Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Flowers in The Battlefield ~ In Defense of God

Jesus wept.  (John 11:35)


Unfortunately, right before going to bed last night, I decided to see what was happening on Facebook, and this is what greeted me, "Westboro Baptist Church To Picket Sandy Hook Elementary, Praise God For Shooting," and I can tell you, I had a hard time getting to sleep because of the mind numbing shock I experienced after reading that bit of news.  I was already reeling from a video my roommate showed me earlier in the day of some other church man who made a public statement on video saying pretty much the same horrifying thing, and from all the people who were ignorantly trying to find blame, busily pointing at everything from the poor mother of that shooter, to the NRA.  The article above capped it for me.

Deep Breath...


I'm going to do a little play on words, just for the sake of all that is Good and Sacred...because I've had enough of these folks who consider themselves to be representatives of God, and whose actions, in said Name, are nothing short of profane. 

I am aware that because of folks like these, and insane, bloodthirsty people like them throughout the history of Christianity, God has gotten a seriously bad rep, and because of it, just the word "God," when uttered, evokes all kinds of crazy shit, and associations, (including God Itself being a "religion," which, I'm sorry, you just can't organize the Spirit of God into a nice little tidy box.  It's impossible), and definitions, in people's head, whether you're a so called "believer" or atheist.  ( It's okay, I used to be one of those anti-god, anti-christ people walking around, so I know the deal).  And it is for certain that whenever I have talked about "God," uttered that word, I have been immediately placed into the category of these crazy people, by the "non-believers," and have had people end a relationship with me because of it.  And, on the flip side of that coin, once the so called "christians," practicing their organized religion, realized I didn't quite have the same definition and practice as they do, they did the same thing, considering me some "heathen," (whatever the hell that means...I've met more so called "heathens" that have more heart, who express more love for humanity, and this Good Earth, and living, than these uptight folks where the joys of life and living are seen as "sin."  So it's been on both sides of this stupid coin, from the christian and non-christian people alike, behaving the same exact way!  I can't win for losing, and neither can anyone else who tries to find the middle ground between the two!  Not that I'm trying to win anything - it's just a figure of speech, so don't bother latching anything onto it. 

So, let's put the word "God" away for the time being, and interchange it with the word "Life."

But first...

The same day of the tragic shooting in Connecticut, a friend on Facebook, Karen Molenaar Terrell, shared this:  26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year, with the subtitle, "sometimes you need a reminder that people can do wonderful things."  I know I certainly needed the reminder, and I was grateful for the sharing.  I was experiencing shock in the aftermath, which I mistakenly thought all of us humans were doing, and I'm determined to agree with another friend on Facebook, Robin Artisson, who wrote on the day of the shooting, "I wish I had more answers, for you, and for myself, but I stand helpless before the immensity of these dark matters. And if I have learned anything in my time on my strange wisdom-gaining path, it is the importance of letting oneself be stunned, letting oneself be shocked, even letting oneself be deceived when the time is right."  In the same post, he went on to say, "Instead of trying to explain this away, or saying the usual comforting rhetoric, I am making the decision to expose myself to the cold, frustrating discomfort of not understanding it, and taking the burden of the grief that comes with it."  I was grateful for that too, because now that I consider the shock I was experiencing, it makes a statement all by itself.  Why wouldn't we, as fellow human beings, be shocked and grieving right along with the parents and relatives and friends of those innocent people who were so brutally murdered?  There is no figuring out crazy, because it's, well, crazy, and we run the risk of driving ourselves crazy trying to make sense of it.  There was/is no sense to it, no reasonReason got up and left the room that day.  

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  John 10:10

So let's use that word Life in exchange for the word God.  I'm sure God won't care.  We could call It Timmy for all It cares.

The Spirit of Life is in and through all things.  For in Life, "we live, and move, and have our being."  (Acts 17:28)  There is no separating from this fact.  We - meaning humans, animals, trees, rivers, lakes, mountains, everything that grows and breathes, and I'll even include the soul and spirits of these things, and throw in some immortals to boot - are virtually and literally swimming in the Spirit of Life.  Life has been doin' It's thing long before you and I entered the scene, with no help whatsoever from anyone.  Life doesn't need our help.  It simply makes Itself available to all who wish to partake and share in It's fullness

There is an Intelligence behind and in and through Life that has nothing to do with us, but we are privileged to be a part of It!  You could even say that Life is an Intelligent, Creative Principal.  Life manifests, expresses and animates Itself in a ga-zillion different forms.  Looking at Life in this way, you begin to comprehend how Life can be omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.  Life is busy expressing Itself as you, as me, as the tree outside my window, as the blade of grass that shoots out of the hard ground.  What Force is causing any of it do that?  What intelligence created it?  What makes our heart's beat?  What makes us breathe?  What is that gorgeous, thrilling force that courses through our blood stream, lights up our eyes?  What is that force that automatically goes to heal a cut in our skin?  If we are honest, we can truthfully say we are not, and have never been, in charge of It.  It is a Mystery.  (Beginning to see why it's impossible to organize?)

As I have walked through my own, individual life, as I approached every living, breathing thing ~  my neighbor, which included the animals, plants, bugs, streams, trees, all of it ~ I said these words to myself, reminding myself over and over, until I felt the Truth of it sing in my very soul, "The same Spirit that lives in me, lives in you," so I'd never forget that Sacred Life we all have in common, and have been gifted with.  I held to the common ground in all of us.  That Spirit of Life connects us all.  There is no separation.  It is impossible to be alone! 

We humans are unique in that we have been given a choice.  Free will.  We can choose to be a channel that expresses Life, and anything that supports Life, appreciating all that It has to give, throwing ourselves into It with grateful hearts, or we can express the opposite.  Most of us express a little of both.  And sometimes, when we are in grief, the only thing we have to hold onto is this.

I have heard people say, "Where was Life (God)?  How could Life (God) let this happen?"  (Having experienced what I have in Life, I put that same question to Life, when It chose to make It's Presence, It's Intelligence known to me, so I get it), and I would put to you that Life was present and accounted for, and the only one who had no wing or prayer, who desired nothing more than to take - steal Life and Innocence, who hated the flower in the battlefield, who was already a dead man walking, was the man who committed the crime, which I find enormously sad.  And now there are people, who think they represent Life, who are backing the thief who brutally took it.  Their actions are profane, and do not represent Life, nor even honor It, and if the only thing I can do about it is to write about it here, so be it.

"The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."  John 10:11

Life was there, expressing Itself through all the Heroes that stood forth to save those children.  And, most certainly, Life was there, expressing Itself through a teacher, Victoria Soto, 27, (pictured below), a good shepherdess, who hid her little sheep in the closet, who chose to lay down her own, individual expression of Life, to give those little lives a chance to live theirs.

via Facebook, shared by Ryan Tucker


Monday, December 10, 2012

Been There, Rocked That

"He who is grateful in all things shall be made glorious."  D&C 78:19  (bold is my doing)
"..And after the fire came a gentle whisper."  Kings 19:12

My birthday is coming up, which means this planet has been graced with my presence for 52 years.  Of course, it's reciprocal.  This planet, this life, has also graced me with an abundance of experiences I would never dream of handing back.  That may not mean much to you, or to the world, but for me, when I think of it, I want to kneel down, bow my head, and surrender my grateful heart at the alter of Whatever Mystery created me to live and breathe, and experience this life.  My life.  What a ride!

A couple of months ago, a friend wrote these words to me, "Biggest drain of my time for the least benefit."  The subject we were discussing, in the whole scheme of things, was trivial and doesn't really matter, yet the sentence itself jumped out at me.  In one sentence, he pretty much summed up a world view, in varying degrees, regarding any and everything. 

My very first thought and response, (that I didn't send), to that sentence was, "I'll lay odds down that the benefit you received is in equal measure to the effort you gave to it."  Because that is a Universal Law, and it is exact.  There's no short cut, there's no way around it.  What you give to any endeavor, anything or anyone, the effort you put forth, will return to you in equal measure, and the reason for that is because you will only be able to see the benefit in direct proportion to what you give.  The benefit is already there, waiting, vibrating in full potentiality.  You cannot see, and will never have eyes to see, what you yourself are not giving.  You get what you yourself put into, or give to a thing.  That is why you want to give without any thought of return.  Because you don't know.  That line of thought is, in essence, putting the cart before the horse.  But more on that later...

Also, in that time frame, (just before my friend wrote those words to me, and right after I wrote Broken Wings), I had another interesting conversation, (if you could call it that), in an online chat window, with a friend who, after I gave him a cheery greeting, told me he was, in that very moment, putting an end to his life.  He said he had just swallowed a bunch of pills, and would be dead within the hour.  He thanked me for being a good friend, and then, just like that, poof!, he was gone. 

Woah!  Didn't see that one coming!  You can ask my roommates...I literally screamed.  I felt my heart had just been ripped right out of my chest, and, for one split second, I felt more helpless than I think I've ever felt in my entire life.  I hate feeling helpless.  I felt my mind snap, then I snapped into action.

I did everything within my power to find him, to reach him, his family, friends, cops, whatever it took, in an attempt to save his ungrateful life.  After several hours, and with the help of a couple of his other friends, I finally tracked down his completely frazzled mother, who immediately proceeded, ( I mean, I barely got two words in ), to berate me for caring, and told me to butt out of her son's life, because his family is taking care of him.  Yeah, well, frankly, I would have given anything not to be involved, because it's for damn sure I've got enough on my own plate, but her son, who I do care about, did involve me, so I acted, responded to what was handed to me in that moment.  It's not like I don't understand her viewpoint, even though I don't agree with it, and I'll be damned if I'd do any different given the same circumstances, going on the little information I had available to me, which was, in essence, "I'll be dead within the hour.  Goodbye."  Click. 

Bzzzz!  But thank you for playing!  Oh no you don't!  Not on my watch! 

But I digress...


I suppose, looking at it from one very narrow angle, you could say that all my efforts, the time I spent, the tears I cried for this man, were a big drain, (I do know I certainly felt drained when all was said and done),  and in the end, on the surface, it might appear there was no benefit in it for me at all, and was way more trouble, ( i.e. drama ), than it was worth.  Especially over someone who, evidently, doesn't give a shit about his life, or living.  I mean, if he doesn't care about his life, why should I...right?

Mmhmm...about that...

Who determines my actions?  Who makes the final determination in what I care about, in what matters to me, in where I place value and meaning, and how I will put that into action, or demonstrate it?  You?  Him?  Others?  Anyone outside myself?  We are victims to no one but ourselves.

Here is what I know.  20 years ago I made a decision to begin practicing gratitude, and within that same year I also began practicing love, because the act of giving thanks automatically begins to open and soften the heart, and will naturally lean you toward love...and love simply gives

At the time, I wasn't messing around.  I was at a point where I didn't have anything to lose in giving it a good, honest effort.  Besides, if there is any consistent theme at all running in the background of my life it is that I don't generally do anything half assed.  That has been both a blessing and a curse.  I was in despair, and full of hopelessness and self pity, and unfortunately, I didn't do any of that half assed either.  In fact, I was close to being in the same state of mind as my suicidal friend.  It was sink or swim time. 

So I get it.  I do.  I have experienced more than my fair share of shit in life.  I understand the mental, emotional, and physical effects, and I know their cause.  It was a hard, hard thing to begin the practice of gratitude, and I had to literally scrape around the bottom of the barrel to find anything I felt the slightest bit thankful for.  It was work.  Why did I do it then?  Because right before I decided to practice gratitude, I made the decision I want to live.  Not merely live some sort of half life, but live live.  From there, I looked for anything to try, any inspiration in how to do that better.  That inspiration just happened to come from a book I read called Mutant Message Down Under, by Marlo Morgan.  I got the message.  I didn't do it for anyone else but myself, because I was a seriously hurtin' unit, and, quite simply, I finally recognized that I didn't really want to die, I wanted to feel better, and feel alive.   

And I did.  I felt surprisingly better.  Initially I had to practice persistence, had to work it, because I didn't really, really believe the practice would do much good, but I knew enough to realize that if I didn't give it my all, then I couldn't be truly honest in saying the results were bullshit.  That would be like saying I don't like green beans when I've never actually eaten one.  So I committed myself to the act, giving it 30 days, just so I could say, at least to myself, yeah, I tried it. 

I felt so much better that I continued with that practice because it began to be the only thing that made sense in this crazy world.  And ever so slowly, without my realizing it, that practice became a habit.  It took on a life of it's own within me.  I found myself automatically seeking the good in everything.  I can no more stop myself from giving thanks than I can stop the need for food and water.  I don't want to stop it.  And when I came across the quote above, regarding being grateful IN all things, I thought, "Why not?  I'll include the shitty stuff too. What do I have to lose?"  I didn't see the importance of the word "in."  However, as soon as I began making the attempt to give thanks for the shit, I had eyes to see the word in.  Give thanks even while you are in, walking through the shitty stuff in life.  Know what happens when you do that?  Alchemy.  Magic.  Would I prefer a life without shit?   Of course!  But if I happen to be walking, say, through the valley of the shadow of death, then I may as well make the most of it, and seek the good in it all.  And I saw I had already been doing that!  Unknowingly, I began this practice while standing knee deep in shitty-ness!  My motivation wasn't so I'd be made glorious.  I don't even know what that means!  Other than what that practice has done to my sight.  Because when I look over there at you, I see the glory of you.

I mentioned in my last post that for the past few years I'd been suffering from a sense of disappointment that I didn't understand, and didn't know how to heal.  It is certain that if I knew how to heal it, drop it, it would already be done.  If I knew where the tangle was in my thought process, it would be untangled before now.  Because I don't like the feeling.  And I could also feel, lurking in the background, a thought of "why bother?"  It was hindering my expression, animation, passion, and enthusiasm, and that concerned me.  I finally found my answer, and I have been making some changes.

I know...that as soon as my eyes were opened ~ after I'd been practicing giving love and gratitude until it became a part of me ~ as soon as I had an automatic response was to share it, to give.  And I did that.  What I didn't anticipate, what I didn't understand, and was shocked by again and again, from husband, family, friends, people in my life, was the pushback.  I thought they wanted to heal.  I thought they had that same desire inside them as I do.  I was all excited over what I'd found through that practice!  And it's not like I was pushin' this shit onto people!  I was answering them.  I was giving to them what they themselves were seeking.  That cure is nothing new.  Every mystic, every prophet, in every religion, since the "fall of man" has given the same exact information, and it has been waiting through the ages for whoever receives it.  Practice love and gratitude. 

I've had people think I'm attacking them, after I listen to them, and I simply say, "Practice gratitude."  They think I'm calling them ungrateful.  They hear me saying they "should" be grateful.  They are offended!  I'm not saying they should do anything!  I'm saying, do that and you'll feel better.  They have thought it means I don't care about their feelings...feelings they'd have to let go of the very moment they go to practice gratitude, because you can't feel angry, you can't keep, or hold onto feelings of hate, resentment, jealousy, guilt, or shame when you are earnestly practicing gratitude, actively seeking what you have that is good.  It is impossible! 

Or they think I'm not listening, or that I don't understand.  Oh, I understand.  There aren't many conditions, or situations that I haven't applied the practice of gratitude and love while I was in it.  There aren't many areas, or states of being that I haven't put that practice to the test.  Proved it to myself first before turning around and sharing it with someone else.  I'm not going to tell a person a thing without having first used myself as the guinea pig.  It isn't some bit of fluff, or fad I tried with only half an effort.  I have lived this practice for so long now that the spirit of it is now alive in me.  I put my entire self into the practice. 

Or worse, they think I'm judging them.  They think I'm looking down on them, from some high horse they see me sitting on.  I have had people say to me that I must think I'm better than they are, and they proceed to work at bringing me down.  Trust me when I say that if I was even close to thinking I was better than you are, I would not be able to utter the words, "Thank you," with any kind of sincerity.  It wouldn't even occur to me to do so.  This practice teaches humility.  And the reason you want to learn to be humble is because perfect humility is perfect reception.  The more humble you are, which comes naturally to those who practice gratitude, the more you see what you have, and are receiving.  So no, I don't compare.  I don't think in those terms.  I'm not over here competing.  None of this makes me a good person, it makes me a person who practices good, who is seeking the good in all things, and being grateful for it, and trying my best to give it, to share what I have received through the practice.  I'm good at seeing the silver lining because I've been practicing it for years and years.  Not so I can lord it over anyone, and point and say, "I win!  Na na na!"  All the while yelling, "Loser!"  But because I know the benefits from practicing it.  So no, I don't have to judge them.  They are doing that to themselves far worse than I ever could.  Why would I want to pile more onto them?  Or I'll say, "Practice giving, loving."  They look at me sideways, full of suspicion, and think I'm wanting to take from them.  I am merely giving them the cure for what ails them.  Folks have said to me, "I don't have to love you!  I don't have to give to you!"  Again, acting as if I am trying to force something from them they don't want to do or give.  They're right, they don't have to.  But they will only receive in the exact measure they give. 

Or they think I'm trying to "fix" them.  I'm not trying to fix them!  If I am saying, "Practice gratitude, or practice giving," I am wanting to share with you what I see.  I am trying to give to you what you can do to have your eyes opened to the glory of you, and the glory of all that surrounds you!  I want you to be able to say with sincerity what I stated in the first sentence of this post.  I want you to feel that.  Because it is certain that is what I see and believe in you.  You are a presence that has graced this earth and my life, and I am profoundly grateful for your being!  I want you to see that there is nothing to fix!  That you already have everything you need.  That you are perfect exactly the way you are!  I want you to see that you are already whole.  You are already loved.  I want you to be still....and know.  The only way you will have the eyes to see that, and know it, is to give give love.  Practice gratitude, practice giving, practice loving with your whole heart and soul.  Throw yourself into it.  The benefit of doing so is yours first.  

"Does your face light up when a loved one enters the room?"  If not, why not?  Why did you stop smiling?  Where did your smile for me, or for anyone go?  Why did you take your smile away?  And for the love of good, why wouldn't you want to heal whatever it is inside you that took that smile away?

I can guarantee you this...I have spent myself, holding nothing back.  I have given my entire being, poured myself into friendship, marriage, and family, into any and all endeavors, into life and living itself, and it is I who have benefited most from the spending.  I received my answer to truly live, in the measure that I gave myself over to life, to living, to all the rich experiences, textures, and encounters with a grateful heart.  I've been there, rocked that, and I'm still rocking it!  If I have no other witness, no other being who sees it, and what I have done, and what I have given, other than God, then so be it. It is enough.  I am satisfied.

Give.  Find the flower that blooms on the battlefield.  Give thanks for it's being, and growing all it's loveliness, and purity, untouched by the warring heart of mankind.  Stand in the middle of a forest of old cedars, or in a desert full of saguaros, all of which have lived far longer than you.  Reach out with your spirit and ask them what they know, and have seen in their silent vigil over the decades.

For Grace lives our midst...and is waiting, available to all.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

To Heal a Broken Wing

The bird wanted to fly again...naturally. 

* ~ * ~ *

I have walked the past few years suffering from a very deep sense of disappointment.  Oh, not your run of the mill kind of disappointment, like when a much anticipated plan falls apart, or even the hundred and one small disappointments that befall us on a daily basis.  There are many who thought the disappointment I suffered was what comes after a marriage ends.  I knew that wasn't it.  That was understandable, and perhaps played a part, but because of the very fact that it was understandable -- I mean, who wouldn't be disappointed?-- it actually fell into the realm of "normal." 

However, I do recognize it as the doorway.  Like a new grief has the tendency to become a conduit for old griefs we never allowed to heal, the disappointment I felt over my marriage ending opened the door to a deeper, more profound disappointment that had been lurking under the surface all along.

This was something different, heavier, and for a time, nameless, and was playing serious havoc on my faith in any and everything, particularly mankind, but once I could finally identify it, simplify it in my mind in some form to make it more manageable, I got to work in finding a cure.  But first, I needed to find where the disappointment was directed.  That, in all honesty, and unfortunately, has taken me years to sort out. 

I had to sort it out.  For me, there was no alternative, and I'd do whatever it took.  And I did that because something in me said it wasn't right.  There was something off...something broken.  I did it because I wanted to heal.

I had no problem admitting there was something wrong.  I didn't deny it, or try to pretend all was okay in my kingdom when I knew it wasn't.  What good would that do?  There was something wrong, something off key, and I wanted it found, identified, dealt with, healed, so I could get back to the person I know myself to be...naturally. 

There were too many signs, too many things I used to do, too many ways I used to express myself, that was no longer in evidence.  My daughter, speaking one time about herself, after surviving the nightmare of being stalked by a cop, "Where did I go?  It's like I see the real me, still there, on the other side of some glass, and I'm some person that is standing in her place, stopping her from expressing.  I'm smiling, but it's not real, I'm acting like her, pretending to be her, but not.  How do I get her back?"  I remember answering her, "When you feel safe again."  She just looked at me, with those big, beautiful eyes full of tears, and said, "I don't think I'll ever feel safe again."  I understood, knew the feeling, but I also knew that if she was willing, she'd allow that self she so sorely missed to find expression again.


One time, during my early 20's, after having a terrible argument with my mother, I got in my car and went for a drive.  At the last minute, I decided to drive to see a friend of hers.  I knew he loved her, understood her in some mysterious way that I couldn't, and so I went to him, seeking, hoping for some answer to make things better.  He questioned me for a time, and after I asked if he could give me some understanding into my mother, I looked up at him, and I'll never forget it...his head was tilted sideways, and he was wearing a crooked smile.  I said, "What?  What's so amusing?"  He said, "I didn't see it before, because of that prickliness you wear around yourself all the time, but you are more like your mother than you think."  I'm not sure what offended me more -- his telling me I was prickly, or telling me I was like my mother -- but I went with the mother comment, "I am not anything like my mother!  And I will never be!"  He stood there unchanging, with that infuriating smile on his face, and said, "It's a compliment.  A compliment I thought never to give to you.  But now I see you, and that heart of yours is very much like your mothers.  Thank God that it is so.  She's a healer, and you are too.  Just not in the same way."  Then he turned around, and went back in his house, leaving me standing there, stupefied. 

Years later, I remembered that conversation, and smiled.  He was right.  I was a a different way.


My mother used to work in the healing arts.  She studied and practiced alternative medicine before it became as mainstream as it is now.  (You can thank her for playing a role in why you have these things so readily available to you.  It wasn't easy, because the medical field was pushing back.  They are still pushing back, to a certain extent.)  For a time, she worked in a clinic that was healing people of major illnesses, through diet and herbs, and natural medicines.  After she left the clinic, she began doing massage therapy.  She can be proud of her life of service, for I know she healed and touched many who were at the brink of death, with her healing arts being their last resort. 

In fact, when I came up against a life threatening condition of my own, it was her I myself turned to.  Her, I trusted.  We may have had our issues, but my faith in her knowledge had me literally putting my life into her capable hands where the care for the body was concerned.  I obeyed and did everything she told me.  I believed in her, and honored the work she did.

But something happened...something began to change.  Her focus began to shift, ever so subtly.  In fact, it is only now that I can see what happened...because I fell into the same trap.  To this day, I don't think she looks at those she saved, or all those grateful hearts she touched, but instead, looks at those she didn't.  Or, more accurately put...those who refused. 

I think it boggles the mind of a healer.  Creates some sort of shock.  For truly, it goes against nature.  Everything in nature responds to healing.  Wants to get back to it's natural way of being.  Hell, at the very least, even recognizes, instinctively, what it's natural way is

That bird I saved years ago wanted to fly again.  I knew he did.  He knew his wing was broken, knew that something was broken, and worked with me to heal himself.  I think he knew I wanted what he fly again.  To be in his natural environment.  He heard the call, the song of his feathered friends, and longed to go back to them, be a part of them again.  

That bird didn't hold tightly to his broken wing, defending the wound, making himself right about how he couldn't fly anymore.  Bless his heart, he just kept tryin'!  He never gave up.  He got tired, weary from the work, but I didn't feel him ever give up.  He never quit until he flew again.  And he wouldn't have flown again without me.  He had help, and received it. 

But humans...How could someone not want to be healed?  What was that in them that resisted, refused, and rebelled against healing?  How could they not want to go back to what is natural? 

That wall.  It is that wall my mother and I bumped up against...again and again.  That resistant thing that will not forgive.  That prideful thing that will refuse help.  That refuses to see, or even admit they even need help, because needing help is seen as weak. 

We get nowhere without help.  I would be nowhere without help.  All those people that my mother helped heal would not be anywhere without help. 

That disappointment was directed right at mankind.  Because this is what I saw...a difference.  Even an indifference.  And my heart didn't know what to do with what I saw.  My mind didn't know how to reconcile such a discordance with nature.  Man could choose...and wasn't. 


The bird wanted to fly again.  Humans did not want to rise again, choosing again and again to hold onto their wounds, under their own free will.  That was the supreme difference.  Simply...unwillingness.

----(to be cont.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Broken Wings

If you love something set it free
If it comes back to you it's yours
If it doesn't, It never was
"  (unknown)

It's been awhile, and I apologize.  I've had to work out some things before I could find it in me to write here again.  

Judy Clement Wall recently wrote and gave a wonderful gift to her subscribed readers called, "52 Weeks: 52 Ways To Love Your Wild Self."  Her readers desired to share it with others, who for some odd reason, haven't yet subscribed to Judy's blogs -- so Judy, ( whose preference is to be simply called "j"), put her book up for sale HERE, in the form of a pdf file.  I highly recommend you purchase it, and also, while you're at it, if you haven't done so already, The (Fearless) Love Essays, which she wrote and published last summer.  (Hint: Great Christmas gifts!)

The first section of 52 Weeks is called "Winter Ways," and covers the weeks of winter, and when I got to week 8, "Find Your Life Theme," I stopped.  In that moment, a memory flashed, rose up clear and true, and sang out for me to look at it.  Then, a couple of weeks later, I had a conversation with a friend of mine that rocked my world, and had me thinking again about the theme of my life.  In week 8 of j's book, she mentions and shares a link to a post written by Alex Franzen, called "Does Your Life Have A Theme? (Want to find out?)," which you can find HERE.  

I have to admit, I felt an unreasonable fear, quite the opposite of what j says she experienced in the exercise given.  I struggled for a time with what was coming up for me to look at.  So I let myself sit in the struggle, listening to the voice of conflict within me.  I wrote...and wrote, gave it a voice...set it free.  And when the conversation with my friend came around, who so tenderly bared his soul with me, with a whisper that melted a hardness around my heart I didn't even know was there...I felt something in me shake loose...and finally bend.  

Sometimes, even when our hearts ache for significance, even when we want to believe we matter, that our lives matter, there is something within us that is, at the same time, paradoxically, afraid of it.  We don't want to know we have that much impact on our world, or on each other.  Because with that knowledge, that awareness, comes a heightened sense of responsibility we fear we can't live up to.  

We can, and we will.  We must.

I believe Marianne Williamson said it best: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." 

What follows is the memory that rose up inside me, and shined a spotlight right onto my life's theme.  It has been before me all the time, hiding in plain sight.  Isn't that the way of it?  And with the unknowing (or maybe knowing), help of my friend, by his laying bare and exposing his own broken wing, he let me know in no uncertain terms, who it was that brought back to him his desire to fly once again...He told me I must write.  I honestly didn't think I was reaching anyone.  I don't think I wanted to know.  I think I felt safe hanging out in between.  One foot in, one foot out, never really committing.  His revelation to me brought me up short, right to the point of decision.

                                                      ~And humbled me to my bones ~
When I was a young girl, about 8 years old, I witnessed a cat sneaking up on a cardinal.  Something in me knew the cat would be successful this go around, and without thought, I sprang to action, and took off running toward the cat and bird, yelling out an alarm as I went, but I was too late.  Just as the cardinal was lifting off the ground, the cat leaped into the air, and dragged the bird down beneath him.  It was only afterward, with prize flapping from his jaws, teeth sunk into one of the cardinal's red wings, that the cat finally looked up to notice the crazy girl running at him, top speed, waving her arms and yelling.  He was so confused by what he saw, his mouth literally dropped open enough for the bird to drop to the ground.  For a split second, I saw him consider sinking his teeth back into his prey again, but by that time I was damn near on top of him, still yelling, and he decided I was the bigger predator, and took off running for his life, leaving his tasty prize behind.  

The bird was still alive, and frantically trying to fly away, but it's wing was hanging at an odd angle, broken, and all he could manage was a flop.  So he decided to make a run for it, a sound emitting from him as he hobbled away that pierced my heart because of the pain and fear I heard within it.  That sound drove me to scoop him up gently, when he'd finally cornered himself, and coo at him, as he trembled in my hands.  It pained me that I wasn't fast enough to save him from the cat, but I was glad he was still alive, and I felt a ferocious protective instinct rise up from within me.  I could protect him while he was wounded, provide shelter, maybe heal him.  

I took him to my dad, and asked if we could save him.  My dad looked at the bird, and noted the broken wing, and told me with gentle honesty, "It's the shock more than anything that kills them.  He doesn't appear to have any other wound other than his wing being broken.  But he probably won't last long enough for the wing to heal, because of the shock.  And even if he does, and his wing does heal, he probably won't be able to fly again.  And a built to fly.  A bird needs to fly.  What kind of life would he have if he couldn't fly?  Let him go, Cindy."

I couldn't.  I just couldn't stand the thought.  My dad must have seen it in my eyes, because he heaved a sigh, then told me to follow him.  We went down to the basement, and he found a box, then told me to go gather some grass, and leaves.  I ran and got the items as quickly as possible, and then brought them back to my dad.  He instructed me to put them in the box, then he laid the bird inside, on top of the nesting material.  He then told me to find a lid to a jar, and fill it with a bit of water, and set it inside with the bird.  After all that was done, he looked at me, and said, "Now we wait.  Keep him in the dark.  The dark will comfort him, and might help the shock.  Let him rest.  But he probably won't last the night, Cindy.  Be prepared for that."  

The next morning, I raced down to the basement to check on the bird, and found the box empty.  My mind wouldn't accept what that might mean, so I frantically searched the entire basement for the bird, thinking, hoping, he'd simply decided to escape.  I couldn't find him, and I felt a grief hit me as I slumped down on the stairs to cry, accepting that my dad probably took him out, thinking to save me seeing the bird dead.  Suddenly, I heard a noise, a chirpy little noise.  I silenced my tears, even my breathing, and grew still...listening.  The sound came again from beneath a work table, so I jumped up and went over to look, and there he was.  I crawled and reached until I got hold of him, careful of his broken wing, then carried him back to the box, and inspected him.

He didn't look like he was dying.  He looked alert, if not a little freaked out, bouncing around the floor of the box, dragging his broken wing beside him, but he was alive.  I cooed at him, telling him it was all okay, and that I wouldn't harm him.  I was here to help.  At some point I heard myself say, "I'll see you fly again."

And I meant it.  I didn't know I meant it until I said it, but I remember feeling, with every fiber in my being, I meant those words.  Come hell or high water, I'd see him fly again.  I had no idea how I'd do it, but my life now held a purpose.  I felt it solidify in me, and I aimed for it.

The next few days were spent in simply trying to keep the bird still.  I finally decided to wrap him with a dry bandage, with the intention of holding his wing to his side.  That worked for about a minute.  Binding him seemed to upset him, and the point was to calm him down, so I gave it up, took it off, and just kept the box closed.  My dad was right...he seemed to quiet down in the darkness the box provided when the lid was closed.  I got the feeling the box being open, above him, had him feeling exposed, and that's why he kept escaping, and running for cover somewhere else.  I had thought he wouldn't like feeling closed in, but I was soon proved wrong when I noticed he calmed way down when the box was closed.

I don't remember how long I kept him in the box that way, but it was the bird himself who let me know when he was ready to do more.  One day, I opened the box, and he tried to fly out.  I noticed he actually worked his wounded wing.  I remember celebrating with him, instinctively knowing his wing was on the mend.  From that day forward, I got him out once a day, and gave him a little push off the table, knowing he'd naturally try to use his wings.  The first few times were painful to watch, as he automatically spread his wings to fly, but fell down to the ground, with a hard landing instead.  I couldn't care, and something told me not to coddle him.  He must fly.  I couldn't stand the thought of him not doing what came naturally to him.  Like my dad said... what he was made for.

Day by day, he got stronger, and his wounded wing began to work again.  We got to the point where he was flying from surface to surface, but still low, and still with clumsiness.  He also began to sing.  He could hear the other birds singing outside, and I felt like their singing was somehow connected to his desire and will to fly.  I knew the day would come that I'd have to take him outside, and let him go, and when that day dawned, I marched outside, talking to him about his big day, and how much I'd miss him, and trying not to cry.  

I'd put a lot of thought into it, planning the day of his flight, and had decided to let him go from the top of the wall in our back yard.  The top stood level with our yard, and was built to separate, and hold the earth in our yard from the field below.  I stood with the bird wiggling in my hand, aching to be set free, and hesitated.  My heart beat picked up, and I felt the tears blur my sight, then told the cardinal I loved him...and with a lift of my hands, pushed him up in the air and let go.

His flight was wobbly at best, and not very strong, and he couldn't make it to even the lowest branch on a tree.  He tired quickly and fell to the ground, and sat still.  

I jumped down off the wall, and raced to him as fast as my little feet could take me.  He was so still...I thought...

He looked up at me when I reached him, breathing hard, and when I picked him up, his little heart was racing.  I cooed at him a little while, trying to decide what to do...he didn't even wiggle in my hand anymore, so exhausted from his attempt at flight.  I hoped I hadn't pushed him too soon.  Then I told him we had a little more practice to do, that's all.  He'd fly again, and now that he had felt the wind in his wings again, he'd fly that much sooner.  He didn't seem all that excited.

But the next day, he was ready to go again, singing in response to the bird song he heard outside, flying from surface to surface in the I scooped him up, and took him outside to try again.  He went a little higher, but still fell, exhausted, onto the ground.

Days went by with the same scenario, and I began to lose hope.  My mom and dad told me I needed to let him go, but they weren't there, didn't see what happened when I let him fly.  I couldn't stand the thought of a cat getting him again, once he'd worn himself out from flying, and fallen to the ground.  I whispered to him, "You must fly.  Your wing must get better!  Try!"  And he'd go a little further, and then fall.  The day came when my dad drew the line, and told me the bird had to go, and I wept, and told the bird he had to fly this time.  His wing could take it.  His wing was healed.  And it was.  But for a bare spot absent of feathers, I found no mark on it anymore.

I stood there, giving him a pep talk, crying, and with my entire being, earnestly willing him to fly, I finally let go....

And he flew.  High and glorious, if a bit ungracefully, he flew.  I watched him go.  Made sure he knew what he was doing.  He flew from branch to branch...getting better as he went along.  Then, he flew back, and landed on a branch of a tree that stood next to me, and sang.  I watched him, my heart happy and sad all at the same time, and then he flew away.  I watched him until he disappeared, then flopped myself down on the ground and cried.

A few days later, I was walking to school, and heard a cardinal's song.  I looked up, and there one sat, flying along from branch to branch as I walked.  I like to think it was him, coming to greet me, singing me a song.  I smiled and waved at the bird, feeling lighter in my step, my heart lifting, knowing I'd played a part in healing a broken wing, and setting a bird free to do what came to it naturally.... to fly.

---------  (to be cont.)  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

25 Years Worth of Today

Today is my daughter's birthday.

I'm aware that this day, 9/11, lives in memory for some as a day of devastation, and loss.  Yet for me, I cannot see this day as anything other than a reminder of the celebration of life.  It is the anniversary of a day when my life was graced with a tiny bundle of light and joy.  She amazes and inspires me, my daughter.  She has been my greatest teacher.  The reason I love as I do is because of her, and what she gave me.  As soon as she entered my world, everything changed, inside and out.  Love...walked into my life, and evoked my heart, and I haven't looked back since.

I wrote the following to my daughter not long ago, and I decided to share it here with you because I simply can't contain a love so great as I have for my daughter.  So I let it spill out of me for all to see:

Happy Birthday, Boo.  


I remember:

The very first time I felt you move in the womb.
The first time I held you in my arms.
When you found your feet
The angelic, wispy, baby curl that laid delicately on the back of your neck.
The scent of you.
The first time you smiled at me.
Your first step...away.  When you finally let go.
The first time I kissed one of your tears away from your precious cheek. 
It's salty taste.
Watching you play with wooden the mud.
The brightness of your eyes when you'd climbed out of your crib.
The first time you climbed a tree...and how proudly your face glowed.
When you learned how to ride your bike without training wheels.
The wind in your hair.
You swinging those bars...WOW!  A thing of beauty.
The beauty and grace of the lines of your body on beam.
Your expressive, clinging, toes 
Reading you stories.
Storm chasing together.
Riding a horse for the first time.
Riding horses together.
Talking horses and gymnastics.
Watching the Olympics, Kentucky Derby, etc., together.
Your natural loving way with animals.
The very first drawing you gave me. (It's still in my wallet)
Prescott adventures in the snow.
Adventures to the ocean.
You buried to your neck in the sand ;)
Our annual Nutcracker Suite ballets.
Jumping trampoline together.
Watching you dance.
You sharing the dances you made up with me.
The I Love Ba license plate that started it all...
Sharing your first true love with me.  Our talks about Jody.
Allowing, and trusting me to take you to the Dr. for birth control.
Watching your love for Jody grow in depth.
Your oh so refreshing and beautiful innocence.
The vibrant Life in you.
Your humor and wit.
Your vulnerability.
Laying upside on my all ages
Watching anything.
Rubbing your back.
How we laughed...oh how we have laughed together.

Holding you in my's always the first time...again...and again...always the first time...holding you in my arms.

I love you, more than words can possibly express, Sweet Daughter of mine.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Simple Place

I was first introduced to the following Native American story by my mother, who found it written on a beautiful card, then stuck it up on the refrigerator with a magnet, and there it stayed for many years.  Although, at the time, I didn't understand it, I remember something about the story captured my heart and soul.  Since then, I've read the story many times over the years.  Tonight, it popped into my head again, so I went searching for the words.  I couldn't find who the author is, or where the story originated, (other than the words were said by the character Marilyn Whirlwind on the tv show Northern Exposure ), so I'm quoting them from here, The Daily Post, a beautiful blog I discovered by Catherine O'Meara. 


The eagle wasn’t always the eagle. The eagle, before he became the eagle, was Ukatangi, the talker. Ukatangi talked and talked. He talked so much, he could only hear himself. Not the river, not the wind, not even the wolf.

The raven came and said, “The wolf is hungry. If you stop talking, you will hear him. The wind, too. And when you hear the wind, you will fly.”

So Ukatangi stopped talking, and soon heard the wind rushing by. In the quiet, he could hear the directions of its currents, swiftly lifting and falling. The music of the wind changed Ukatangi’s nature, and he became the eagle.

The eagle soared, and it’s flight said all it needed to say.  

It wasn't until I began the practice of stillness that I finally understood what this story meant.  I also became aware of why, initially, it spoke to my soul, evoking my heart, instead of my mind. 

I try, I really do, to stay connected with this blog, with others, and with the world.  Yet lately, more often than not, especially this past year, it feels more like I'm having to force myself to go there.  It's not like it's motivated by a lack of caring.  If anything, paradoxically, I find the spirit of compassion is more alive within me.  Yet sadly, too often, compassion and caring are not welcome, and too often seen as fanciful, or impractical.  So I find myself seeking the quiet place, the simple place.  I find myself returning to it again and again. 

I sit quietly watching, listening, to the wind, to nature.  I grow more aware of a place where love and balance reign, a more natural place.  There is a natural order to all things, and it is only mankind who considers there is a need to place his hands all over it (and each other)...fix it...make it better...faster....constantly attempting to change, or improve, or add to something that is perfect just the way it is...including ourselves.  

When do we stop.  When do we say enough.  When do we let go, take our hands off, put the sword down?  When do we stop the clamoring, and clanging, and wanting, and pulling and grasping, and the need for control?  When do we chuck it all, let go..


And like a friend said to me recently, "... let the world spin."

The world will always demand our attention.  People will always desire to pull us this way and that to get what they want.  Hell, we do it to ourselves.  We lose touch with our spirit, our soul, the sound of our heart.  "The wolf is hungry." howls in the distance.  We feel it as a yearning, a longing that arises in the quiet of the night.  We have forgotten what it is that calls us with an ancient voice, and we lock our doors against it, trembling with fear.   

I've changed.  I've been changing these past three or four years.  But that's not really putting it accurately.  I can see now, little by little, there has been a great letting go, a shedding, inside and out.  At times it has felt forced from my hands and my life, sometimes it has been my decision.  Nothing, not one area of my life, has escaped the clearing.  But now I feel like I'm heading toward the closing of a circle, as if I've been in the slow turn of a decision made long ago.  It feels just like the fourth round of a sacred sweat lodge, when you know you've finally made it through the most challenging part, the place of surrender.  No longer do you ask for mercy.  You have accepted the unacceptable, and now know you can and will persevere until the door flap is finally opened, bringing with it a soft breeze and cool air.  You crawl out of the dark, to stand upright in the light, and the world is not the same as it was when you were last in it.  You have new eyes.  You are not the same.  Gone.. is any and everything that wasn't a natural part of you.  A clearing away of the dross.

The simple place is the natural place.  No longer fettered to the added things, or to the demands and desires of this world, you find yourself willingly leaping into empty space, simply trusting that wings, and the wind to fill them, will form as you go.  The simple place is the very heart of you, where you discover nothing else is needed.  Nothing else.. ever was.   


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pause Button

I've been training in a new job this past week, and have a couple more weeks to go.  That said, I find myself not only needing to adapt to the training schedule, which will thankfully change after training is done to a schedule that better suits me , but also with the need to apply my focus on getting caught up in other areas of my life that were put on hold because of a lack of funds.  

So while my world is righting itself, please forgive me while I hit the pause button on this blog for a brief time.  I'll be back in a couple of weeks.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Blessing of a Ragpicker (part three)

"What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me."  Job 3:25

"Have caution, pointing out potholes in a road that hasn't been poured."  J. Patrick Bennett - Poet

We don't know.

I think that's what disturbs us most of all, plagues us in the stillness of moments, and is at the very root of our deepest fears.  We don't know...anything.  And we want to.  

The encounter with Harry occurred nearly 20 years ago, and although I had a sense that something important had changed within me, I wasn't yet consciously aware of what that change was.   He impacted my life, my view, in so many different ways, and on such a profound level, that, looking back at it now, it took some time, and the walking through experiences of my own, to finally grow into what it was that was given to me that day. 

The one most important thing I walked away with that day is this:  I was wrong.  Mistaken.  My initial view of Harry, my first thoughts regarding him were wrong.  It's like finding out someone we love has lied to us.  We've been steadily going along thinking everything is a certain way, making ourselves right about it, and behaving accordingly, and then wham!, we're knocked sideways with the knowledge of just how wrong we were.  From that moment on, our mind automatically, naturally, goes to asking, questioning, what else have they lied about?  We feel our mind tripping backward, to one moment after the next, all of it clicking together, like a line of dominoes on a journey to the ultimate finish...the truth. 

We realize later, the truth had always been there.  Evident.  We simply didn't see it.  Or...even more disturbing...didn't want to see it...because of what we were afraid it might mean. 

I felt just like that after meeting and talking with Harry.  But this time, it was myself that I realized I couldn't trust.

What do you do with that?  

If I could name anything that began the practice of being honest with myself, it was my encounter with Harry.  I wasn't even nice about it.  The light of my focus to get real, truthful with myself, was brutal, like the sun hitting eyes that had grown accustomed to a dark cell.  I didn't like the idea of being a mystery to myself.  I couldn't understand how that was even in the realm of possibility.  But it was.  It was.  Self deception, come to find out, is an epidemic.  I had wondered how Jesus could forgive those who were murdering Him, but He stated, simply, how He could do it "...they know not what they do."  Yup.  A mystery, even to themselves.  Never thinking to question their motivations, or their views.  Simply making themselves right about what it was they thought they knew, and acted accordingly.  

We don't know.

Harry asked me, "Why do you lock your car?"  A simple enough question, on the surface, but asked within the context of the conversation we were having, regarding freedom, it took me awhile to understand why I felt a deep tremor within my being.  An unraveling, a letting go, began occurring within that moment right there.  I can see it plainly now, the truth, so plainly evident, but at the time, I was trapped, enslaved, by too much fear to go there and even want to look at it.  If anything, I wanted to run, hard and fast, away from what his simple question evoked in me.  It wasn't until much later that his question came back to me, like a light bursting into the darkness, a seed planted long ago, waiting for the time it would break through the hard ground of my mind and heart, that I finally understood why he asked it. 

I've walked this road a long time, this road to love.  In the beginning, I didn't know love was the answer, the medicine, for fear.  We think the answer to our fear is more safety and security.  We gear our entire lives in the attempt to stop bad, scary things from happening to us.  We plan for them.  We believe we are loving ourselves in making sure we stay safe from all those enemies out there. 

But that practice is nothing more than a reaction to fear.  That is us, listening to the voice of our fear within us...believing it, and worse, making ourselves right about it.  We look at the homeless, the poor, the sick, the grieving, the darkness of the night outside our window, and all of it is merely a representation of our own fear.  We don't want to see our own thoughts, or even admit them, "Thank God it's them and not me."  But something tells us it could be.  If it's possible for them, it's possible for me....

So to counter it, that fearful thought, we want to think we have control of the situation...those situational "what ifs" that whisper darkly in the background of our mind.  Insurance companies make millions of free dollars playing on this one thing within us.  We fork over, freely!, our hard earned money to pay for what?  Security against "...potholes in a road that hasn't been poured."  We even practice that in our relationships, protecting ourselves on a constant basis from what we think might happen. 

We want to believe bad things don't happen to good people.  We want to believe that if we're good, or if we work hard enough, long enough, have enough money, and a thousand other things we come up with in our mind to keep the dark at bay, that it won't, and can't happen to us.  We won't be left by our loved ones if we're good.  Nothing bad will happen to our children if we don't allow them to play in the dirt, or swing on the monkey bars.  We won't suffer...if we build secure enough walls, or high enough fences around us.

And our world gets smaller, and smaller...

So we look at others who bad things have happened to, and because of our own relationship to our own fear, believe they must have done something wrong.  Somewhere in there, they must deserve what they got.  And we busily begin looking for it so it'll make sense, find reasons, latching onto them, anything to keep the truth at bay. 

We don't see the human who stands before us, who needs our love, even if all we have to give is the act of simply noticing them, seeing them, making them real.  Or the human who is weak, and scared from a disease attacking their own body, and needs the best care, or help we can provide.  We don't see the grieving heart of a fellow human, and reach out our hand to give comfort, or reassurance, or simply...a listening, compassionate presence.  We don't see the stars of hope glittering in the night, outside our window, or the moon that touches everything with soft, silvery beams of light. 

What we decide to see, and listen to, and believe instead, is a fear that projects into the future, even as near and as far as the very next moment, secure, and safe within the knowledge that we know what will happen, as nightmarish as it may appear, and we move...constantly protect ourselves from it.  Preparing for the worst, locking our doors made of glass.

We don't know.  And we don't trust ourselves enough to know...until our greatest fear happens to us. 

There is something about facing, and walking through our deepest fears that frees us.  I think about what Harry said, "I found a kind of freedom.."  I didn't believe him then, but I understand now what he was saying.  After living the majority of the past 3 years, and particularly within the past 6 months, with no job, no income, having to depend solely on the mercy and kindness of others for my very survival, facing my greatest fears, walking it, knowing I was doing everything within my power to rise out of it, and even surrendering my pride, and asking for help, only to find out, painfully, that so many were like Harry's parents...driving by, pretending they didn't know me.

I've walked through fear, boldly, bravely, choosing again and again, to meet each moment with love.  For I know now, the only thing we can control...the only thing we need to that, whatever happens in the next moment...we'll be able to meet it.  We'll live.  And not only that, we might be pleasantly surprised.  We might find goodness there.  The only control we have is our choice to face that moment, whatever happens, with all the strength of love and dignity and grace that we can muster.  And sometimes, most times, we don't know how much we have. or what we are made of, until we're confronted with a situation or condition of having to dig down deep to find it. 

Which is why I can honestly say that you, me, we're all made of much stronger, and more exquisitely beautiful stuff than most of us can possibly comprehend.  But we won't know that until we let go.  Let go.  Love is letting go.  What are we letting go of?  Our fear.  In each moment we face, with each person, or thing, who stands before us, within that vast empty space of not knowing what will happen, the choice before us is a simple one.  Let go of fear.  Do not be afraid.  For when we do that, we find love was and is the only thing that was ever real within us, always near, always present...we just didn't see it, or even trust it.  All along, we didn't know, that it was we who we needed to trust.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brief Intermission Because of My Internet Provider

I haven't forgotten that I wrote I'd be back with some commentary regarding what I learned from my encounter with Harry.  I had some internet issues yesterday, and the only thing I could open and use with any real success was my email.  Ntelos, the satellite internet provider I use, gave me a little warning the day I wrote my last post that I was close to using up my quota of internet for the month.  Not that I was done using it, but close to using it up, and they warned me that since I was close, my internet use would be slow from that point on.  How that could be is beyond me, and, as it is, I don't quite remember that being a part of the original contract.  It wasn't like purchasing so many minutes on my go phone that I can use in a month, and once I've reached my limit it's done.  There is no, "well, you're close to your minutes being done, so we'll only allow you to call intermittently.  No, it's pretty cut and dried.  Once you're done, you're done, and you have full access up to, and until you've used your max of minutes.  It's that simple.

So I thought maybe I can add money to my account, like with a go phone, buy more minutes, whatever, and that will fix the slow internet issue.  Apparently, not even that is allowed, and my payment won't take affect until my time for the month is up!  How that makes any sense, I haven't the slightest idea, but there you have it.

So my internet access is insanely slow at the moment.  I'll be back when Ntelos says I can have full access.  And hopefully, I'll be able to even post this little note on here!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Blessing of a Ragpicker (part two)

"I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet."  Old Persian Sufi Proverb

I sat down next to him, on the other end of the bench, making sure to keep enough space between us so we didn't touch.  Surprisingly, as dirty as he appeared, he didn't smell.  To counteract my nerves, I busied myself for a moment by lighting a cigarette before giving him my full attention, and when I finally looked over at him I found him studying me with a curious smile.  I felt a sudden flush rise up inside me, feeling uncomfortable under his gaze.  His eyes seemed to see right through me, and it was disconcerting to think that maybe he saw more than I wanted him to.  I asked him his name.

"You can call me Harry," was his answer.

Well that made me smile, I couldn't help it.  Looking pointedly at his hair and beard, I asked, "Is that your real name, or did you just make that up?"  He threw back his head and laughed.  His laughter had a nice, rich sound to it, and I felt some of the tension I was feeling begin to release.  He answered, "Is that important?"  I suppose it wasn't, and told him so.  Then he asked my name, and after some hesitation, I answered him truthfully.  With a twinkle in his eye, he teasingly asked if I'd just made it up.  I countered with the same question he'd asked, "Is that important?"  He laughed and said, "Oh, I like you.  Yes, I like you already."

From where we sat, we had a perfect view of the Superstition Mountains.  The sky was clear, with the only exception being the clouds that hung heavily over the mountains, leftovers from the rain we had the night before, giving the mountains a dark, mysterious, brooding look, contrasting beautifully with the brightness from the sun shining on everything surrounding them.  It was shaping up to be an unusually cold and rainy winter for the desert, and the forecasters had predicted warmer, sunnier weather for the next couple of days.  It looked like they were right...this time.  I love the rain, but it felt good to be sitting in the sun's warmth. 

I sat looking at the mountains in silence, not knowing what to say or do next.  I heard Harry give a little sigh, then he said, "Days go by without any conversation, or company.  I miss having conversation sometimes."  Then he looked at me, "But more than that, no one ever looks at me, or even sees me.  There are times I've wondered if I'm a ghost." 

Well that did it, pulled right on my heart strings, and I felt compassion begin to rise within me.  I could relate to the feeling of invisibility, if not quite in the same way this man did.  However, quick on the tail of that empathetic thought came guilt.  Until recently, I had been exactly what he was talking about, one of those people who didn't look at people like him.  He may as well have been a ghost to me, now that I thought about it.  For the first time, I questioned why that was.  What was it about the homeless that had me treating them, or even viewing them the way I less than human...any different from me.  I didn't much care for the answer, but once I discovered it's root came from fear, I began making some serious changes.

He continued, "I've seen you around.  And the one thing that makes you stand out more than anyone else is you looked at me.  Saw me.  Do you understand how many people walk by me daily?  I'm not kidding when I say that days can go by without anyone making eye contact with me.  But you did, and I didn't know how much I needed it until you did.  It made me feel real for the first time in a long time."

I didn't know what to say to that, or what to feel about it for that matter, so I asked the first question that popped into my mind, "What about family, or friends?  Do you not have any?" 

His expression suddenly grew as dark, and brooding as the mountains, and I could tell he struggled with an answer.  I apologized to him, not meaning to pry.  His face softened then, and he said, "Nah.  It's okay, and a fair question I suppose.  I lost my family in a fire eight years ago.  My son and my wife." 

I felt my heart break for him, and I honestly didn't know how to respond.  What could I say?  But more than that, it was in the way he spoke of his loss.  If not for the split second of darkness he let escape onto his expression, he may as well have been talking about someone else.  But then, I guess he was.  Eight years was a long time ago.

My curiosity, and interest in this man and his life took over, "What about your parents?  Are they alive?" I asked bravely.

Before answering, he gave a harsh laugh that sounded more like a bark, "Yes, my parents are alive...and like to pretend they don't know me."  I heard a bitterness creep into his voice, "There were times I'd see them drive by me, on the street.  I've become too much of an embarrassment for them now."  I thought of my little 5 year old daughter at home, and couldn't imagine a day ever coming that I would pretend she wasn't my child, no matter how she lived.   

I offered Harry another smoke, and after we both lit our cigarettes, he continued, "I haven't always lived this way.  Before the fire, I was a different man.  I worked hard, supporting my family.  And I tried, I really did try to continue working after I buried my family.  But I just couldn't find a reason to do it anymore, for doing anything.  The pain of losing them was just too much.  My parents...didn't understand."  I honestly didn't want to imagine what that must be like, losing a family, but I didn't think my response to losing my daughter would be much different.  I found myself already hating his mom and dad, and I didn't even know them, and I told him as much.  He looked at me, eyes full of understanding, and some hidden wisdom, and said, "No.  They lost a grandson, a daughter in law, who they loved too, and then, from their view at least, that fire also killed the only son they ever had."  Well, crap, I thought, my hate for his parents spent before it even got started, he made a good point.  I didn't think about what they'd lost.  Still, they could have behaved better toward their son...

"I changed.  The loss changed me," he said.  And as if he were answering my thoughts, "They want me back the way I was then, before the fire, living the dream we were all striving toward.  That dream, for me, burnt down in the fire.  You see, I worked for my father, helping him build his company.  He had a company to run, and an image to keep with it."  I remember thinking, with my curiosity waning, maybe I didn't want to know anymore.  All this was too painful, and too grey, with no clean black and white lines.

As if sensing my change in mood, Harry suddenly switched gears, "What about you?  What's your story?  I'll bet you're spoiled, living a life of ease, protected and fed since the day you were born, and haven't known a day of hardship in your life."  That brought my horns out, and I took the bait in defense before I saw the teasing amusement in his eyes.  I told him he was an asshole.  He laughed out loud, and said, "I've been called worse.  Yeah, I like you."  Still feeling a bit miffed, it took me a few more minutes to retract my claws.

We spent the next couple of hours covering our views regarding politics, religion, the weather.  It surprised me, how much I enjoyed our conversation.  Harry was intelligent, articulate, educated, and seemed to keep up with current events.  "A newspaper can always be found floating around somewhere," he said at one point.  I remember thinking he was living proof that we really can't judge a book by it's cover. 

I had always made it a rule, especially after I was in the Army, having talked with so many people from so many different backgrounds, to steer clear of conversations regarding politics and religion.  Too many of those conversations ended up going south, with others getting angry with me, and even budding friendships ending, because my view differed from theirs.  But this man was easy to talk to, and didn't get his underwear in a bundle if our views differed.  He had a way of stimulating conversation, making it interesting, and listening as if he were sincerely interested in what I had to say, even if he didn't agree with it.  He simply accepted it, and then shared his own view.  Up to that point, I'd not really had any conversation quite as enjoyable as ours.  Or maybe, I thought later, he wasn't the only one who missed having good conversation.  And maybe...I felt as he I was being seen for the first time in way too long.  Whatever it was, our conversation was working a kind of magic in me. 

I knew that when the time came, I would not look at any "stranger" the same way ever again.  It's like everyone's life just opened up for me.  I watched as people walked by, and despite the disapproving looks I received, which had me wondering if, before this day, I looked like that, and gave off the same vibe, I felt myself wondering, 'what's their story?'  Maybe they've got the same fear I do.  Maybe they're simply afraid.  What that fear was exactly, I hadn't discovered yet, but I knew I would, given time.  I promised myself I'd look into it.

At one point I got brave, "Are you homeless, Harry?"  He answered, "If what you are asking is do I live in a house, then no, I don't live in a house." Which begged the question, "Where do you live then?"  He was quiet for a long time before answering, and I felt maybe I'd crossed a line, but he finally said, "Mostly, you'll find me behind the laundry mat in AJ.  I wait until the city goes to sleep, however, before I go there."  He sighed, and I heard him mumble, "At least you're honest."  Then he said louder, "I see the questions you have for me written all over you.  You're honest, and that's something I don't get a whole lot of, so I'm going to give you honesty in return.  I don't want to live any differently right now.  Oh, at first, the first few years in fact, it was grief that drove me to this way of living.  I didn't care if I lived or died.  But at some point, now...I found a kind of freedom in living this way.  You'd be surprised by how all these people walking around with their money, who think they are free, really aren't."  That made no sense, and as I went to ask him what he meant, he stopped me by putting up his hand and said, "Wait.  Let me ask you a question.  Did you lock your car before leaving it to go into the store?"  Frowning, I told him I did.  He then asked me why, when anyone could easily break into it if they had a mind to.  Honestly, I didn't know what he was talking about, nor how it related to freedom, or to how he was living.  But I could feel something inside me beginning to react, feeling a little freaked out by his question, and he must have sensed it, because he let the matter drop, not pushing for an answer. 

I began feeling hunger pains, and told Harry I had to go eat, but before leaving I asked him if he wanted me to get him anything, or give him some money for some food.  I told him I didn't have much on me, but he could have it if he needed it.  I'll never forget the look on his face, one of such tenderness it had me feeling embarrassed.  He softly said, "Cindy, you've given me more than enough today.  You made me forget myself for a time.  I'm alright, and don't need your money.  I can always find food.  I've got certain restaurants I go to at certain times of the day.  You'd be surprised how much food people throw out.  Wasteful, really."  I was horrified by what he'd just said, and despite what he said to the contrary, I didn't believe him when he said he chose to live this way.  There was something in his voice that betrayed him.  He was talking about it all too lightly.  But before I could say anything about it, he said, "I would be grateful if you left me a couple of cigarettes, though.  They're harder to come by."  I handed him what was left of my pack instead, including my lighter.  He hesitated, looking surprised by my gift, and said, "You are a rare breed.  Thank you.  It's been a joy." 

Before turning away, I said the pleasure was mine, really, and thanked him in return.  And then I said the words aloud for the very first time, "Bless you, Harry."  I left him sitting there, smiling.

I never saw him again.  The next time I bought cigarettes, I thought of Harry, and kept a couple of packs handy to give to him whenever I saw him next.  A couple of nights later, the cold rains returned, and I found myself thinking of him, out there in it, maybe cold and shivering.  I finally couldn't stand it, couldn't go to sleep, so I got up and got an extra blanket out of the closet, and drove to the laundry place where he said he stayed at night.  I had a flashlight in my truck, and had to use it while looking for him, calling out his name in the rain.  No one was there.  I don't know how long I searched, but finally I made my way home, and on the way, I sent out a little prayer for him, a prayer of warmth, and comfort, a light that he could follow to some sort of home.

( be continued with some commentary.  Next blog up on July 24th.)


Friday, July 20, 2012

The Blessing of a Ragpicker (part one)

I kept seeing him, outside stores where I regularly shopped.  Walking into the grocery store, glancing over to my right, there he'd be, sitting in the shade at one of the break tables, where he'd smile and nod at me.  Or, on another day, in another section of town, I'd see him hanging around the health food store.  Once, I saw him walking toward the alley behind the store, and as if he sensed my presence, he turned, looked right at me, and nodded his head in greeting before disappearing behind the building.

He was tall, with long, unkempt, greyish brown hair.  He had a long, bushy beard that hung down to his chest, and blended perfectly with his wild hair.  His clothes were old, stained, and judging from the way they hung loosely over his body, maybe 2 sizes too big.  Everything about his appearance, from head to toe, said he needed a good washing.  But his eyes seemed friendly enough, smiling in blue. 

Maybe he'd always been around, and I simply hadn't noticed before.  I had, after all, begun a new practice of sending silent blessings, as I went through my day, to all who came within my line of sight.  I had started a journey the year before, of learning all I could about love, and not long before this man appeared, I read something that caught my interest, and I felt it was important in some way to the lesson of love.  I wanted to put it to the test, practice it, give it an earnest try, to see where it led my heart.  It was a suggestion to bless all those I meet, all those I see.  To send out silent blessings for all.  The author (Annalee Skarin) went on to say that those silent blessings helped more than we could possibly comprehend, because the energy from our thoughts was real, and had the capacity to wing their way out to embrace a world.

At the time, I knew I was filled with fear, and saw the world, and the people in it, as a very dangerous place.  One in which I most definitely did not feel safe.  I viewed everyone as a stranger, with my primary focus on how they could potentially harm me.  I gave my trust to no one.  So after I read that suggestion, I thought maybe the people in the world weren't all bad, and it was me who needed to change my view.  Maybe it would help if I walked in the world with the intention of sending out blessings to all those strangers.  Perhaps it'd help me see the world as a friendly place to walk, instead of one that produced anxiety attacks within me. Maybe the cause of my anxiety wasn't them so much, but stemmed from the way I was viewing them.

So I put a cap on my fear, and made a conscious effort to bless all who came into my line of sight.

The first thing I noticed, depending on my mood, was just how much I was in the habit of keeping my head and eyes down.  On the flip side of that was a cold, unsmiling, defensive stance that definitely sent an unwelcome message.  With the realization of both defensive stances came the awareness of just how much I generalized people, and how hard it is to bless a person when you're looking at them as the enemy.  And to me, they were all potential enemies.  There was something in me that wanted to be right about what I saw, or what I was thinking, of how they could hurt me, and that didn't produce good enough feelings toward them to even be able to think two words, "Bless them."  To rectify that, I decided to break it down, and take one person at a time, as an individual, and get honest.  Easier said than done, believe me.  So I came up with a list of questions, the most important reminders being, "Can I honestly say I really know this person to pass judgement on them?"  And, "Has this person done anything at all to me...yet?"  Keep in mind, they were strangers!  I didn't know one thing about any of them at all!  I realized I was approaching everyone as guilty before anything ever really happened! 

I began to see a lot more homeless, or poor people than I anticipated.  I'd never noticed them before, my eyes simply sliding right by them as if they weren't there.  I'd never, ever made eye contact with one.  I treated them as if they were a non-entity, or some sort of strange phenomenon.  But with this new practice, my eyes were open to seeing people, and homeless folks were among them.  And let me tell come face to face with my thoughts and feelings regarding them was an unpleasant surprise.  None of my thoughts were good.  It remains one of the most disturbing discoveries I've ever made about myself.

So when the man I described at the start of this post kept appearing in my line of vision, I was not a happy camper.  A blessing for him couldn't be found within me.  In fact, I was a little freaked out, and wondered if maybe he was following me. 

Then, one cold day, I saw him sitting on a bench in front of the store, and again, he looked up as I walked by, and smiled a greeting.  It took everything in me to give a little smile and a greeting back to him.  Silent blessings were one thing, their appeal to me being that they're silent, but the book said nothing about actually engaging anyone, and a blessing was as far as I was willing to take it at that time.   

However, that day, a feeling, a sense, some strong thing within me, said to give to him.  I had no idea what to give to him.  What does someone like this want?  Everything I have maybe?  And as if he knew what I was feeling, he suddenly asked as I walked by, "You wouldn't happen to have a light, would you?"  A light?  I even said that out loud to him.  It was the last thing I was thinking he wanted, so my brain heard the word as if spoken in some foreign language.  He held up a cigarette butt for me to see that he'd probably gotten from one of the ashtrays sitting in front of the store.  I said, "Oh!  Uh...yes, just a sec..."  I dug around in my purse, and found my lighter nestled by my own cigarettes, and that's when it hit me...I could give him a cigarette.  The thought of him smoking a cigarette butt thrown away by someone else made my stomach turn.  But I understood the need for a smoke, and knew how hard it was to go without one.  I couldn't imagine it, but if I was ever so desperate as to even think to go looking for smoke butts, that would be my cue it was time to quit. 

So I pulled out a cigarette and offered it to him, along with my lighter.  He stared at it, then me, for so long I grew impatient and I said with a shrug, "Take it.  I can relate."  He gave a crooked smile, and took it with a gracious bow of the head, saying, "Thank you."  After lighting it, he inhaled deeply, and said, "Ah.  Fresh tobacco.  Nothing like it."  I stood there wondering if I wanted my lighter back after he'd touched it, and when he moved to return it to me...I suddenly felt something mysterious in me let go.  As I reached to take my lighter back, I looked at him squarely in the eyes, and asked him if there was anything else I could do for him.  He met my gaze, and said, "You could sit with me and talk to me for a bit."  When he saw my hesitation, he said, "I won't hurt you."

I sat down, and the conversation started...

( be continued.  Look for part two on Sunday, 22 July.)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Beggar's Bowl

I know of a silent argument
that exists between two women
a difference only in perspective
One lives in poverty,
the other lives in Grace
who sees her own blessings
and the blessings of others.
And before you judge
which one of the two
is the rich, and who the poor
allow me to tip the tables
upside down
For the one who sees
isn't the one who
lives in a fancy house
wearing fancy clothes
or, who can even afford
good shampoo.
No, she is the one
who carries an empty bowl
in her open palm
humbly walking
from door to door
offering the beggar's bowl
for the tithing from those
who have material good
The poor one
is the one who clutches
a full purse to her chest
seeing the beggar
as a thief
seeing it as a sin
to ask for help
not seeing the blessings
she has been given
without merit
For the bowl being offered up
before those who have
isn't found in some building
for investment
where an accounting
of what is given
can be seen by a hand
that won't let go.
The beggar's bowl
is God's living dish
being passed to those
for blessing
For who it blesses most
is the one who gives
so they may also
have eyes to see
from a grateful heart
what the beggar sees
and knows
If a beggar approaches
seeing that you have
bless her eyes
and thank God for them
And if you consider
the beggar's only desire
is to take from you
then you are poor in deed
for she sees
what you do not;
it is only by God's Grace
that you have
anything at all