Mind Wanting More, and more

I have two folks to thank for this luscious poem. First, of course, the author. Her name is Holly Hughes. I’ve linked to her bio, below. The other is the delightfully creative force behind a blog I enjoy, Beyond the Fields We Know. Here 

Mind Wanting More

Only a beige slat of sun  sunset
above the horizon, like a shade pulled not quite down.
Otherwise, clouds.
Sea rippled here and there.
Birds reluctant to fly.

The mind wants a shaft of sun to stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch sea to sky with its barred wings,
some dramatic music: a symphony, perhaps a
Chinese gong.

But the mind always wants more than it has— one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed with the moon;
one more hour to get the words right;
one more chance for the heart in hiding to emerge from its thicket in dried grasses—

as if this quiet day with its tentative light weren’t enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all around.
Holly Hughes from America Zen: A Gathering of Poets

Which reminds me of one of my favorite poems from a beloved hero of mine, Wendell Berry. A venerable national treasure if ever there was one.

The Peace of Wild Things 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

GreatBlueHeron-in-flight

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Carrots and Sticks

In the EDITH Syndrome I talked about how I would do my bit to save humans and the world as we know it by offering head-bonking stories. There are two types of bonks. Nice wake-up calls that show the good we do as we act in alignment with nature. Those are carrots.

baby-sloth-eating-carrot

  The nasty bonker points out, well, the nasties. Stories of what we do that leads us away from nature, sanity, preservation of natural resources and a future for humans. That would be the stick. 

monkey with stick

 Both carrot and stick point to links that made sense to me and I wanted to share. If you have any, bring ’em on.

monkey with stickWe’re subsidizing the wrong thing. Dammit! the G20 countries are spending $88 billion a year subsidizing exploration for new fossil fuels.” No, that’s not the oil subsidy. That’s just for finding more non-renewable resources to bankrupt the planet. Simple solutions are proposed. They could happen. If our priorities were people and planet and only then profit.  STICK.

baby-sloth-eating-carrotThis is awesome! How about a local food economy. In the poorest neighborhoods. That’s serious value. CARROT

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The EDITH Syndrome

If you’ve read any of my posts you footprints on the worldprobably noticed sustainability is one of my great passions. There’s lots to fire it as the years roll on along with increased ocean acidification, climate change impacts, and the deadly EDITH syndrome pandemic.

This fatal eco-illness impedes our ability to make grown-up choices and leads us to increasingly childish behavior. We turn our backs even as we turn the corner to irreversible damage.

EDITH, aka ‘Ecological Deer in the Headlights’ syndrome, appears to have many causes. These include fear, selfishness, self-imposed ignorance, FOX news, stupid radio, greed, and efforts to pretend opinion and religion are science. It’s also fed by the mass addiction to pretending our actions — either for good or harm — have no enduring impacts.

IMO, reality just is and climate facts just are. And all actions have consequences. Nano-second by nano-second, step by step we create and impact reality. To the extent we choose to ignore that truth, we create a lemming-reality in which we blindly, passively march to our own destruction.

Maybe I can help? I don’t know, but at least I won’t ignore. I’ve decided to use the teeny voice of my blog to help save the world as we know it. I think we need good news as well as the rest. Especially in dire circumstances, hope can be the only parachute we have left. So I’m going to use both a carrot and a stick.

baby-sloth-eating-carrot

 

Carrot: this happens when we act in alignment with nature.

 

monkey with stick

 

Stick: Where EDITH is taking us now.

 

The potentially bad news here is these are links. You’ll have to, you know, take action. My one-step EDITH antidote.

Carrot: How Wolves Change Rivers 

Stick: Dave Roberts on Climate Change and Economic Growth

 

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War and Pieces

The US, Mexico and Canada are a bloody mess. The civil war continues unabated. It seems unstoppable. The religious right banned together under the name “Intentional Salvation is Life” (ISIL). They joined forces with the US-based Tea Party. Together they created well-trained ISIL militias. For the past two years, they have been waging an uncompromising holy war throughout North America.

They built slowly for some years, playing on entrenched xenophobic fears of immigrants. They used racist propaganda not only to separate whites from others, but in Mexico to set lighter skinned Latinos against darker skinned. They successfully built homophobia into a cornerstone of their hate propaganda. They unflinchingly deny women equal rights — a word they say is a misnomer. They believe women are granted ‘privilege,’ and those have been have handed out ‘too liberally’ by the unbelievers.

In every state and province where they have a majority, the rights of all but themselves are increasingly trampled on. Terror, bombings and assassinations have become so commonplace that no one has clear numbers anymore. They are extraordinarily well-funded and seem to have an ever-expanding arsenal.

The US National Guard has been stretched beyond endurance, as have the police, federal and state authorities in Canada and Mexico. In the U.S., what was once a reliable national government is so divided that no coherent action is possible. They are stopped at every turn by ISIL supporters. Canada is not far behind and Mexico is suffering under internecine warfare within the cartels – some for ISIL, some against.

Resistence is ongoing, but weak. Mostly because in the absence of strong federal support, the response falls mainly on a divided and faltering progressive coalition.

The world seems to agree that North America is a danger to the global community. Europe is reflecting on the rise of fascism and wondering if it really could happen again, this time in the new world.

Reluctantly the Arab League decides the threat to Islam is real and can no longer be ignored. The North American violent right appears to be winning and if they do, it means disaster for the Middle East. The Islamic world knows full well they will be ISIL’s next target. In fact, ISIL hasn’t tried to hide their plans to take over control of the oil-rich areas in the Middle East and carry out a “modern-day Crusades” against what they view as the largest international threat to their sovereignty and religion.

What should the Arab League do? The debate swings widely.

Doves argue for working privately and quietly. They want to funnel funds to progressives. They propose education campaigns among the vulnerable and international cooperation to help with arrests of offenders. They claim any incursion into the morass of North America by Islamists would be lengthy, end poorly for all and turn into a no-win and protracted struggle.

Even with the best intentions, they argue, military activity would be seen as an infringement on the rights of sovereign peoples. Instead of winning over hearts and minds to a peaceful solution, doves claim any non-peaceful intervention would be viewed as a holy war against Christianity.

Those in the middle argue for limited military activity as a ‘necessary evil.’ Their plan is to send a limited number of troops to train progressives in counter-insurgency techniques. They would consider bombing, but only if no other solution could be found. Those a small step ahead on the hawkish path argue that in addition to training, they must bomb targeted strongholds of the right wing extremists and they must assassinate the leaders.

The extreme hawks say time is not on the side of the Arab world. A victory by anti-Islamists bent on destroying their way of life is well worth some diplomatic scorn. Act decisively and quickly, they argue, for back-room deals are already underway — ISIL is in ongoing negotiations to buy oil fields. There is talk that some of their most highly placed members could be smuggling nuclear weapons into the Middle East.

They argue this evil must be eradicated by all means necessary. Short of that, the Arab way of life, the valuable oil fields and religious freedom will be taken away. They ask the League to sanction bombing, assassinations and ‘boots on the ground’ as needed until the aggressive and unthinkable evil is eradicated.

What do you think they should do?

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Death Among Us — Robin Williams

Looking at social media, it’s clear I’m not the only one needing to sit with this news that’s taking longer than expected to digest. His death was shocking. Stunningly so. Despite the old clichés that comedians are sad people and artists are tortured souls we were thrown off kilter. Why did the suicide of Robin Williams cause such a loud collective intake of breath? Why is it still in the air?

For one thing, you shouldn’t get this kind of news on a beautiful summer weekend in August. It should come in the depths of winter, when you’re longing for warmth and sun and it just won’t come dammit, and you’re almost losing hope.

Then there’s the juxtaposition of one of the funniest men of our time doing something so utterly devoid of humor. The man who controlled audiences with a gesture or a word showed us definitively that he had lost control over what truly mattered.

That funny brilliant man often seemed like someone we knew – an Everyman of comedy. His friends say he was shy. The rest of us easily confuse knowing a celebrity’s work or seeing them ‘candid’ on a late-night talk show with knowing who they are. We knew Robin Williams was over the top – it was his trademark. Most knew of his battles with addiction and depression.

But his death told us we didn’t know him at all. Who would have predicted his death, or the angry, brutal way he killed himself! That aftershock was almost as awful as the news itself.

So what are we left with now? His body of work, of course. We’ll catch up on anything of his we might have missed. We’ll watch his movies, attend retrospectives, we’ll let him make us laugh and feel again.Yesterday I watched the pilot of Mork and Mindy, a show I had never seen. I laughed so hard I almost choked on a sip of water.

We’ll appreciate his creative genius and hopefully we’ll accept his final gift. For his death is a challenge and an opportunity for us to look behind a curtain we so don’t want to lift. Not only to understand mental illness and suicide better, but also to reflect compassion without having to understand.

Too many of us have been impacted by the suicide of friends or family members. We are left with our emotions all across the board — we are hurt, devastated, confused. Guilty. Angry. We ask ourselves if there was something we might have done differently. Maybe, maybe not. But by then we’re looking in the rear view mirror.

Maybe this time we can pay it forward. Maybe this iconic death that has found its way into our national psyche will help us do something differently in our private lives. Perhaps we will learn a little better how to uncover, discuss and respond to mental illness in ways that improve and dignify us and help make lives — and deaths – easier to understand.

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What I Will Always Remember on 9/11

I can’t seem to answer the most fundamental question about remembering 9/11. Exactly what are we expected to remember?

If it is the terror act and deaths, are we to always remember every act of terror in the US? Or only this one? Are we to forget Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings that killed 168 people? Or the Aurora movie theatre shooting that killed 12 and wounded 70? Or the Fort Hood massacre that left 13 dead? The Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 dead? Columbine High School where 15 died? And all the others.  Are these numbers too small?

Should we forget the innocent victims of madmen with guns? The families killed and torn apart? The single deaths by acts of terror? If we are to always remember the deaths of 9/11, which deaths are we to forget?

Perhaps we are asked to remember the vastness and egregiousness of the terrorism perpetuated on 9/11. But if that is so, I can’t stop at the horrific acts of 9/11. Wars, a constant on our planet, are conglomerations of acts of terror writ large. Death by starvation in a world that can feed us all is a massive form of terror that knows no end.

If we look beyond our borders, can we ignore that every day some 21,000 people – about 18,000 of whom are children – die of hunger? Even though they are not slamming into our buildings, that’s the equivalent of about 100 deadly jet plane crashes each day. *

The number of people who died in the 9/11 terror attack was shocking for our nation. Watching the Twin Towers collapse, a collectively indelible moment in our history. That NYC and Washington DC were targeted on a grand scale was the iconic moment of a generation. Still, am unable to resolve the refrain of always remember, never forgive, never forget.

When I remember 9/11, I grieve for all who died —  but no more and no less than for the senseless, tragic deaths of others I have not met and did not know. And that was only augmented by our response with acts of war and the senseless deaths we as a nation caused and incurred in a reaction that can hardly be justified by collective grief.

We know violence begets violence and terror is a constant threat. So in my memories, I choose to cross borders and grieve for all senseless deaths. I choose to remember that we as a species are diminished by every one of these deaths, but that humans are overwhelmingly good. I choose to remember and stand shoulder to shoulder with those who do not abide evil. Above all, I choose to remember that spirals of destruction are brought down by the essential qualities of our collective humanity — redemption and compassion.

*This is so disturbing. On this page you see the faces of the hundreds who die of hunger in the hour you are watching.

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Haste Ye Back

DSCN1333Traveling can be frustrating, what with so many exciting places in the world and neither time nor money enough to visit them all. Even so, before seeing new places I hope to return to Scotland. I’d like to find where it has hidden my heart and see if I can’t steal it back.

In this mutable collage of a country, past and present, myth and history, magic and the mundane constantly bump into each other. Like after an interminable debate, I’m left feeling that from the mist-laden time of the Picts onward, these distinctions have been muted and all are part of the Scottish weave.  A meta tartan.

DSCN1327The Standing Stones of Callanish (pictured) on the Isle of Lewis predate Stonehenge by a thousand years and the great pyramid of Giza by 500. This windswept sacred site is older than we can grasp, yet we cannot help but bow to its spirit. Approaching these mysteriously aligned giants, visitors fall into silence, or mere camera clicks and whispers.

As alive and welcoming as any of the B&B owners that served me breakfast, I understood why legends abound, from tales of giants who were turned to stone, to the pregnant woman of the mountains behind them when the ‘moon walks on the land.’

The “Highland Clearances”— ethnic cleansing of the Highlands and islands — has determined their current social and economic character and is achingly visible in innumerable scattered ruins. Meanwhile, the astounding beauty of the Highlands and isles – green hills dotted with flowers, waterfalls and steams, trees, sprawling lochs, changing skies, tales of faerie folk and heroes, cast a spell that ignites imagination, awakens body and mind, and flows into a waiting soul.

DSCN0980Scotland’s ancient myths overflow into present history, just as we in our time create myths that will become history and legend to our future descendants — through movies we make and books we write, shared exploits told around a table or campfire, and texts messaged on social networks.

Perhaps 5,000 years in the future, inhabitants will be moved by our exploits, try to unravel the primitive nature of our beliefs, or tap into some universal, timeless part of the myths we created.

DSCN0910Perhaps future visitors, sparked by the mosaic of our ruins, may be lucky enough to find a land of astounding beauty, where past and present collide. If so, they too will heed the call haste ye back.DSCN1365DSCN1239DSCN1201

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Equinox paradox

It is the spring Equinox and I am again reminded how wonderful it feels to be even a tiny part of the web of Nature. I’m reminded how powerful, breathtakingly stunning and yet how fragile is our little planet. And how utterly ridiculous it was to ever dream up the Biblical misnomer ‘dominion’ over it when the only word that ever made sense was stewardship. Continue reading

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Puerto Vallarta’s Writer’s Conference 2013

It was cool. This was my second PVWG conference. I was out of pocket for last year’s, but by all accounts this one surpassed both last year and most people’s expectations for this one. Speaking of which. We were handed a questionnaire to help organizers figure out what went well and what fell in the water.We rated our expectations of the panels, seminars and workshops and then rated our actual experience. With the exception of one event, my expectations were significantly lower than actual. Which is good. Continue reading

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What Garbage!

I remember scions ago, well some decades past anyway, when I was a sophomore in college and heard a guest lecturer who started talking about… of all things… garbage. I don’t know why I went and I don’t remember what he said. Except this. He leaned over the podium, bending toward us, friendly, smiling. He said something about societal norms of throwing garbage away. Then he stepped back, lifted his fist in the air and slammed it onto the podium. Staring us down, he yelled: “THERE IS NO AWAY!!!” Continue reading

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