Go Easy

screenshot-2019-01-18-at-12.56.59-am-edited.png

I remember the day I fell in love with the writing of Mary Oliver. Her writing arrived at the most opportune time and became a beacon of light encouraging me to follow. With her death this week I’ve pulled out her books and began rereading them. Her writing continues to inspire me to pause, reflect, and feel more deeply. I will miss her.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

This Sunday we are suppose to get a lot of snow. Light snow. Lovely snow. It is predicted to come the day after many Mainers will attend rallies around the state raising their voices for those who’s voices seem to get lost. I like to think she would approve and encourage us forward. Preferably in the presence of trees of course. In honor of her, do something beautiful for yourself. During the snowfall or shortly thereafter, bundle up, find a tree covered in snow, sit under it, and “stay awhile”. Sit quietly, pay attention, and think of the humble woman who wrote such a simple and beautiful poem to inspire us, “to go easy, be filled with light, and to shine.”

Shine On,

Mary

 

Advertisements

The Bravery of Raising Our Voices

screenshot 2019-01-13 at 12.06.13 pm - edited

As I snapped this photo of this lovely coat hook that was on the door in our loft in Portugal I found myself thinking, “What hook do I want to hang my coat on?” Of course, today, this thinking is as much figurative as it was literal then.

As I read another fabulous book by Jacqueline Winspear, The Care and Management of Lies, I am yet again reminded about  the notion of choosing which hook I want to hang my coat from because in this story the characters have to make important and large moral life choices. I’ve been drawn to her books that share strong female lead characters and moving male characters who lived during WWI in England. Not having any real understanding of this time period I find I’m learning as much about the whys of this bloody war as well as they whys it should never have happened in the first place. I’m also becoming aware of the connections between this war and WWII and wonder why in schools our kids learn about the Revolutionary War year after year but make it through 12 years never learning about this one. These questions, thoughts, and connections cause me to reflect on the Civil War and its inability to end hatred and racism. When wars are finished (are they ever finished?) there are supposed winners and losers. Except the reality is that no one wins and everyone looses. Even with the Civil War, if there was really a “winner”  racism would have ended. But it didn’t. It might have gone underground in places. But as disheartening evidence from the response to the election of our first black president that included referring to him and his family as apes and posing him in lynching photos and then the followup backlash that voted in our next, and vocally proud racist president it becomes painfully obvious that wining never really occurred. Yes, of course slaves were freed. And that was necessary and important and huge. But the underbelly of racism that caused slavery and the Civil War is alive and well in the good ‘ole U.S. of A. And not just in the south like many would prefer for us to believe.

Here is what I’ve concluded. War is stupid. War is immoral. War should never be tolerated. I’ve been much too silent about wars. Rich, powerful men (and some women) cause wars and for the most part, young poor men and women die serving in them. Innocent civilians, families, children, elders, women, and men die in them. Many men make a lot, a real lot, of money off wars. This money never makes its way down to those who serve or to their families. The United States has the largest, most powerful military industrial complex in the history of our planet and many men make a lot of money off of this while tax payers, and not wealthy tax payers and tax avoiders, pay for it in both lives lost, families torn apart, and financially.

While many brave souls rise up against this injustice, many, including myself have not. Why do we not rise up against war? Why are we complacent with racism? I certainly don’t have the answers to these questions. But as I read this book about a young farm woman who takes over the emotional, physical, and financial reins of the farm while her good husband serves in war, the author brilliantly reminds me the reader, about the human toll that war takes. As I follow their lives, thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams during this war I find myself thinking about this.

So, what hook will I hang my coat on? To speak out or to be silent? To appear angry or to be silent? To ask questions or to accept things as they are fed to me through corporate owned media? Raising your voice is not easy. People get angry at you. Angry for not raising it in the “right” way. Angry for causing discomfort. Angry for questioning the status quo. Angry for a million other reasons I may not even be aware of. But as uncomfortable as it makes us feel, and for me it does make me feel uncomfortable, we need to raise it anyway. I use to marvel at people, women in particular, who appear so “brave”, not having any fear as they maneuver through the process of raising their voices. But now I know that they were and are fearful. But they raise their voices anyway. That, I realize, is true bravery, doing what’s right even when you are afraid.

Be strong. Be brave. And raise your voices. Peace,

Mary

 

 

Lighting the Torch

56821481942__1b98010a-b6a8-4f0c-8af3-dcf2d121ccc9

This fabulous silk screen was presented to me by a young woman who’s art work I cherish. It is her representation of the Women’s March last January. I love it. But more importantly, I love what it represents. Youth raising their voices in creative, artistic ways.

This morning I had the honor to meet with three young woman who go to our local high school. They are members of a local Peace camp. I’m not sure if they realize it yet but they are also community organizers. This morning they quietly, respectfully, and politely made that cross over. And I was so proud of them. So honored to, as Gloria Steinem would say, “light their torches.”

We met before school. (What teenager gets up early to meet before school anyway?! These ambitious young women do, that’s who.) The focus of our meeting was to discuss the upcoming Equality Rally our town is having in a few weeks. They want to be a part. Oh, such sweet music to my ears. Really, when you think about it, they, the youth, should be on center stage. I’ve been to rallies before and I noticed that many of them are led by the community elders. While there is inherently nothing wrong with that, I think it’s time to light the torches of the youth so they can rise up and have their voices heard. I’m sure I am not alone in wanting to hear them.

We spoke about their camp experiences, their classes, and activities that are designed to help them lift their voices for those with less power. They discussed lessons that stood out to them. At first they were shy, not quite sure what to share. But then they began, oh and did they share! As I sat there listening, watching their cheeks redden, and their voices rise, I realized I was in my happy place. With kids who had something to say and were willing and able to say it. They gave me hope, pride, and joy. As they spoke a thread appeared in their discussion, trust. But trust only after initial mistrust and insecurity. We discussed that. We discussed how they got to a place of trust and how that trust changed their feelings about what was happening, about themselves, and about their work. “That’s it! That’s what we want to share!”

As the bell rang and they got antsy to get to class I thanked them for their time, energy, and commitment, and then got up to leave. As I left the room I enjoyed hearing bits and pieces of their conversation as they eagerly huddled up discussing their plans. I can not wait to hear what they have to say.

Peace my friends and may we relish the task of lighting the torches of our youth,

Mary

Beauty Opens Boundaries

1f7e844d-14d3-4ca0-bd2d-3bde99871d09

The above photo is of a rug in my son’s new room. It was handmade by an 85 year old Portuguese woman. He enjoys watching as she pulls tiny different colored skeins of yarn, which are wrapped around small pieces of wood, to work her rugs. These beautiful pieces of art are hung on their walls, cover their floors, and lighter ones even cover windows. As he was describing this to me I found myself wondering if it reminds him of his mum and other women he has watched over the years as they too worked with yarn and fiber in an obvious state of calm.

It seems to me we are living in a time when those “in charge” are trying as hard as they can to separate us. Make us appear different from one another. Trying as hard as they can to guide us in being suspicious of each other and even hate each other. As I read about another child dying while trying to reach the United States I think about this. I wonder, what if we were there with him and his dad, watching while he was sick and dying. Watching what would obviously be an incredibly moving and sad scene unfold. Would we succumb to such suspicion and hate?  I seriously doubt it. How could we? We couldn’t.

I have an older brother who helped people in New Orleans affected after Hurricane Katrina. He told me about what he saw, the people he met, the sadness and desperation he witnessed. I could tell it affected his heart deeply. As I listened to him share this story I found myself thinking we should all serve those we understand the least. As I read about and listen to people spew hate towards those coming from places affected by war, gangs, drugs, and other violence we can’t even begin to imagine I think of my brother, serving food in Louisiana so far from his home and family. I also think about “Grandma” as Kyle calls her. The woman who sits by the fire, blanket over her knees, making rugs in one of the smallest and oldest towns in Portugal. She doesn’t speak English and Kyle has to communicate with words and phrases he grabs from iTranslate. He said they manage. They manage to somehow communicate about the yarn, the designs, the weather, and they laugh. Imagine that. Two people from other sides of the pond, not speaking the same language, being of totally different generations and social circumstances, communicating and laughing. “Watch her cook,” I told him. He said he will. As for now he just smells amazing smells as she cooks for her family downstairs. I’m hoping that when I send a quart of our maple syrup over to them she will ask Kyle how to use such a thing as he says it is nowhere to be seen over there. Maybe then she’ll invite him to watch her cook. We all know that’s when real communication and understanding and sharing of cultures deepens.

Now is the time to let down our walls and let those we don’t know, and maybe even fear, into our hearts. We are the ones who will grow from such experiences. So my hope for each of us is that we open our hearts, see the humanness in those different from us, understand their fears and desires. And may that enrich each and every one of us and maybe even make us whole again.

Com muito amor,

Mary

Welcome Home

Screenshot 2019-01-03 at 6.35.59 AM - Edited

It’s snowing outside, the house is still dark, the sun hasn’t risen yet, and there is a strong sense of hope as a new day here in Maine is dawning.

When you drive north and arrive at the border of the beautiful state of Maine there is a sign that says, “Open for Business”. I guess it replaced the sign that for years said, “Maine, the way life should be”.  A new sign, with the support of the new governor, will be “Welcome Home”. I cried. I cried when she said that in her inaugural address because for eight years our magnificent state has been subject to the cruel policies of a very cruel man. He is gone now. Sold his house that he bought via foreclosure and made a huge profit, and went down to Florida. Yea, right, he loves Maine and Mainers. He caused more pain in our state than any other person in the thirty odd years we’ve been here. To say, “Good riddance, don’t let the door slap you on your way out” doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings I and half of our state feels upon his departure.

Welcome home. So simple. Yet so much conveyed. I’ll be honest, I’ve had several encounters with our new governor and they weren’t that positive. I wasn’t a big fan. But… last night the presence of children and representatives from the native community left me feeling hopeful. Her opening comments addressing climate change left me feeling hopeful. “Finally,” I said to my husband. She then went on to talk about how a top priority needs to be our children and their education. I sobbed. This woman, who I’ve doubted, just addressed the two most important issues of our time and gave voice to the voiceless. I’m softening up. She has my attention.

Welcome home indeed. May Janet T. Mills, our new and first woman governor, lead us into the dawn with a fierce determination to work for the voiceless. And may she bring compassion and kindness back to our state.

Peace my friends,

Mary

 

The Emotional Benefits of Travel

Screenshot 2018-12-30 at 9.03.31 AM - Edited

Setubal, Portugal…land of complexities. Old, modern, peace, war, simple, urban, wine and grapes and olives.

We spent two weeks in Setubal, a small industrial fishing city on the coast of Portugal. We were visiting our son who had just moved there a few weeks prior. We didn’t know what to expect because Portuguese travel photos show the beaches, the grape and olive lands, the people in scant bathing suits. But Setubal wasn’t that, any of that. It was rough around the edges, men standing around outside tables in front of tiny markets with coats on and hats tipped over their eyes, small glasses of vino tinto (red wine) in their hands. Women walking to and from daily market dressed in house dresses much like my grandmother wore. Young people dressed for work. Walking, always walking. And loud, laughing, and ever observant. We were observed. Fair skin, blue eyes, tall, new. We were observed. I’ll be honest, as beautiful as it all was it was at times a rather unsettling experience walking the narrow streets being stared at. No one was ever rude or mean to us. Grumpy at times, yes. But they always warmed up once we began to try to talk. I always had my little book of cheat comments that I referred to a lot. I had iTranslate on my phone that I’d use in a pinch but when I tried to communicate in Portugese and begin with, “Bom Dia” and end with “Obrigado” they always warmed up. Sometimes when they didn’t understand me I would show them the word or phrase using my phone. They would inevitable let out a hardy laugh because I butchered their language so badly. Then they would say it, the right way, and it was utter beauty.  Their language would roll off their tongues with the same glorious sound of a well executed sonata. And I would smile a huge smile and that usually did it. Their gruff, hard working exterior would melt away and we would communicate. Two people from two different places and times, smiling and enjoying a moment. The walls were gone.

Walls. The notion of walls is never a good thing. Designed to keep out. Designed to not invite. I found myself thinking about walls a lot while I was there. So thankful Portugal isn’t a land of walls. While walls around a bathroom or bedroom can be a necessary thing to guarantee needed privacy, walls around property is another matter. Walls to keep pets in, understandable and practical. Walls to keep people out, cruel. Plain and simple, cruel.

We were asked over and over again about our current president. “How could you?” was the common initial question. Under that question was fear. Clear and visible, fear. We, from the United States, don’t quite understand the impacts of our decisions around the world. But travel abroad and you see it. It is clearly visible and generously shared once that guarded behavior is released. Trump, our wall, dying immigrant children in tents all graced the front pages of their newspapers while we were there. They hate him. They hate him because they fear him. His instability, his pure cruelty, his vocal and proud boasting of being a white nationalist. Europe has experienced him before. And they are petrified he’s back. And he is. But this time he’s from the United States, the country that is suppose to be a world leader. But under Trump we have lost that. In a very big way.

A gentle and caring man who helped us when we arrived to our hotel in Lisbon opened up when we were sitting in the front of the hotel before dawn on Christmas morning waiting for our scheduled Uber to show up and give us a lift the the airport. “Trump?” he asked. “Why?”  Sigh.  “We are so sorry,” we said. “We are embarrassed,” we said. “How could you elect such a man?” He proceeded to tell us what worries him most. Climate change, leaving the Paris Agreement, stealing public lands to release them to mining and oil companies, promoting coal, not believing the science of climate change, Koch Brothers, Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil, lobbyists influence…. He knew and deeply understood more about our politics and state of affairs than most Americans do. And let’s talk about that term “Americans”. What an arrogant term. There are over 20 countries that make up the Americas yet we, the arrogant ones, use that term to mean us as if we are the only ones in the Americas who matter… As the Uber arrived and we thanked this kind and gentle man who shared his thoughts and fears so openly with us, these two foreign people he so clearly feared, we said, “Feliz Natal”, Merry Christmas. “Yes,” he said. “For Christmas please do me one favor. Vote. Please vote.”  We promised him we would.

The ride to the plane was beautiful. A quiet, tattoo covered young man, our Uber driver, asked if we liked Jazz music and proceeded to play some of the most beautiful Jazz I’ve ever heard. As we drove, quite alone, through the well lit and festive city to our return flight I was reminded yet again that some things are not what they appear. As I watched the city go by, being lulled with the music and motion of the car, looking at the young man’s decorated arm, I was reminded. Some things are not how they appear.

The wall… Some things are not as they appear. The wall… Scared people, uprooting their entire lives to travel, on foot, through danger, heat, illness, for the hope of a safer life. Only to be greeted by a wall, tents, cages, emptied gallons of water, hate.

Traveling helps you see the evil in this. Because that is what it is. Pure and simple evil. And we are it.  So as I sit here and reflect on the humbling experience of visiting a place where I didn’t know the language I think of the moms and dad and their kids arriving on our borders, hungry, scared, tired, thirsty, and unable to speak our language. I can only imagine their overwhelming fear. Who will greet them with a kind smile and a glass of water?  Who will tell them they are now safe; that they will be ok?

May our thoughts and actions work to bring understanding, acceptance, and peace to those who struggle to have what we have.

Obrigado,

Mary

The Tenuous Nature of Truth

Screenshot 2018-11-02 at 11.25.57 AM - Edited

May I not sit in judgment. May I be open to hearing and accepting the truth of what I am told. May my decisions be for the good of all concerned. May my work bring peace.” Maisie Dobbs

Truth. Truth is a funny thing. It shouldn’t be. It should just be a given that we can all expect from each other and within ourselves. Truth should be something we all take for granted. But it is not. Truth with our inner self. Truth to each other. Truth from those we elected to serve and lead. Truth.

For weeks I have struggled with what to write. I’ve come to this space numerous times and have written. I’ve deleted each and every one. Too discombobulated. Too lost. To untruthful. Reflecting on where we are as a nation and where I am personally is rather unsettling.  Reflection should help. It usually does. Yet, sometimes when reflection requires truth it can be hard. It can be unsettling. It can require thoughts and actions that are just downright difficult.

I have had some deep and difficult conversations with my kids lately. “You have to go through the mucky swamp to get to the other side,” I say to them. The replies are often, “Why, when you can run around its edge and get there too?” It’s a logical response and question. But does it bring the same results? I don’t know. I’m not that wise to know for sure. But for me, it was years of mucking in that swamp that uncovered the truth that was to set me free. But now I find myself back in the middle of the muck. Personally and in my relationship and role with where our country is.

As a teacher, I’ve had to talk with children and their parents about truth and lies. Truth and lies are a big deal. Sometimes kids, and parents, ask why such a big deal. “It’s just a little lie.” Well that’s when we get to “intent”. What was the intent of that “little lie”? Was it to spare someone pain? Or was it to lessen your own? Was it to bring you some gain? Did it hurt someone? These reflections on intent work to guide us in uncovering the role of truth within ourselves and with assessing our fellow Americans and the “leaders” running our country.

And then there is remorse. A parent once asked why I was so concerned with her child’s lying. It was hard to admit to her that her child’s lack of remorse was a large part of my concern. Remorse hadn’t registered on her radar. It, as well as intent, were always  defining ideas for me when working with a child deep in a lie. They should be guiding beacons when working to uncover lies deep within ourselves as well.

As I listen to the many and ongoing lies from many of our “leaders” I realize that not only do I struggle with their blatant lies, I too struggle with the lies within myself. While their lies  come from a deep place of intention to harm large groups of people who do not have the resources those in power do, my deeply shielded lies harm my own personal well being as well as those I love deeply. How can I expect others to be truthful when I am not truthful with myself?

For several weeks I’ve been home during the days. This is such a new, awkward, and at times uncomfortable feeling. All the years of working so hard, putting my attention, heart and soul into my work has allowed me the perfect cover to be dishonest with myself. Allowed me the cover necessary to not continue the necessary work of uncovering and embracing truth. And here we are, days before a historic election, pondering the notion of truth and the role it plays in all we see, do, and read about.

A few weeks ago my brother asked me, “How are we to know who to believe?” This question is really at the heart of what we are struggling with as a country. How do we know? Some say to read a lot. Well, of course. But it’s more than that. I go back to intent. What is the intent behind the words of the person we are listening to or reading about? Is it to help those less fortunate? A notion that is the foundation and guiding concept in all religions. Or is it to help us continue the lie that this isn’t really all about “me”? What will be best for me? What will allow me the most money? What will allow me the comfort to not bear witness of racist hatred that is blatantly rising in our country? Me. Me. Me. We kid ourselves that the youth, who we’ve termed “the me generation”, is at the heart of selfishness. In reality, it is the many baby boomers who appear to be “the me generation”. And if I’m honest with myself, I too am one. I am worried about Social Security. I am worried about the day my passport won’t allow me free mobility. I am worried about my family’s health care. I am worried about my child being targeted with a hate crime. I am worried about offspring surviving climate change. Me. Me. Me. How will it affect me? The defining question which should lead us to know who to believe is, “How will this affect those less fortunate or those vulnerable to acts of hate?”

So how do we not only demand truth from our “leaders” but truth from within ourselves? It’s hard work. It’s not really all that fun either. But the uncovered reality is said to be worth it. Not only do we need to, we must, do that work for ourselves and for each other. Then we need to speak up against the hate spilling out from our own hearts, from around our country, and across our borders.

Peace and honesty,

Mary