Praying by Mary Oliver

Praying

 

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

From:  Thirst: Poems

Copyright ©:  Mary Oliver

Prompts: There was once a…

I was given the prompt “There was once a…”  

and it prompted this while I was walking my dog, Henry. 

And, I could not get the lyrics out of my head.  I found them so sweet and comforting so I wanted to share.  The link is to a YouTube of the song.

The Beatles https://youtu.be/AcQjM7gV6mI

Golden Slumbers

Once there was a way

To get back homeward

Once there was a way

To get back home

Sleep, pretty darling

Do not cry

And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers

Fill your eyes

Smiles await you when you rise

Sleep pretty darling

Do not cry

And I will sing a lullaby

Once there was a way

To get back homeward

Once there was a way

To get back home

Sleep, pretty darling

Do not cry

And I will sing a lullaby

 

My take on the prompt, “There was once” follows, less eloquent than the Beatles, but something.

There was once a way to get back homeward.

                                             

                                                  There was once a home to get back to.

                     Now things are so different.

                                             The whole world is crying, 

The whole world is grieving.

The whole world has turned upside down.

                      Now life has changed.

The present for some is the past for others.

The future is yet to be known.

 This is a different time, 

                                         This is a different place.

                     

I tell myself that this is a time to find home within.

                                          Look there, turn and look carefully.

Look your fear right in the eye, I say as I muster up gumption.

                           

                                          Go through the needle, know the pain and when 

all is said and done,  you will find home.

                                           

So sleep pretty darling.

                                           Do not cry.

 We will hear a new lullaby.

After all, “we were made for these times”.*

Home will be found again.

                     

                                        

                                       Home will feel like home again. 

A new home, a new way, and it will 

                                         Be home, I will be home again.

 

 

*Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Other People’s Children

(Photo from Evanston, Illinois, 2018 when social distancing wasn’t a thing.  Henry on the right and Jedi on the left hanging with the neighbors.)

Thoughts about our children during the Era of the Coronavirus March 18, 2020.

While waiting for the flu and pneumonia shots at the pharmacy, a child comes to look at my iPad.

I work at keeping a “safe” distance, and I am not at all happy about it.

I want to engage with this kid as much as she wants to see what is on my screen. I want to put her in my lap and let her know she is a good kid, and life is friendly.

We have already compromised, at a distance, and with body language over who should sit in the chair remaining unoccupied or who should take the stool at the blood pressure station. The choice just a few weeks ago was simple, sit wherever you please. Now it is complicated. I am a stranger, and, as in “normal” times, the child wants to be next to her mother, and but now as times are just weird and awkward social distancing has become a thing and another layer to the decision.  Social distancing is a concept this young child has already started to understand.

I take the stool, and she bounces up and off the seat more times than I can count. I think I would be jumping with her, next to her, laughing, giggling, enjoying the moment in a time just weeks ago.

None of us know where to position ourselves to be safe. We know the expected 6 feet. I imagine my dog’s leash stretched to measure that distance. The only other time I noted the length of my dog’s leash was at the pet shop a few years ago when deciding if I should get the 6-foot leash or the 10-foot leash and the choice was all about convenience, not measuring a safe distance between people.

The mother, watching her daughter do her bouncing, looks a bit confused, unable to speak due to a recent stroke.

She shows me she has had one by thumb-typing the word stroke on her phone.

She communicates she is unsure how much to let her daughter engage with me, with a shrug, and the look in her eyes is as if asking permission. I let her know it’s okay and I am happy for the energy she is providing, at the designated “safe” distance.

The shiny brown face sits over THERE, and I here, and we pull things up on our screens and hold them up for each other to view.

She pulls up monsters scaring children. Terrifying monsters, terrifying children, and me as well. I say those are too scary for me and shutter, “Please no more”.

I quietly think this is how it feels right now. Monsters we can’t control, jumping out of anywhere.

How do you help a child understand all of this? A stroke attacked her mother, just like a monster out of nowhere.

This virus could attack anyone…seemingly out of nowhere. Certainly invisible until it isn’t.

I pull up photos of my dog, Henry. She asks for more, and I, with a breath of relief from seeing anything scarier, gladly provide them.

IMG_1997
Henry 3/2020

 

Other people’s children,

They are our children.

Other people’s children are our future,

Really.

How do you teach them not to cough or sneeze as they please? Not to touch or stand too close?

How do you teach them compassion and loving without a hug? But with a smile on their lips? With love in their eyes?

How do you teach them that their spontaneous joy must be withdrawn without affecting the entirety of the rest of their life?

How do you teach them that the Coronavirus is scary, but don’t be afraid?

How do you do this?

Really, how?

Do Not Lose Heart, We Were Made for These Times ©2001, 2016, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.,

Do Not Lose Heart. We Were Made for These Times.
Mis estimados queridos, My Esteemed Ones:
I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now. It is true, one has to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for “good” in our culture today. Abject disregard of what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable and the corruption of principled ideals have become, in some large societal arenas, “the new normal,” the grotesquerie of the week.
It is hard to say which one of the current egregious matters has rocked people’s worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradation’s of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
…You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking.
Yet … I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is – we were made for these times.
Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been raised, since childhood, for this time precisely.
…I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
I would like to take your hands for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your stints of doubt, your frustrations in arighting all that needs change right now, or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, you are not alone.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. In your deepest bones, you have always known this is so.
Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a forest greater. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
… We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over – brought down by naiveté, by lack of love, by suddenly realizing one deadly thing or another, by not realizing something else soon enough, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme.
We all have a heritage and history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially … we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection.
Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered – can be restored to life again. This is as true and sturdy a prognosis for the destroyed worlds around us as it was for our own once mortally wounded selves.
…Though we are not invulnerable, our risibility supports us to laugh in the face of cynics who say “fat chance,” and “management before mercy,” and other evidences of complete absence of soul sense.
This, and our having been ‘to Hell and back’ on at least one momentous occasion, makes us seasoned vessels for certain. Even if you do not feel that you are, you are.
Even if your puny little ego wants to contest the enormity of your soul, the smaller self can never for long subordinate the larger Self.
In matters of death and rebirth, you have surpassed the benchmarks many times. Believe the evidence of any one of your past testings and trials. Here it is: Are you still standing? The answer is, Yes! (And no adverbs like “barely” are allowed here). If you are still standing, ragged flags or no, you are able. Thus, you have passed the bar. And even raised it. You are seaworthy.
…In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the Voice greater? You have all the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough.
…In the language of aviators and sailors, ours is to sail forward now, all balls out. Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more rapidly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it, by whatever countervailing means, to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner, far less volatile core – till whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again.
One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair – thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.
Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.
It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts – adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.
The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires … causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both – are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
…There will always be times in the midst of “success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen” when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.
In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.
…This comes with much love and prayer that you remember Who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth.

Do Not Lose Heart, We Were Made for These Times ©2001, 2016,
by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved. The letter may be copied for non-commercial purposes provided it is not added to nor taken from, but run in full as above. Additional Permissions: ngandelman@gmail.com
CODA
The original title is Letter To A Young Activist During Troubled Times: with the subtitle, Do Not Lose Heart, We were Made for These Times. This is the original letter in full as written, unabridged.
_________

Things Forgotten

I forget in relationships.

That is something I do.

I forget who the person actually is and I only see what I need.

I know others do this as well,

I know that is a lot of what relationships are about.

But when the full truth stands out and shows up between me and the other, it is so very painful.

When the projections come clear, I can no longer hold onto how I want it, how I dreamt it.

Letting go of the wish, the fantasy of what I thought we shared is both a relief and a deep soul pain.

It is like the pain of a small child letting go of the wish that her brother would play with her and he never does, he only threatens her.

Yet, seeing what is the truth is a respite from the pain, so I know I will get over it.

I can count on that about truth, but it still hurts.

Hurts my heart.

My chest feels as if an arrow has been shot right to the core of me. The sting bleeds out from the open wound and spreads through my chest into my heart, into my thoughts, into my eyes where tears flow out attempting to relieve the pain.

The collapse is soon to follow.

We are Stewards of the Earth

The world is not a problem to be solved; it is a living being to which we belong. The world is part of our own self and we are a part of its suffering wholeness. Until we go to the root of our image of separateness, there can be no healing. And the deepest part of our separateness from creation lies in our forgetfulness of its sacred nature, which is also our own sacred nature.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

What if we knew we were here to steward the earth as if it was a valuable resource, as if we needed to hold it as a newborn? What if we believed the land was sacred? That we are here for it, not it is here for us.

The beautiful fall leaves, the white-capped mountains, the awe-inspiring ocean waves, the cactus decorated deserts, are here to do the work they do. All of this is not here just for our eyes to see what is beautiful.  I am not sure beauty is an idea in nature’s awareness. Each living thing is a participant in the ecology of our earth.

And, that is what is so beautiful. Nature does what it does, and does it so incredibly well. Nature just is, no questions asked, no pondering right and wrong. It is.

What if the question of are we here for the earth or the earth is here for us is the wrong question?

What if we are here for the earth, and the earth is here for us? That is the middle way. That way offers me comfort. A comfort I need to lean on when I hear statistics about how soon the ocean will be more plastic than fish. Or the ice caps melting are causing polar bears to find their way to civilization, or news of land going underwater in England and elsewhere.

The inconvenience of waking up is so uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to be the witness, it is uncomfortable to be a messenger. It is just completely and utterly uncomfortable.

But this discomfort is far less than the pain I feel over the fact that my grandchildren will likely not see the earth as I have.  I want to tread lightly here, as I don’t want to scare the upcoming generations about what we are leaving them.  They will have to take precautions about the air, the food, and the water. While in my growing up, we thought we could be so carefree.  After all, my childhood was lived in the wake of WWII, when millions of lives were taken. So the celebration of the war being over permitted us to live the “good” life and not think about our footprints, the legacy we leave for this amazing earth.

I keep trying to land in something uplifting and can’t get there.

So this is my plea and my need for community that supports the action of waking up.

We have to wake up. We have to.

The world is not a problem to be solved; it is a living being to which we belong. The world is part of our own self and we are a part of its suffering wholeness. Until we go to the root of our image of separateness, there can be no healing. And the deepest part of our separateness from creation lies in our forgetfulness of its sacred nature, which is also our own sacred nature.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

 @BEunsettled Travels with Henry

“Do something and do it big.” My daughters said. “You are unhappy, so you need to just do something.” My throat tightened as it always did when it seemed I needed to cry, but really, I needed to speak.
That was the beginning of the scariest decision I have made in a very long time. In 2017, I was going to leave my home in the San Francisco Bay Area, my work and friends of 30+ years, and return to my childhood home, Illinois. A state I had not lived in for over 30 years.
I packed to vacate the house that I had shared with Airbnb renters, dwindled all down to a 10×10 storage unit, load up my Prius C, the very smallest of the Prius line, settle my chocolate Labrador in the back seat and head out.
We traveled through parts of the South that showed me exactly why our politics were in the state they were in, and because my dog is an ambassador, I met and talked to people I would never have spoken to, thinking we had nothing in common. But soon into a conversation with a complete stranger, I learned we had much in common, though I will still never wear camouflage pants or hats. I don’t find that I need to hide.
My decision to trust, believe in not knowing, and put one foot in front of the other, opened doors I knew were there, but I was too afraid to open.
My dog and I lived in a room at an Airbnb in the Chicago area for about one year, where we worked in a therapeutic elementary school and a hospice giving comfort to those there. And then, with the idea that I had collected necessary memories and done what I needed there, I bought a Trail Vail for my hatchback, met some friends from a distant past, comforted Henry in the backseat, and started camping our way out to Oregon.
We, Henry, my dog and I, have lived in Oregon a year at another Airbnb, and I am leaving again. For now, we will return to the Bay Area for the holidays, and then I don’t know what is next for Henry and me.
Thank you @BEunsettled for making a life unsettled a bit more of a thing, crazy but doable.

Hearts that Ache

“I think many people can relate to that excruciating pain of love gone wrong. I’d rather have a broken arm than a broken heart.” – Christie Brinkley

Heart Ache

There is heartache that comes from a love with a partner, there is heartache that comes from loving your children, from loving your brother, from loving your mother, your father, your friend, from seeing someone with no home or someone who can’t be in their home.

How do you avoid heartbreak? You turn away from what hurts like it isn’t there.  You do things that don’t feel right, and your heart breaks another way.

You do them because you are trying to change something.  Make something new happen.  But you still feel left out. You still feel undone, unfinished, unsure, and you do it anyway. You feel aches that you never knew were aches, you tie shoes, you go grocery shopping, you have conversations, and you still feel heartache.

Whose heart do you break beside your own when you do things for the wrong reasons?   Whose breaks when you do something wrong for who you are?  Whose heart breaks when you don’t do something wrong for who you are?

Hearts do ache, that is part of their job, besides love, besides expansion, besides contraction, besides aching. 

Part of what hearts do is tell you something else needs to happen, something needs to expand, something needs to be considered, something needs to speak from the heart.

You study Buddhism to learn to turn towards the ache, to not turn away, not run away and it all still aches, it gets better, and then the ache comes back with a new cut, intended or unintended. And eventually, not soon, but later, you can learn to distract yourself from the ache, to learn what is about ego and what is about heart, where to focus, where to pay attention, and where to draw your attention away.

My mother, Florkila, told me to get a tougher skin, but I never figured out how to do that.  I knew there was something right about that, but I couldn’t figure it out. And so, heartache is a challenge and takes me to find articles about how heartache actually is a thing that affects you physically, Broken Heart Syndrome. 

I want to leave this with a ray of hope, with the hope that aches go away and never come back, or aches heal and never need attention again.  There is hope, but it is different than that.  The hope lies in the heart, the heart that aches, and loves, and aches and loves, and keeps beating, keeps pumping life into our veins. There is hope in knowing that everything, Everything always, Always changes.

 

~Thank you to Carol L. and Lara S. for always being “with” when things have to travel deep and Thank you, Maira Kalman, for the inspiration to just write as things are, to be quirky, to let things land where they land, be complete or incomplete.