Courtney E. Martin, in her new book called The New Better Off argues that our society is moving away from what was once considered “the good life.” For years, people said things like “well, I want my kids to be better off than I was,” and often times that meant hoping those kids got a steadier job, or a nicer/bigger house, or into a better financial situation. But perhaps there’s a cost to putting all of life’s meaning under the old definition of “better off.” In her introduction Martin says,
…what’s more, some of the things we have associated with success actually endanger our health [and leave us unhappy.] Underneath the appearance of uplift, a complex [success] story weighs us down. This could play out in a number of ways…like when people set aside authentic career ambitions in favor of more lucrative paths; or when a father knows his colleagues better than he does his own kids; or a mother leans in so hard she falls flat on her face. Pressure and debt, missed get togethers, living for the weekend, living someone else’s dream. “Better off” left uninterrogated, can be fucking dangerous.
Continue reading “A New Better Off: Living the Good Life”
Recently America reclaimed its preference of having a rich white man as the president, and this time he is an outspoken millionaire business man turned reality TV star who unabashedly encourages bigotry, racism, sexism, and myriad other isms and things that can potentially lead to oppression, violence, and the glorification of hatred as a viable option for change. People who did not vote for Mr. Trump feel everything from blindsided to sorrowful to angry to depressed to resigned to hopeless. People who did vote for him [likely] feel everything from elated to vindicated to satisfied to safe to, I daresay, confused. I imagine that people everywhere, no matter how they voted, or even if they didn’t vote, feel the enormity of what has been brought to the surface in the last few days. Mr. Trump got as far as he did in the election because he feeds into all of the insecurities that a large portion of Americans have, from unemployment to national security to big government. He feeds the fears, and fear, when fed, grows without bounds. Unprocessed fear allows people to act in ways they wouldn’t normally act, and brings out the parts that usually stay in the shadows. And when you can invite someone who has been afraid into feeling safe and righteous instead, even if it means inciting violence and rage, and even if they don’t agree with some (or most) of what you stand for, often times, you win their loyalty. Continue reading “Make America Great Again”
What would it be like to dance with mountains? To sway with the majestic alpine wildflowers that dot the valleys, or to listen to the whisper of clear snowmelt as it cascades to lower ground over a bed of stones smoothed to perfection? To kiss the pine needles, to breathe the scent of ancient bedrock mystery? Or to walk in step with the peaks that have been stripped of life, or the valleys that have been clearcut and left for dead? The toxic rivers, the tundra fracked of life, the homeless topsoil that can’t hold on? How do we love our failed expectations alongside our beautiful victories? How can our defeats, our poor choices, and our monsters co-exist with our grace, our goodness, and our love? How do we embrace them all and hear what they have to say?
Dance with mountains.
Continue reading “To Dance With Mountains”
The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity. As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.
Politics. Human decency. Disrespect for women. Self hatred. Governmental control. Fear. Complacency. Planetary destruction. Stealing. Dishonoring sacred sites. Destroying nations. The despair of the poor. The despair of the rich. Outrage. Ignorance. Brushing it under the rug. Dishonesty. Hope. Hopelessness. Wondering. Paying the bills. Running away. Feeling stuck.
This list could continue on for some time. The words that describe what’s happening on the planet earth right now are many, and they don’t always make you want to jump for joy or sigh in relief. Of course, there is goodness and that which is worthy of gratitude alongside the parts that make you want to scream in frustration or shake someone. But sometimes it’s hard to notice the good stuff. Continue reading “Broken Open”
Five hours west of here, indigenous people from 300 tribes around the world have gathered in prayer and protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Each week more tribes announce their solidarity with the people of Standing Rock, offering up songs of healing and prayers for the protection of the earth’s water. A fellow resident of the St. Croix Valley took her three young daughters to deliver winter supplies to those who have put their regular lives on hold to stand in protection of this essential Missouri River watershed. Others remain committed to oil and the short term promises it makes. Tension builds, and armed police continue to gather in opposition while the main steam media remains quiet.
The wind has been blowing the last few days, ushering in the colder air from the north to let summer know the time for blossoming and long days of outdoor warmth are over. The forecast for tonight calls for a freeze, and I brought in all of the vegetables and fruits that still lingered in the fields. The water from the hose I used to wash the leeks and potatoes felt like ice, and I moved quickly to get the job done. Continue reading “A Hidden Wholeness”
It has been a busy month. September always seems to mean racing to prepare life for winter. Of course we could do some of these things before we HAVE to do them, but it doesn’t seem to happen that way, year after year. So we fly around in September getting fire wood cut and stacked, filling fuel tanks, mowing the grass a few more times, winterizing motors, cleaning the chimney…..the list is long, and usually expensive. Things feel really hard, tempers are short, work days seem long and sometimes it feels like a hopeless cause to try to change anything at all. But here we are on the first day of autumn, and the list is getting done. We have firewood stacked, the septic is pumped, the furnace is tuned up, and we still have funds to the other things we need to do, even if we won’t be going on any European vacations anytime soon.
Autumn is a paradox. The leaves are changing, the harvest is coming in and the warmer temperatures this year mean the blackberries are still putting new blossoms on their brambles. There is vibrant tree color alongside the withering of the annuals I planted in the spring. There is the fresh possibility of a new school year alongside the mourning of summer’s sense of freedom. There is hope for a late freeze alongside a yearning for the day the temperature drops far enough to bring many kinds of garden work (and allergies) to a halt. We feel like we will never have enough, yet we always have more than we need. Continue reading “Autumn’s Paradox”
When I hear the words “the blue of longing,” I am transported to a dusty red four-speed Toyota that doesn’t have air conditioning, and I’m driving west across South Dakota. It’s August and there’s a cassette tape playing since no radio stations will tune in without static. After miles of corn fields give way to miles of grassy pasture; after the Missouri river valley gives way to rolling tall grass prairie; after I cross through the barren beauty of Badlands spires reaching toward the sky, after the signs for Wall Drug say, “wait, you missed it!”……after all of that I finally come to the place where the Black Hills loom in the distance, and I marvel at the sudden change in the horizon. There is a reason these mountains are called what they are – when they appear in the windshield, it is like looking into layer upon layer of coal colored refreshment against the brightness of a late summer sky. I am astonished at the majestic expanse that commands my sight lines and the welcoming darkness of what lays ahead. Surely there is myth and magic to be found once I arrive at this oasis. And then at some point as I continue on the westward journey, it’s gone. Once I reach the point where identifying individual hills and trees is possible, the black has vanished and only the landscape remains. They are just hills, now – beautiful and sacred as they always were, but the mystery that came with the space that was once between me and the place I sought is as gone as the distance that was closed to nothing. And when I look up and out past the place where the hills give way to grasslands again, I can see hints of the next place that I seek, and the color that tints that desire to arrive. The myth and magic remains just around the next corner. Continue reading “The Blue of Longing”