Connection

When I stood in the little room in the village in Austria where my father was held when the B-17 that he piloted was shot down during WWII, I felt I knew this place.   I could feel the fear my father must have felt, and yet, his ancestry was half-German.  These people looked like him, and people who’d seen him parachute down looked like him.

Those who turned him over to the SS ran to meet me when they learned I was there. They felt they’d sentenced him to death but they had no choice. They were a village of women and girls, old men and young boys. The village was too small for a jail.

Seeing me, touching me, meant he survived.

Tears come because we are all so connected; we are connected.

In reading My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, I’m struck by these statistics.  I knew them but these days as we are reaching to listen and understand, they flow right into and through my blood and bones.

An estimated eighteen million Native people were custodians of the North American continent when European colonists arrived.  They and their ancestors had lived here for an estimated 14,000 years.  

Today this same land contains over 204 million white Americans, over forty-six million Black Americans, and just over five million Native Americans.  The story of the unique arc of trauma in the Native American body is only now beginning to be told.

I live on Coast Miwok land.  The land is abundant, and the people lived lightly on the land. They built boats from tule to cross the bay.

Then, the Spanish and the missionaries arrived.  I feel my own land as peaceful and harmonious, but when I go to San Rafael where the mission is, I feel dis-ease, diseased.  

It was founded  in 1817 as a medical hospital to treat sick Native Americans, making it Alta California’s first sanitarium. Of course, we now know who made them sick.

The point is we can look at history, the wounds of every group of people, and come together, bodily come together, even as we socially isolate, and heal.

We heal the planet when we heal ourselves.  

This time of year the sun shines into my bedroom through the trees.  I feel the touch of its light and rise knowing peace begins with me.

Jasmine twining up two lines a spider has laid between the railing of our deck and the roof of our house. This spider has vision as does the jasmine. I’m intrigued each day.

Race and Healing

Today I listened to Krista Tippett’s interview with Resmaa Menakem. It’s an important resource to help us understand our own bodily responses to race, culture, and fear. I give you a taste, a body practice to help in transformation.

Tonight Steve and I returned to the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove. It’s worth a re-visit. Meant to be a farce, this article shows how close it was to the truth. We’re living in strange times. May we learn bodily practices to help us anchor and release our fears to bring forth the changes we want to see in the world.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/almost-everything-in-dr-strangelove-was-true

As evening continues, I‘m listening to crickets, thinking of Issa’s haiku translated by Jane Hirshfield.

On a branch

floating downriver,

a cricket, singing.

And so we are, and can be.

Open and see

Receiving

In responding to a friend, I receive receiving as my mantra.

Just receiving – allowing the sensations of response to roll through me and flow.

No need to respond other than to receive the gift of another’s experience, articulation perhaps, or maybe just vibration all through me.

I’ve been noticing what the calls of the birds do to me, within me.  I’m nourished and just now a soft, gentle tweet comes.  The cacophony of the morning is at rest as light fills the day.

I give thanks for reception and exchange, the exchange that occurs when I pause and receive.

Pausing to receive

Expansion

I wake to the tweets of our mother bird friend and her babies in their nest outside our bedroom.

Then the red-shouldered hawks chime in with their squawks.  There must be a nest they’re protecting from the crows.

The morning is more raucous than the fireworks that went off illegally into the night.

I’m reading Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time.  He explains our beginnings with the Big Bang, and in great detail explains how yes, we are stardust.  Our elements have been made inside stars.  Our star, our sun, is third generation.  She’s new in formation, young, like us.

Walt Whitman captured it well when he wrote in Leaves of Grass:  

“Before I was born out of my mother, my embryo has never been torpid… For it the nebula cohered to an orb.”

Today I read Heather Cox Richardson, and am stunned by a history of which I was unaware until the recent attention to it.

From Heather: In 1889, Republicans knew they were in political trouble. Americans had turned against their conviction that the government must protect big business at all costs, and that any kind of regulation or protection for workers amounted to socialism. In 1884, for the first time since the Civil War, voters had elected a Democrat to the White House. Grover Cleveland promised to use the government to protect ordinary Americans, and to stop congressmen from catering to wealthy industrialists. 

To regain control of the government, in 1888, Republicans pulled out all the stops. They developed a new system of campaign financing, hitting up rich businessmen for contributions, and got employers to warn workers that if they didn’t vote for the Republican candidate they would be fired. Nonetheless, Republican Benjamin Harrison lost the election by about 100,000 votes.

But he won in the Electoral College.

Republicans immediately set out to make sure no Democrat could ever win the White House again. They rushed South Dakota into the Union in 1889, along with North Dakota, Montana, and Washington—all Republican regions– to pack the Senate and the Electoral College. The next year, they rushed in Wyoming and Idaho, too, boasting that they would dominate government for the foreseeable future. 

South Dakota, though, was a problem. Virtually all of the land in that new state belonged to the Lakota people.

You can read more here:

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/july-4-2020

This morning I read about creativity, which stirs in me as I’m with how our universe formed, this pulsing and gathering, expanding, and contracting, echoed with the pump of our heart with blood and air. 

Jean Cocteau, a prolific poet, author, painter, illustrator, filmmaker, actor, and producer advised writers and artists.  

“Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work.  Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like — then cultivate it. That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.”

What a way to live our lives! Like stars coalescing, digesting, and spewing forth, may we do the same, each honoring that we are as individual and unique as snowflakes and fingerprints, each with our way to mark and make waves in sand.  

And as we do, may we allow our lips to curl up in a smile, as we honor the orbs we are, the curves that flex as we connect.

First, there was one –

And then, there were more –

The End of the Day

The full moon is an orange globe in the sky tonight.  It’s been an unusual Fourth of July as one person tries to divide what can’t be divided.  People are coming together to heal.

This is a beautiful homage to Frederick Douglass.  

https://www.npr.org/2020/07/03/884832594/video-frederick-douglass-descendants-read-his-fourth-of-july-speech

I believe we are coming together to listen more fully to the wounds of people in this country, in the world, and in that, we can begin to heal.

My 8 month old grandson is on a backpacking trip in Yosemite.  My son sent a video of him standing, well, with help, with his feet in sand by a stream.  Then, his feet are dipped into the water.

I watch and feel my own feet in the stream, a cold stream, yes, and our blood is warm as we come together knowing we can’t step in the same stream twice, and the stream is flowing taking hatred and division to the sea. 

We’ve now entered the second half of this year. A friend shares how since we can’t touch to hug, she spreads her arms wide and reveals and opens her heart, and offers a wider, more generous and all-inclusive hug.

May our hugs embrace us all as the moon rises in the sky bringing the morning sun.

Peace!

Interdependence Day

Today is Independence Day in the United States, the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The document was approved and signed on July 2, and was formally adopted on July 4.

The word “independence” means “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others”.  

Times have changed.  We need a new day, an Interdependence Day, where we celebrate how much we need each other, how twined we are, and how reliant we are on the support and aid of others. Sometimes we don’t see it, but it’s there like this hawk in the redwood tree.

Opening

Joanna Macy writes: The future is not out there in front of us, but inside us.

In his book, The Five Invitations, Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, Frank Ostaseski invites us to wake up to our lives.

His five invitations are: 

  • Don’t wait.
  • Welcome everything, push away nothing.
  • Bring your whole self to the experience.
  • Find a place of rest in the middle of things.
  • Cultivate don’t know mind.

I sit with that as I consider what I might invite in myself today.  It’s a holiday, a day to celebrate freedom within ourselves, a day, in my opinion, to rest and reflect.

Today I invite myself to open pages within, to revel in what’s written even as it disappears.  

Open and Drop

Evolution

The days are visibly shorter. I watch my eight month old grandson as his hands articulate his newly claimed ability to change his environment.  His focus is intense.  He’s claiming his individuality, and the force of his presence.

I’m reading Joanna Macy’s book, Coming Back to Life.   She asks us to look at our hand, how the thumb and fingertips can touch each other.  When we see the size of the space they enclose, we see the right size for a branch to hold our swinging body.  

Because our eyes have moved around to the front, we have three-dimensional vision so we can leap from branch to branch.  I return to my ancestral past.

In that swinging from trees, I hear of quantum leaps.  We live in a time of incredible change as though we’re leaping through eons even as we return to remembering we come from a shared sea.  

Photo of Snowy Egrets by my friend Bob Dresser, now passed

Choosing Change

I bought a new water fountain for my cats.  They loved the other one but I thought I’d broken it, though then, I fixed it, but meanwhile I’d already ordered a new one, which in this world of instant gratification arrived the next day, so now the two fountains sit side by side offering the invigorating renewal of running water.  

Meanwhile though in my non-catlike opinion, the new one is more stylish with a center rise and circular flow, the cats are having nothing to do with it.  

I’ve just read two books, both historical fiction.  The first by Isabel Allende, A Long Petal of the Sea, is set during the Spanish Civil war, and then moves to Chile where a United States-backed military coup d’etat brought Pinochet to power on September 11, 1973.  The democratically elected socialist Unidad Popular government of President Salvador Allende was overthrown and ended civilian rule.

If you remember the movie Missing from 1982, you’ll have a visual of what happened there.

And here I take a breath, because I then entered the world of another novel, The Taste of Sugar, by Marisel Vera.  It’s set in Puerto Rico in 1898 on the eve of the Spanish-American War.  The United States won and immediately devalued the peso and took over the land to distribute to  a few.  A hurricane led to even further devastation, so a group of starving Puerto Ricans were enticed to Hawaii to work on sugar cane plantations.  They were promised education for their children and health care.  Enough said on the fiction of that, and I haven’t finished the book, but right now where I am, it’s tragically dismal.

We know much of the cruel history of the U.S.  In my cynicism formed in the 60’s around the Vietnam War, I was surprised to be reminded of our sacrifice and heroism when I visited the Mardasson Memorial in Bastogne, Belgium.  A monument to gratitude, and built in the shape of a five-pointed American star, it honors the memory of American soldiers wounded or killed during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.

Of course, my own family members fought for freedom in WWI and WWII so I know and understood the sacrifice those before me made for my privileged way of life.  

The point is I’m struggling to understand what’s going on right now.  I believe in freedom but certainly when all that’s required of me is to wear a mask when I’m outside and to maintain a social distance, I hardly find myself mistreated when this is mandated.  We do this for ourselves and others, so what is this anger and disobedience over what seems a minor inconvenience?  It means health care workers can work normal hours and be exposed to less risk. Is it really too much to ask?

My cats refusing to use the new fountain demonstrates that sometimes we animals are slow to change, and yet, statistics show how we can bring the numbers of infected people down, how with sacrifice now, we may be able to end what has changed and inconvenienced our lives, but certainly not as dramatically as a coup or a war.

Today Garrison Keillor suggests we rename Washington D.C. after Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was a poet and a philosopher and never owned slaves.   He suggests we begin again.  

Inspired by the idea of our government nested in Emerson, I share some of Emerson’s well-known quotes.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

The earth laughs in flowers.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

For every minute you’re angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.

May we all come together to honor the contributions we each make, and to educate our children to fulfill that possibility. May we revel in the joy of knowing wearing masks and sharing distance, we can save misery and lives. May we know that sometimes fountains stream down from a hidden source, and other times they bubble up from below, and so it is for us to learn to drink the blessings as they come and present.   We’re in this together, and we live on a planet where we share, air, water, soil, and breath. Let’s show we know the truth of that, and for now, when outside our home, wear a mask.

A Rose in my Garden