at the crossroads

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‘Hecate’ by Claudia Olivos, olivosartstudio.com

For the past six weeks, I participated in an on-line course with Mary Pierce Brosmer about making meaning of our post-election world. Accordingly, I suspended my plan for a multi-part ‘divided we fall’ series here. Instead, I have spent the intervening weeks reading a wide range of texts including but not limited to John McCain’s February 17th remarks at the Munich Security Conference; selections from Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser’s A Clear and Present Danger, Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, and Ken Wilber’s Trump and a Post-Truth World, among others.

We spent six weeks reading, sharing remarkably relevant poems written long since, writing and sharing our words, discussing, questioning, opening our hearts to difference and our minds to ‘what next.’ During this same six weeks, I traveled twice to southwestern PA to be with my sister in her final days; welcomed my third grandchild into a family filled with February birthdays; and sat with several of ‘my’ prison writers through unimaginable trauma and personal tragedy.

Clearly, this has been a time rich with change on so many levels, transformations both anticipated and not. Above all, it has been a time to open up, expand information sources, broaden opinions and challenge my role in the larger world. While a continuing work in progress, I did not want to remain silent any longer on this page. As a result, I share here my final writing for that life-questioning course of words and ideas – and intentions for going forward. Next time I will return to ‘divided we fall – 2.’

Thank you for reading. And as always, I welcome – no, encourage! – your thoughtful responses to what you read here.

AT the CROSSROADS
That November crossroads stemmed from the tangle of tarnished truths
but I was slow to go there, lost as I was in the thicket of win-lose
when the multi-faceted is what I believe. Now we are offered
loyalty or disdain, history or ignorance, hope or despair.

How can this be our only choice? We have arrived at a crossroads
of morality. And though multiply manifest, it is the voice
of truth that must prevail, the voice of compassion
for us all – earth, sea, sky, collective spirit and soul.

I knew the night birth and death converged that we are in
for deep transformation, needing not to ‘get over’ or past
but to spell truth – yours, mine, ours. A time to speak out
past the divide and into the void, to speak without ceasing.

Thus am I pulled to provide all that I can – insight
and light to help guide the lost from personal hells,
reunite torn-apart mothers with daughters, guarding
ground and reason until mutual respect shall

in deed reign, parting the darkness of derision and disgust.
We must persevere until light seeps through every crack,
shattering false divisions to reveal the common bedrock
of our shared humanity.
swb (c) 2017

divided we fall – I

constitutionbanner-unitedwestandllcI pen this post with compassion and concern for the emotionally triggering rhetoric swirling about us like so many tops. My intention is to seek shared understanding from which to move forward.

The news – fake, real, and alternative –seems designed to and interpreted as creating divisions, assigning blame, obfuscating truth. We are all in this turbulent mix. Whether we identify as Republican or Democrat, pro-life or pro-environment; whether we are more concerned about our basic humanity or our next paycheck, how our food is produced or how it will make it to our tables; we are all Americans with a mix of legitimate concerns which defy the neat categorizations of the past.

And I believe messaging is what is dividing us, far more than substance. Because the messages create an either/or extreme of acquiescence or defiance, admitting neither debate nor inclusion of difference. This is not how democracy works.

I understand why it seems refreshing, after eight years of stalemate in Congress, to witness a flurry of action in such a short time. I was as frustrated as the next person at the hobbling of the last administration. But the answer is not wanton destruction of what we stand for as a people, as a nation.

Can we not advocate with BOTH passion AND civility? Can we not embrace difference for what it teaches us with honest debate? Can we not possess BOTH a moral compass AND respect for facts?

We cannot allow ourselves to be led into unbridgeable polarization. Blind opposition to one another’s humanity can only lead to dehumanization and violence. In that, we all lose. Let us instead seek out opportunities for respectful communication and discourse.united-we-fall

oversight

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from internet, source unknown

Odd word, oversight; and today’s WordPress Daily Prompt. It’s one of those words with two meanings that are antithetical to one another. Meaning on the one hand, to watch over, be responsible for; and on the other, having ignored, neglected, forgotten.

How can one small word hold such a world of difference within the same space of letters? As I was pondering this paradox, it hit me. Hard. That in fact, one of the scariest things in life is when the two come together. As when a person or institution has, let’s say, legal oversight (responsibility for) the well-being of a person or group – and fails them. Just ignores their welfare.

Like selecting, for agencies with a clear mandate to protect and safeguard the environment or educate the nation’s young, ‘leaders’  with an equally clear intention to destroy that mission? Or promising to take care of everyone, especially the struggling worker; and then without missing a beat, deleting a mortgage allowance that means the difference of home ownership to many of the same; or pulling the healthcare rug out from under most of them? It goes on.

I may be slow, but this is hitting hard and fast. Truth, integrity, transparency … These are values I hold dear, and ones that received a lot of national attention over the past several months. Where did they go? It seems we need real oversight in our highest offices before the rest of us become, well, a mere oversight.

new year poem

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image from web without attribution

I have been struggling with something to write on this first day of 2017. I have found myself reluctant to say ‘Happy’ new year. And now I have found the perfect poem by May Sarton to share.

These are not my words. They are, however, the words that need to be shared, here, now. Please enjoy.

It would be lovely should you choose to leave a comment in the form of quoting a line or two from the poem that especially resonates with you at this time. Thank you. May peace and kindness be your companions along the journey ahead.

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.

So much has died that had to die this year.
We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.

Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.
But we have not been there.

We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.

There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?
Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)

Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.

Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.

“New Year Poem” by May Sarton from Collected Poems. © Norton, 1993

mash-up

ng-blowing-bubbles-for-paulIt is becoming increasingly clear that I’ll never catch up with all the Daily Post prompts I’ve missed this fall – despite keeping a running list and my best intentions. Instead, I’ll insinuate the first four of December into a single reflection. See if you agree that I’ve hit upon echo, relax, panoply and sacred  – without ever naming any one of these things outright!!

[Full Disclosure: The initial inspiration for my writing came from Gary Johnson’s poem, ‘December:’  my hopes and fears are met/In this small singer holding onto my hand.]

THIS SMALL SINGER

My hopes (and fears) are met
in this small singer
the one snuggled into my neck
begging ‘baby song, baby song!’

and later, sprawled across my lap,
more song, OK’ his nodded approval
wide as any door of hope embracing
the rhythms and modulations of comfort

and blessed joy, myriad notes
running up scale and down, harmonies
and rounds joining the balance of us
in heartfelt song no matter the season.

It is song that holds my hopes
met in this small child, son of my son,
who gently strokes my head,
the ‘ruff’ cast on my arm, his blue eyes

saucer size gazing right into mine
with concern only a toddler can beam
an ancient knowing shared with the dog
to whom he patiently reads ‘Ginger Boy’

helpfully explaining its pictures
in single syllables to the baffled dog,
the young boy charmed at having mastered
the flow of the tale, its lines a music

of its own, rhythm and cadence
lilting through his just-learning-words
speech that rises and falls with his grasp
of a phrase returning from his mouth to the air

among bubbles rising from soapy hands
and the breathy support of elders circled
and circling this golden boy, our hopes
far outweighing our fears.

We’ll stick with the hopes, thanks
to the sweet voice of request and laughter,
the sing-song renditions of spiders and rowboats
an entire world unfolding from A to Z

through song and story by this young singer
holding my hand, and my heart.

swb, 12.1.16