A New Song

Greetings, fellow travelers!

early.morning.snow.magic

Yes it has been a long and silent month here. The struggle to find ways to adapt has moved to a deeply personal level and my energies have been focused elsewhere. I am ok, yet many I know are not. And, the ongoing warfare between narratives troubles me- it has stifled my ability to write coherently. Oh, I continue to journal almost everyday, but rambling rants do not a blog post make! Yet, like the glittering magic of the sunlight on snow, I am finding glimmers of hope. Not long after my last post, I started an online class on the intuitive energy of colors which has helped me reclaim my love for drawing and painting. Not that I’ll be hosting a gallery showing anytime soon, but I am finding great joy and even comfort in my creative efforts.  And slowly but surely the words are coming back as well, as are the migrating voices of Spring. 

Morning symphony
testifies Diversity
is Divine’s desire

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

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.

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


Red Angel

So fellow travelers, when I reach the edge of emotional resilience nature is the sanctuary which brings my energy back to  center. 

One special find on the Acadia trip.

In general, I proactively make healing time in nature a regular part of my routine, even if it’s just the daily walk times with our dog. Since our  return from the early October trip to Acadia, my creative focus has been in total disarray just like the trip’s blog entry which remains in narrative limbo. Like the haze from wildfires, there is a peripheral anxiety which permeates my days and a growing awareness that this energy I am feeling is far larger than my own. It comes in unrelenting waves so persistent I have been pushed to seek a more powerful arsenal of coping practices. That quest has led me to profound discoveries about myself, which in turn have brought me to a place of clarity about what’s happening in the world around me as well. This awareness has not quite coalesced into description yet, but a moment on a long hike created an experience which reflects what it feels like.

Trekking along a path, my dog and I rounded a corner and there, illuminated by a ray of sunlight, was a tiny red angel standing perfectly upright among the fallen leaves. Feelings quickly flowed into these words

This one chose to stand
small but fiery bright lit by
compassion and love

The world is changing; there are multiple narratives playing out. We are alive in this crucial turning point for a reason. That reason differs for each of us and none of us can say what is true for anyone but our own self. Yet collectives are made of individuals so the choices we each make matter more than we give ourselves credit for. There is power inherent in every act of kindness and compassion, in each word spoken to raise awareness of injustice and each hand extended in peace. The power of many individual actions builds into a wave  which can overcome fear and hatred with the unstoppable force of unified Love.

I’ve only surfed a handful of times, but if the tide is changing and surf’s up, I’m willing to ride the waves.

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

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, despite my conscious 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 local 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