Show Your Soul is an online journal of writings and artworks from the members and friends of White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church.
Ode to the Moon
Something about you,
Full moon on a clear night,
Something about you
Pulls me to the window.
I bask in your radiance,
Stare up at you and the stars,
Bright lights through
The skeleton trees.
You brighten these
Darkest of nights,
In the cold mid-winter,
Illuminating the sparkling snow.
I bathe in your glow,
A milky wash over my weary soul.
You make me pure anew,
Fill me with Love’s light reflected.
I carry my grief around with me like a lump of clay.
At times, it is a mangled, warped mass, beleaguering me as I slip into a dark hole of fear and anxiety. It weighs me down until I am a crumpled mass, tossed to the floor, with tears flowing uncontrollably.
At other times, I realize the clay is still fresh, and I can shape it how I like. I can make it smooth and round, like a ball, and use it as an invitation to a game of catch. I can toss it back and forth this way, with a new acquaintance or a trusted friend, in a conversation that inevitably brings more healing.
My grief feels solid and eternal, though I know, in time, it – like me – will return to the Mother, and be enveloped in her embrace, becoming something entirely different in the never-ending cycle of renewal.
The clay is a medium. It can be worked, transformed into a beautiful piece of art, a Creation, an expression of the Divine.
Ode to the bog in winter
i see you as you are
dry golden stalks
blowing wildly in the icy wind
the water at your base still flows
but it is frozen in patches
dark and foreboding
the footprints of creatures crisscross the snowy path
crows and owls hover in desolate trees
the only evidence that life is active on the bog now
darkness descends and for the time being
you are laid open with nothing covering you
in the frigid grip of winter
i see you as you have been
you were — not that long ago — green, pliant and alive with activity
birds singing around you and settling on your branches
calla lilies, cinnamon ferns, marsh marigolds bursting with color
while your spring-fed waters meandered toward the mighty Mississippi.
along the edges, in the woods, trillium unfurled as anemones fluttered into bloom
on the marsh, turtleheads took their sweet time to show off those funky white blossoms
and duckweed provided food for shy turtles, paddling waterfowl and other visitors
on hot, sunny days, snakes basked lazily on the wooden boardwalk
kids and dogs toggled between curious and scared, despite their being harmless and shy
by the time that dragonflies ushered in the late summer
you felt as full to bursting as a new mother’s breasts,
mushrooms populated the forest at the edge of your marsh
jewelweed blossomed in bright eye-popping shades of yellow and orange
leaves turned golden — even those on the tamarack trees — and fell to earth
the season turned
i see you as you will be
in March, when the pussywillows bravely reveal their plush, silvery buds
in April when tender fiddleheads arise from the crispy, matted undergrowth of dead cattails
in May, when red-winged blackbirds and migrating songbirds declare their arrival
and cheerful yellow marigolds make a bold statement that the flowers are back too
in June, when warmth returns enough for the snakes to take their places out in the open
and native plants — like mad-dog skullcap — offer their healing powers
who bears you up through the dark times?
what gives you the strength to withstand this harsh moment?
do the roots of each plant grow stronger by connecting to one another?
what happens beneath the surface that provides you with energy and direction?
even without these answers
seeing how you withstand winter’s threatening hand
and knowing that you will once again — as always — surge boldly to life
it is enough to believe that renewal is part of our universal nature
that hope is real
and that a larger force of Goodness is at work
— Dana Boyle
Afternoon at the Mound
By M J LaVigne
There’s Indian mound near the freeway exit, a conical earthen structure, three stories tall and centuries old. It stands on the high ground between the Mississippi and the Saint Croix Rivers. At its foot there’s a natural fountain, a spring that even flows in cold weather.
It’s the last day of the year, my birthday. I tie a skirt over my snow pants, pat the tobacco pouch to make sure it’s around my neck, slip cleats on my Uggs, take off my glasses, put them in my ski coat, get the dog out of the car, and crunch off toward the mound over the ice-rutted parking lot.
When I was here earlier this week I could see a hole like a raw grave half-way up the side of the mound. I do not walk on mounds, so I dared not get too close. But I have come back today with the things I need to offer a proper prayer.
When you are in ceremony you take off your glasses so that the spirits are not repelled by reflections from your lens. The tobacco is an offering, the skirt a gesture of respect. This place is passed by thousands every week, but protected by that obliviousness which tends to descend on auto-encased humans.
This is Dakota homeland, in particular the Mdewakaŋtoŋwaŋ the Spirit Lake People. At the center of Minnesota’s state flag, an Indian horseman rides off to the west. This is our foundational fiction. The Dakota have not gone. Nor have we leveled all of their landmarks, or yet felled every ancient oak. They stand in our midst, protected by our not noticing.
The dog and I stop at the springhead. Without my glasses the tor looms larger in the muted midwinter light. I strike a match to sweet grass and smug my head, my hands, my feet, and the dog. I put some tobacco in the open water, which burbles from the breast of the earth, as it surely came forth when this mound was built. Pidamaya ye. I say thank you. I call the land aloud by its rightful name “Mdewakaŋtoŋ makoce,” Spirit Lake homeland.
Now I walk toward the mound. The hole yawns darker against the dusting of snow. The dog does not follow, but waits at the foot of the hill. I do not go up all the way. I do not look down in to the hole. That seems too bald an act, or perhaps I not brave enough to see what’s there.
Doubtless, those who dug in to this mound told them selves they were salvaging. I can understand the desire to dig. I want to know what lies below too. I want to salvage. But it does not need my salvation. The land has protections I don’t understand. I am here mostly for the diggers, for those of us who trifle with places old and holy. We do need prayer.
I string the prayer bundles along two dried and sturdy weeds a little ways below the wounded hole and say aloud, “I’m sorry.” I say it in English because I do not know how to apologizes in Dakota.
How will I help create Peace? I will find one thing that resonates and I will do that. Then I will find another. These will combine with what others are doing. Each one of us makes a difference. Together we “Give light, give peace, give hope, and the people will find a way…”
One night when the wind scattered the stars
Some wakened and soared like birds;
Elated in flight, they carried new light
That brightened the dreams of all sleeping
Gold’s radiance lightens sorrow’s darkness
Though despair there summoned winter’s longest shadows.
White had covered all with forgetfulness of snows, but
Might yet yield its blanket to reflect the brilliant concert:
All our colors, a choir singing forth the spectrum:
Rejoicing for red birds, rejoicing for brown stones,
Rejoicing the smallest yellow flower in creation’s reach
That we may find at last
Eternal spring, luminous message of peace.
Have you wondered
Why the power
On this earth
Is so often wielded
By those unworthy
Of the task?
-Phil Hinderaker, 2004
Stones, weeds, bits of life—
smoke rising through
past piney fingers to arching milky blue and dark
Stars piled and jumbled.
What holds them there?
What are the outer limits?
Where do things stop?
Down here, below, reflections rippling
Repeat the questions.
-Mim Weber, 2002
wound up the world
to its present motion—
sea to cell,
worm to seal,
seed to tree?
blessed and cursed
with our devotion,
seek to find
air, earth, water, fire,
the singing choir
of sons, daughters,
mirth and tears.
What inspires our need
We never tire,
but ask these questions
with every breath
-Ann Bushnell, 2004
Two (or more) for the road
What is a relationship, what is promised? Martin Buber contrasts the I-thou with the I-it relationship, describing I-it as the typical domination of others as objects for the I’s needs or purposes. We might call this the way of the world, but not the only way. Our covenant might be seen as the pursuit of not just an I-thou relationship, but the practice of upholding this kind of relationship in community. We pursue common purposes, but while doing so, honor the freedom and potentiality of others.
This is an uncertain and risky enterprise. We have not creeds that might allow us to disqualify errant members. We ask for service, but cannot demand it. We are flawed human beings. Some of us are tired, frail, afraid, none of us (that I know of) is totally selfless. So we have not and will not transcend the realm of I-it relating. The ways of the world remain a weight we carry that tempers our ideals.
COVENANT: The Practice of traveling together
Covenant: Synonyms: commitment, pact, pledge, promise
Antonyms: disagreement, denial, refusal, misunderstanding (from Thesaurus)
Covenant is a word with special meaning at WBUUC; I did not hear it very much before joining this congregation in 2009. We did talk about covenant in the convent, where I was from 1964-70—yes, the turbulent 60’s. There, it was referred to as a commitment between God and His people.
Here in WBUUC, it seems covenant is an agreement we have with each other as a congregation of deeply spiritual, compassionate, caring, listening people who want to express our love for each other and the world. We might do this through activism for justice, through lovely congregational singing, listening to the choir and guest musicians and through participation in our Sunday services. In addition, we agree to provide service to each other and the wider community, to live in peace and to love one another. What a commitment—love one another!
How do we do that? Maybe we travel together on this “Road of Happy Destiny”—a phrase used in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. (p. 164) Traveling, wandering, meandering through what we call “life” we meet unexpected challenges and help each other steadily grow through them. We experience unbelievable joys we share—thus doubling the blessings! Remember the “old” saying? “A sorrow shared is halved, a joy shared is doubled.”
On this blue orb
As I move and live and grow my being,
Surrounding me, if I let them,
Are fellow travelers who
Commit, from time to time,
As do I,
To come out of our shells and
Concerned with each other’s well-being
We gingerly, hopefully, gradually
Open our hearts
To help one another
Care for the web of Existence
In our little corner of this Earth
– Diane Markel
Sleet turning to snow stung my face
cold as my disbelieving heart
as we left my daughter’s condo
that Sunday evening
How I drove home I do not know
trying not to think of her body
lying across her bed, as if asleep
beautiful face peaceful
framed by her auburn curls
In the days that followed
I borrowed your strength,
leaned on your love.
accepted your help,
as we travel together.
Written in the Second Sunday Writing Group, October 9. 2011
After reading Love After Love, Derek Wolcott
White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, Mahtomedi, MN
Mirror of Hope
Hello, you. You are familiar
Becoming clearer now.
Your outlines are cleaner
your colors more distinct,
As I stare at you in the mirror.
You are even more familiar-to-me
Yes, I see you—where you start and
the chair ends—as you sit here
in front of me.
I smile at you–you smile
and nod your head.
“I know you, too,” your thoughts say
How can we connect without words?
We exchange thoughts back and
Telling each to the other where
We have been—back—back we go
We tell our secrets—our pain—our
Well, you tell yours.
My thoughts, they are more of
The ordinary, everyday, the daily-
Life lived these sixty plus years.
You see, I am the Keeper of the
Current Events. I am the one
Who has kept going—living Life
Being in the daily days.
You-you-you are the
Are saying, telling, revealing
What needs to be forgiven
You tell—think—in rapid succession
All you endured.
I tell you the Present, the . . . but
I want you to join me, here, now
Across the chasm
I want you to come into me
To be me, to . . .
You are me
You and i
We are one. We have been
Disconnected. Too long
We can re-join through
Releasing Your Pain.
You, yes, you will remain if you
Release the pain.
We are both ME.
Come, hold my hand.
Unpeel yourself from the glassy,
Mirror image. Come to me—let
Me hold you.
Yes, I will help you, I will use my
Steady fingers to peel
You from the mirror.
Join me over this chasm
If you come to me, WE
Will let go of the Pain
You + Me = WE
The years of terror and pain
Come to me. Be come me
Once again—for the first time
WHOOSH . . .
Here, we rest,
We love, we live in Love
We did it!
There is Hope!
“These images represent the journey toward hope – from the darkness into the light, from isolation to connection, from being lost in exile to going home.” –Ken Stewart
An Old African Proverb: When you pray, move your feet.
By Carol Nelson
In the rural village of Tikonko, in Sierra Leone, West Africa, hope is in short supply. The decade long civil war devastated the country, its people, schools, health care system and infrastructure. Recover and progress were slow, and then the Ebola outbreak hit in 2014-15, setting back everything. Maternal and child mortality remain among the highest in the world and average life expectancy is only 47 years. Where does one find hope in the midst of severe poverty?
In the summer of 2015, I found myself in Tikonko, working with Rural Health Care Initiative, doing a training program for the Traditional Midwives. At the prenatal clinic in Tikonko, a young pregnant woman, Mamie, looked very sad and without hope. Through the Sierra Leonean interpreter we learned that Mamie’s husband had fallen from a palm tree and died, and that she had two small children at home and very little food, only cassavas, to feed them and herself. Not a nutritious diet for a pregnant woman.
How could we bring hope for Mamie, her unborn child and the rest of her family? She had no extended family to help her. Everyone in the village was very poor, and barely making it through the hungry season, before their subsistence-farming crop was harvested.
Words of encouragement, a prayer or a blessing were not enough. She needed something concrete to make a difference. We were able to provide a small cash donation, so she could buy food and start a small business. Several months later I learned she had given birth to healthy twin girls. A picture showed a smile on her face with her babies in her arms. I hope her small business is successful.
Sometimes, a smile or a word can bring hope. Other times, it requires a much greater understanding of the situation, and the need for the right tangible assistance (food, clothes, education, housing, a loan or other opportunity) to bring hope and dignity to someone who has none. Working with a small NGO in Sierra Leone to improve maternal and child health is one way I can begin to bring hope to people in a community thousands of miles away.
An Old African Proverb: When you pray, move your feet.
Our Summer 2016 online art and literary journal features writing and art by WBUUC children and teens.
Religious Education Children
Our friendships are full of colors, our world is a more beautiful place because of new friends!
Finding a Friend by Astrid Andre
October 23, 2015
I remember sitting in that store, waiting for someone to take me home. Lots of people passed me by but no one ever took me off the shelf-— until one day. The lady looked me over and said, “This one’s cute,” and bought me. I remember being put in her car and left there for days. I was so sad. I thought I would never leave.
One day she got in her car as usual (as though to go to work) but instead she took me to this big brownstone building with a cross on top. She opened the backseat door and took me into the building. There were lots of people but we headed into this huge room with red velvet benches. We sat on the last one. We waited for everyone to file in before a man in a white suit came up to the pulpit to preach through a microphone about a guy named God.
After what seemed like forever the guy in the white suit escorted everyone out row by row. When our row was let out we were first. We filed out to another large crowd. The lady pushed through some people saying, “Excuse me, sorry, coming through.”
At one point, she stopped looking around through the crowd. Then her eyes landed on a little blonde girl and her mom. You were so cute, holding a green blanket and holding your mom’s hand. But you weren’t looking at us. You were looking at some older girls playing tag outside, through the window. But as we got nearer you turned your attention to us. Then you tugged at your mom’s hand and pulled closer just as we stopped in front of you.
Then the lady said, “Hi, I have a surprise for you.” You let go of your mom’s hand and asked “Is it the pink Teddy Bear?” She looked at your mom and nodded. Then your mom smiled and said, “Yes it is.” Then the lady gave me to her and she gave you to me and said, “Here.” When you held me I was so happy. You smiled and said, “Huggy Bear” and it just stuck.
The lady smiled and left. “Oh,” your mom said, “We better get home.” When we got to your room you smiled again and said, “We’re gonna be best friends forever.” And it was true. We did so much together. You took me wherever you went. You dragged me around the house, and you got stains on me. I didn’t care. I was just so happy to finally have a home. You played in your room with me and you slept with me. Those days are over now. You don’t play with me and you don’t take me anywhere. I’m stuffed in your closet with all the blankets and pillows you don’t want anymore. But I love you, just the same.
Still love you,
Ways kids can help the world:
- Be kind
Yes, YOU. You are amazing. Have a beautiful day! Please pick one then feel free to pass it on:
- You are loved
- You are worth it
- You are talented
- Your smile is beautiful
- You are appreciated
- You can make it happen
- You are inspiring
Social Action Sundays
Homework/Soulwork – Wednesday Evenings
Junior High Youth
Hand Waves: The Art of Me
Every day, we change the world by our way of being:
The friends we make
The way we respond
Values that matter to us
What waves do you make in the world?
cynicism play devil’s ask
your message question
what is going on
you have the
Coming of Age
Being the Change!
To be free is to be alive,
flowing in and out,
With a beginning…
so far away that it reaches
an end I will never know,
A path to which I am looking for,
hoping to find
A path that will guide me
Maybe freedom is the circle,
Bring me back to the place,
from which I came.
In Case Family Can Be Found
Always scanning the faces
of people in queues
in case family can be found
at the Dairy Queen
on dollar Blizzard day
or at Target
in the returns lane
Always saying Lovely green beans!
Ah, Margaret Fuller!
behind tables at the farmers market
on the trail
in case family can be found
behind tables at the farmers market
on the trail
Always stopping to read the bulletin board
in the foyer of the library
in hopes family can be found
between the minutes of the last
city council meeting
and the poster
on the safe disposal of sharps
This is the gift you receive when you have the wisdom to patiently wait out the long cold winter in Minnesota – a lovely early Spring flower called Hepatica.
The Catholic Church Leading Us Away
from “Just War Theory” and WBUUC Was There
One of the definitions of “to know” is to “be absolutely certain or sure about something”. What we think we know is that to be secure in conditions of armed conflict, one must have a weapon. Whatever our doctrine or belief system says about love thy neighbor, nonviolence, respect for others, or forgiveness, we still hold to the belief that a weapon keeps us safe. We are not of course the aggressor, but practice arming ourselves “just” to be safe.
The doctrine of “just war” held by the Catholic Church and practiced by governments claiming other religious faiths has just been liberated.
That dramatic shift took place as Nonviolent Peaceforce with the handprints of members of WBUUC participated in a commission appointed by Pope Francis in Rome. In recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, people from many countries gathered at the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference.
“We believe that there is no “just war”. Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict. The time has come for our church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices,” the statement said.
“In that spirit we commit ourselves to furthering Catholic understanding and practice of active nonviolence on the road to just peace… As would-be disciples of Jesus, challenged and inspired by stories of hope and courage in these days, we call on the Church we love to: “…promote nonviolent practices and strategies (e.g., nonviolent resistance, restorative justice, trauma healing, unarmed civilian protection, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding strategies).”
But it took wisdom: the practice of unknowing…the practice of trust and hope…to support the practice of responding to violence with nonviolence. And WBUUC was there. –Ann Frisch
Always Take Love
when someone reaches out a hand
take it and do not feel unworthy
always take love when it is offered
it may be a life-saving event
when you are down reach out to a friend
you never know which one will reach back
always reach out for love when in need
you may change where you are going
someone smiles at you with kindness
let the kindness fill your heart with joy
always let love in when it shows up
you never know when you will need that joy
when you think that life has nothing more to offer
smile at a child who may need a smile to cheer them up
always seek out those you can bring you love and joy at no cost
for they will return much more to you than you gave to them
when you reach out your hand to offer love and kindness
remember the times when someone reached out to you
always give love when you are able to
you never know when you will change someone’s life even your own
WISDOM FROM THE FIRST 50 YEARS
“If the sun and moon should doubt, they’d immediately go out”1
This too shall pass
Paper plates & napkins, plastic utensils
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”2
It gets better
Don’t run on ice
Ask for help
Breathe in, breathe out, repeat
Love always trumps hate
Check ALL outlets before working with electrical wiring
Don’t spit into the wind
One day (or minute or second) at a time
Mama spit is the best solvent
Babies can’t fall off of the floor
Recognize, acknowledge, release
Angels (and superheroes) walk among us
“Do one thing every day which scares you”3
We are all broken and beloved
Ice cream is good for sprained ankles
“Every rose has its thorn”4
1Robert Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”
In the loneliest chamber of my heart lay one or two seeds of truth that remain unspoken. A poet I read somewhere compares the foxes she was lucky enough to glimpse disappearing into the graduating darkness of the forest to those harsh and brilliant truths revealed in one’s life but often not shared with anyone else. They are glimpsed, revealed, reveled in, and, sometimes, someone is sought-after with whom to share.
Revelation can be remarkable for how it isolates. Words do not come or are inadequate. How to hold something that can’t be translated? That is a kind of aloneness within which I can live. Something that is mine alone. And it lives in a dark forest in my memory and in my heart.
I’m a difficult passenger.
I’ll go off to explore,
leaving possessions on the seat—
a signal I am not gone,
and they take a lot of space
intruding on others, I suppose,
making noises, and emitting
smells, auras, spiciness.
I always reclaim my spot
after my sortie. After all
I’ve paid for my seat.
My space is mine to fill,
to spill over from.
Interrupting others, I point out the sights,
the swaying rhythm
that beckons, us to us.
Once I got off and thought
I would not go farther
cradled in warmth and light, but
I left it to resume the ride,
the challenge of my space,
my burdens, my aging, the connection with the others
on this journey.
This traveling is entertaining,
the trip is worth the cost.
–Mim Weber, 2004
A Grandmother’s Prayer
Grandchild of my dreams where have you gone?
A place where I cannot reach you?
How will I know you?
I will know you by the soft stream of tears I feel
On my cheek, I will know you by the gentle
Spring showers that feed the earth, by the
Sweet scent of the rose in my garden and the
Beam of hope in my daughter’s eye.
We will survive this passage knowing that this
Tiny soul having missed this lustrous life
Is bedded down in eternity safely sleeping
With the stars and cradled in the arms of the moon.
Yes, I will know you in my heart, your small
Shadow printed on my memory, your soul
Buried deep within us growing blossoms of
Love and hope for yet another day of birth.
–Gail Diez, 2005
The young are grown and
Concern for people
Distant and near
Taken up by others
Inspired to learn
By the presence of
A significant soul.
Ever so slightly
On a different course.
She laid down her book and pen
To rest for another day.
But her work was completed
And this spirit
Born into earth and wind
Shaped by compassion for the powerless
Wise in a world of monumental acceleration
Into another dimension
Known by a faith grown from a seed
Into a mountain
Of completed tasks.
–Phil Hinderaker, 2004
wound up the world
to its present motion–
sea to cell,
worm to seal,
seed to tree?
blessed and cursed
with our devotion,
seek to find
what mechanism spawned us–
air, earth, water, fire,
the singing choir
of sons and daughters,
mirth and tears.
What inspires our need
We never tire
but ask these questions
with every breath
–Ann Bushnell, 2002
by Ellen Lowery
Imagination may be a quality of human being. We are able to see what is not present for better or worse. Imagination may provide a haven from harsh realities, a conception of what could be. For better, it offers a vision of alternatives, such as seen in The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland. For worse, imagination may provide dark visions of shame and fear: our ideas about how we are judged, condemned by others, or allow us to form constructions of the enemy, as in Lord of the Flies and The Scarlet Letter.
A man who imagines the Bible to be the word of God may feel privilege to subdue his wife and she may feel this is acceptable and tolerate abuse of herself and children. In contrast, an abused child might imagine that God loves her and will guide her to better circumstances, or she may imagine she will find help from others, or books may offer her an alternate world.
Imagination allows us to transform discomfort into something else, possibly generative, but also possibly evil.
But change is life and life is change.
Transformation. It was surprising to find that Merriam-Webster definitions are so scientific.
They speak of formulas, mathematics, conversions, grammar, genetics, and finally false hair!
My own definition for transformation is more about creating, imagining.
This church was transforming for me. I came to the church as a child, but coming back in 1980 as a divorced mother with two boys, it gave us all a focus, a place to belong. Adults came to know my sons, interacting with them in so many ways. It has always been an extended family for my kids.
I was introduced to the power of story, the intrigue of dreams, the strength of friendship, the joy of imaging plays, poems, and programs of all sorts! And we are still the place that inspires the imagination.
My focus currently is the Gallery Committee. It’s the name we are known by, but is could easily be called the transformation committee.
We start with calendars, scheduling, advertising, negotiating; all the mundane, but then every six weeks or so we transform the Atrium with new works of art fill the space with color, dimension, imagination, that feeds our souls. The Gallery Committee enjoys the process of helping shape, group, and make the most of the artist’s work presented in our galleries.
The galleries were born of the imagination of architects, members on the planning committees, and a congregation that said yes! I for one did not see the potential of the Atrium, and the display space in the corridor. What I see today is that our building a prized display space, one of three in the White Bear/Mahtomedi area. Many people have told me that the art was part of the draw of WBUUC.
We are a community that is blessed with “soul”. Starting with our talented ministers. Our extraordinary choir, that blows the roof off every Sunday! Teachers in RE, justice makers in the community, cooks in the kitchen, and art in the Atrium. All are in the business of transformation.
WBUUC: Your time as a caterpillar has expired. Your wings are ready.
–Text & Photo by Karen Dahl
Images of transformation from my last trip: The water and the erosion (slot canyons), the flooding and drying (the salt flats), and the wind (the sand dunes).
Antelope, Rattlesnake, Owl, and Mountain sheep slot canyons at Page, Arizona; Zabriskie Point, Badwater Flats, and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley, CA.
“To live is enough.”
So says Shunryu Suzuki.
Present into past.
“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky.” (John Lennon, Imagine, 1971) “To live is enough,” observed Suzuki, the often understated Buddhist teacher.
Suzuki and Lennon were unlikely soul mates – born a generation apart, separated by nearly 6000 miles of water, land, and culture and raised in starkly divergent religious traditions. Despite these differences, however, both echoed timeless questions fundamental to the human condition. Imagine there is no heaven (or hell) and the present simply dissolves into the past as each second passes in our life. If above us is only sky, as Lennon wonders, and this life is indeed it, is living enough?
For those who can embrace the notion that “to live is enough,” suggests a rejection of wrack-full lamenting, an acceptance of life’s limitations and a fervent satisfaction and gratefulness for the yesterday and the now. It beckons and calls one to the present more ardently than ever before, opening our eyes, ears and hearts to beauty and the wondrous web of life in all of its manifestations: a smile and gentle touch from a spouse; a grandchild running towards you with arms outstretched calling “Papa”; a masterful book that draws your tears; glory of sunrise and sunset; fishing with a friend on still water in Ontario listening to the croaking of frogs and chorus of bird songs; wedding of a son or daughter; drifting into a nap on sun-drenched deck listening to wind rustled leaves; experiencing the unconditional love and adoring eyes of a pet dog; being moved by Bach’s “The Brandenburg Concertos” at the Minnesota Orchestra; a spirited rendition of “Buddy Holly” at the Minnesota History Theater; dinner and wine with a person you love; first dates and proms; children and grandchildren finding their calling; learning a new word and finding the perfect time to use it; the gift of “God Bless you” after giving a street beggar a snack bar wrapped with a five-dollar bill; amusement of a pun; old and new friends; solving a problem or overcoming a challenge; the joy of giving; achieving peace and satisfaction.
“To live is enough” also means that we accept and embrace the fullness and other side of life’s experiences: heartbreak of death and loss of loved ones; unmet goals and unfulfilled dreams; painful mistakes; parental failures; loss of job; promises not kept; sickening worry about a child; damaged or broken relationships; frustration; stress; being taken for granted; unexpected crisis; declining health; burden of caretaking; worry about money; lack of balance between career and family; shattered dreams; anxiety and depression; addiction; disappointing a friend; desertion; deceit; absence of appreciation; accident and injury; restlessness and dissatisfaction.
Wrapping our arms around the expansiveness of life – embracing the full range of experiences and emotions as we watch the present dissolve into the past – is our shared gift of life. And like water flowing through a mill, life’s painful experiences turn our heart’s wheel towards a deeper and more joyous appreciation of what is now and good. Or as Billy Joel reminds,“…that when the truth is told / you can get what you want or you can just get old / you’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through / why don’t you realize… Vienna waits for you?”
In The Moment
The river winds through
its rocky channel
tumbling over boulders
dancing in the moment
unconcerned the coming
falls will shatter it
into a million jewels.
The Water Strider
What occupies us by day is so small.
What really matters is a mystery.
Like the water strider who darts
and skates on water’s skin,
its world a mere molecule deep,
we are separated from the unknowable
depths that fall off cool and quiet,
ageless and enormous, just beneath us.
When the end comes, I believe it is water,
not dust to which we shall return and
only then to learn what has truly
mattered from the beginning.
Grow Your Soul: Transformation
With a butterfly metamorphosis is the seemingly miraculous change from caterpillar to adult form, a beautiful butterfly. With many humans transformation is never spectacular or quick. If we change at all it is slowly over many years, sometimes years of therapy, seeking to live in a better way. I’ve been trying to become more tolerant and to speak up for the causes I believe in my whole life. It probably doesn’t even show on the outside, but it makes all the difference if I have that awareness, that desire to change and do the daily baby steps towards becoming that person I want to be.
Imagination is what Raoul Wallenberg possessed when this under-achiever-playboy was sent to Hungary as a diplomat with the Swedish crown to protect and rescue the Jews rounded up by the Nazis. He immediately went to work finding buildings to house Jews and provided them with Swedish passports. He did this on a massive scale, sometimes having to promise that the donors would be saved from being tried as collaborators with the holocaust. (Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg, and Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story). Aryan women stormed the prison where their Jewish husbands, sons, and fathers had been sent to await deportation and worse. Depicted in the film identified by the street name Rosenstrasse, they made such a fuss that Hitler let them go, fearing a massive public resistance. Hotel Rwanda and Hidden in Silence depicted similar imagination when Paul Ruseabagina and Stefania Podgorska respectively engaged their imagination to protect victims of war.
Imagination is what Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Muslim “Frontier Gandhi” possessed when he created the hundred thousand person unarmed force standing against the British tyrrany:
“I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on earth can stand against it.”
David Hartsough, a Quaker, had been lecturing on Gandhi’s concept of inter-position, protective accompaniment, when he met Mel Duncan, a Presbyterian, at The Hague in 1999. Their imaginations and skills led them to found Nonviolent Peaceforce where unarmed civilians have been protecting civilians in the bloody wars of Sri Lanka, Mindanao, Philippines, South Sudan, Guatemala, Myanmar, and most recently in Syria. In the bloody genocide in South Sudan, in 15 months and 1000 accompaniments of civilians sheltered in the UN compound, none was harmed. In a breathtaking situation there, two of NP’s protection monitors refused to step aside when assailants said they wanted to kill the people in a hut. Three times the assailants demanded the protectors step aside, three times the assailants went away, saving the lives of 14 women and children.
Like Wallenberg and others, they were people doing their job when suddenly the situation called for their imagination. NP’s Mel Duncan admonishes us “to spark our moral imagination”. It is transformational.
Growing Up With Change
Change is inherently inevitable and I am constantly curious to see what the future brings. I sometimes think about who I will be in five, or even ten years. This person in my mind is different than who I am now. This person is different due to decisions and changes that I will have had to make. I have always associated change as simple and good, but change can be very difficult.
When I was about six, I decided to stop dancing ballet. A year later that time was filled by choir and my life was soon enveloped in music. Looking back, I think “What if I stayed in ballet? What would my life be like?” My life was transformed by an easy decision I made when I was six year old. I am planning on becoming an Opera singer, but who knows, I could fall in love with something else. Maybe it is just growing up, but I have had to make some difficult decisions in the past year.
The difficult changes that have been made have shaped me more than all of the easy decisions combined. I have learned to embrace change, because not only does it shape who you are, but it lets you recognize what is really important. This year my parents got separated and I moved, with my mom, twenty-five minutes away from my dad. The separation didn’t affect me the way I originally thought that it would.
I wasn’t upset that my parents were getting divorced, but I was upset that I couldn’t go home and talk to my dad. I now had to pick up the phone, or drive just to talk to him. I now have to be focused on getting quality time with each parent. Because of the separation, I have spent more quality time with each parent. It is one thing talking with someone for a bit each day, but it is totally different when you are spending quality time each week together. I have learned so much about my parents throughout the past three months, more than I have in my lifetime. I knew them before as parents, but now I know them as people. Their personalities reach far beyond just mom and dad, but they are still my mom and dad. They still push me to be the best I can be. They comfort me when I’m stressed out, which is most all of the time. But most importantly, they will help me grow together.
Who knows where I will be in five, or even ten years. Maybe I will be singing on a stage, or maybe not. Change is a part of life, and I think that is great. I choose to approach change with open hands and an open heart. I choose to face change with an open mind. I choose change because, let’s face it, life is boring without it.