Category Archives: Uncategorized

GIFTS FROM GAIA

April 21, 2020

STOP, LOOK, LISTEN

What I learned from the Iris:

The steel grey sky pressed down heavily. There has been no rain. The snow has disappeared except for blackened remnants of icy mountains in the northern corners of parking lots and a few icy patches hidden in pine groves. The world is brown and dirty and unkempt.

I bought an armful of iris. Their buds shut up tight, waiting for the gentle caress of sunbeams and a drink of water.

The sun has come and the iron clouds have flown. Golden light is pouring through my windows. It bathes my purple iris. The buds are swelling, a few peeking open. One beginning to unfurl. By afternoon another has broken open fully, showing the streaks of sunlight woven into her purple petals. My heart hears her song, just beyond hearing.

Then, my iris just, stopped. Day two, day three — I watch them slowly wither. They died, unopened. Their beauty hidden, never shared. Were they afraid? Was it too overwhelming to split their protective shield and expose themselves to the wide-open world? Is the world too scary?

They withheld their one small gift to the world. Perhaps they thought it didn’t matter. Perhaps they thought their gift was insignificant, too small, unworthy.

They didn’t understand that withholding their gift meant some winter weary person never experienced a smile curving upward to ignite even briefly a sparkle in her eye and a lightening of his heart. They didn’t understand that a tiny insect was denied a sip of needed nectar.

All they had to do was unfold. All they needed was to BE… to open to who they were intended to become.

What I learned from the Trees:

“Find your place, accept it with grace. Grow roots before you grow branches. Give shelter, shade and nourishment to those who seek your protection. And in your passing, leave the earth richer for those who follow.”   Kent Nerburn — Road Angels / Avenue of the Giants

I walked among the trees today. I touched their skin. I picked a Pine needle and broke it and breathed it’s perfume. A stand of Birch commanded the steep and rocky river bank. I grasped the strong sapling as I carefully navigated my descent to the river. I sat on a shelf of rock under a large Cedar and watched the river roar by, carrying the last of the winter melt.

I remember the Grandmother (Oak? Maple? Cottonwood?) that grew along a pathway near a river in a different time and place. I used to sit in the niche between two of her huge roots that protruded from the earth and rest my back against her trunk. Here I would seek comfort, peace, wisdom. Sometimes in the deep dark of night. One morning following a viscous storm that had riven the night skies, I found her fallen. Her body lay across the path. Men came with chain saws and took her away. I felt her absence. I missed her.

Slowly my body fills with peace. I head home full of earth and rock and trees and rushing water.

THE TEDDY BEAR’S PICNIC

April 13, 2020

THE TEDDY BEAR’S PICNIC DURING COVID-19

If you go down in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise!
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today’s the day the Teddy Bears
Have their picnic…

“Mr. Flynn, do you know why we’ve been stuck out here in this freezin’ cold?”

“I don’t, Little Boo. It is a bit frigid compared to our warm quarters inside.”

“I’m scared out here. ‘Specially when it gets dark and  creatures come investigatin’!”

“Oh, but have you noticed the stars? And the great large moon? I like watching them. They do this slow kind of dance as they glide slowly down the dark.”

“Of course YOU would, Billy. Yer always lookin’ at the bright side of things. Don’t mean there ain’t a dark side!”

“But Little Boo, Billy, makes a good point. When have we ever gotten to be in the great out-of-doors? What amazing things we’ve seen stationed out here. The melting of the snows. The rain streaming down. The flowers suddenly appearing in the garden below us.”

“But, Mr. Flynn, there’s been dogs! And big horsey things sniffin’ ’round the fences!”

“Boo, those horsey things are called deer.”

“How do you know, Billy?!”

“Don’t you pay attention to anything? That’s why the folks put up the fence. To keep the deer from eating all those little flowers that started appearing!”

“Billy’s correct. And deer only eat plants. So you’ve nothing to fear young Boo.”

“But, Mr. Flynn, dogs love to chew on little bears like us!”

“So they do. But, have you not noticed that they are tied to a person when they walk by?”

“And anyway, Boo, we have an important mission being out here! Maybe you should pay more attention to it!”

“What’s that, Billy?”

“We’re here for the children when they walk by. To wave at them and send them a happy blessing!”

“Really? Is that so Mr. Flynn?”

“It is indeed, Boo. And we can send that happy blessing because of the happy blessings we are enjoying.”

“Wow. I suppose yer right. I mean, I was livin’ in a closet. And now I’m gettin’ to feel the wind in my fur. The mailman smiles at me when he comes by. I’ve watched the flowers bloomin’. The birds sing to us. I like watching them fly up into the sky. I wonder what that would feel like–to fly way up high above the trees and the houses and look down?”

“That’s right, Boo. And don’t forget the smell of the rain. The color of the sky when the sun slips down behind the bluff. The twinkling of the stars as they appear, The moon sailing down the sky, following the path of the sun.”

“I love being an outdoor bear. I feel bad for Sally Jo who’s still inside.”

“Well, she at least gets to sit in the window, Billy. She can see some of this.”

“Oh, look sharp, boys. Molly and her Mom are coming down the street.

************

“Mommy! Look! The Bears are still there! The big brown one is sitting on top of the rocks, now. The little black one is on the railing!”

“I see them, Molly. Where’s the little brown one?”

“He’s hanging on the mailbox!”

“Oh, Molly, look! There’s a Bear upstairs too! The Mailman Bear in the window!”

“I see him, Mommy. And look, the curly one is in the window in the front. She’s like our cat Sammy. She likes to sit in the windows and watch everything.”

*****************

There’s a National Bear Hunt happening! Join in the fun!

We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared…

 

 

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.

 

LOVE: THE BREATH OF LIFE

March 9, 2020

WE ALL NEED TO START BREATHING

“It’s the type of love that says ‘I believe in you.’ It’s the type of love that says, ‘You don’t have to be like this.’ Not the love that’s like ‘I just want to hug you.’ It’s the love that’s like, ‘You’re going to be better! And I’m going to stand here until you get better. I’m not going anywhere. That’s how much I love you. I’m not going on to buses. I’m not going to lunch. I’m not. I’m going to stand here and wait for you to do better and be better because I love you.'”     Mauri Melander Friestleben — about loving students

Love them first. This was the directive at Lucy Laney at Cleveland Park Community School in North Minneapolis under Ms. Friestleben’s leadership. “What if we all did that?” she asks us in the Kare11 documentary Love Them First.

And I ask the same question.  Whether we are their teachers and educators, their care-givers, their probation officers, the police driving through a neighborhood full of youngsters who live in homemade war zones, what if our first response to children and youth was to breathe deeply and love them first?

How would we need to “see” these young ones regardless of their exterior behaviors?

How would we need to view ourselves in order not to have their negative or disrespectful behaviors trigger our self-defense system?

I have been providing support services to several teachers in some notoriously dis-regulated third grade classrooms. The goal is to re-create the environments of these classrooms into healthy, thriving learning environments. I have been teaching the teachers the necessity of shifting their culturally inherited punitive mindset to a mind that is set on always honoring the dignity and value of each child. I teach that while we must hold firmly to the expectations and boundaries that  provide the structure in which we can all be together in a good way, we must also support and nurture our students at all times. That means we support them in taking responsibility and making amends for harm they have caused as well as supporting them through their very real crisis and stresses.

It always sounds so good in theory. The teachers never disagree with me. But then, here I am in this third grade classroom early on a Monday morning to facilitate a discussion Circle with the students. After 15 minutes and three attempts to get them to come and sit down quietly in Circle, we finally succeeded and were able to begin. They did well listening to each other without interruption or side-comments or total disregard for what was happening for about 10 minutes. Then it slowly began to unravel so I cut to the end and closed the Circle.

I watched how the teacher, who is young and only a few years into her career, handled the constant inattention and commotion. She uses affirmations, encouragements, call & response, all good things to settle them, redirect them, provide positive affirmation to those who are trying to pay attention and learn. I also see that she is stressed. I am surprised that she hasn’t just blown up!

But I also noticed that there did not seem to be an emotional connection between the teacher and the students. It seems on the surface that she is regarded as just another tiresome adult who they have to endure. Across the city at another school with another equally chaotic third grade, I sense a similar attitude.

I’ve sat with a Circle of teachers who have actually cried because they are so stressed and unhappy and finding it impossible to “reach” these children, none-the-less teach them.

So how does someone like Ms. Friesleben inspire an entire staff to so thoroughly love their students that it transforms an entire school? How is their love different? How come they are effective and the classes I’m observing never seem to be out of chaos for more than a few moments at a time?

I believe it begins with us. Do we love ourselves? Do we see the light within us? Are we gentle and compassionate with ourselves, while also holding ourselves accountable to make right any mistakes we’ve made or harm that we have caused? In other words, are we doing our own work so that we are able to receive love, and allow love to flow through us to others? “Love your neighbor (others) as yourself” is a tenet of most spiritual traditions/practices. So, it begs the question, how can we fully and freely love another if we don’t love ourselves? How can our self-defenses not be triggered when we are treated disrespectfully if we have not done this work within us?

And then, can we truly see the divine light within each of our students? Do we look deeply into them and see what they’re not saying? Do we believe in them? I mean, not just cliches we might parrot — but really believe in their inherent worth and goodness, in their potential?

Something else that Ms. Friesleben says:

“There is a level of investment that comes at a cost. Because when you choose to press into that, you do get great outcomes from kids, you do. But [to do that] you also [must] choose to press into the pain. And for some people it’s too much. But it’s worth the cost because the return on your investment is pretty powerful.”

They are worth the cost. So, let’s all take some deep breaths and remember that even as we are surrounded by the air we breathe… we are surrounded by Love. It is the Breath of Life — the breath of the Universe, the breath of the Creator. It’s the type of love that says, I believe in you. It’s the type of love that says you are worthy of love, you are valuable, and you have something important to give to the world.

“No child should feel locked into a box that they can’t fight their way out of. It is our job as grown ups to find the keys and open them up and open the box and say “Fly!” “Breathe!” “Live!” “You will NOT be confined to a box. Not on MY watch!” Mauri Melander Friestleben

LIGHT AND WATER WALTZING

March 2, 2020

MOMMA IS DANCING

My mother once told me as we stood on a bridge overlooking a creek, “After I die and you see the sunlight dancing on the water, think of me. I will be in those sparkles. I will be part of the Light.”

My mother always loved to dance. I wish my father had taken her more often. When she lived alone she would put on a rousing piece of music and dance around her house. It was her exercise. Now, whenever I drive her somewhere I have classical music on. If it is upbeat and cheery she will wave her arms as though she is dancing or maybe conducting the orchestra. A big smile on her face, she will exclaim with childlike wonder about everything she sees.

In November I noticed an advertisement at the library for a dance class for folks with Parkinson’s or other disorders affecting mobility. I took her to one. She was in a terrible mood when I picked her up. But a few minutes into class she was smiling and doing her best to follow along with a dozen other people sitting in a Circle doing an odd mixture of ballet and movements to support brain pathways. Dancing in chairs!

Momma needs all the brain support she can get. She suffers from vascular dementia. She was only able to attend the class twice as she began to rapidly decline from Stage 5 into Stage 6 of her illness making it much more difficult for her to process information and also for her brain to direct her body what to do. Only six weeks later she is stumbling now and then into Stage 7, the final stage of this disease that devours a brain.

Occasionally she will cling to me… “I’m going to lose you!” she says.

“No, Momma. You won’t lose me. I’m here. I’ll always be here.”

Her eyes pleading, she shakes her head. “You will lose me. I’m, I’m, I think I’m slipping away.”

She’s right. We are losing Momma a brain cell at a time.

The other day I sat on her bed holding her hand after a severe episode had left her exhausted and sleeping. Whatever bitterness and disappointment still lingered in the holes and scars in my heart because of who my mother was not, because of what she was unable to do or give, because of what she didn’t know…quietly dissipated like shreds of fog succumbing to the Sun.

She was Enough. She is Enough. I gaze at her withered and ruined body in which she holds Divine and Sacred Light. Her body is a vessel meant to be filled up with Love. Mine too. All of us. Our bodies are vessels meant to hold Love and Light. She did her best to do so in the ways that she understood.

She did her best.

And soon, Momma, you will be that Light I see waltzing with the water in the bay.

UNDECIDED

February 24, 2020

TO DO OR NOT TO DO…

I read somewhere that this is to be the Year of Clarity. Usually the events of my life provide my own naming of the year — sometimes as prelude, sometimes as epilogue. But whomever floated this one out there for us — having a year of clarity for our nation, as well as for many of us in our individual lives is a welcome thought. I could use some clarity about a good many things; welcome rays of sunshine burning through my mind-fog even as the late winter sun is melting down the heaped up snowbanks.

Juxtapose this with Lake Superior Writers 2020 Writing Contest theme — Undecided. The first time I read the theme title I thought, well, I could write a piece titled To Keep or Not to Keep a Husband — Undecided. But since then he and I have had a month of counseling and some amazing dialogues and I can feel our hearts healing and so, well, I guess that title’s out because it appears I will be keeping him.

I’ve been casting about trying to hook a new title: To cheat or not to cheat on my diet; work on my book or clean the basement; repair the garden pond or fill it with dirt; repair the car the deer broke or give it to the insurance company; sign up for medicare or ignore them… Ahh, that one took the bait. I’ll reel it in, try that one out.

Medicare. I think it is a bloodsucking parasite masquerading as a good Samaritan. We’ve given them a percentage of our salaries for decades so that we would be taken care of in our retirement. We also paid a hefty percentage of our salaries for  health care insurance, whether we needed it or not. Whether we used it or not. And if we did, we had to pay more money for the privilege, especially if anything was actually wrong with us that cost a pile of pennies.

I just turned 65, whether I wanted to or not. And because I did, I now have to sign up for Medicare, whether I want to or not. I get the hospitalization part for free, except there is a deductible if I actually do go to the hospital. And, I have to stay there for a few days because I’m really sick or severely injured. If it’s just for observation, that doesn’t count even though the hospital charges just as much for either. Medicare won’t pay anything for “observation”. But, hey, it’s free because I paid them all that money for the past 49 years.

But then there’s this thing called Medicare Part B. I can sign up now for $144 a month. It will cover most of what any of my medical doctor visits cost — clinic visits, urgent care, medical exams. But, again, there are deductibles and co-pays just like my regular insurance. And a list of things they won’t cover. However, IF I continue to keep my current medical insurance plan, or get some other supplemental insurance plan which will probably cost me between $170 and $200+ a month, well THEN I’m covered completely. They will scratch each other’s backs and cover me — no deductibles, no co-pays. Of course, there will still be some things nobody will cover, and there will be rules about where I go and who I see and how many times a year. And of course, neither of them cover vision or dental or hearing — three things that typically are a big deal as we age even if the rest of our body is radiant and fit. I suppose that’s why they won’t cover them.

I went to the doctor twice last year. Once because of pain in my thumb that I was concerned was a fracture but turned out to be arthritis. The second time was my annual exam that I hadn’t had since 2016. They said I’m healthy and fit as a fiddle except for some osteoporosis in my hip. So, I’m now spending money on supplements to get more of the calcium and magnesium and Vitamin B and D that I need.  Of course my insurance won’t cover this.

The year before I didn’t go to the doctor at all.

The year prior to that I had a stroke and needed a device placed in my heart to block a tiny hole that was letting small blood clots through causing havoc in my brain. I was glad I had insurance but it still cost me several thousand out-of-pocket.

Most health care I seek out is alternative and so my insurance pays very little or nothing. I will continue to do so. So the insurance is really only there in case another flying deer tries to dance with my car, or I slip on some black ice at the top of the steps at city hall and end up in a broken heap at the bottom or I fall off my daughter’s horse and break my thin-boned osteo hip. So, I don’t want Medicare’s $144 a month Plan B. That’s $1728 per year. Last year it cost folks $135 a month. What will they raise it to next year? For my husband and I together that is $3456 a year in addition to what we currently pay for insurance which is roughly $5000 a year. We don’t have this kind of money. We both grew up middle class, but our current income rates at the poverty level.

So, simple, just say No. Right? Right??

Wrong. I mean, yes, I can say no. But then if I decide at some future date that I want to join up, they will punish me for not having signed up when I turned 65 and handed over my nearly $2000 a year. They will charge me an additional 10% of whatever the going rate is by that time for every year that I rejected them. So, if I decide at age 70, when I also sign up finally for my Social Security benefit of less than two grand a month, then I will have to pay an additional 50% of whatever the going rate is. If by some miracle it were still $144 a month, I’d have to pay $216 a month or $2592 a year. In addition to my supplemental insurance. Because unless I have both, I’ll also be paying deductibles and co-pays.

I could just walk away. Keep the health insurance I have. Pay my deductibles and co-pays like I always have. And hope I keep body and soul together until I’ve had enough and decide to leave this crazy, cracked, beautiful, wonderful world. I mean, if nothing goes wrong, I’ll save me a lot of money. Might even get out of debt and be able to go ride horses in the mountains or sail up the Alaskan Intercoastal Passage looking for whales. Or buy a RV and live the life of a vagabond.

I don’t know what to do.

I’m undecided.