Can You Breathe?

My first thought when I got up today was, “It is a perfect morning for a long walk,” and indeed it is. Sunny, low humidity, with just enough of a breeze to ward off the bugs. Judging from the cheerful chorus which greeted me as Delilah and I headed outside, my backyard residents agree. Delilah scurried forward nose to the ground, tracking the “critter news of the day.” 

Watching a distant heron float across the brilliant blue sky, waves of pure joy ran through me, grateful for the simple joy of breathing fresh air. Breathing deeply now comes with a sharp awareness that this gift of breath has been taken from too many – taken by a killer virus in a pandemic that still frames our current reality.

Then, as we turned the corner, the sharp smell of smoke wafted from the remnant of a bonfire. My neighbors who live at that end of the street tell me the new owners are clearing the lot to eventually build a house. Right now the lot looks more like a war zone than a peaceful homestead and my heart ached again remembering that humanity is engaged in a battle with more than one killer virus- both of which unjustly deny our fellow humans of their right to the simple gift of life. These words were born of that grief.

Broken windows ask
Open the doors to your soul
Hear the cries of pain

More to come~

Walk gently on the path my friends and Light the way for others to follow.

Photo note: the black and white photo is NOT from the lot currently being cleared. It is a house which suffered a major fire back in February- there is no sign of that lot being cleared anytime soon.

Actions Speak Louder

 So fellow travelers, in light of recent events, I held off publishing the last post I wrote, choosing instead to immerse myself in coming to a better understanding of what the voices speaking out need me to do.
The process left me with what fellow writer, mentor and friend Tom Atkins refers to as an emotional hangover from the anger which rose within me. I am tired, but surely not as tired as the families of too many black men, women and youths lost to senseless racist fueled violence. After a day of rest and much needed time on a newly reopened walking trail, I realized to move forward I need to start where this new path begins:

June 1, 2020
This morning,  I woke up to a new life experience.  

My first thought  was:
“What day of the week is it?”
I am sure many of you whose routines have been upended by the pandemic can relate to the experience. When you don’t get up and go anywhere for days on end it is a challenge to keep track of the days, because everyday is the same.
And if you, like some of my friends, are one of the many working on the front lines, you too lose track of time, in a far more desperate way while battling to save lives or keep essential services running. “Thank you,” seems barely enough acknowledgement for that.
So, I clicked through my “what did I do yesterday” prompts all the way back to “Ah, we had our Sunday call with  Mom and Dad, so today is Monday.” My next thought was “ Hey even though it is Monday, I do not have to “go” to work today- because I am R E T I R E D!”
“How does it feel to be retired?” people have been asking me.
Well, to use a common point of reference, it feels like the first day of vacation, filled with joyful anticipation with one key exception-
—there is no pre-set end date 
———— there is no pressure to “fit in” all the things I want or need to do now
It feels like the freedom I yearned and worked for through so many decades is finally mine.

——————————————————————————————————-

At this point, my original post included a haiku about that glorious sense of freedom and the instant I signed in online to access my blog page, the entire post felt completely and utterly void of significance. The recognition that a revolution, fueled by the senseless murder of George Floyd was gaining global momentum superseded any relevance my personal sense of freedom might hold.
I hit “pause” on this post, along with any adventure plans, and got down to figuring out how I can make a difference and turn intention into true change. Because as I affirmed in my Memorial Day post, my own freedom means nothing if it is not equally available to all my friends.

After a week immersed in the dialogue of outrage and calls for reform, I at least know this:
I do not profess to have the answers or even to have the right words to offer yet. I understand this is a time for me to listen to my friends and the black community; it is not a time to speak over those voices which need to be heard right now. I also believe silence implies complicity, whether intentional or not. So, if silence is not an option, clearly it is time my actions spoke louder than my words.  
My Words:

Unless we speak love
Hatred will destroy us then
Freedom means nothing

My Action:

Walk mindfully on the path my friends, may Love find you ready.

On Freedom, Honor and Birds

So fellow travelers, until 1970 the traditional date of Memorial Day was May 30th and until this year, our tradition steeped village continued to celebrate Memorial Day on May 30th,

Yep, regardless of what day of the week it fell on or what weather Mother Nature might throw at us, on said day, the village of Baldwinsville, NY staged a parade along the flag decked “four corners” route, across the steel bridge by one of the still operating Erie Canal locks and out past the town cemetery along the Seneca River. And every year, the stream of first responders, dignitaries, veterans and local celebrities (some from as far away as the Big City of Syracuse NY) were cheered on by the loyal residents of our district who lined the streets with their lawn chairs, kids, dogs and an occasional leashed kitty.

I will confess until I became a Marching Band Mom, I was one of the residents who stayed home to avoid the gridlock of closed streets. But there was no way I would miss the chance to catch this view of the kids who would one day also march in the Macy’s Day Parade

Favorite Youngest Daughter on the bells Memorial Day Parade 2014

So, as I mentioned, the “this is how we have always done it” tradition of a May 30th Memorial Day parade continued until this year when the Pandemic of 2020 cancelled, well pretty much everything we “have always done.” Still, parade or not, our little village is lined with flags and hanging baskets of red, white and blue flowers to honor the servicemen and women who gave their lives in the name of freedom.

Freedom right now is a much debated topic: the dialogue about how to reopen areas which closed down to slow the spread of Covid19 has become quite heated. Fueled by trolls and bots whose sole purpose is to derail any progress towards productive discourse, the terrible tendency to revert to divisive language is disheartening and disturbing to me. Navigating “virtual school” already pushed my blood pressure higher than normal; it has been necessary to “unfollow” or, in a few extreme cases, “unfriend” folks on social media.

Understand I am choosing to eliminate rude ignorance and disrespectful bullying which shows up in my media feed, not avoid challenging issues. I am willing to have a civil dialogue about difficult issues like public safety vs government overreach, anti-vaxers, conspiracy theories or global warming and the effects of climate change.

Once again current events have brought the menacing immorality of racism to the forefront in ways which, frankly, I am damn tired of seeing our society tolerate. The veterans whose lives we honor every year on Memorial Day did not give their lives for the freedoms of some Americans- they gave their lives to uphold and defend the rights of ALL Americans- every single one of them. So I sat down this morning to try and write about this, sensing I might struggle to find the right balance of reason and indignation to write words which could make a difference.

Turns out I did not need to struggle, because my friend Jennifer Bowman wrote a powerful blog post which cut right to the focal point of why Christian Cooper’s experience while simply birding in Central Park even happened. I hope everyone of my followers reads it and takes to heart the insights Jen so brilliantly brings to this issue.

https://jenniferkbowman.wordpress.com/2020/05/29/birding-race-and-the-freedom-to-enjoy-nature/

Walk bravely on the walk my friends, the journey is about to talk us where none of us have ever gone before.

Guest Post from Tom Atkins Poem: Murder is Slow — Quarry House

Murder is Slow A black man dies on a city street, the policeman’s knee on his neck, breath, life taken from him. There are riots. Of course there are. A people ignored too long will erupt sooner or later. A people not heard too long with erupt sooner or later. This is a truth we […]

Poem: Murder is Slow — Quarry House