Category Archives: Hope

THE CROCUS

March 30, 2020

THE GIFT IN THE DEBRIS

Despite the sun shining brightly this morning, and the orange tulips blooming on my table, I felt like the dried up lawns and dirty remnants of snow glimpsed through the windows. Everywhere lies winter’s decay, matted and brown and grey.

Despite my energy deficit, I finally talked myself into going out on the porch for the mail and to move the teddy bears into more visible positions for the children who go on neighborhood “Bear Hunts” with their parents. That’s a thing here in Duluth while we’re all home-bound.

The sun felt good. The air was moving gently. I looked out over my little front yard garden. Dead stuff, debris, a tumbled inukshuk, matted remIMG_1901ains of last fall’s final blooms. We had to put the deer fence back up last week to protect the tiny tulip tips who were waking up early, a delicacy for the deer. I noticed that they’re now an inch, some two or three above the dirt.

And then the splotch of purple caught my eye. A flower? Blooming? With snow still on the ground? A crocus!

I put on my shoes and went to investigate. Pulling the dead ornamental grasses aside, I found three crocus in various stages of bloom! I looked around at my wreck of a garden took a deep breath and went and got a rake. As I worked I noticed a robin hopping about in the grass, picking away, whether looking for food or nesting material I’m not sure. Both of us looking for new life. With each pull of the rake I found more green. I even found a dandelion growing in the middle of the Siberian Iris.

Standing there with my rake, I felt like I’d swallowed the sun!

 

FINDING THE GIFTS

March 24, 2020

SEARCHING FOR TREASURE IN THE DARKNESS

“It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
~ Mary Oliver ~

To say we live in troubling times is a bit of an understatement. The world as we’ve known it seems to be ending. I can’t help but consider that that may not be such a bad thing.

Primarily I’m hearing reports that people are maintaining their sense of humor in the face of the spreading Coronavirus, reaching out to one another with compassion, and mostly cooperating with what needs to be done to slow this modern day plague. But I’ve also heard reports that gun sales are climbing. Liquor stores are considered an essential service on par with grocery stores and the shelves are emptying. Some of us are suffering an economic crisis —  our paycheck is gone, we don’t have any savings, our small business is tanking, we can’t pay the bills, and our kids are home from school and need supervision to successfully navigate distance learning. I guess that’s why the beer is sold out.

Yep, it’s really scary. And I’m not even talking about the possibility of getting sick and possibly dying. We are trying to cope in a world we never imagined. Living in the middle of what for some is a nightmare from which they can’t wake up.

As challenging as it may be, this is a time that calls for each of us to shift our focus as best we can away from fear, away from the anger that is churned up as our bodies and minds are flooded with stress.  Fear and rage and frustration are not going to solve our problems. Certainly violence will not. But holding an energetic resonance with hope, with gratitude, with Love, all attributes of the heart, will allow the creation of peace. And in a state of peace and gratitude we will discover solutions. We will increase our compassion quotient (CQ) — our capacity to act in service even when it may not offer any immediate or visible benefit. [Key phrase: may not immediately offer a visible benefit.] There will be a benefit. Gandhi suggested that we as individuals and cultures must align our “hands, head and heart” and ultimately learn to lead with the heart. Here’s a chance to do so on a global scale.

With change comes chaos. With great change, expect great chaos. Anyone who’s deep cleaned their closets knows this. Anyone who’s built a house knows this. Any woman who has borne a child knows this. Our world is in chaos — from the political systems and indeed, all of our “systems” all the way to the suffering our Earth is experiencing. The old ways are being shaken to their core — and something new is trying to be born. The only way we can diminish the pain of moving through this time, even if only a little, is to look for the treasures hiding in this darkness. To seek the gifts that this time offers. To notice the little blessings that daily surround us and offer gratitude.

Let us discover the gifts hiding in plain sight, and bring forth treasure from this darkness.

I invite you to begin posting on your social media platforms the blessings you note, the gifts you find, the treasures you discover. Let’s create a great light to counter this darkness.

 

WE THE PEOPLE…OF NO ACCOUNT

April 28, 2018

WE ARE THE HOPE LEFT IN THE WORLD

“I had forgotten how much light there is in the world, till you gave it back to me.”   Ursula K. Le Guin,  A Wizard of EarthSea (1968)

My eyes came to a halt on the page. I closed the book upon my finger and sat, with tears trickling down my cheeks, so grateful for those who have brought light and beauty into my life the many times when I have despaired that there is any hope remaining; hope that the world might be whole again; hope that I can make any difference.

“The great and mighty go their way unchecked. All the hope left in the world is in the people of no account.”   Ursula K. Le Guin, The Finder (2001)

I went for a walk. I sat and watched the Spring-thawed creek tumble happily over the boulders and brush, freed at last from Winter’s grip. I have felt like one “of no account”. And in terms of society, I suppose I am. Of no account. I have not done anything spectacular. I am an unpublished writer. I am an unemployed teacher. I am a very quiet activist. I’m a bit of a recluse.

But again and again I have been brought back to this: That simply BEING here in the world matters. And if I am willing to allow the Light that is in me to shine, if I am willing to keep on the journey that allows my heart to be open so that Love and Grace can easily flow, unrestricted, uninhibited into and through me, radiating beyond my physical space into the world… I am nourishing life. If I take deeply to heart that words matter — that there is great power in words — that all things are created through our words — if I consciously and diligently choose words drawn from love and not from fear — I am creating life.

“You can’t hide true power. Not for long. It dies in hiding, unshared.”     Ursula K. Le Guin, The Finder (2001)

I began to scribble in my journal…

“Why do I hide? What Fear drains away the energy to act, to do that which I set out to do? Is my small act of kindness or my words on paper so insignificant that I shouldn’t bother — an insignificant drop of water? How many times over how many decades now have I heard that we are powerful… that we hold the Creator inside? That the power to create worlds lives in the cells of our bodies?

We are not, I am not without power. Love is not powerless against Fear and all that Fear spawns. What is intolerable is that I listen to the Lies and shut down; hide.”

And so I call gently to my Self… come forth again. Just Be, today. Just Be Grace.

And I call gently to you, as well. Just Be, today. Be kind. Be Grace. Be Light.

“Fear lives in the head. And courage lives in the heart. The job is to get from one to the other.”    Louise Penny, The Long Way Home

 

THE MONTH OF DEEP DARKNESS

December 10, 2017

WISHING YOU A KIND AND QUIET DECEMBER…

…She closed her letter with this wish for us. The words jumped off the screen and lodged themselves in my heart which for days had been stressed, angry, afraid, and lost. Really lost.

I have only written two or three blogs this year. A handful of journal entries. Maybe a writing exercise here and there. What writing I did was mostly focused on writing  curriculum, powerpoints and handouts for the classes and workshops I led, working with educators examining Restorative Justice in Education.

The nature of my work calls me to invite, encourage and sometimes challenge educators to engage in self-reflection and to embrace some deep changes of heart and mind. I cannot do this if I am not regularly looking at the issues in my own life that obstruct or waylay my ability to remain in a heart and mind-state of kindness,  compassion and peace. I have to live very present, releasing resistance and fear, and embrace the Courage to live honestly, and to engage in the change that our world so desperately needs.

As the months of 2017 rolled along, everything seemed to get harder. By August, I was dissolving into tears at the slightest provocation. It became more and more difficult to even read the headlines in the news, none the less the articles. Never-the-less I was scheduled to lead three significant workshops in August. One of them was for 40+ school administrators looking at the attitudes and practices of Restorative Justice in Education — why they make sense and have the ability to transform school climate.

But in September I had no contracts. No longer distracted, no longer having to put one foot in front of the other no matter what I felt like, I rapidly unraveled.

I was lost. Angry. So very, very angry. Some days I didn’t even know what I was angry about. I wanted to climb out of my own skin. I found myself envying my dear mother who just turned 90 and probably won’t have to endure this world too much longer. The darkness was so heavy, I could physically feel it squeezing my chest and churning in my stomach.

I said to my husband, “Imagine if someone was incessantly running their nails down a chalkboard and no matter what, the noise won’t stop…that is how I feel inside my skin.”

Some days were better than others.

One day I was driving my mother to her eye doctor appointment. All day I had felt like a hurricane was battering my insides. It was violent, unrelenting, loud and screaming. But on the outside, as always, I was trying to smile and be cordial and do all the right things. It was exhausting.

On my way to pick her up I’d thrown an SOS out to the Universe…and now, as we drove down the road, a Bald Eagle flew over, briefly following my car… then moving on. In the Indian world of Animal Medicine, this is significant. It indicates that our prayers are being carried to the Creator.

And nearly every day since, some help has come including the quiet kindnesses of my husband and a homeopathic remedy called Rescue Remedy for fear and anxiety! (btw, it works!)

But most of all, this lovely closing wish in a brief note:  Wishing you a kind and quiet December.  In the moment that I read it, peace flowed over me, head to toes, and then began to fill me up on the inside.

It is the darkest month of the year. And given the state of the world, and the headlines in the news each day, it feels like the darkness is so deep that whatever light exists is obscured by deep fog. Even so, everywhere I go there are bells jangling and lights and sales and crowds… And I repeat to myself my new mantra:  a KIND and QUIET (i.e. PEACE-FILLED) December).

Slowly, I feel this heaviness lifting. I offer gratitude for the Light and goodness that is shining in the Darkness. I stood by the stream that tumbles down the bluff behind my neighborhood the other day, marveling at how during this monochrome time of year the water gets to do art. The ice forming along the edges and over the rocks; amazing, beautiful art that will be different tomorrow and the day after.  I released my heavy heart and all my worry and fear and rage into the stream and let it be carried away. And the water reminded me that “resistance is indeed, futile”. That the key is allowing the flow of my life, honoring my life.

I didn’t blog this year in part because I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to be able to write what would bring joy, and courage, and strength to my readers. I wanted to write something funny.

I had so little of any of that to offer.

But now, in the darkest month of the year, during the deepest darkness we have known in this country in a very long time, I offer you this little sip of hope; this little sprinkle of joy; this small peace: please create a kind and quiet December. Do what you need to do to make it so. Maybe if we all would be kinder to ourselves, we could be kinder to our partners and to our neighbors and to the tired clerk at the store. Maybe if we took the time we need to just stand quietly under the trees, or next to the frozen stream, or looking out over the city from the hill — the screaming inside the cells of our skin would stop.

No matter what those who currently hold power do to this world, there are people to love. No one can prevent us from practicing kindness, or choosing gratitude and joy. No one except for ourselves. Myself.

Wishing you a kind and quiet December. Wishing you a year filled with kindness. And may Peace fill up the space inside your bones.

 

 

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

January 19, 2017

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD…

You know the song…

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do
They’re really saying, I love you.
I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll never know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

…Actually though, the music that surrounded me was the whisper of my skis, the happy songs of some little birds flitting about in the sunshine, and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing softly through my ear buds as I glided through the woods…

I keep stopping, just to absorb the beauty surrounding me. Perfectly pristine white snow sprinkled with sparkly glitter stretches smoothly out before me. It is marred only by the ski tracks. Sparkling and blue shadowed, it covers the floor of the woods like a frosted cake–one can only guess what lies beneath the smoothly sculpted mounds and gullies. Here and there I spot the tracks of deer and tinier creatures. A rabbit. A squirrel? Some sort of tiny mouse, his long tail marking where he scrambled.

It is quiet here. The loudest sounds are my skis and the crow singing some happy crow song. Vivaldi is light in my ears, and I glide on. I top a small hill, and as my skis carry me down, my eyes rest on the trees. The white birch, touched by the sun, are like white neon poles standing among the rest of the undressed forest of dignified charcoal greys and browns and black. Here and there small groups of green-needled pine keep watch while the others sleep. As I glide by, I breathe in their breath and I am grateful for them.

The sun and the sky are a watercolor wash of blue and buttercream. A few clouds, thinly transparent stretch across the expanse. They look like they are melting into the icy blue water of the sky.

At the overlook, I lean on my ski poles and look down on the harbor of my city and beyond to the Great Lake of Gitchi Gummi. Such a busy busy world down there with its ships and train yards, tall stacks spewing white steam marking the  industrial plants, business buildings clustered at the center of the long narrow stretch between these bluffs and the water, and houses and highways and bridges spanning the harbor–little tiny cars zipping back and forth. The sun gilds the water golden. It is another water color painting.

“Remember this,” I whisper. “What a wonderful world! It’s so beautiful–so breathtakingly, achingly beautiful! Whatever comes, remember this. Show up seeing beauty no matter where you find yourself. Make it. Create it. Show up with Love. It is all around you, all the time, just looking for a way to flow into the world. Remember this.”

LIKE A MATCH STRUCK

November 20, 2015

MORNING SONG

The Earth spins, and we turn from the stars and the deep dark of space into the grey light of dawn. I watch it come, slowly, melting the dark. There is pink now, streaks of watercolor across the dove grey sky. The songbirds are waking up. And then the sun scrapes the edge of the world and ignites the whole sky–a raging flame of orange and rose, shot through with bits of blue and violet. A flock of geese wing their way above the city, dark silhouettes against the flames. Like a match struck in a darkened room, the light flares, and then settles to its task. The flames fade as the Sun leaps over the horizon. The dove grey of dawn slowly becomes a thin, watery blue, darkening and deepening as the Sun climbs into the trees, and then sails over the rooftops of the neighborhood.

It is the fifth day of rain. Piles of storm clouds have sealed off my corner of the world. I sit at my window with my cup of tea, watching the world turn into another twilit day. But I remember; I remember when the sun scraped the edge of the world and the sky burst into flame.

 

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THE FIGHT SONG…

November 4, 2015

GRACE…

Today I have to send out my gratitude to Rachel Platten and to The Piano Guys and to my daughter Susie who sent me the link to the Piano Guys rendition of Rachel’s Fight Song.

I stood at the top of the hill in the mist, looking out over the trees into the thick soup of grey cloud. Nothing more. There was the road, the trees at its edge and then solid dirty white nothing. I live here, so I know that hidden in that tired, dirty cloud are houses and schools and businesses, roads and railway tracks, cars and trucks and buses. Beyond them, far below me is the busy harbor with ships and bridges and industry. On a day when the clouds mind their own business high above us, from this spot I can see the strip of land we call Park Point that separates the harbor from the southwestern tip of the Great Lake, Superior, Hiawatha’s Gitche Gumee, the Shining Big Sea Water. Often there are a ship or three at anchor out there, waiting for clearance to enter the harbor.

But today, all that can be seen is this grey stuffing smothering everything. A stranger in this place, or a bird happening upon this land would have no idea what lies below.

The day reflects my life. I have had a dirty grey cloud engulfing me this past month. It presses against the joy I want to feel. It silences the song that wants to rise up inside me. It fills up my brain until I find myself lost in an obsessive circle worrying over endless lists of incomplete tasks, petty offenses,  unresolved situations and their unknown outcomes that have a 50/50 chance of coming up roses or shit. And I’m worried about the shit. Some days the cloud has been so full of heavy stuff that it has wrung out crusty old garbage that I forgot to throw away and had left in some trunk in a forgotten closet of my brain.

I find myself on the good days keeping my eyes on the path in front of me, taking one step at a time, doing the next best thing to do, the good that is in front of me, offering gratitude for my ability to navigate the path through this fog.

On the bad days, I can’t shut off the steady assault of condemnation for every mistake, real and imagined, five minutes ago, five years, five lifetimes–it doesn’t matter, they’re all screaming at me. I can’t redirect the rage that bleeds from the old wounds that have opened up. Neither breathing or walking or chocolate will ease the chaos churning in my body that makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I don’t enjoy living with myself on these days…and neither does anyone else.

I have been given some answers, some guidance through the month–hours or minutes when the sun burns through a patch of the fog and reminds me that he’s still up there shining in a blue sky.

The best day was the one when I was pondering what exactly this part of me called my Soul, or my Higher Self IS–the bit that is eternal, has come from the Creator, the Source of all Life, God if you will and always returns there when completing a life cycle here on Earth. (Yes, I happen to think that living multiple lives here on the Earth, learning, growing, working, contributing, makes more sense than spending an eternity singing in a celestial choir. I’m tone deaf.) For many years when I try communicating with this part of me, this Soul of me, I imagine her as a young woman–but she doesn’t really even look like me. But, there has been for many years another image who has visited me in dreams, and come to me at other times when I’ve been searching for answers, or healing. She is a little girl who looks like I did when I was five years old–complete with short brown hair, navy blue pedal pushers and a white tee shirt. I called her, “Little Mary”. When she first started showing up, I thought this was my “inner child” that I was learning about in therapy. But, she never acted like a wounded child that I needed to take care of. Instead, she would teach me, or offer guidance. The first time she “showed up” I was in a class on chronic pain, lying on a yoga mat, being led through a breathing meditation. I had started crying softly as deep emotional pain began to rise up inside me. And suddenly I was aware of this presence–this five year old child sitting on the floor next to me. She reached out and stroked my cheek and the love I felt coursing through me was so intense, I almost couldn’t bear it.

In Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s book, The Call, she asks us what the one word is that would describe what we understand is the central, most important thing we have come to this Lifetime to learn–and then to teach. When I read that a few years ago, I knew immediately that my word is Grace. Because it is the most difficult state of being for me to allow to touch me–or to live (to learn, in other words), but also the one thing I want to BE more than anything–grace-filled, gentle, compassionate, kind. And in my work in Restorative Justice, it is what I teach.

So, on this foggy day a few weeks ago, I was meditating about what, or who, this part of me is that is my Soul, that is the real, true, core Self of me. And the image of the young woman popped into my mind…okay, yeah, sure. You again. But who ARE you? “Do you have a name”, I asked? Immediately the word Grace dropped into my mind. Right. And then she said, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace” and giggled like a little girl. I stopped right in the middle of the street I was crossing. WTF?!

My father named me Mary–after, yes, the mother of Jesus. Who it is recorded in Scripture was greeted by an Angel who said, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace!”  And then of course, there is this notion that our Soul is what fills our corporeal body and animates it. Without our Soul, our body is just dead meat. So…Mary, full of Grace was just the most clever, ridiculous pun–and I have never found puns particularly amusing. But she thought she was hilarious.

The next ray of sunshine that found its way through the fog of this storm raging through my life came a few days later when the image of my Soul, “Grace”, showed up not as the young woman, but as “Little Mary”. She had a few choice words to say to me about my needing to embrace joy, stop resisting the very gifts my Life was trying to bring me, and and as my imagination had her dressed in her usual pedal pushers, she put her hands on her hips and said, “Really?! Pedal pushers? Again?!” She ended up dressed in jeans and a raggedy red shirt and cowboy boots and had a fairy wand stuck in her back pocket. And she had long dark hair in braids. (Because I always wanted long hair in braids…and my mother wouldn’t let me.)

In some other dimension in my mind she took me to an archaeological dig in Egypt and started moving a grain of sand at a time until she uncovered a treasure. She told me, “When you finally discover a truth, a treasure, or a revelation to shed light on the mysteries or the problems in your life, you have already done more than 90% of the work. You are finished. And this is true in your life now, you have finished the hard work. Now it is time to gather the treasures and celebrate! Share them!”

But then the clouds whirled about and drove the rain and the wind and shut off the sunlight again. Sealed me off from Grace, again. If I could just get it through my head that Grace is not “out there”, but here, inside me, then it wouldn’t matter anymore if there is fog, or sunshine–storms or balmy waters. I have Grace inside me. I AM Grace.

But still, the anxiety in my guts has me writhing; the cacophony of critical and condemning voices in my head rail on into the night. The despair weighs so much it is difficult to breathe. I open my heart over and over to the flow of the stream of Light and Life, to love, to joy. I offer gratitude for the simple things. I cry. I write a little. I yell at my husband for something stupid. I want to crawl out of my skin and run away. I freak out over the bills. I slam my fist on the rocks on which I’m sitting, furious that the help I pray for isn’t showing up.

Today I stood at the top of the hill in the mist. I told myself all I can do is keep on keeping on walking the path in front or me. The part I can see. Doing what I know to do in this moment. And wait out the storm.

I came home and watched the music video by The Piano Guys–their rendition of Rachel Platten’s Fight Song which they wove together with John Newton’s Amazing Grace. Of this project they wrote:

We all struggle. …to make the most of our lives. To take what we’ve been given and turn it into something better… But to do so seldom is simple and more often requires we fight. Not against each other. But against the current threatening to drown the ambition in us. There is tremendous purpose in struggle. From our youth we’ve been taught that when faced with insurmountable, unthinkable odds, we cheerfully do all that lies within our power, and then stand still with the utmost assurance to let fate, destiny, karma, or to let God do the rest. …the closer we get to the furnace of the affliction the more our obstinance and pride burns off revealing the best way to win a fight in ourselves is to let Grace fight the battle instead. There are those that have been through so many defining moments that they are intimately acquainted with Grace and know Her to be close cousins with Hope. They know that when they can’t fully understand the purpose of a struggle, they instead recognize that knowing there is a purpose is enough.

My Soul has a sense of humor. Grace, indeed.

Rachel Platten’s Fight Song...

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me