August 15, 2021
I’m sitting at a music festival and Sara Thomsen, a much loved local musician here in Duluth, is singing. I’m relaxed. I’m enjoying myself when she begins a new song…
Ay, what to sing about in these days? What rhyme or melody, turn of phrase? What is your story now, where is your gaze? Ay, what to sing about in these days.
For a moment I stop breathing. I sit up straighter, and feel tears rushing up from somewhere deep inside me, stinging my eyes, begging release. My ears hear the word ‘sing’. But my heart hears the word, ‘write’.
Towers are tumbling, tumbling down Fortresses fumbling, crumbling crowns Governments grumbling, as they drown Towers are tumbling, tumbling down.
Indeed, what to write about in these days? Again and again I have deleted, or left unfinished what I’ve tried to share with you. Somewhere in the cyberspace there exists a wastebasket full of crumpled up sheets of paper. My heart is full, but my voice — it has retreated.
Plant your song like a seed Hold your heart like a prayer bead Give your breath like a tree Set your soul's deep love free.
A tree gives her breath without hesitation or fear. She must. For her to live, she must breathe — and in doing so, she breathes life into our world. Our breath connects us to one another and if it is Love that holds the Universe together, then perhaps Love is an integral component of what we are breathing in and out, moment by moment.
Breathe it in, she sang. Let it fill your heart. Hold your heart close. Then breathe it out. Set it free, this Love that lives deep within your soul.
I know a woman who walks and prays Follows the river's old rambling ways Eagle flies over and butterflies play Watching the warrior walk and pray What is your story now, where is your heart? This is a one-act play, what's your part? In every ending there's some new start What is your story now, where is your heart?
I know my part in this story we are creating and living out together. What to sing about in these days? What to write about? Write from my soul’s deep love.
I love this hurting, cracked, and beautiful world. I sat beside the sea last week and breathed the sun drenched air. Watched the seagulls play, dipping, diving, coasting. There were little purple flowers blooming, growing in the clefts of the ledge rock piled on the shore. The sky was blue, fading slightly in the late afternoon, introducing shades of lavender and rose. A happy dog was paddling about, fetching sticks from the waves. A couple were exchanging wedding vows under a tree, cameras clicking, preserving these joy-filled moments. Juice ran over my hand and trickled down my arm from the peach I was eating. The waves kept time to the heartbeat of the earth and I waded in and swam — clear, velvety liquid sliding over my arms, enveloping my body.
There is a darkness in the land. It has brought unspeakable suffering, and stolen our innocence. We aren’t certain anymore what the world is made of or how it works. Fear is throwing parties — EVERYONE WELCOME! He’s drunk on the confusion and the conflict he’s incited. The successful dividing of families and friends has him cranking up his dissonant music and dancing in the dark.
In the fog of chaos it’s difficult to discern the truth, to see clearly, sometimes even to think. Accustomed to trusting the experts, we very badly want to believe them and their mouthpieces and the promises the rulers make if we will just do as they bid us to do.
But the experts don’t agree. Across the world they don’t agree. There is suppression and censorship. But we cannot believe that would happen in the free world so we comfort ourselves with the idea that those who disagree with the mainstream narrative have “drunk the koolaid,” and succumbed to ‘conspiracy theories.’ But, where did we get the idea that there could never be such a thing as a real conspiracy to undermine our nation’s freedom, or the well-being of our people? When did we accept that anyone who would believe that such a thing exists is stupid, deceived, delusional, lying, criminal or crazy?
If the information formerly esteemed experts are trying to tell us can’t be found in our accustomed data searches, and is negated by high level officials and respected news sources, well then, what are we to think of these once respectable, highly educated, successful, dedicated scientists and doctors? Perhaps one or two, a few here or there, could for some mystifying reason have departed from the official findings of government funded agencies such as the CDC, WHO and NIH. But what are we to think when hundreds of scientists and doctors around the world have risked their reputation, career, and even their lives to ‘blow the whistle?’
What are we to think?
And now the land is burning and drowning. And crops are failing.
My daughter is ill. My friend’s daughter is ill. My friend and I are helpless to make the world right for them. How many mothers across the world are holding their babies, helpless to make the world right again?
We just want life to be normal again. We want to feel safe again. We want to keep our children safe. Please, when will this be over?
Pulling weeds from among the flowers in my garden a kalaidescope of images from moments I’ve recently witnessed flicker through my mind. A small boy is laughing, running to his mother to show her the little frog he caught. A young girl comforts her little sister who has fallen and skinned her knee. A young man stops his car, jumps out and hands some bananas and money to the homeless Vet standing at the corner of the grocery store parking lot. Three pre-adolescent boys race their bikes down our alley, no brakes, legs flung wide as they fly down the hill howling with glee, their voices cracking, undecided whether man or boy. A tiny hummingbird follows me around the porch, trying to tell me something — ahh yes, the nectar needs changing. A developmentally disabled man whom I have never seen before walks down the street greeting everyone he sees, and grinning, he calls out to me, “I love you grandma!”
Candle flames in the darkness.
My family gathered on a Wednesday to celebrate our Uncle Peter’s life — a generous man who created beauty and breathed it into the world every day of his life. On Friday we gathered again to celebrate our mother’s life — and I knew at last how deeply she had loved even though she had struggled to set that love free. Having the span of their lives presented in pictures and videos and stories — we knew them now in ways we had not while yet they breathed. The flaws faded and we were keenly aware of their strength, their generosity and kindness. Their quirky lives, works of art. Like Japanese Kintsugi pottery — their broken parts mended with gold.
My family is made up of liberals and conservatives, activists and healers, teachers and artists, business folk and lawyers. In our veins runs the blood of a people who strongly desire to bring Light to the world, to make a difference in a good way, to create beauty. Most of us had not been together since the summer of 2019…a few more of us at various times during 2020, including when my mother died and my uncle took ill. With the world gone crazy and battle lines beginning to be drawn, we came together with some trepidation. But the simple joy of hugging one another, looking into each other’s eyes, sharing our news and our stories, playing games, eating great food, laughing together…well, our privately held views about the state of the world didn’t seem to matter as much. We held our hearts like prayer beads. We set our soul’s deep love free and breathed it out into the space that held us…and breathed it in.
There is a garden that grows at night Then in the winter it tucks in tight Drifts off in dreams about birds in flight That carry the seeds of this garden's life.
I’ve been thinking often about the world view of the Unangan People of Alaska’s Bering Sea region. They do not see themselves as separate individuals. Rather, they see the “other” as their “other self.” This view is similarly shared by many indigenous people around the world. They have a keen sense of how we are all interconnected — how indeed everything is connected. And that everyone, without exception, has intrinsic worth and value. If I hurt you, I have hurt myself. Repairing relationships, resolving conflict and attending to the health of the community are high priorities for those who see the world this way.
In Euro-American, (western) culture we view ourselves as separate individuals, disconnected from each other. Our way is steeped in a power-control mindset. Our way is about power and domination, winning vs. losing, being right vs being wrong. We punish to teach and to control. We have a history of judging those who don’t believe as we do, live as we do, behave as we do. Being wrong is shameful. We can’t be this different and both be right! So we judge the other to be of lesser value, or at least deserving less respect. Ours is a world of ‘us’ and ‘them’. The ‘other’ is not my other self. Just, ‘other.’ It takes some doing to rise above this deeply entrenched cultural view of the world.
Spiritual Masters and Teachers through the ages had much to say about how we view one another. Among them, Jesus, who said we should not only love our neighbor as ourselves — you are my other self — but to love our enemies for they also are our ‘other selves’. How different would our conversations and our Social Media posts be even in the midst of these chaotic and treacherous times if we strove to live this way? Not merely being nice, but loving from our heart, from our soul, in word and deed. Would the Light from such love begin to dissipate the darkness in which we seem to be losing our way?
Ay, what to sing about in these days What rhyme or melody, turn of phrase?
Despite the scary and heartbreaking things happening around the world and to people I know, I choose to hold fast to Hope. I choose Love. I give thanks for simple blessings — a ripe peach, a song.
What is your story now, where is your gaze? Ay, what to sing about in these days.
* Song Like A Seed… written and sung by Sara Thomsen