at the crossroads

hecate-1

‘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

mask

Yellow crocus  in snow

Today’s WP Daily Prompt challenges me to think of the concept of ‘mask’. To me, the usual interpretation of wearing a mask entails intentionally hiding something. Keeping a cheerful countenance, for instance, to hide despair. Or appearing grim so as to hide the unbearable joy about to explode that might, in so doing, undo an important business transaction. Of course there’s also using tape to protect an area from the paint to be applied beyond it, so that you can create a crisp clean interface between the two.

But what if wearing a mask in fact works toward the reason for wearing it? Something more along the lines of ‘fake it until you make it.’ Wherein the mask itself becomes a helpful tool moving you toward the desired state. If you smile even when feeling down, you tend to elicit smiles from others. This, in turn, makes you want to smile more in response. Until, before you know it, smiling has become second-nature and a gift to all involved.

Yesterday’s surprise heavy snow — well, not all that surprising for late April in northern Vermont — masked the myriad green shoots pushing up from cold ground. Some of them I recall planting last fall. Others seem welcome interlopers. None seemed to welcome the snow that bent their just-opening faces as they sought the anticipated sun. Yet, they poked up even through the density of the surprise snow. And today it melts (as is the wont of late-season white). Those blossoms continue to exude sunny joy despite unseasonably low temperatures.

I appreciate their tenacity, their telling of the fact that winter WILL end, and soon. They testify and reassure that seasons still turn, though in oddly shifting and unpredictable patterns. Their perseverance gives me both hope and gratitude for what can emerge because — and even in spite — of masks.

very present

sisters 1987

sisters 1987

Here I sit in the morning sun, the whoosh of cars beyond the windows indistinguishable from the rush of heat. This created sauna of over-hot apartment and sunlight steams me back into undress.

Despite single digits beyond, my temperature rises in inverse proportion to my hope. Hope that this time I can help my sister navigate her failing health. Why do I imagine that my stubbornness trumps hers? We are who we are, sisters in more than skin.

This gift of presence is my focus. Sitting with her, doing nothing. I entice with aromas that waft through her modest rooms. We dance with invitation, refusal, a tentative taste, a genuine smile, though weak. Moments pass between us. A memory flickers at the edge of a clear-eyed gaze. We slide seamlessly from symptoms to sorrow. She sleeps, wakes, shuffles slowly from here to there. We pass the time. Time passes, each moment a present.

[Thanks to today’s DPChallenge: write a post entirely in the present tense]

beneath my words

fernWHAT HIDES BENEATH MY WORDS?*
      thanks to “Hidden,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

feelings, thoughts, hope more
visible each passing day

working into light, the page,
awareness of their presence

and mine growing softer
edges, stronger heart;

muscled words crafting
life    versed   manifest

time layering the trail
of then to now, deepening

as winter’s seed potent
with spring blooms
 
silent passion into change
one season to the next.

swb