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Posts Tagged ‘determination’

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. (Confucius)

 

CONTRAST

The news broadcasts the story in an infinite loop.

Nine people killed, one an unborn baby.

Boy or girl, identity as unknown

as the reason for the bullets that stopped them.

I listen to commentary

about hate and racism while a wren

travels from tree to wire, the place where

larger birds claim territory. 

 

Perhaps, there is no genuine connection.

Only a brief metaphor. And yet

I wonder if change can begin

with subtle movements.

 

first published in Piker Press

illustration made from recent colored penciled drawings

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We’re capable of much more than mediocrity, much more than merely getting by in this world. (Sharon Salzberg, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection)

A Child’s description of a YMCA pool. “Nothing like the ocean…deeper even at the beginning.”

Two brothers enter the pool. I hear the younger boy say to the other, “This water is eleven feet deep. But it is nothing like the ocean. The ocean is deeper even at the beginning.”

I smile at the child’s innocence. His simple joy. The boy has his green wrist band now. So, he can plunge into the deep end. With confidence. Swim tests completed.

Unfortunately, during Covid19 days those times need to be reserved. Socially distanced. Limited. Nevertheless, I watch the family interact. Enjoy. Celebrate. As I tread water. And reality. As well as I can.

“You have a delightful family,” I finally tell Mom. She smiles. A camera slung around her shoulders. Pictures captured inside.

She is an attractive lady. Black hair almost to her shoulders. Smooth skin the color of dark chocolate. The boys are a tad lighter, with a chestnut tinge. Lean. Active. The father, attentive. Smiling. He doesn’t see me. I smile anyway. To a beauty that I recognize inside him.

And I think about how the ocean seems deeper, even at the edge. A long way between shores. A deep space between peoples.

“Have a blessed day,” I say to the woman as this group’s assigned time ends. As the staff prepares to clean. To keep the space safe during a pandemic virus.

Safe. Such a short word with such an expansive unsaid meaning.

Peace. For all.

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At the end of the day, tell yourself gently: “I love you, you did the best you could today, and even if you didn’t accomplish all you had planned, I love you anyway. (Francois)

Turn on the news. Try not to scream, or worse, cry in despair. Integrity has been attacked. The legal system in the United States has been destroyed. Untrue statements repeat as valid, creating powerful weapons against justice. Absurdity and hate reach a crescendo.

And the notion that an honest tomorrow is promised, falls short.

So, why try to fight evil? Because I have value. You have value. The folk who have been misled have value. I remember a picture I took in County Clare in Ireland a year and a half ago. During a drought. A plant was growing through a hole in a rock. The growth didn’t happen quickly. It did happen after persistence.

To remain capable of giving even as the world seems to crumble. To smile, honestly, at a critic. Not easy. And no, I haven’t earned a halo. I have done the best I could today. May the rock break open just a little bit more. With the counter-weapon of compassion, while continuing to speak truth.

 

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Listening to and understanding our inner sufferings will resolve most of the problems we encounter. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

An old black car with temporary tags sped up our street during Saturday night’s rain. Hit and run. My rear-view mirror is no longer facing the rear without the help of duct tape. The glass cracked but didn’t escape onto the road to puncture tires. My car’s left side has superficial wounds yet lacks an immune system. It won’t heal itself.

My husband and I were not home at the time. However, two neighbors witnessed the event. They chased the driver. Later they identified her. The next day a police report was filed with my neighbors’ help. I am humbled by their steadfast assistance.

“You are loved,” my daughter-in-law says. And I pause, aware of the goodness of my family. Friends. One of the witnesses I barely recognize. The other has assisted my husband and me many times.

Cecelia, my daughter-in-law, and I speak often. I am more than twice her age. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes I encourage her. Then we reverse roles. Ego isn’t the decider. Being the best of who we can be, is.

Sometimes, insides break open like the interior of this near-dead rear-view mirror. It’s complicated inside and needs protection. Not smooth, matching the meant-to-look-perfect whole. Time to face what is, not what I want it to be.

I think about this person who used the street as a speedway. And I can’t judge. Old. Young. Color. None of it matters. Besides, I don’t know the answer.

I pray she no longer needs to run. From whatever, to whatever. The messiness inside the whole. A job that isn’t mine. That doesn’t mean I can’t care enough to wish her well. In whatever way a blessed journey can lead.

 

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Men are not moved by things but by the views they take of them. (Epictetus)

A sunburst strikes the windshield of my car and I beg it to stay. Cleanse my thoughts. Highlight the good. Too many people want to believe the earth can’t be affected by poisons tossed into the air. A man who disrespects other people and nations is okay—for anything.

And yet, judgment of any individual is not my right.

The sudden sun-brightness doesn’t stay. It never does. Peace, right now? Maybe not. I discover only smiles of encouragement and the assurance that integrity is always in season. Perfection, not as much. The bottom photos lean. May time help them. Direction isn’t the issue: peace is.

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Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life. (Shannon L. Alder)

The summer of 1963. I’m at a journalism workshop in Detroit to prepare for a position on my high school magazine. And I have a date. Other pre-seniors, a group of at least six, give advice about makeup.

“More eyebrow pencil. They look pale. Lost.”

A description of how I felt. Strange. I had a date. With a guy I’d just met. Not the love of my life, but someone who would introduce me to a fancy restaurant and frog legs. Yet my memory of the moment says I wasn’t enough.

Today I look in the mirror and see one red, irritated eye. The itching is a unique form of torture and I am grateful for antibiotic drops. Pink eye is temporary. Human frailties are not.

I have survived adolescence by now. However, what is this thing in me that says rest must be limited? Does laundry really need to be done, now? I need to type even when the letters could be more fog than print. I take a break, a short one. Maybe not-good-enough has morphed through the years. Soothed with action.

The new year begins. May I remain open to change, especially if it doesn’t seem easy. Time to focus on the real. And grow inside both joy and turmoil.

 

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The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. (Lily Tomlin)

I perform everyday chores as if they were time tests. As soon as I sweep crumbs, more arrive. My frustration mounts. Time to delve into writing or art appears, and an emergency barges through.

Visits to a nursing home and a funeral change my course, speed, and perspective.

A friend suffers from a disease that stole his mind and body. He was a kind professor who taught English and speech. Now he writhes in torment. I want to help his wife and can only offer my arms and ears. Another friend died after fighting cancer. I hear her voice in my head and don’t want it to fade.

Marie and I sit together at the funeral. We observe both past and present. Long-term friendship with divine influence appears as we share. Now. Then. The confusing interim.

On the way home my phone’s directional app leads us south via a shorter route than the one we took north. We laugh as Marie drives through unfamiliar territory. An adventure based on trust. Eventually we will know where we are.

She knows my strengths and weaknesses. Directions fit into the latter. She smiles and assures me I can go anywhere. I have the tools. Her voice is soft yet reassuring.

Extending boundaries. A non-rat-race possibility. November has passed the center line. Both December and old age appear as expected. I see a reflection in the mirror that doesn’t match the one I recognize in my spirit. The person who dominates my dreams, day or night, doesn’t have an age. Sun fades in and out. Kindness exists in both.

I pray to respond to negative growls with prayer, to misunderstanding with patience. To ignorance with acceptance. As autumn fades into winter, may I find gifts inside chills. May all those who suffer find peace—through as many free-to-be-kind people as possible.

(Illustration is a water color painted at least twenty years ago.)

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Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in steering others. (Jacob M. Braude)

I have no idea how much my husband and I spent trying to save the blue spruce in our front yard. A service came regularly with botanical anti-fungal treatment until the cost of the treatment could have paid for the creation of a national park.

Needles turned brown and fell from branch to branch to ground. Huge gaps appeared as limbs died and were severed. The birds no longer had a place to hide and send out their morning songs.

The tree couldn’t maintain its status anymore. The sapling had been planted for our first son. He is now an adult, married with two daughters. The spruce had become part of our home and its past. Part of our sons’ history.

When asked which house we lived in, the answer came easily. “The one with the tree that is the front yard.”

I can’t control the life of a tree, the decisions of another person, or the whims of Mother Nature. Directing me is difficult enough. What I desire for the whole doesn’t happen by wishing, demanding, or sacrificing more than this old body has.

Hatred. Prejudice. The notion of us versus them. If only I could uproot these creature killers. Tear up the roots. Open eyes to see hearts, not superficial differences.

Peace. Planted one kind seed at a time. Without judgment. I pray that I can say to the angry, No, I don’t believe some people are better than others. But, since you also happen to be human, you are deserving of love. Now.

No, I can’t forgive with ease. Not yet. Still working on it.

Trees don’t reappear from stumps. Nevertheless, fresh planting creates possibilities. May good-will seeds create hope.

 

 

 

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It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home. (Aaron Lauritsen, 100 Days Drive: The Great North American Road)

She hands me a five-dollar bill and I can’t think of any reason to refuse. The giver’s name isn’t necessary. She lives among the many who have more health-need expenses than income. “For Jay’s birthday present.”

I’ll think of some way to get the money back to her. In another form maybe. Although I need to admit the cash-concern is my problem, not hers. She gives because she is my friend. The salt-of-the-earth kind of acquaintance. The Matthew 5:13 variety. The kind who is entertained with a cup of coffee and background oldies music. And asks no more. “I’ll be your friend forever,” she says. I believe it.

Later that afternoon I glance around the neighborhood. The gentle couple next door. He cuts our grass and trims the edges. Both husband and wife watch our house when we aren’t home. Another couple, their friendly house on the corner—these two young persons have saved us more than they know.

Our little town. Inside a hostile world. Government crime and greed remain. I continue to work toward a better world for all. Yet, I’m not sure I would have the energy without companions who care on an everyday level. Thanks. May karma, the good kind, embrace you.

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Ah, how the seeds of cockiness blossom when soiled in ignorance. (Steve Alten)

DUBIOUS ADVICE

 

Take one opinion;

call it the whole.

Shout your words

with venom if necessary.

Cover your home,

your car, every space you touch

with bumper stickers, clever words,

succinct, biting,

so obvious, transparent,

you mimic a peacock flashing

your message across a zoo.

Then, well satisfied,

flick on the television,

curl up in your favorite chair,

or lie on a distant beach,

and revel in the comfort of your truth.

Relax, with food and wine within reach,

your part completed.

 

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