos and heartfelt haikus have taken a back seat recently to more pressing matters.

Because to me kindness, liberty, diversity, justice all matter.

Because All of Humanity matters to me.

All humans~ ALL ~not just people who look or think or believe or act like me.

Accepting people with opposing views does not mean I have to agree with their views to be respectful. It means I expect the same and as I wrote recently, I’ve been disappointed in that regard.  Accepting another person’s right to believe differently from me does not give them the right to force their beliefs on me or on people I know and love.

As I work my way through the actions needed to help put in place my piece of this global movement to secure liberty, diversity, justice and kindness for future generations I will be sharing the work of other writers who are crafting pieces which resonate with my heart.

And don’t worry~  there will be images and heartfelt haikus from me too.  I promise.

For now this Guest post from: Author Nadine Jolie Courtney

“There is very little I can say to change the mind of people who don’t understand why separating immigrants and refugees into “good” (white-skinned Christians) and “bad” (dark-skinned Muslims) is wrong and against everything that has historically made America wonderful.

But I’ll try anyway.

People saying “but we need to put ourselves first” and “Make America Great Again” seem to be missing the point. A crucial part of what makes America great is a unique ideal: the first amendment in our Constitution. It guarantees protection for the very freedoms now under attack, the very freedoms denied in totalitarian countries: religion, speech, the press. I’ve seen arguments online saying that America needs to only welcome those with similar cultures and beliefs, which–again–is missing the point. We are rejecting the singular ideals that lifted us up and made us great in the first place. We are rejecting humanity itself: the humanity of those suffering around the world, and our own humanity, too.

Refugees fleeing war-torn countries like Syria are trying to escape the terrorism that our troops and intelligence services fight against. They know its evils much more than we ever will. They have seen the ravages of war. They have buried their children. They seek a clean, safe place to lay their heads and raise their families and pursue their own version of the American Dream.

Things have gotten so politically ugly and divisive recently that it’s easy to forget we’re ultimately on the same team (even when it doesn’t feel like it). Those of us who are horrified by the direction of our country under our new President–and heartbroken that he chose to sign this executive order on Holocaust Remembrance Day–don’t support terrorism. We don’t want people coming to our beautiful, beloved America and hurting it or us. We’re not blindly bleeding-hearts…but we do *have* hearts. Our concern for human dignity doesn’t end at our front door.

We shouldn’t abandon our founding principles when the going gets tough: we should embrace them tighter. The Statue of Liberty reads, in part, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” They are beautiful, poetic words–but they have long been so much more.

These words on Lady Liberty signify that those in their hour of need can look to America–the country of immigrants, the country of possibilities–and we will swing the door open wider, rather than slamming it in your face. We welcome all faiths, all cultures, all countries. Yes, Syrians. Yes, Muslims. We are a melting pot, and ours has more than one color and more than one flavor.

It is a scary world, no doubt. There’s a lot of darkness out there. But there’s light and goodness, too–both in foreigners and in us, on both sides of the political spectrum–if we can dig deep and be open-minded even when fear and anger is the easier option. Let us continue to lift our lamps beside the golden door.

Last thought: this is a photo that hangs in our house. It’s my Muslim Syrian grandmother hugging my Episcopalian nun mother-in-law at my wedding. It is an immigrant hugging the descendant of immigrants at an interfaith Muslim-Christian celebration of family and love.

THAT is the American dream.”

You can find more of Nadine’s work at this link

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Leading Edge of the Storm

So fellow travelers, this is my view as I head to the morning rally at the Federal Building downtown. 

Ours is one of hundreds of rallies and marches in support of the Womens March on Washington DC. All over the world, people of all genders, ethnicities and faiths are gathering in support of women’s rights, civil rights, Human rights.

Some gather at great risk in countries where peaceful protest is forbidden. Yet I am mindful of that legislators in five states of our own country have introduced laws to endanger the right to peaceful demonstration.

Not on my watch. 

Today hearts and hands join in peace and unity for liberty and justice for all . Tomorrow the real work of moving forward begins.

Walk gently on on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready. 

Stand Up

We believe kindness cannot sit down simply because anger has stood up.”  Penzeys*

So fellow travelers, recent dialogues on various social media forums has given rise to much conflict.  There’s been some collateral damage, fractured relationships and unraveling of connections. Yet within my own circle of close friends and family, we seem to have weathered the storm of uncertain times. I’ve been pondering why.

And then someone left a comment on a post I shared which contained an article about a respected civil rights leader being discounted and belitted by another elected official. Up to that point I had considered it an act of kindness to quietly remove negative, ill-informed comments, which have thankfully been rare on most of my forums. To date, I simply removed those comments without responding, although it often left me wondering if people fully grasped what their negative comments reflected about them. I try to be mindful of “casting the first stone,” we all have our flaws.  

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Love is always there, sometimes we have to look closely.

It was not the negative tone of the comment which coalesced my thoughts. It was the willingness to post without regard for the truthfulness of their comment. Worse yet it came from someone I respected, someone I thought would know enough to vet their information more thoroughly rather than simply pass along an inaccurate “headline.”

I’m not against engaging in a thoughtful exchange of opposing ideas when the content is accurate and free from personal attack towards me, other individuals or groups of fellow humans. I feel it is important to note my circle does encompass a fairly broad range of ideological stances. I firmly believe understanding different perspectives is essential in embracing the wonderful diversity of human society.

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 How boring our world would be if we were all the same. Wall collage, Portland Oregon 

I was the subject of a fair amount of bullying as a “half-breed” kid in a very white neighborhood. I may have forgiven but rest assured I never forgotten the sting of those taunts. Now, as a mixed race, internationally educated woman who works with special needs students I strive for acceptance and tolerance. I do my best to keep a positive focus in what I publish here. I’m not trying to minimize the issues, indeed its quite the opposite.  In truth I feel there’s enough negativity to fill the Grand Canyon out there. My feeling is “Let’s not add to it here.”

I said the same on my Facebook page, which I also try to keep focused on positive perspectives and action with a healthy dash of irreverent humor. Heaven knows if we can’t laugh at ourselves from time to time we truly have lost our way.

So I felt the time had come to post some clearly defined boundaries on my page. I am deeply grateful the majority of friends in my social media circles don’t need those reminders. I asked simply for comments to be respectful, accurate and kind. If it’s not something one would say face to face to someone else, then it is not welcome on my feed.

Kindness matters, to me, to our society, to our world. Going forward I hope to see it expand and shine hope into an increasingly uncertain future.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

*The opening quote came from a post on Penzeys Spices web page.  The post goes on to say  “It’s simply not enough to point and say “Can’t you see what they’re doing here?” In the long run you have to offer people a better vision of the future, a vision they want more. ” and they walk their talk. I’m glad I found them.

At a Crossroad, Again

So fellow travelers, thanks to freezing rain,  I have been given the rare gift of a few extra hours this morning before I have to slide into work.  Since the call from our district office came just as I was headed to the garage to pull out my car, obviously I’m a cup of coffee or two past going back to bed.

So my dog and I are taking advantage of the chance to watch the sunrise create a beautiful painting framed perfectly by the large picture window in our living room.

Angels watching the sun rise

Since the first day of this year, any time I have been graced with a clear view of sunrise or sunset, I’ve felt a deep sorrow in my heart. I’ve felt strong emotion at day’s beginnings and endings before, as the significance of each passing day rises to my  awareness.

This is a different experience, broader in range, stretching further into the future, reaching deeper into my soul. This time, the effects of impending change impact a much wider circle than me and my immediate family.

 I am not one to take a “things are ok in my life, so no need to worry” stance. Nor am I prone to give in to the alarmist doom and gloom headlines that have become increasingly pervasive. I am made of stronger stuff or so I thought until the plot twists of history shook my faith in my fellow citizens, some of whom I consider friends or call family.

This morning, given the grace of a few extra hours to process those feelings which rose with the sun, I confronted the sense of foreboding head on.  Words heard last night echoed in my memory and it finally hit me, 

Eight years ago, we did “change the world.” We changed it enough to create the angry push back we see now. Bully tactics are cruel but lack the lasting power of true community; such systems eventually collapse under their own weight. 

In the meantime, anyone who is resolved to create a community of equality and freedom for all who seek will need to stand firm in the face of injustice and misinformation. Already, there are signs the push back to authoritarian rule may not have as much support as feared. As a true leader just quoted his wise mother  Reality has a way of catching up with you.”

So, while the colors of sunrise melded with the grey winter sky, I sat down to write. I did not make any New Years resolutions this year, yet I see clearly my ability to focus was clouded by fear.  Now I see, I feel and I know the task before me.

As we cycle back through this spiral, I am resolved to deepen my practice of compassion. I will seek out every opportunity to make a difference, to bring hope to those in need. And when reality hits hard, I will  extend a hand in kindness, reaching out across dividing lines with compassion. I know I cannot address every issue that will raise it’s ugly head, but I can find my points of focus and begin there.

A year ago I stood at a crossroad and made a choice to walk away from a path which wandered too often into personal  darkness. Today I stand a week away from another turning point. As a member of a spirited community of honest creators of Light I feel empowered to yet again choose the path of hope.

Anger may have taken the wheel for a few years, but it won’t be my driver . 

Walk gently on the path my friends and and may adventure find you ready.

Tending the Fire

The world is violent and mercurial–it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love–love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”–Tennessee Williams

So fellow travelers, I rose at dawn in anticipation of catching the first sunrise of the year. First light revealed a sky obscured by heavy gray clouds.

Undeterred, I waited as our dog deciphered last night’s news from around the yard. Judging from the criss cross pattern of tracks left behind in new fallen snow our resident critters had quite the New Years Eve revelry. Suddenly a flock* of crows rose nosily from a stand of trees, drawing my attention to an intense burst of red light visible through a small gap in the clouds, just above the horizon. I found myself thinking of the saying

Red sky  at night, sailor’s delight.  Red  sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.

As suddenly as the racuous chorus of crows had  broken the sacred silence of this first morning of a new year, a thousand doubts shattered my peaceful solitude.

Had this first sunrise arrived with a warning? Is our world, as Tennessee Williams claims, a house on fire?  If we have lost sight of how to live with our differences how can the love we have for each other, for our work, for our art be enough? Is who we are, who I am enough?

Fear and anger may have shaken my resolve enough to give doubt a temporary foothold in the final months of 2016’s crushing conclusion. This morning the crows shocked my sense into awareness.  I will not be paralyzed by doubt if the world burns around me.  I do not know how to “save love” as Tennesee Williams directs. I do know how to be love by making kindness the foundation of my choices. And I know compassion will not direct my actions if I am driven by anger and fear.

So if there is to be a fire burning, let it be a fire of hope, a fire I can tend in turn with others who create from the love which ignites their spirit. There’s a lot of us out here. Join in,  I’ll save a spot by the fire for you.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editor’s note: *I contemplated using the descriptive term “a murder of crows” until, in keeping with my resolution to fully vet what I disseminate, I discovered the phrase is more venery (ie: a “delightful quirk of the English language“, as described in this article on audubon.org which I know to be a reliable, clickbait free source) so a flock it is.

To hear or not to hear

So fellow travelers, fair warning, this is long and it is about the recent election here in America.

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Hope, like a late season water lily, waiting to bloom.

Politics is not something I have not written about, at least not directly. It has not been possible to post anything related to this election without becoming a target for anger and hate speech.

Anger, is a heavy burden to bear. It drains life energy and, over time, even righteous anger sucks all joy out of existence. I have stood on that precipice myself and seen this in the lives of too many people I hold dear to ignore its effect. To the best of my ability, anger is a cycle I choose to break  with compassion.

Thus in the spirit of striving for compassion and comprehension, I have been reading posts on various sources from voters who selected the President-elect.

It has been a sobering and eye opening experience.

I will say the prevailing reasoning I have been reading actually is not directly racist or xenophobic and while many reflect conservative Christian beliefs,  most posts are not specifically intolerant of LGBT or Muslims. (I am not saying those attitudes don’t exist, they do and most clearly and dangerously frame the platform of the President-elect’s current council.) I saw a Charlie Rose  interview with Jon Stewart  in which he said the same about the people he knows who supported the President-elect.

What has come through most clearly is a prevailing belief that the current direction of social and economic norms left these voters feeling discounted and forgotten. These were votes cast for change, made from a need to be heard. The feeling of having struggles discounted, of not being heard, of seeking leadership to make a difference is common to the majority of voters regardless of where they stand on any given issue. It’s my observation most Americans want socio-economic stability yet very few are willing to sacrifice to ensure that opportunity is equally accessible for every citizen.

Time will tell if the choice of these voters will bring the kind of socio-economic stability they seek while staving off the change and diversity they fear. Meanwhile we all have to find ways to live with the consequences.

In his interview with Charlie Rose, Jon made a statement I found remarkably comforting, He said, “I don’t believe we are a fundamentally different country today than we were two weeks ago. The same country with all its grace and flaws and volatility and insecurity and strength and resilience exists today as existed two weeks ago. ”  This was both reassuring and a wake up call for me.

The same country which came close to electing our first woman President also held in it’s ranks a force of repressed anger and fear which has found a voice. Having gained power, this force can no longer be denied.  It is not enough to verbally denounce the principles of discrimination and acts of violence against our fellow citizens, or denounce myopic economics over ecology.  If we wish to make a stand against intolerance and ignorance, we must act in ways which show our committment.

We need to understand those who also reject violence and do not discriminate, yet saw  the President-elect as the only solution. And we also need to find ways to reach the vast numbers of registered voters who felt so little connection to the options, they chose not to vote, because more people chose not to vote at all than voted for the President-elect.

We must go beyond labeling, dig deeper than judgement and in hearing their concerns, listen for the common ground we may have. For there is common ground and no matter how slight or obscured, it must not be discounted.  To seek it is to find a starting point. From there it becomes a focus of taking one step, one opportunity at a time, to move beyond division.

Walk gently on the path my friends. This adventure call us to be ready.

Aftermath

So fellow travelers, now is when we must reach out, stay strong and hold fast to all we value and believe.

I am heart broken but I will not be silent.

We are better than this outcome. We are stronger than anger, we are smarter than ignorance. We will not give in to darkness. We must commit ourselves to making the changes needed to move forward regardless of the flaws in leadership.

I will stand for acceptance and equality for all people.  I will share the voices of those who have a story  to tell. I will make inclusion and kindness my mission.

Come, walk this long road with me and shine your lights for others to find their way.


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.