Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

In honor of the original Peace Mama...

Mother's Day Proclamation
by Julia Ward Howe*, 1870
The First Mother's Day proclaimed in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe
was a passionate demand for disarmament and peace.
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail & commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesars but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.


Biography of Julia Ward Howe
US feminist, reformer, and writer Julia Ward Howe was born May 27, 1819 in New York City. She married Samuel Gridley Howe of Boston, a physician and social reformer. After the Civil War, she campaigned for women rights, anti-slavery, equality, and for world peace. She published several volumes of poetry, travel books, and a play. She became the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1908. She was an ardent antislavery activist who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1862, sung to the tune of John Brown's Body. She wrote a biography in 1883 of Margaret Fuller, who was a prominent literary figure and a member of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcendentalists. She died in 1910.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Oh Baby Baby....

...it's a wild world.
It's hard to get by just upon a smile.

It's an old Cat Stevens song, and I cried today when it came on the radio.

I have no idea, really, what Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) was writing about in the early 70s - but I know the dagger his words drove into my heart today...

My niece is studying in Jerusalem until mid-June.   Last weekend, while the eyes of the world turned happy/sad/congratulatory/angry toward the US for the killing of Osama bin Laden - this 20-year old world citizen was vacationing in Egypt with no awareness of the world news and no cell phone handy for her parents to contact her.


To say my sister had a sleepless night or two this week would be a gross understatement. Many of us want this brilliant and beautiful young woman to come home.  As soon as possible. 

Of course she is resistant.  She doesn't feel in danger or threatened in any way.  She is treated with great respect, she reports - everywhere she goes.  I don't want to put words in her mouth, because I haven't spoken with her, but I don't think I'd be stretching the story by saying she has told her parents:

"It's no big deal." 

In fact, she talks like she might be writing for the Tour Egypt website:

Certainly, there are countries that actually are unsafe for Americans to visit under the current political climate, such as Iraq, Sudan and Algiers. But other Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Syria are completely safe, as well as extraordinary tourist destinations.

BUT there is no denying the US State Department has issued a Worldwide Travel Alert:

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.

And there's no avoiding the fact that a CBS reporter who was in Egypt in February to cover the celebratory occasion of regime change was brutally attacked  - after being dragged from a team of people who were paid to protect her.  (Don't watch Lara Logan's interview on 60 Minutes if you have a loved one in the Middle East.)

And I challenge you to find something encouraging to read on the State Department's travel information site specific to Israel:

U.S. citizens, including tourists, students, residents, and U.S. Government personnel, have been injured or killed by terrorists while in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Attacks have occurred in highly frequented shopping and pedestrian areas and on public buses. American employees of the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General and their families are prohibited from using public buses and their associated terminals in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel. (My niece is also prohibited - by her parents - from using buses since the March 23 bus stop bombing in Jerusalem).


I don't think I'm an alarmist.  I'm one of those people who believes if we plan our lives fearfully around the potential for danger, then terrorists win.  But I am a realist.  Sometimes it is best for Americans to lay low.  I think this might be one of those times. 


Dear Taylor,

Listen to Cat Stevens:  A lot of nice things turn bad out there.  Oh, baby baby....It's a wild world. 

Come home.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ding Dong the....I'm Confused


 I am longing for a circle of wisdom tonight to help me sort through the questions that have distracted me all day.  I open the conversation with this...

Are we the good guys or the bad guys?


Are images of Americans cheering a political assassination something to be proud of as those photos fly from twitter to facebook to blog around the world?


Are comments like...
"A Victory for America" - George W. Bush
"Justice has been done." - House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
"Welcome to Hell bin Laden." - Mike Huckabee
...really appropriate today?

Are the Christians in this "Christian nation" wondering, like I am, what Jesus would do?  He is, after all, the reported author/Divine speaker of these words:  
You have heard it said, 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. (Matt. 5:38-40)
And these:
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke6:31)

Has anyone who declared today, "Justice has finally been served!" ever quoted Mahatma Gandhi?
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. 

Is there a better way to fight evil in the world than shooting it in the head twice and dumping it in the sea?

 
Here's what a pastor friend of mine in College Station put on his church's sign today:  


HATE CANNOT DRIVE OUT HATE
ONLY LOVE CAN DO THAT
-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr

And I'm wondering what that would look like in the real world...would Navy SEALS be involved?

Anyone?

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Letter This Morning

...to the President and Vice President.  

Dear President Obama/Vice President Biden,

It is time to end the war in Afghanistan. 

The violence and unrest there is making healing and rebuilding for the good of the Afghan people almost impossible.  They are turning, again, to the Taliban for their needs.

Hope for something good to come of our presence is waning at an exponential rate - among US ranks and in the entire geographical/political region.

The quagmire that is our war has become distracting to our image as a compassionate people on the world stage.

Most importantly, people in the US are turning their backs on this war.  Nothing now or in our future can turn to good when an entire people begin to treat war like a casual political snafu.

Please, please, please.  Keep your pledge to begin troop withdrawal in July of 2011.  Let's leave with some haste, determination, and honor.

Peace.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Did We Forget Something?

March 20, 2003...remember that day?  It's the Thursday US troops swooped into the capital of Iraq on a mission best known for its shock and awe...less known for its effectiveness.

The stated objective of that pre-emptive invasion?
Find and destroy weapons of mass destruction.
Find and destroy the bellicose tyrant Sadaam Hussein. 
As history painfully reminds us, there were no WMDs in Iraq.  And while toppling a statue of Sadaam proved relatively easy (20 days post initial invasion), capturing the evasive and politically fallen Hussein actually took nine months.

Even so, our troops stayed in Iraq in a military posture until August 18, 2010.  During that seven and a half years, 751-billion US dollars were spent, 4,424 American troops were killed, and an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi civilians died. In our war.

How is it, then, that this date in our nation's story has become so - apparently - forgettable? 

I missed the mention of it in my daily newspaper last weekend.  I saw no headline about it on my iGoogle news page.  I checked the nation's front pages on Newseum and found nothing.  Then I went about my Sunday, remembering only to mention the significance of the date once over dinner with friends.

Ummm.  Hmmmm.  A glance at our plates and into our drinking glasses.  That was it.

In the four days that have followed I have spent a potentially unhealthy amount of time on the Washington Post website Faces of the Fallen.  I find it compelling to look at the faces and names and ages and hometowns of those who went into that mess and never came back to their families.

I have also reviewed pictures in my archives to remind me what war actually leaves in its wake...


Because I have never lived in a land where guns and bombs and buried explosive devices and military checkpoints were part of the everyday experience.

How quickly and easily and happily we forget.  

In case you missed mention of the anniversary in your newspaper last weekend, here's the latest from Iraq: 

Since the last of our combat units pulled out of Baghdad seven months ago, 22 Americans have died.  Thirteen of those deaths were "in combat." The rest are labeled "non-combat related," but I don't think it's a stretch to say there's probably not an American soldier in Iraq undergoing some type of advanced medical treatment for a terminal illness.

War is a terminal illness.  And we are all dying from it these days.

How, in the name of heaven, could we forget March 20, 2003? 

If we don't remember, we just keep repeating*** (see comments).

Peace.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Silence is....Amazing

When it came time to think about church today, instead of pouring myself another cup of coffee and diving into the back sections of the newspaper as I often do these days, I decided to try something new.

A Friends Meeting.

For those of you who've stuck with Mainstream Religion your entire lives, with nary a thought of betraying the tradition of your particular practice, let me enlighten you:  Friends in this context are Quakers.  Really, who wouldn't be drawn to a people who throw this disclaimer onto their national website's homepage: 

Quakers are not: Amish, Anabaptists, Shakers or Puritans--we come from a separate tradition than these other groups. We mostly don't dress like the man on the box of oats anymore, and today we hardly ever call people "thee."

No one called me "thee" this morning.  In fact I arrived and found a seat in a large, four row circle of silence.  That's what Quakers do on Sunday mornings.  They sit, unless someone in the group feels called to speak, in silence. For an hour.  There is no call to worship, no responsive reading, no scripture recitation, no singing, no confession of faith, no assurance of pardon, no prayers of the people, no sermon.  You are totally on your own to make connection with The Holy.  

What a contrast - I thought, as I first settled into the quiet - to church last week.  Last week I sat among old friends and, well, gossiped a bit as we gathered for worship.  Then I downloaded a Bible app to my phone during announcements...and, okay, I might have checked my email too.  I probably added one or two items to my phone app shopping list while I was at it.  Then I numbly stood and sat and sang and bowed my head and did it again another two to three times before listening with almost undivided attention to the words someone else had decided I needed to hear.  

Today, I was on my own.  Once I found my breath and some focus, I heard my call to worship. It was a songbird - I kid you not - singing ever so sweetly just outside the door of the worship center.  When she flew to a branch a little farther out of earshot I began to hear the responsive reading - the long breaths of over 50 people gathered, the sighs, the coughs, the whispers, the quiet tip-toeing in of late comers...assurances that I was not alone.  Scripture came easily into my head when I went looking in that unreliable old vault that is my memory:  Be still and know that I am God.  I examined the text at length - word by word: 

Be - it is not time to DO, it is time to BE
Still - all that makes your heart race, your blood boil, your mind tilt...let it go
And - there is more I must tell you
Know - you have wisdom from many sources...your intellect, your life experiences, your heart...know
That -  an elliptical imperative, of sorts...a "pay attention" conjunction.  I was paying attention...
I - not YOU
am - active verb...not was, not will be...AM
God - Creator, Inspirer, Celebrator, Griever, Father, Mother, Gift Giver, Holy Holy Holy - God.

Then I became aware of the busyness of the street outside the building, and I turned my thoughts to intercession on behalf of all those who could not find stillness in the morning.  Perhaps the man sitting next to me?  Maybe someone in my family.  Certainly the people of Japan.  Most likely many people in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya.  The President?  The Governor?  The Grieved?  The Sick?  The Poor?  The Lost?  The Lonely? I have never found so many names and faces in my prayers. 
 
And then, much to my surprise, a rustle and a mumble began and I opened my eyes to find an extended hand and a smile on the face of the young man sitting in front of me.  "God's peace be with you," he said.  The hour was finished.  I had sat my multi-tasking, media-loving, blurt-style-talking self down for a full hour of silence.

And I have spent the balance of the day quietly wondering this:  What if we all spent an hour a week being instead of doing, listening instead of talking?  What if knowing came from the heart and hearing included the songs of birds?  What if the presence of the Divine was something very real for one full hour every week?  

What kind of world would that be?
   
Peace.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On God

I met a friend for lunch yesterday.  We sat outside on a glorious Texas spring afternoon, ate vegetables with chopsticks and talked about life.  Usually that conversation involves career explorations (hers) and fashion faux pas (mine) and husbands (ours).  We have the kind of friendship that is soulful but generally filled with laughter and fun.

Yesterday was different.  My friend began our time together by showing me the photo of a strikingly handsome young man who she described as "the kind of guy who does nothing but good in the world - everybody's friend" ...

And of course he had been killed in an accident two days before while crossing a street in Vail, CO.  

"This is a faith crisis for me," she said. 

"I guess so," I said.

"Why do such good people get taken so young?"  she asked.  And I remembered that this was the second wonderful young person "taken" from her circle in the last few years.

 "I don't believe they are taken, if you mean taken by God,"  I said.  "I believe shit happens."

Then I told her this is one of the most frequently revisited topics of theological debate among my circle of churched friends - some of whom are giants of the faith.  The question is usually expressed this way:  Do you believe in a God who can intervene in our circumstances but doesn't, or do you believe in a God who can't intervene in our circumstances? 

I choose the latter.  I would live in a constant crisis of faith if I didn't.  Who can believe in a Loving God who can but won't stop the tragic deaths of good people or wars or famines or tsunamis or murders or bullying or hate crimes or...well, fill in your own blanks. 

I should say here that my own husband and I disagree on this piece of critical thinking about God.  It is a complicated bit of pondering.

In an unrelated, but eventually related matter...I grabbed a Bible from the bookshelf this morning to look up a Psalm about being hard-headed (Psalm 32:9, if you need to read it too).  Two pages of lined paper fell out of the front of the book.  In my handwriting was a document titled Faith Statement.  It was dated March 20, 2004...the 1st anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. I imagine I was having a faith crisis that day. And I am guessing I struggled to cover the rough terrain of my soul as it ached for Americans and Iraqis in the middle of that quagmire.  Here's the result:

I believe in God - Father, Mother, Creator.
When I see a sunrise or a sunset or a new baby...when I feel someone's touch in a moment that I didn't even realize I needed to be touched...when I eat an amazing piece of fruit or arrange an armful of flowers...when something grows in my yard...
It is so obvious to me that God exists, creates, enjoys creation and delights in us.  
I believe in that God.  I cling to that God.  

I believe in prayer.
Not so much in prayer that manipulates the Universe, but in a focused acknowledgment of the powerful lingering of all that is Divine and Holy.  A significant part of prayer is remembering and refreshing this good and active place in my consciousness.


I believe shit happens.
Certain cells mutate in a body and specific diseases wage war and win. Certain distractions arise in human theater and specific deadly consequences result.  Certain laws of physics prevail when hot air meets cold air and specific monumental disasters, called natural, occur.  Certain people are elected/appointed/seize positions of power and specific political nightmares, called war, unfold.  

I DO NOT believe God is in the business of dropping in and changing the course of Creation and its inevitable messiness.   
But I do believe God cries. He/She is crying with me over our war and our dead young people.

...the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan...and the ones in Vail, Colorado.

Some days, belief in a God who cries is my strongest statement of faith. 

Shit happens. God cries.

And we all grab beauty in this life when and where we can:  On a patio with a friend and veggies and chopsticks...talking about things that matter. 

Peace.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Women and Sleds

One of my earliest memories is of my mother tying the strings of a knit hat underneath my chin and telling me, "You can do anything those boys can do." 

The occasion was a snowy day in Nashville, Tennessee.  My father was taking me sledding with his friends and their children - all boys.  I remember very little about the rest of the day, except not having as many turns on the sled as I wanted.  I was not quite five years old, and I suppose it had never occurred to me to think I couldn't do everything a boy could do...if I had my own sled.

And isn't that what it's all about, really?  Who owns the sled?  

On this 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, I awoke to a list of statistics that made me feel like I've done nothing more spectacular than a man in the last 50 years than live in denial.  Keeping up with the boys...where has it left us?   Take a look:
  • 2/3 of the work done in the world is done by women
  • 10% of the world's income is earned by women
  • 1% of the world's property is owned by women
  • 70-million girls in the world are denied access to basic education because they are girls
  • 1 in 4 women in the world are victims of domestic violence
  • 3 women a day are killed in the United States by intimate partners
Let's not even begin the conversation about what a pregnancy does to a woman's career...or sexual harassment...or an affair.  Honestly, when has one of these things compromised the power of a man? 

I have found a bit of solace today in the words of the late, great Ann Richards: 
If you give us the chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.
Still, I'm betting Ginger had a joint banking account with Fred and that he called the shots.  Dancing backwards, I'm thinking, is not going to change the ways of world.

Stepping up, marching forward, and standing firm...that, my Sisters, changes the world.

So let's begin...high heels in the back of the closet where they belong, resolve on our minds, a better future for the next generation of women in our hearts:

Step 1:  Acknowledge the truth. We are not considered equals in this world. 

Step 2: Fight for yourself and for others.

Step 3: Call on the Sisterhood...which is strong and smart and steady and sane...when you need help.

Step 4:  Be ready to help. 

The US constitution still does not have an Equal Rights Amendment.  I can't believe the fact of that doesn't disappointment my mother - a strong woman who raised four capable daughters to live in the world with a lie.   

We cannot do everything the boys can do, Mom. 

They still own the sleds. 

Peace.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

And So It Begins


I lit a candle yesterday for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  And I really meant it this time.

It wasn't a candle of general hope for world peace or intellectual political despair or religious commitment to a Jew or a Muslim.  It was a desperate prayer for no conflict on the ground in the region - for at least six months.  

My niece flew to Tel Aviv yesterday.  She will be studying at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem until June.  I am now personally invested in the longing for peace in the Middle East.

Taylor is a brilliant and beautiful and industrious student of life.  This opportunity to live and learn in a culture so distant, yet so familiar via the context of the stories she's heard about Jesus, was just too good to miss.  I'm thrilled about her being there.  I know both Taylor and the world will be better for this adventure.  I believe she will come back to us a generous world citizen with new and compassionate views.  She will, likewise, leave her unique mark on everyone who crosses her world-explorer path.

I am also terrified. There is just no way to feel completely at ease with a loved one living in Jerusalem these days.  The sword rattling absolutely never ends over there.  The missile launchers and the bomb planters and the politicians all stay so completely on edge over who lives where and with what rights, you never really know when one poorly timed comment or bully faced military shift or diplomatic posturing will loose the hair that sits on the trigger of violent reaction. 

So I pray a desperate prayer for at least six months of peace. 

And while I do that, I feel certain Taylor will seize every moment of her Great Explore: 

Within old Jerusalem’s walled city is the site of Abraham’s would-be sacrifice of his son, Isaac or Ishmael (depending on the religion). The Islamic shrine known as the Dome of the Rock, built in 691, stands on the location today. In ancient times both the original and rebuilt Jewish Temples were situated there.  Jews still call it the Temple Mount.  Taylor will see these things and understand the conundrum of a divided Jerusalem like none of us who have never traveled there really can.
 
The Western Wall is what remains of the stone perimeter that once surrounded the grounds of the Jewish Temple. Taylor will likely touch that wall and feel the presence of all the saints - both Jew and Arab.

Jerusalem’s old walled city also holds what is thought to be the site of Christ’s Crucifixion, where today stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Taylor will, no doubt, pause and pray a Christian's prayer at that spot.

Meanwhile, the rippling effect of her adventure begins with this reality:  The educational journey of one young woman from a suburban setting in the red state of Texas leaves a family of 19 aunts and uncles and grandmother and cousins - typically at odds over religion and politics - united in one grand wish for peace. 

And so it begins with us. Peace. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Apologize

A couple of days ago, my husband hurt my feelings.  He didn't mean to, but he did.  I pouted.  He tried to defend himself.  I pouted some more. What I wanted was not to be told how I misinterpreted his actions.  What I wanted was to hear from him that he was sorry I was hurt.  Once I knew that, I could begin to hear his line of reasoning.

But not before the apology. 

And so it is with Sarah Palin.

Have you seen her video response to Saturday's melee in Tucson, posted this morning on her facebook page? Nothing reconciling, bridge building, or even almost resembling an "I'm sorry" approach to people in America who are in a fizz over her political rhetoric. 

It is, instead, 7-minutes and 43 seconds of, "don't blame me."

And I don't blame her.  Clearly the majority of people in this country do not believe targets on maps or "reload" references or the sic 'em attitude that Ms. Palin is so famous for actually mean the woman wants anyone to become a murderer.  Surely, surely, surely we would have called that out as utter insanity months ago if we'd really believed she meant for us to take a literal view of her metaphoric presentations. 

Even so, we are hurting.  We Americans don't want to believe things like what happened last weekend are really possible in our cities.  These are stories we expect out of Baghdad or Kabul, not Tucson, Arizona.

So I don't believe it would have been too much to ask Ms. Palin for something like: "I'm sorry for anything I have said or done that would lead people to believe I am a fan of violence." Followed perhaps by a clearly stated, "I am not."

It's what loving people do.  They feel sorry when there's a misunderstanding that has boiled over into blaming and outrage.  They long for a field of compromise that will allow for gentle words and new feelings.

It's not just what loving people do.  It's what smart people do.

And once again, Sarah Palin misses the boat.  Here's some of what she said:
Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions...When we "take up our arms," we're talking about our vote.
So, I believe I will continue to turn my back on her reasoning.

Apologize first. 

Peace.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Signs...Are They a' Changin'?

It sounds like the tragic Saturday killing spree involving Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords has put our national leadership on alert.

Finally.

Incendiary rhetoric mixed with politics is being called out for what it is: insane, uncivilized, anti-democracy, and just plain dangerous.  May those who have ears hear. 
Democratic and Republican lawmakers had a rare bipartisan conference call Sunday to discuss Rep. Giffords' condition and security concerns for members of Congress.
Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pennsylvania, said he will introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a member of Congress or a federal official. (from today's Washington Post)
Language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence?  I wonder if any of these would qualify as criminal under such a law?





 
Criminal?  Or just terribly tasteless expressions of free speech?

How might a symbol like this fare under a law like Rep. Brady envisions?


What about this?  Criminal? 


This one?  Could this man be perceived as threatening or inciting violence?


A pity we need a law to tell us how to be civilized.  A bigger pity that we Americans have sopped up the snarly references to guns and violence and hit lists like they were sweet barbeque sauce instead of the vicious poison they are.

Do we need a need a law?  Could we decide to be the privileged and fed and educated people we are and begin to be the POSITIVE change we want to see in this world?  Remember what those signs looked like?




 

We like the hopeful message.  We proved that over two years ago.  What in the name of everything decent has happened since then?

 Peace.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Mother's Broken Heart

I have looked at this photo all day long. 


It's Christina Taylor Green...  The 9-year old who died in a crazy man's shooting spree yesterday in Arizona. 

Her mother talked to someone at ABC news this morning and called her daughter, "a beautiful girl, inside and out."  I started to cry. I have ached for Christina's parents all day long.  I had 9-year olds once.  I never imagined they would not be safe at a public event with an adult friend along. 

I have also looked at this photo quite a bit today.


It's Gabriel Zimmerman...  The 30-year old legislative aide to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He also died yesterday at the event in Tucson that he reportedly had planned.  I have a 26-year old in my life who is like a son to me.  He is the chief of staff for a Texas legislator and likely will be attending many events like this with his boss in the upcoming days of the Texas legislative session.  I cannot let myself believe that a young man interested in making the world a better place, one piece of legislation at a time, could die doing this job.

I have also studied this face today.

 
It's Jared Lee Loughner...  The 22-year old suspected shooter in the terrifying incident that left six dead yesterday morning at a US Congressional representative's meeting with constituents on that street corner in Tucson, Arizona. 

My sons are in their 20s.  A determined search of the web could probably turn up photos of them making goofy faces into a camera.  Some of their friends wear hats like this, and glasses like this, and attend community college, and wander around a bit trying to find their way(s) in this world.  And while I am not even hinting at linking any sane young person I know with the psychoses that now frame the person who is reported to be Jared Lee Loughner - I am saying the man...who is really still just a boy...has a mother.  I hope she loves him. Can you imagine what her day has been like today?

I will let others ponder the dysfunctional landscape of fear and trembling that political pundits and crazy preachers and poorly informed rally goers have created in this country.  There will be many over the next few weeks who lament the implications of lax gun laws and crosshairs on maps and the social psychology behind group support of statements like "if ballots don't work, bullets will." 

I am going to cry for mothers. 

Peace.  Please.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top Speed 40 MPH?

That's the fastest you can drive on the 88-square mile island of Martha's Vineyard.  I'm not kidding.

There are also no traffic lights.  And nothing but smooth and curvy two-lane roads.

For a girl from a bustling city in a state where wide roads and big cars rule - it was a bit of an adjustment.  But after a few days in my rented econo-box, I felt my pulse slow and my peripheral vision expand.  I was breathing, not fuming.  I was meandering not maniacally swerving.  I was catching a glimpse of the world outside my personal high-speed space.

And here's what I saw...


Behind a tall wire fence, in the bright light of noon, was a square-mile of this.  It was breathtaking.

The next day I decided I needed one or two more shots of Creation's Crayola box, this time taken in the longer shadows of an afternoon.  I drove the same road - even slower than 40 mph.  I drove it four times.

The flowers were not there.

The next morning, I took the same route.  I went 20 mph this time.  My field of Springtime in September had vanished.   I thought I'd lost my mind.

By the following day I realized the flowers had been harvested.  Every single stem had been cut to the ground.  I had seen those blooms just hours before they went from planted-in-the-earth to arranged-in-a-vase.

And I could not help wondering...what if I'd been going 60?

I ran across the photo, taken almost four months ago, this week as I rushed through the pile that was 2010 on my desk .  If digital images have a voice, this one was shouting:  Slow down!  I swear I actually heard it.

Meander a bit on the journey, it said.
Watch for beauty along the way.
Stop and take a picture or write a poem or whistle.

Or plan to miss a lot of what is good about this world.

Peace.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cheers!



A friend emailed Tuesday:
Happy New Year!  Time is arbitrary, and still, this marker seems to have some potency - might as well tap into it!
I appreciated his honesty.  Time is arbitrary.  

The fact is, January 1 is just another day on the calendar.  As we toasted it in with friends at midnight last Friday, I have to admit I did not feel the potency.  Is this day a finer gift than yesterday was?  That's what I was thinking.  Why the clinking and kissing and horn blowing and firecrackers?  If we do it for this day, why not the next?  

And so I began the year...wondering why I don't celebrate every day like a fresh, new beginning.

In this first week of 2011, I have picked through the works of some of my favorite inspired writers and poets, I have reviewed old calendars, I have lit candles, I have made lists.  And still, I feel nothing but longing for a kind of hopeful spirit that greets every single day with a raised glass and a joyful heart and a determined resolve to make things new. 

Every single day.  

I have landed on this question:  Why the struggle to find celebration within me?

Me - the woman who has no unmet personal need and rarely an unanswered whim.
Me - the person who grew in the safety of a loving home in the middle of a land full of freedom and choice.
Me - the human whose only physical complaints are tied directly to personal decisions. 
Me - the being who knows real suffering mostly through the observed experiences of others.

Me. 

If I can't celebrate every single day of life and breath and being on this planet, then who?

If I cannot joyfully wave big, flashy banners of hope and kindness and peace and love, I am not sure why I have been given so much to celebrate.

And so I am leaving the champagne flute on the window sill in 2011.  There will be clean water in it every morning as I greet the day.  If there seems to be nothing more fitting to celebrate on any given day, I will celebrate the clean water and remember that one in eight people in this world do not have it.

Time is arbitrary.
Our decision to fill it with hope and joy is not.
 
Happy New Year.
Peace.