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Spiritual Care and the Virus

It’s been a hellova year. A hell of a year. And here we are now again with Covid spiking at higher numbers than the initial rush in the spring, and higher than wave two during the summer. In Washington State we’re locking down again, including no gathering in homes with anyone who you do not live with.

Uggggh. Ugggh.

I watched Governor Jay Inslee give a press conference announcing the additional lock downs. While yes, yes, yes, I am thankful to live someplace where the officials are taking this virus seriously and still, after the press conference I had to do some therapy cooking. I boiled five giant beets for 50 minutes so I could peel them and dice them. I roasted a spaghetti squash, a delicata squash and a summer squash as well as a quart of mushrooms and two pounds of carrots.

As I cooked I calmed myself down with a little Gillian Welch.

Pretty soon the story of the pandemic settled itself in along side the stories of my ancestors. Gillian told so many stories of love lost, life gone a little wrong, people who have done wrong trying to do right that this seemed like just the trouble of our time. My mother who was born into the Great Depression and my father who as a youngster hid behind the couch in his North Minneapolis home when he heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My grandfather who fled Eastern Europe conflict as a child.

We are living through a traumatic, terrifying time. It’s hard. It’s going on forever. And it’s getting worse.

Here’s what I learned from Gillian. I know we can do this. I know we can. We come from people who lived through stuff. STUFF.

Who are you, I mean who are you really? What lives in your heart? What is it you are absolutely called to do? What IS your thing to hang onto? You have strength. I KNOW you do. What does that strength flow from?

Join me in creating art even if it’s beautiful caramelized delicata squash. Listen to music that moves your heart . Take a cup of coffee back to bed if you can. Nap. Have a Zoom happy hour with your friends or a dance party on Skype. Write a note to your fifth grade teacher. Pick up trash in your neighborhood.

We can do this. I know we can. I know you can. I know I can.

Atonement: Coming Home to Ourselves

This is the text of the sermon I offered to the good folks of the Westside UU Congregation in West Seattle, Washington on December 27th, 2020. I served WSUU as their Director of Religious Exploration from 2005 through 2012 and had a very loving leaving. The people of this congregation are so dear to my heart, and I loved co-creating the service with Jennifer Disotell and Lisa Maynard. What a joy. If you would like to see the entire service it can be viewed here on YouTube.

It has been a year. We have learned ….how to sew masks, how to 3D print masks, how to match our mask with our outfits, that a mask can keep your face warm and if we’re lucky how to keep our glasses from fogging up while we are wearing a mask.

We have learned….. to celebrate and remember differently. We’ve learned…. a lot.

If we remember back to the day we learned that Tom Hanks was Covid positive and that the NBA was suspending play I don’t think we would have believed that we would still be here in this place at the end of 2020. And yet, here we are. Zoom holiday, socially distanced gift exchange. Here we still are. 

In my family we were alerted a little earlier than the NBA/Hanks day. My middle son who grew up in this church was ….and well, is, on the front lines. He was working for the Seattle Flu Study and heard the rumblings from a virologist about how bad this virus could be well before it hit the US. 

In January of last year he bought a home with his beloved but they were renovating it so he was still living at home when the first proof of community spread showed up in their lab. The case was called Washington 2 meaning the second case of Covid 19 in Washington State. That day he literally came crawling up the stairs of our house at 11 at night and told us “we found one, we have a positive” You could just see the weight of it on his shoulders, in his face. You might have read about this in the New York times, they decided to break protocol and acted to inform the person with Covid of his status which prevented him from going into public, from spreading the virus further. 

The situation has unspooled from that moment for my son, yes, but for all of us. As Covid spread we locked down. Schools closed, jobs were gone. Much worse, many of us have lost loved ones, colleagues, friends. Our lives have been impacted in ways that I think other generations experienced during wars and famine. In fact we have just had a Christmas that for many of us was like no other.  

For me, Covid meant that my ordination ceremony scheduled for March was postponed and then moved to June and held online. During the ceremony, my mom was texting with me. She told me I looked beautiful. The next morning I got a call from my brother that they had admitted her to the hospital with a diagnosis of pneumonia. 

By the time I called the hospital to speak with her she was unresponsive. The nurse held the phone for her and I sang “Let it Be a Dance” to her, my kids called and told her that they loved her, shared memories, sang. As I waited to board a flight to Minnesota I got word that she was gone. She was never tested for Covid so we’ll never know if it’s what took her.  But because of Covid I turned around and left, I didn’t fly to be with family, there were no casseroles delivered or sitting around the kitchen table sharing stories. I just went home. 

Yes, that’s a lot. I know it is, and I honor that. But I think my story is not that much different than many of our stories. We’ve all missed graduations, holidays, important family milestones. We’ve been more isolated than most of us want to be. Our health due to Covid and our public justice and politics and beyond have been scary. Awfully scary. 

And, at the same time, while all of that incredibly difficult stuff is churning, some of our busy rush, maybe, has been scraped off. Some of the things that fill our hours during regular times are just not available during covid. I also don’t have as much cognitive capability, I call it covid brain, and I have to wonder if that has freed some spirit or emotional space to work. So, maybe like me, you’ve had a little more time and headspace for contemplation. I know for some folks, that’s brought mental and spiritual health challenges. Me, too. 

But this time I found myself a little less flattened. I was a little more resilient. I have come face-to-face with some of the same old crap that I’ve been dealing with for decades and I am telling you, I am finding myself just ready to let this stuff go. Guilt, shame, fear, Defenses,, resentments, other people’s opinions. I am just ready to let go of these. This way of battling with myself has caused me harm in my life. I have sold myself small too many times. Believed I was less than I was born to be. 

In my life before menopause I can honestly say I never really felt rage, but opening my eyes to the ways that I have mistreated myself brings on huge rage. Burning rage. My spiritual director tells me to ritualize that stuff, although she doesn’t use the word stuff. She also tells me to physically meet my rage: Throw big rocks into a river. Dig out the roots of an old tree. Move furniture. Write letters and burn them. Scream where no one will worry, and walk quickly up long, steep hills. Then she says build an altar, hang a ribbon on my prayer tree, light a candle and sing. 

As the rage lifts, I have had to forgive myself. I have to. I learned what I learned, and sometimes being small kept me safe. I learned what I learned and sometimes being quiet meant I was not a target. I learned what I learned. It served me then. And now it is time to let go of the things that no longer serve me.

This is a surprising, unexpected gift of Covid times. I have learned a lot about my own inner life. To atone for these harmful things that I have enacted upon myself and believed about myself I will wash them downstream, compost them, give them back to the earth. They can be transformed into healthy, fertile soil this way. It’s not the rage of throwing rocks into a river or screaming in the shower. This comes after the rage. For me it’s gentle. Calming. Preparing for the healing that follows the act of letting go so that everything hurt will be healed again. 

Some of us have fears around learning about our inner life and some of us for pretty darn good reasons. If this stuff scares you please know that you are not alone. So many of us are here together just trying to light a path for each other’s joy and peace. We can share the light, remember that in the dusk of the coming night there is still evidence of light. Sometimes it’s a glimmer but it’s there. It’s here. 

For me, as I have stopped fighting with myself, some of my battles with the world have gently lessened. I find the need to explain myself to people who are choosing not to understand me is fading. Reconciling my attitude toward these folks is so much easier when I just don’t care what they think of me. It’s also allowed me to see some of the institutional harm I do in my daily life and caused me to donate to Real Rent Duwamish, and support the act of interrupting injustice when it happens even in small ways, 

So yes, forgiving myself is making it easier for me to come clean in other spaces. I can understand more about how some folks and even institutions act because of deeply ingrained systems that devalue us all. There are so many ways and places to get caught, or stuck. When my kids were babies I would attribute all kinds of difficult things to teething. Not sleeping? Oh teething, crabby? Teething. Not eating? Teething. It was not always teething, but this allowed me to gently feel that something was happening and to offer grace and love to my beloved babies when I could have felt frustration and anger. 

Same thing applies here. Heteropatriarchal normativity accounts for a lot. Add capitalism and you can cover almost the whole shebang. Not everyone is able to realize the ways that they are hurt and so go on to hurt others. Moving on, or if we are able, offering forgiveness and love frees our own psyches. It frees our souls. It allows us to come to a place of depth within ourselves that feels like home. 

The most important piece of justice, of forgiveness, of enacting love in the world starts here, in our own hearts with our own being. The step of sharing that justice, forgiveness, and love with the world is a whole lot easier if we start inside. 

Imagine with me a world free of covid where people give each other grace, hold each other accountable yes but without attachment. Where we are all whole and well and forgiven. Where we begin again and again in love. 

With the words of Carrie Newcomer and Parker Palmer I offer this prayer:

Spirit of life and love, you who are known by many names, dear God, 

I pray that everything hurt across our mother earth will be healed again

May we pass into the coming year gently. 

May it light for us a path of joy and peace.

May we have little to fear and never need to walk alone

I pray that we all come to a place of knowing and love that feels like home.

Spirit let us remember; in the dusk of coming night, there is evidence of light.

Let us gently consider all the ways we heal, and how a heart can break.

Let us ponder the unknown, What is hidden and what is whole

And, may we finally learn to travel at the speed of our own souls

Wintering: the turn toward resting and rooting

This is the text of a sermon I shared on December 6th at the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation. You can watch it here and if you click through be sure to listen to the offering song performed by Randee Wilhelm and Troy Fisher that starts at the 40 minute mark, it is profoundly beautiful.

It started with a student who shared with me her plan of writing a cannon of stories about the cycle of the year. She spoke of resting in winter that prepares for the blooming of the spring and summer. I was taken with the idea of the story cycle. As so often happens, the theme repeated itself the next day in a book recommendation. The author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote : 

WINTERING is a thoughtful, elegant memoir and treatise about how to survive the hardest seasons of our life — times of sickness, loss, grieving, depression, hopelessness. Seasons where, as Katherine May writes, your leaves fall off, and your bare bones show.(she continues). Learning how to “winter” is necessary in order to lead a rich and soulful life.

I order the book on the spot. 

My middle son, the one who is now our local covid researcher at the UW was a colicky baby. A really colicky baby. He cried from about 4pm until 10 pm unless I was actively doing something with him. He was born in the middle of October, so by the time the darkest part of winter arrived, I was pretty stretched. I remember the moment when I realized that the sun was actually setting at 4:20. I remember the cold dread that shot up my spine. How on earth were we going to get through this? How?

Well, we did of course. He grew and I figured out what he was sensitive to and eventually, he learned to move on his own and that made him happy. Today he runs his pup Lucy twice a day–he’s still moving. But during those long dark nights of colic, I began to learn to embrace the difficult parts of my life. I reached out to my grandmother who had been dead for a decade but still guided my mothering. I had a three year old, but until I mothered that colicky babe, I hadn’t really become the mother I would be. It formed me, molded me. 

Here I am a white middle-class American woman talking about what is difficult, right? Get over myself! 

But no. Not a thing. I am profoundly lucky, I know that I am…..and still, I’ve lived through some stuff. Being human means we will suffer. 

In her book Wintering, Katherine May writes: 

“If happiness is a skill, then sadness is, too. Perhaps through all those years at school, or perhaps through other terrors, we are taught to ignore sadness, to stuff it down into our satchels and pretend it isn’t there. As adults, we often have to learn to hear the clarity of its call. That is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.

I am a person who lives with depression. I have learned to catch it before it slams me to the ground now, at least it’s not usually as hard as it used to be. But I have in my life experienced long stretches of feeling hopeless, numb, alone, and worthless. It’s not something I want to experience again, but I will, and it’s something I pray you don’t have to experience. But in many ways, I am grateful for this part of me. Not for the trauma of feeling hopeless but for the fact that I’ve gotten through it. I have learned to love what this teaches me. It makes me empathetic. It makes me humble. It has taught me that while happiness can be a goal—we can try to set ourselves up to be fulfilled, whole, and content, happiness isn’t always achievable. Accepting my own depression has also taught me to listen to myself, to trust myself. 

At the beginning of November, the hospital where I was working as a Chaplain Resident had an outbreak of Covid, a covid cluster. It was on one of the floors that I was assigned to. Just before that one of the staff chaplains in my office contracted covid. It was clear to me, maybe in part due to having a son on the front lines of researching, that there was spread happening between staff and patients. I began having a really hard time visiting patients, you know, doing my job. As much as I loved the work and as much as I could see the difference visits made, especially for people isolated by covid, I feared that I might make someone sick. I offered to carry the pager all day because at least that meant I visited people who wanted or needed a chaplain rather than just walking into patient rooms. 

One morning I couldn’t make myself get out of my car and go into the hospital. I finally forced myself to go in, but my body was screaming at me. I felt like the building was on fire and here I was, just going about regular business. I know that not everyone feels this way. There are super fine, amazing folks who can face this. But for me, the thought that I could unknowingly transmit the virus to someone made it impossible to stay. The next day I went in and resigned. I had to make the decision that I may never work as a chaplain again. You don’t just walk away from a residency in a critical care hospital. But that’s not what happened. I was treated with grace and care and love. I can go back after covid if I want to. What I have learned in my own wintering guided me in this situation: I was able to listen to my body, to my instinct, I trusted myself. It was, for me, exactly the right thing to do. 

I reached out to ChI, the seminary I worked for this spring and summer to see if they had any projects or work that needed doing while I looked for what to do next. They didn’t tell me right away, but 12 hours before I sent that email they learned that their community minister was leaving. When I left in August I said “I hope that someday I’ll be back as your community minister.” So here I am, they named me the Interim Community minister, but it’s not the same situation that it would be in a UU congregation. I can and will be considered for the permanent position and if things go well and they choose me, I hope to stay for years and years and years.  

In Wintering Katherine May writes:  “In our relentlessly busy contemporary world, we’re forever trying to defer the onset of winter. We don’t ever dare feel its full bite, and we don’t dare to show the way that it ravages us. An occasional sharp wintering would do us good. We must stop believing that these times in our lives are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. We must stop trying to ignore them or dispose of them. They are real, and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite the winter in. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how.”

2020 held for me not only the pandemic, my mother’s death, my youngest son moving across the country, my middle son moving out of my house, my oldest son being laid off, a delayed ordination into the ministry due to covid but 2020 also held about half a dozen job changes. 

If I had not learned to deeply accept the wintering, the active acceptance of sadness, I believe I would not have weathered this as well as I seem to have done. The wintering is when my roots grow. The wintering is when I learn to be in the stillness. To be fallow, to rest, to be sad, to feel hollow, to be bereft. 

And this, friends, is where we are right now. We are all in the wintering. I tell you, I had to eat gluten-free, vegan stuffing for an entire week after thanksgiving. I don’t know how to cook a feast for two people. I just don’t. There will be no early morning cribbage in our pajamas on Boxing day. There will be no midnight telescope sighting of the moon on Christmas eve. No tree trimming while we watch “It’s a Wonderful LIfe.” All the traditions are canceled this year. We are here in our fortress, holed up against the virus, all of us, apart. Having a covid researcher in the family means I get told to stay the heck home and detailed reports about the test positivity rates in our neighborhoods skyrocketing. 

But there are beautiful things our very bodies can learn from this. We can rest. We can be still. We can continue to take loving care of ourselves and as best we can of each other. We can try meditating, or praying or walking meditation, or feeding the birds. Whatever helps us feel connected to the rest of the people and animals and living things who are wintering, too. I feed the hummingbirds, even when it means trudging through the frost in my robe and rainboots to replace frozen feeders. I light candles and pick a new crystal before every meeting with students or spiritual direction clients. Everything I do now seems to include a ritual of some kind. 

This is how I honor the lack of the light, how I honor the deep grief of missing my family. This is how I am growing my roots deep. This is the way I am becoming my deeply authentic self. Trusting. Waiting. Resting. Feeling all of my feelings.

Winters come and summers go. Year follows year. But as long as people live there will be a silent little language our bodies, our souls can understand. Listen to the silent little language. The voice still and small. Find your way through this winter. May it be so. Amen. 

When Illness Comes

May I be whole and well

in mind, heart and body. In soul and spirit. In thoughts and actions.

May my loved ones be whole and well

in mind, heart and body. In soul and spirit. In thoughts and actions.

May all people be whole and well

in mind, heart and body. In soul and spirit. In thoughts and actions.

Illness flows and illness ebbs. When we are unwell may we recover.

Abundance flows and abundance ebbs. May we have what we need when need arises. And may we always leave enough for our neighbors.

May we all take good care. Really good care.

When Sarah was Really, Really Sad

My friend Sarah is 8 years old. One day not too long ago she woke up really, really sad. Things had not been going well for her. Her teacher Miss Smith was going to have a baby and Sarah was really happy about that but Miss Smith was not going to be at school for months and months. Sarah’s best friend Joe was moving away and she worried about who she would sit with at lunch and who she would share recess time with when Joe was gone. And then, she had just learned that the summer camp that she looked forward to all year had been cancelled. 

Sarah felt really, really sad. 

On this morning, not too long ago Sarah got out of bed and went downstairs. Her brother was already downstairs working on his lego robot. He said to her “Oh Sarah. You look so sad! Everything about you looks really sad.”

She said “Yeah, I’m really sad.”

In Sarah’s family they had a special way of helping when somebody was sad. So, he said to her “Do you want me to try to cheer you up? Or do you want to talk about what is making you sad? Or do you just want me to keep you company?” 

Sarah thought. Then she said “I want you to cheer me up and then I want to sing the “Be Well” song. 

Brother said alright. Then he made the FIVE mouth noises that he knew how to make. Sarah giggled and giggled. She was still sad but now there were some bubbles in her chest. 

Next her brother took her hands and looked right into her eyes and he sang “All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things….will be well.” 

Sarah breathed for a minute, and then brother went back to his robot and she poured a bowl of cereal, poured some milk on it and started to eat. 

Then mama came downstairs and took a look at Sarah and said “Oh Sarah. You look so sad! Everything about you just looks sad.”

Sarah said “Yeah, I’m really sad.” 

Mama said “How can I help? Can I cheer you up? Do you want to talk about what’s making you sad? Or do you just want company?”

Sarah thought for a minute and she said “I think I want to talk about what’s making me sad.” 

But Sarah knew that mama had to make her coffee first. So Sarah finished eating her cereal and mama made coffee. Then they climbed into the rocking chair and Sarah settled in and mama held her close. 

Then Sarah said “Miss Smith is leaving to have her baby and I’m really going to miss her. And Joe is moving away and I’m not sure who I will sit with at lunch or who I will play with at recess. And camp is cancelled and I look forward to it all year long. I’m sad.”

Mama listened and held Sarah close and rocked her back and forth, back and forth for a long time. Then mama said “do you want the Be Well song?”

Sarah said “Yep.”

So they turned and faced each other, and they held hands, and mama looked deep into Sarah’s eyes and sang “All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things…..will be well.” 

Sarah and mama rocked back and forth, back and forth. Until eventually mama needed to get up and fix her breakfast and get dressed and get on with her day. 

Sarah was thinking about what to do next. She decided to color a picture to send along with Miss Smith when she had her baby so Miss Smith wouldn’t forget Sarah. 

Now Sarah is one of those really lucky kids who lives with a grandparent. As Sarah was coloring her picture Grandma came in from the back yard. She’d been out gardening all morning and she came in with a big basket of strawberries.

Grandma said “Oh Sarah. You look so sad. Everything about you just looks sad.” 

“Yeah. I’m really sad” Sarah said.

Grandma asked: “What do you want me to do to help? Do you want me to try to cheer you up? Or do you want to talk about it? Or do you just want company?”

Sarah thought for a minute and she said “I think I just want you to keep me company. And then let’s sing the Be Well song.” 

So, they ate probably more strawberries than they should have. They were quiet for a long time. Grandma just kept Sarah company while she was sad. Then Sarah said “OK, I’m ready for the Be Well song.” 

They turned to face each other and they held hands and they sang together “All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things…..will be well.” 

Sarah went on with her day. 

She was still sad, but she wasn’t alone. 

Thanks to my colleague Tim Atkins who shared his original story “I Just Need to be Sad” which inspired this story. 

This story uses a line from 14th century Catholic mystic Julien of Norwich’s writings sometimes written as “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” I sang it roughly to the tune in the song written by Rev. Meg Barnhouse. 

Please feel free to use this story as you wish with attribution. Thank you!

Sleepless Night? Or Dancing with the Divine?

I have always believed that I am terrible at keeping a spiritual practice. Isn’t keeping a spiritual practice sitting on a meditation cushion for the same amount of time every day over and over again? Aren’t you supposed to become enlightened and ethereal. I mean, I always thought maybe your skin starts to glow and you speak with a breathy knowing or something. 

I had a sleepless night last week. Between then and now  I have learned from a beloved teacher about sleepless nights as “Dancing with the Divine”. The things avoided during waking hours come and tap you on the shoulder for their spin. Distractions are gone, regular coping bypassed. Time to dance with what you’ve been running from. 

What I didn’t understand is that Spirit, God, The Divine does not only come to me as a calm, peaceful presence. Nope. Spirit also arrives screaming in my ears making my heart pound hollering “PAY ATTENTION!” 

On this night, because I had no other choice really, I decided to face it. To let all the feelings flow, to experience every flash, every boom, every gut wrenching thing that came over me. Somehow I knew it had to be done. 

I invited it: “Come on in, bring what you’ve got. Here I am.” 

Let’s Dance. 

As the hours passed and I let the feelings flow over me, I also invited Spirit to join me, deep inside my soul. I practiced what I understand to be Centering Prayer, with a storm raging, yes, but still, I was inviting the Great Mystery to accompany me as I weathered the night.  

I did not realize that I was already dancing with the Divine. 

As the storm started to abate to a simple waltz I began to flow through a body prayer a beloved teacher teaches during Spiritual Psychology class. There is a phrase and an action that accompanies each of seven stages of development and healing.
I moved through this body prayer, if only in my mind, over and over “I am grounded. I flow with the cycles of life…” until I fell asleep. 

The next day I was berating myself. If I had a real spiritual practice I would never have had to go through this hellacious night. I would have calmly glided through all of these emotions and quietly set them down as they arose. Why did I not yet have this perfect practice?

And then. And then. And then I realized. I had practiced centering prayer. I had done my body prayer. I may not be the perfect practitioner of seated meditation or Lectio Divina. But I was able to connect with that which is greater than myself. Accompanied by connection with Spirit I had faced the storm. I had faced myself. 

In fact, I had danced with the Divine. 

I am an eclectic spiritual being, or so my spiritual director reminded me a few days later when I told her this story. 

Oh of course. I AM an eclectic. I write prayers on little slips of paper and attach them to a tiny easel and then light a candle to remember. I slip little crystals in my pocket, not that I think they have absolute magic power, but because they help keep my sacred intentions close. I light candles and speak my gratitudes into the day. I touch my heart when I am moved to connect my spirit, mind and body in the moment. I invite the presence of the holy when I am listening for understanding and touch my belly because it’s where I feel most connected to that which is beyond my understanding. I wear the beaded bracelet the founder of my seminary made from beads people brought her from all over the world which she prays over before she creates them and I feel connected.

Not a failure. Not missing the moment of the sacred. No. I am this. I am enough. And I have danced with the Divine. 

A Good Fierce OK

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They said you were wrong.  They don’t remember doing the thing that hurt you. They wrote the thing, signed the letter, spoke the harmful words. 

You are smashed, ripped open, raw. 

I promise, precious one, you are going to be OK. It’s going to be good, again. No winning, no losing. But a good fierce OK. 

Join me: 

Listen to the rain or windchimes or a slow, gentle drum. 

Taste the sweet honey or the tart berry or the steaming tea with the bracing bergamot.  

Hold your pup or your grandchild. Soak in a hot tub with the good bubble bath, the one you’ve been saving. 

Breathe way down to your toes. Notice that the water in the river right in this moment is out to sea tomorrow. This thing that has your heart will flow on down to the sea, too. I promise. 

Gaze at the flower, or the woven rug or the stars. The sky is so big and we are so small. 

You. You are going to be OK. A good, fierce OK. 

I promise. I promise. I promise. 

 

So We May Begin

Originally published on Chalice Spark, 10/13/16

One page, One day. Move on.
Today is cooler and my chair is a little wet from the dew. The prayer flags flow gently back and forth.

I sit alone, here, but my ancestors are before me. My sister women around me. My animal friends padding around, sniffing and growling at the leaves that skitter off the patio and the thought that there might be a cat across the way.

I can hear a squirrel a few trees over who is unhappy, chirping and clucking, likely because the dogs are perched on this little patio with me. Even here in the middle of the metropolitan desert, nature dominates. There is dirt and many bugs and stray leaves. We smell the earth and feel the fingers of the sun and the silky breath of the breeze on our cheeks. I lift my chin to catch it.

We are here. We are here. We are here.

You are here. You are here.

You are here

and so we may begin.prayer flags.JPG

The To-Do List

All Are Worthy (2).pngThis morning in my effort to avoid being productive, I circled through my touchstones of life guides on social media. Ann Lamott, Elizabeth Gilbert, I can’t do the Love Warrior anymore but I have found a fresh voice in Elissa Altman. This morning she wrote something just to me and closed with “you are worthy of saving.”

Who me? What? No. Everyone else, yes. Every animal even. But not me. I learned that lesson really well. Not me.

But no. Stop. I am finally getting it. Here, next door to 52, I am starting to learn that “you are worthy of saving” means you. And me. And everyone.

Everyone. And here’s where it gets dicey.

Any leader who thinks that some are more worthy than others is the embodiment of pure evil. EVIL. Even if you are a person without empathy, as science shows us some people are, you might want to notice that any group of folks a leader deems unworthy of existence today can flip in the beat of a heart to your group. To you.

Even if you don’t care about anyone but you and yours, a leader who points at a group and says “them, those people” will, one day, point at YOU.

I know I can’t stop my president’s hate from inspiring mass killing. I know I can’t fix it. But today I can work to let my neighbors who are targeted by this evil know that I see them, I support them, and I am not afraid to say so.

Screw the “to do” list. I’m off to make signs and buy flowers and then I’ll stop by the local places of worship most likely to be impacted today.

Peace be upon you. And you. And me. And all of us.

Amen.

Update: a colleague suggested that leaving anything at a mosque, including flowers, might cause stress today. Agreed. Good advice. But then I heard about a mosque a little north of me who was calling for neighbors to come and stand outside during Friday prayers. So I went. I took goofy pictures to show my concerned family members that there was a crowd and we were all safe and fine, or as safe and fine as our Muslim neighbors. After the service was over a community member brought out lunch for us and some children from the community passed out candy. I share these in the spirit of inviting my friends and neighbors to come out to show our strength. Next time may it be in celebration of good news and not in solidarity with those who are grieving. 20190315_131739.jpg

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