31 January 2017

Stand Up And Show Your Soul. We Were Made For These Times

Stand Up And Show Your Soul

Maria has made a beautiful hanging piece, she is calling it "Show Your Soul," and it is up for sale now on her blog.

The title came from the author and analyst  and poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes who has written a beautiful and timely essay about finding ones footing and ground in difficult times.

Maria is finding her strength and truth and showing her soul, in her art, in her life. I believe these times are a gift to her, to me.

Estes writes to my spirit.

"My friends, do not lose heart,"  she says. "We were made for these times."

The light of the soul, she writes, "throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of the soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity."

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. To simply show up and reveal yourself is an act of great strength. I trust it.

In any dark time, writes Estes, there is a tendency to veer toward despairing over how much wrong or unmended tears there are in the fabric of the world. "Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling 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 cannot change the world all at once, or by ourselves. These are not battles to be fought, but souls to be lit like candles in the wind.

Any small, calm, act of good and mercy is a gift from one soul to another – to assist any one in this often poor and suffering world is an act of power and strength and revelation. We can't know what might tip the scales, or if we shall live to see that day, and it doesn't matter. It matters that we stand up and show our souls.

It is not our task to convince or persuade others or to sink into argument and rage and despair. Argument and impatience kills hope and exhausts the spirit.

I think it is my mission to be calm and steady, to help calm the storm in any small way, with a word, a quote, a photograph. This is one of the strongest things I can do, and I do not need money, vast organizations, pollsters, donors, billionaires,  modern media or the approval or presence of another human being to do it.

I believe people of empathy and compassion are a powerful army, a tribe touched by the spirit of our Gods. They will make the earth tremble.  I think these are our times.

If you choose, stand up and show your soul.





Posted in General

Indian Fabric. Birthday Gift For Maria

Calcutta Elephant

Several weeks ago, I found a site online that sold beautiful cotton printed fabric from India. I hope it would arrive in time for her birthday Saturday, but it didn't come until Monday. I knew she would yell at me for buying her more things, but the look on her face when she saw it was rewarding enough, she was so enchanted she forgot she was yelling at me, and just oogled. She said she thought it should stay in the farmhouse, but I said no, it was for her to use with her art.

She agreed almost instantly, which made it clear that she loved it. She's going to wash it this week, then take it into her studio and figure out how to make some art with it, I have no idea what she will come up with. I got her a second cloth with beautiful trees and monkeys on it, I can't wait to see what she does with it.

I thought it would be nice to get her head into India a bit before she goes there. She's leaving on the 12th, a week from Sunday and is already packing and going over her documents.  She is alternating between nervousness and exhilaration. Exhilaration is winning out, we are both so excited about this trip.

The fabric makes me want to go with her, maybe one day. I don't wish to go on this trip, it is all  hers.

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Lunch At The WordPress Cafe

The WordPress Cafe

On the way to Brattleboro Saturday, we stopped at the WordPress Cafe to see Rachel Barlow's very wonderful show of her landscapes, Vermont and Iceland. I saw this couple eating at the care window, and thought it captured a kind of moment, a kind of intimacy that I love about the country.

Rachel's show was quite wonderful. Rachel is a gifted writer, blogger and author. She has a wonderful piece on her blog now about how she dances while she paints.

Posted in General

Grandfather Chronicles: Next TIme

Failed Visit

I was planning to visit my granddaughter Robin in New York City this weekend, I had some gifts to bring up and was looking forward to that smile and steely gaze. Robin definitely has the look of an old soul, when she is not being a terror, and she seems quite bemused by the state of the world.

I got her an abominable snow hat (see below) and a cloth three house with critters. But I had to cancel, I ran into the geographic complexities of  living too far away. It isn't that far to New York City, but it is in many ways. Maria would have to get up early to drive me to Albany and train, and then come later in the day to pick me up.

She's swamped getting ready for India, just a little over a week away (we went over tickets and itinerary today, she is ready). I'm still getting over my cold and cough, and I am swamped with work. A member of my family is having some troubles, and I have to be available for that. I might also have to do some work on the new refugee front.

So it's not turning out to be a good day. I think this is the geographical reality of me and Robin, the visits there will just have to be occasional, and we will just have to work around that. She looks like she's going to be fun to be around, I'm shipping her presents up and perhaps can get down to see her when Maria gets back from India.

Life happens. She's starting to remind me of Buddha.

Posted in General

When Love And Politics Collide: Reflections On Living Together. Nod To Dear Abby.

When Politics Intrude

A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the State with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated by it as enemies.” – Henry David Thoreau

I wrote yesterday about the occasional intrusion of politics onto my blog. Some readers want to only see cute animals and look at the pictures, and have let me know that. A couple of have walked away.

Today, my inbox was full of lovely and appreciative messages about the blog, I forget sometimes that the nicest people don't generally speak out much or send many messages.

They rarely try to tell me what to write, and flow patiently along with my ups and downs and twists and turns.

One of the messages this morning was from Jen, it caught my eye, and reminded me that politics is often a small and intimate thing. Even though we tend to view it on a grand, portentous scale – Washington, the White House, the media, immigration – it is often very personal.

And solutions to problems often begin with the smallest things.

Jen's message about her struggles with her fiance over politics touched me and inspired me to think about the dangers of self-righteousness and the power of talking,  listening and thinking, three traits that seemed to have vanished from our political system and much of social media.

"I want to thank you for your thoughts in this tumultuous time," she said. "I find myself in a very loving relationship with my fiance who was/is/not sure a supporter of Trump. I have struggled a great deal this year, knowing what a kind and generous person he is and trying to reconcile. For now, I just ask that politics stay out of our home so that we can each believe in what we think is best.  So hard sometimes to keep it that way. But when I look at the generosity and kindness he has always shown, I hope we can get through these challenging times. And our beloved black Lab is such a solace to us both…"

Jen said she wasn't sure where she was going with her message, but she did want to thank me "for the many years of smiles and introspection you have brought me through your books and blogs." Jen is sticking around, and I thanked her.

Uncharacteristically, I thought of dispensing some love advice – I am not into giving or receiving advice from strangers much, I am not Dear Abby, but Jen awakened a Dear Abby gene in me, one I didn't know was even there.

I am rooting for this guy, and for this relationship. She seems to love him, and he seems awfully nice and is very much entitled to his own view of politics. He sounds like one of those men you can talk to. That is a rare species.

I  wanted to write and say she seemed to have found a very good man, and if he was generous and kind he would help her find a way to get through this discomfort and to a better place.

To me, President Trump is not only a political challenge, but a spiritual one. How do I respond to such a vain, obnoxious, arrogant and often blatantly dishonest man,  a person more than 60 million of my country men and women chose to entrust with the leadership of our country?

I am working on it, if I can figure this out, I will have taken a giant step in my long and circuitous spiritual journey. It's a tough thing, but he is nothing but a gift.

I do not accept the idea that people who support Donald Trump or who voted for him are bad people, I am not surprised they can be generous and kind, even when he is not. It is offensive to write them off as bigots or sexists or idiots, it is offensive for them to write me off as a knee-jerk liberal elitist who doesn't deserve a voice in my own country. My friends who voted for Mr. Trump have not done that to me.

They care as deeply about the country as I do, perhaps more, and they want to believe the system can be made to work for them again.  The immigration system is much on their minds, a metaphor for a chaotic and dangerous world. They are fearful.

Jen got me to thinking about this week, and what a great emotional toll it took on so many people, including me. Immigration is an important issue for me, but my own family history with it has also blinded me a bit, I see. The modern world of immigration is not the same as the one that greeted my grandmother so many years ago.

When my grandmother came to America  and saved our family, it was very much a different world. The bombing of churches and the slaughtering of young people dancing was either unknown or profoundly shocking. This  has changed. Atrocities are served up as our daily media diet, they are so easy to exploit.

The chances of an American being killed by a refugee terrorist are one in 3.6 billion, according to the very conservative and widely-respected CATO Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.  Fear unchecked is a dangerous thing.

I wanted to say to Jen (I didn't) that I think talking is important. Maria and I are both intense and strong-willed people, we can get on each others nerves in a hurry, and we often disagree. When we do, we immediately sit down and stop and talk about it until we work it out, and figure it out.  How can you resolve something if you can't listen or talk?

If it were me, I would sit down with the fiance and say, "how can we love one another and still keep our own identities. How can we support one another and live together in a nourishing way?" If that doesn't work, they may, in fact, have a serious problem. If it does work, they may have a wonderful relationship, perhaps one like mine. We talk about everything, nothing is off-limits. I am not suggesting we are a perfect couple, but we do work things out and love one another deeply.

In my mind, that is precisely what we seemed to have forgotten how to do as a country, and as a people. It would be nice if our leaders set an example.

This immigration issue  is very difficult, for me, for so many others.

I confess I am not emotionally prepared to slam the door on the needy and oppressed on the world, that is not my America. We are almost numb to the horrors we often see on the news, but some of them are very real.

I want to understand what I cannot comprehend.

Isn't this a conversation the country ought to be having, right out in the open, the left and the right, Democrats and Republicans, people who love Trump, people who don't, Jen and her fiance? If they won't do it, I will, and I am a pimple on the ass of life

I can see why Jen is struggling over whether to marry someone who might support that way of doing things. So many people are frightened, so many suffered.

I mention this as my own response to Jen's very thoughtful letter this is, in a way, what I am facing, what we are all facing, it is a complex psychological and spiritual challenge for many people, not just those on the left or the right.

So I'll put my Dear Abby hat on and think about myself. I think I need to do what I would tell Jen to do if she had asked me for advice which, I think, she was in her own way.  Learn something from their Lab, a kind and generous breed. Their message is acceptance.

I will work to serve the state with my conscience. People who disagree with me are not my enemies. That is the dark path.

My response will be to continue to listen and learn, to speak my truth, to focus on the new refugee families, the helpless and the needy, the refugees who are here, my writing and my photography and my wife. I mean to do good in the small ways that are available to me.

(You can help the arriving refugees inexpensively and easily, right here. This morning, I sent a $20 Amazon gift card. It feels so much better than arguing or watching the news. The gift page was set up by the U.S. Committee On Refugees and Immigration, some refugees are here and in need of everything.)

I wish Jen the best, I am thinking of her fiance, I'd like to meet him. Such men are not commonplace, her fiance might like Donald Trump, but he is not like Donald Trump, and he is not Donald Trump. I don't see him as an enemy, I hope she doesn't either.

Maybe there is something to this Dear Abby stuff, she did (does) well, a new path for me and my publisher. I'll call my agent, he will probably blow his stack.

Posted in General