Enough

So fellow travelers, this post references issues of current concern in the United States. It is my perspective, based on my personal experiences. The topic is difficult yet it has become impossible for me to move forward in my daily creative routine until I address it. Even after extensive editing, it is long. It may be difficult to read; I know this is by far the hardest post I have had to write.

On the morning of March 13, 1996, I put my not quite seven year old daughter on the school bus, waved goodbye from the porch and went about my morning routine of finishing chores and then walking our dog. At lunchtime, I turned on the TV to catch the midday news and weather. Instead of our local news team, I found network reporters covering a horrific incident which had occured a few hours before. It was my first encounter with a school shooting. My plans for the afternoon fled my mind, as I sat counting the hours until our daughter returned home, bounding off the bus full of the chatter and news about all the goings on in first grade that day.

“Mommy are you ok?” she asked when I hugged her a little tighter and longer than usual. Maybe she caught the tears in my eyes. “I am fine, I just missed you a lot today. How about a snack while you tell me what you did in school today.”

It did not matter on iota that the Dunblane School Massacre happened over 3,000 miles away, far across the ocean, in another country. I did not sleep much that night and it took every ounce of willpower to put my child on the bus and send her to school the next morning. I could not keep a morsel of food down all day, in fact I ate very little for several days until the weekend thankfully arrived. It had never occured to me that my child or any child would be shot in cold blood by by a total stranger while attending school. I felt completely and totally helpless, there was nothing I could do short of keeping my child home to protect her. I seriously considered it, even researched the process of applying to home school her. But she liked school and home schooling would deprive her of the socialization of being with her school friends.

At the time, my husband was working in another town, commuting home a few weekends a month. He had taken on the job as a short term contract, but the project had stretched far beyond the intial six weeks he said it would run with no defined end date. The long periods of separation were putting a strain on our marriage; I still have the note my young daughter wrote in crayon on a scrap of paper “Plese dont get a devors.”

I knew pulling my daughter out of school would take away much needed normalcy her school day provided her with and as the days passed and I watched the quick response of the British people as their Snowdrop Campaign successfully pushed for changes in Britain’s gun laws, my own fears began to ease.

Fast forward to 1999. Our marriage has weathered the storm (the note from my daughter had a lot to do with that) we now have a second daughter and I am considering making a move from active PTA volunteer to a full time staff position at our local elementary school. Then, late on the morning of April 20th, two boys open fire on their fellow students at Columbine High School. At the time it was the one of the worst mass killings and the worst school shooting in our history. Yet it was not until after the tragedy at Sandy Hook that lockdown drills became a routine practice in our own school district. By then I had been working as a special education teaching assistant for just over twelve years. Having started at our local elementary school right up the road from our home, the heartbreaking stories of the terror and loss of life at Sandy Hook was beyond my comprehension.

But not as incomprehensible as the complete lack of action by our legislators to take any steps to address the issues of escalating gun violence, particularly the issues surrounding civilian access to assault weapons, the arsenal which had become the firearms of choice for shooters intent on mass killing. Year after year we would go through our mandatory lockdown drills, feeling like sitting ducks, fully aware if an intruder managed to enter our building, there would be casualities. And nothing, no amount of carnage seemed enough to jolt our elected “representatives” into action, not even the terrible events in Las Vegas which left over 500 people injured and a devastating loss of 58 lives.

Nothing that is until the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, stood up, called “BS,” took to the media and the streets and said “Enough!” If our elected so called “representatives” think these kids are going away, they have seriously underestimated the tsunami about to hit them square in the ass. Because its not just the Columbine generation standing up and calling their inaction out. It’s the survivors of decades of mass shootings, the friends and families who have lost loved ones to any form of gun violence, it’s the educators like myself who have now become the front line of prevention who are standing up with them to say

E N O U G H

We speak, finally, because these courageous young people have helped us find our voice.

And anyone who knows me well, knows I’m not about to shut up anytime soon.

Walk gently on the path my friends, and remember kindness matters, it may even save a life. ( more on that in the next post)

Me too

So fellow travelers, this is a post I never thought I would find it’s voice, let alone speak openly in the stark light of day.

The “me, too” movement trending on social media seeks to shed light on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment and assault. People who have experienced it put “Me too,” as their status. Some share stories, others simply post the words. It’s growing exponentially, gaining momentum making it clear sexual intimidation, harassment and assault are so widespread it’s profoundly distressing.

And like the thousands of women and a cadre of men who have found the courage to speak up, I took a deep breath and posted “Me too,” as well.  One sleepless night of wrestling with a memory buried deep in the past convinced me I no longer wanted it festering in my psyche.  As soon as I hit “share” a geyser of emotions tossed me against the wall of reality. When I figuratively came to, I sensed a stream of words trying to be heard.  I wrote them down, sharing them here essentially as they came~

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Like sleepless hours of too many nights the memory comes again jolting to consciousness awakened by the storm of anguished cries  an unwelcome stab from scars ripped open trust betrayed blame mislaid shamed into acceptance of unspeakable submission now revealed and writhing pitifully in daylight spoken so let the fire of truth cauterize the wounds bleeding no more fists unclenched freeing hands to hold each other hearts beat loud a unified call to wholeness.

I’ve felt disconnected from myself all day, as if suffering from an emotional concussion. Gradually after taking down the stream of consciousness “poem, I found my way back to center. Writing helps me make sense of things I find otherwise incomprehensible. Given my experience did not involve violence, I am staggered by the resiliency of assault survivors. I have no answers for the plague of reprehensible behavior the “Me too” campaign has revealed.  There is only a desperate prediction this awareness must render the behavior completely beyond any level of social acceptance.

And, if nothing else, if you are one who also can say “Me too,” know this

We too stand with you.

Walk gently on the path my friends and know you do not make this journey alone.

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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Becoming Conscious

So fellow travelers,  have you ever committed to do something and afterwards realized you have no idea how you are going to pull it off?

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Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

In one of my first posts of this year, I wrote about not allowing fear and anger to cloud compassion.  Compassion fuels kindness and kindness is my chosen focus in life.

Being a rather strong willed human the gentle aura of kindness might not be the first frame of reference people associate with me.

After all, “Though she be but litte, she be fierce” * was the runner up choice for my Senior Yearbook quote. One does not hear people described as fiercely kind and compassionate.

Com~passion : communal(shared)~ strong emotions.

Passionate emotion comes easy to me, compassion has taken more focused practice. On so many levels this is why I feel the increasing weight of my choice to act from compassion, particularly because I have yet to master the art of managing anger with compassion.

In a TED talk given in 2015,  psychologist Russell Kolts describes the practice of using compassion to empower oneself to deal with the things which frighten us most about our world and ourselves. He considers compassion as a form of courage which helps us face our greatest fears and recognizes anger as a way of avoiding the things we fear most.

Anger is exhausting. Fear is debilitating. They take a tremendous toll on our spirit. Yet, how do we not feel aggravated when facing an increasingly mean-spirited wave of self centered oppression, when invoking kindness is labeled cry-baby liberalism, expressing concern for those less fortunate is equated with socialism and women speaking up for social justice are told to sit down and mind their place?

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Eye in the Winter Sky February 2017

Mindfulness– the practice of training oneself to become fully aware of the experience within each moment. What am I feeling about what my senses are taking in? What are those feelings telling me about myself?  Mindfulness allows me to acknowledge those feelings and recognize the fears and hopes within them. This process slows the impulse to react, giving me a chance to rebalance,

breathe

to BE

and by BEing I consciously choose the feeling that infuses my actions.

Anger becomes determination, fear becomes temperance, impulsive reaction is replaced by conscious action; taking action becomes easier because the weight of negative emotions has been lifted.

It’s taken a two week battle with a flu-like respiratory infection to make me fully aware of how far I had wandered from my balance point.  When a day at work required a hour of sleep to garner the energy to heat soup for dinner and a walk around the neighborhood with our dog felt like the three mile lake loop we are accustomed to hiking in warmer seasons, being flattened to such a state of simply exisiting, brought into sharp focus the cumulative effect several months of stress has taken on my body, mind and spirit.

Time to hit the reset button.

Walk gently on the path my friends for kindness matters.

*Shakespeare: Midsumer Nights Dream Act 3 scene 2. No, I did not play Hermia,  to whom the line refers; I was perhaps not surpringly cast as the mischievous pixie Peaseblossom.

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From Chaos to Hope

“Heaven has no fury like the Great Mother scorned.”                                                                                         Vera deChalambert : Kali Takes America

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Study in Ice ~ Goddess Rising 

 

So fellow travelers, my post about setting boundaries received more responses than anything I have posted in the past few months. Seems like it struck a chord.

Most of the responses reflected common experiences and concerns about the increased disrespect, anger and bullying in comments on social media. I cannot shake the suspicion there are people in power who want it this way. When we are busy squabbling and tearing each other apart we become too preoccupied to be aware of what is happening around us.

Initially, being of the “spread light not darkness” philosophy, I stayed out of the diatribe, occassionally  offering a voice of reason in threds of particular concern. I am pretty adept at making a point without aligning the statement with a specific iedology, other than my mantra that “kindness matters.” Yet as this cycle has spun out, even simple statements about kindness have generated zealous attacks from both ends of the political spectrum.

Which left me shaking my head and wondering  “WTH has happened to us?”

Then I came across an article my sister-in-law posted. It’s titled Kali takes America.  You can read the full content here.  (full disclosure, the author Vera DeChalambert is not a fan of the 45th American President and that’s not the point I wish to discuss in any commentary following this post.) Ms DeChalambert invokes the imagery of Kali, the dark goddess of chaos bringing necessary clearing before progress can continue. As a student of religious mythology I am familiar with Kali (so familiar in fact I can almost hear Kali roar “Who you callin’ Myth, little girl?”)   In one version of her story, she is said to have gained her power by repeatedly consuming and then rebirthing her husband, Shiva, the God of Destruction.

Yeah, Kali is one terrifying Entity.

I tend to take intellectual interpetations of indigenous myths with a large dose of experiential skepticism.  Diluting the visceral aspects of Eastern traditions makes them easier to integrate into white Christian culture. Yoga is about physical well being and relaxation with little reference to the sexual nature of it’s origins. Tai-Chi is a meditative practice, not a martial art. Buddhism’s violent past is essentially unknown to modern day practitioners. Diffusion makes the cultural gap significantly easier to breech at the price of losing some core piece of original essence.

Know that I am or have been a practitioner of all these disciplines; their contribution to my spiritual path and inner strength is immeasurable. In my teens when most of my friends were self medicating with drugs and alcohol, the discovery of Eastern religions kept me from spiraling into the darkness of what I now recognize as bouts of depression. Eastern wisdom and practices kept my head above water. I am nothing if not grateful for this.

Still, I wonder how prepared our modern world is for the effects of unrestrained immersion in Kali’s world and I commented as such on my sister-in-law’s post. What followed was a heartfelt, mutually respectful exchange of interpretations from different perspectives. Our mutual conclusion was one of hope for an empowered grassroots movement focused on positive progress and diversity. Yet, Vera deChalambert maintains the price required to go beyond “false light” to find “true hope” is total immersion into darkness to transmute the realities of “discrimination, hate and oppression.” Not a toe dip in the murky waters of change, total immersion which is not likely to be an easy journey. DeChalambert alludes to this when she wraps her thesis in Leonard Cohen’s chilling masterpiece “You Want it Darker,” a dire but fitting anthem when you’re invoking Kali to “reanimate a discourse of hope.”

But a month into this chaotic Bully Driven administration it’s increasingly clear we have charted a course through some dreadfully dark, rough waters and those of us who carry compassion in our hearts must stand strong not only for ourselves but for members of society who have been marginalized all their lives. We will stand in solidarity against all forces that stand against us even as we hope justice will prevail and love will sprout from the seeds sown in the darkness of these days.

Sing for us from your heavenly respite Mr. Cohen. We’ll need your words to steel our resolve.

Walk gently on the path my friends. May kindness be our guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Living with Volcanoes

So fellow travelers,  many of us feel we are living on shaky ground these days.  It’s unnerving because even if we have not yet been directly affected,  I expect the majority of my readers know someone who already has been.

For the past five days I have been working my way through waves of confusion, sadness, fear and anger.  I have pushed myself not to react from those frames of reference, even as I go through the important phases of processing those feelings. Denial only ensures our  feelings weigh us down  and now more than ever we need to travel Light as we navigate the tricky path ahead of us.

As is my way, I have sought the quiet wisdom of my favorite walking trails.  My dog Delilah has been thrilled at the additional opportunites to roust little critters from the leaf beds lining our paths. No worries,please, she is properly leashed and supervised so no woodland nymphs are injured in the course of our wanderings.


This morning I found this excellent piece by artist and writer Rachel Barlow. Her insight has pulled together some important pieces for me. (More on that in future posts) I hope my readers will find seeds for the future in her post as well.

http://rachelbarlow.com/2016/11/12/absence-of-fear/

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

 

 

 

… on ‘we’, the people

I’m with Dingle.

just ponderin'

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our flag.

More than once in my life, ‘my’ candidate has lost.

And more than once, I was ‘in’ – big time – for my candidate… was certain the country and world was at risk if he or she (well, however they self-identified) lost.

I have been in the boat of being crushed, and in disbelief, and using the phrase “But this time it REALLY matters!” and watching states threaten to secede and and and… seriously. Been there. Done that.

But it has never occurred to me to dismiss the fact that those on the other side felt just as strongly as I did.

Not once, have I felt the pull toward violence against a side that won, want to beat someone up who voted the way I did not.

And it has never occurred to me to rub a victory in an opposing voter’s face, physically hurt or intimidate…

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