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


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


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.

Forest Zen

So fellow travelers, this morning’s moment of zen brought this view

and these words

Under the canopy
bathed in forest healing
wisdom of the ages
sinks in and heals my heart

While doing Qi Quong to stretch out the inevitable stiffness which goes with sleeping in a tent, I looked up . Much like the moment, two years ago (almost to the day) in Joshua Tree National Park, I felt a wave of energy. The closest I can come to describing it is to say the energy lifted my consciousness into a more Universal level.

This has been happening more frequently so either I am spiritually evolving or I am losing my mind. Come to think of it the later maybe an essential component of the former.

In my early years as a Seeker one important lesson I learned was these transcendent moments find you when you are ready. The harder you try to recreate them the more elusive they become.

Still, I did come camping here at a favorite forest retreat with the intention of re-calibrating my energy. Honestly, the past three months have felt more like three years~ nothing like a pandemic and social revolution to rev up emotional intensity. So the transcendent infusion of Unity, Peace Hope and Love are gratefully received and, Grace willing, passed along to those who are well met on the path today.

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

Editor’s note: This post was created June 30th, but cell service on site was not sufficient to upload and edit photos, so it’s posting a few days after.

Balance Point

So fellow travelers, today is the equinox (autumnal for northern hemisphere and spring/vernal for southern hemisphere travelers)

I greeted the semi annual balance point of day and night hours from a different vantage point this year. A high desert sunrise more than makes up for anything it lacks in colorful foliage.

My time here has become an annual tradition. A gathering of spiritual explorers in a sacred space. We come to renew our connection to each other and to the Light and Peace within us.

On my last walk from the Zen Garden to breakfast I heard the signature hum of tiny wings and spotted a bright Anna’s hummingbird darting in and out as it drank from a fountain . A different offering of color for this change of seasons.

Winged gem dancing
with bubbling healing waters
harbinger of joy

A bright reminder to live from joy and yes, to stay hydrated.

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

Morning Glow

So fellow travelers, this morning Delilah and I headed out to walk just after sunrise to beat the heat.

Dew drenched grass sparkled in the early light. Cool, moderately humid air felt reminiscent of morning walks in my older daughter’s neighborhood.  Their house is located near the foot of Powell Butte (Portland, OR) so the air is blessed by mist which descends every night from the forest above. 

Early light has a radiant quality, hard to capture but oh so wondrous to behold, giving rise to some gentle words of gratitude 

Geraniums glow

Morning dew blesses the grass 

Birds sing hymns of joy

In the midst of diligent attention to the many details involved in coordinating a wedding for two very dear friends, this moment comes as a gentle reminder. The gift of peace can be found in the simplest things.

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

Winter in Whiskey Hollow

So fellow travelers, the transition from Autumn to Winter has been grey, damp and chilly here in Central New York.

Slight differences in temperatures determine whether it’s raining or snowing . Thick mats of wet leaves create slick patches almost as treacherous as ice. The sun is obscured by dense clouds for days at a time; even the briefest of appearances is cause for celebration.

Quick look ! Do you see what we see?

Delilah and I spy the distant glow of sunshine far down the road we walk almost everyday in our neighborhood.

In the midst of gloom I received some heartening news; I’ve had to reset some hoped for plans lately, so I am going to hold this one close to my heart until it is more certain to unfold.

Meanwhile I opted for a mental health day, which initially included plans to finish Christmas shopping. This era of online purchases with direct recipient shipping is easier but lacks the personal touch which I try to bring to the gifts I give. There’s a simple joy in scouting craft shows and small shops to find the right something for each person on my list.

When the day dawned bright and clear I shifted gears to allow for a visit to a favorite birding spot.

Upon arriving , I remembered why it’s a not a frequent stop on my winter walking destinations. Early snow already covers the minimally maintained roadway; eventually it will become impassable until spring.

For now I was granted passage through and I drovecarefully along the winding road marveling at the transformation winter has made.

The little brook still babbles free and blissful it has not frozen over yet

Everything has become something new unto itself, familiar and yet not, a reflection of the path I am trying to navigate right now. I think I can see the way forward and yet, a sudden change leaves me on less certain footing.

Tracks in the snow leading to the little pond

Wrapped in the deep silence of these favorite woods blanketed in snow, lost in thought the bright chirping of a chickadee called me back.

High on a pine branch
One bird sits and sings alone
Joy cascades like snow

A simple, familiar reminder. Stop, look, listen.

What we seek is closer than we think.

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

As the Crow Flies

So fellow travelers,  the other morning, while refilling the bird feeders in my yard, I heard crows calling back and forth from the tall pine trees in a neighbor’s yard. The raucous uproar was probably an alert that breakfast was being served. The sound immediately brought me back to the residential neighborhood where my family resided during the years they lived in Tokyo.

 

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I spent several months there after I graduated from college and the crows which lived through out the city were an iconic pervasive presence. I could not set foot outside the house without setting off a cacophony of ominous calls. Annoying as that was back then, this is now one of my favorite sounds.  It creates a cascade of memories, all of them rich with emotions.

Crows call suddenly

I ‘m transported back in time

Tokyo dreaming

 

 

I dream often of returning to the land where I was born, a place which has always felt like home but never actually been my home, at least not yet.

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

 

 

The Crow Who Came to Dinner

So fellow travelers, our first day of events came to a close with a marvelous dinner and concert by the band at an open air venue by the beach.

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Sitting around the tables, hearing the stories of how people first found Switchfoot’s inspiring music, what song was their favorite and why, where they came from and how they came to be at this event – so many connections made, fans becoming friends and family.

Switchfoot is a faith based band with the rare ability to express their beliefs inclusively. They have been criticized by so-called christian groups for not being more outspoken in their music; in some areas of the country fundamentalist christian protestors demonstrate outside the venues when they perform. Jon usually goes over to talk with them, to engage in a dialogue about love, acceptance and being defined by the compassion (or the lack thereof) in our actions and how we live our lives.

People who know me, or who have been following my thinking out loud here know I am more likely to seek wisdom and grace on a hike than by sitting in a church pew. I am more a follower of the Way than the Word. As I reflected a few posts back, if I have to identify as a believer in something, I say I believe that Light and grace and healing are found on many paths and no one teaching has the answer for every person.

To be immersed in a faith based community for five days of close interactions and feel completely at home with being myself, with sharing our stories of struggles, losses and hopes, to feel accepted without judgment is a rare experience. No one proselytized, no one questioned my beliefs or tried to impose theirs. It is a measure of the genuinely accepting spirit these talented musicians and their support team truly embody.

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During the dinner, we had an unexpected visitor at our table, when a large black crow landed on one of our tablemates. The bird literally seemed to fall out of the sky and just crash onto her. Jessica screamed in panic because it turns out she is petrified of birds. While the people on that side of the table helped her, I turned my attention to the crow, which had taken shelter under our table. It appeared stressed and possibly injured, as it hopped around with one wing askew. We did our best to gently encourage the bird to move away from our terrified tablemate, eventually we were able to guide it towards open space where other people helped it reach some bushes near the trees. Reassuring Jessica that the bird had moved away from our table helped her calm down. She told us she has no idea why they scare her so much, there is no specific reason, no point of trauma to explain it; birds just scare her into a panic. Naturally this incident wasn’t helping to ease her fears. I watched with great concern for both Jessica and the crow, until that bird gradually got to higher trees where it sat vocalizing as if laughing at us.

Ah! zen moment!

A message of how the things we fear will find us and confront us and challenge us to face them.

When I saw Jessica the next day and checked in with her, she said she felt a little shaken still, but was ok. She even laughed a little at how, of all people, this bird had to land on the one dinner guest with an intense fear of birds. From the moment comes this haiku.

 

Fear is like a bird

Crash landing when least welcome

Taking flight when faced

 

 

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

Photos courtesy of Switchfoot Getaway staff.

Crow image from stock photos and sketched in photo editor.