It’s Thanksgiving time here in the United States, and what a strange season we are in. There’s a war being waged on peaceful indigenous people and their allies in North Dakota, people who are continuing to stand strong to keep the Dakota Access Pipeline from being completed (and eventually poisoning the Missouri river watershed.) People in high office in this country seem to have missed the history lessons that taught us about the horrors that result from unchecked, systematic racism and the danger that lies in acting from fear, hate, entitlement, and greed. Work hours are long, jobs are lost, people are sick, loved ones are hurting, the dog is getting old. There are many things to lament. But we might do ourselves a favor and take a break from the lamenting to give thanks as well. Gratitude is always possible. Elie Wiesel wrote, “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.” Continue reading “A Thanksgiving of Unnoticed Gratitude”
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”
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”
To be alive is to totally and openly participate in the simplicity and elegance of here and now. ~Donald Altman
I glide though the silence of early morning fog rising from the river, my kayak paddle slicing through the glassy water, propelling me forward into the next moment, and the next, and the next. I am not always good about doing this, but sometimes in the time just after dawn as the sun starts to claim ownership of the sky, I am able to be in each moment, not thinking about the last one, not anticipating the next one. I am able to just be present, one paddle slice or step or breath at a time. Simple elegance, one paddle slice at a time.
We spent this past week about 500 miles from home, in a little yellow cottage outside of Manistique, Michigan. Perched on the southern shore of the state’s upper peninsula and the northern shore of Lake Michigan, my husband’s family has roots deep in the sandy shores and waters and lore of the small lakeside town and its surrounding forests. It’s a place of simplicity if you choose it, and an elegance of a different sort than is usually conjured from the term. I suppose you could say it’s a place where they have always gone to be present. To simplify the pace of the days and let the slow energy of a summer vacation take the reins. Continue reading “Kayak Morning”
An excerpt from Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth – available wherever books are sold.
About a month ago, we pulled into the driveway after a great five days up along the north shore of Minnesota, still reveling in the tonic that is Lake Superior, anticipating a low key few days of unpacking before returning to the usual work schedule. We ambled down the path from the garage, happy to be out of the car and walked into the house to a putrid smell and reports that the septic alarm had been going off for an indeterminate amount of time in our absence. Awesome. Turns out a little creature of some sort had chewed through the cord that powered the septic pump, shorting it out. Could have been much worse. All and all and easy fix for Nick, and we were back in business. But the smell….remained. For another day we pondered just what could be making the kitchen stink. Eventually we followed some clues and found a decomposing mouse behind the fridge. Again, awesome. But we got rid of it, gave the cats a pep talk and life carried on. Then I got a call that my credit card number had been stolen and there was someone in Texas trying to charge a trip to Thailand on my Visa. And the grass needed to be mowed and the garden weeded. Then the water heater broke, one of our indoor cats got out and was lost for a day and a half, and my retreat co-leader broke her foot and couldn’t come to the retreat we had been planning for several months. And then the road construction workers cut the phone lines that run to our house and we were down phone and internet for several days…and still are, truth be told. Not a big deal, really, except for when you work from home calling people and working on the internet. (And that’s just what happened in my own little privileged bubble – the events happening in tandem with my own mini dramas in terms of racial inequality and war and planetary destruction would make this little list much, much longer.)
It’s been a rough month. Continue reading “Bits of Astonishment”