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Finding Hope This Fourth of July

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Happy Independence Day. I guess. It hardly feels worth celebrating this year, unlike last year when the vast majority of Americans celebrated the end of trump’s reign with a heartfelt “PHEW!” By last 4th of July, the trauma of the insurrection had begun to fade and denial was settling in, at least in my beleaguered brain. 

One year later, it’s hard to deny that the trump damage is wide and deep and lasting — for all of us, but especially for women and for the poor among us, who are hardest hit when voting and abortion rights are denied and the climate crisis worsens. 

IS THE SUN SETTING ON OUR REPUBLIC?

Life is overwhelming lately, right? I’ve had to abandon this blog post several times. Finding solid words to stand on is difficult, as I stumble between disbelief and grief, outrage and numbness, shock and hardened cynicism. Cynicism is the most dangerous, because it kills hope, and without hope we don’t vote and we don’t march and we don’t show up. And we “writing activists” don’t write. 

A STRONG DOSE OF HOPE

Thank God for Cassidy Hutchinson, who offered a strong dose of hope to those who seek truth and justice in the wake of the January 6th attempted coup. (Which is, let’s not kid ourselves, ongoing.) Everyone says her testimony was “shocking” and “stunning.” I suppose in a normal world, that would be so, but the most shocking part to me was that I wasn’t shocked.

A WOMAN OF COURAGE

As alarming as Hutchinson’s testimony was, none of it was out of character for the 45th president. Not the rage, the violence, the pettiness, the crazy. Not even the part where he demanded metal detectors be dismantled so that an armed mob could enter the ellipse and make a better photo op for him before descending on the Capitol building where the entire Congress and the Vice President were doing the work of democracy. 

OK, that particular bit did shock me. But not because of trump’s treasonous behavior — I just did not expect the Committee to hand the Department of Justice such a clear smoking gun. (Never has “smoking gun” been a more apt metaphor.)

WOMEN OF COURAGE

So if not shock, then what was my overwhelming feeling as I watched that brave 25 year-old woman raise her hand and risk her career — and perhaps her very life — for love of country? As she promised to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to that even braver 55 year-old woman from Wyoming who daily takes those same risks, only on steroids? I felt grief. Deep grief for our nation. I was surprised by my tears. My hard trump-shell cracked. Most of us knew we were in great peril when that man took over, but I honestly never imagined. And trust me, I thought I was fearing the worst. 

Let me be clear: I’m not saying Hutchinson and Cheney are heroes. They enabled and abetted trump every step of the way. Until they didn’t. They are courageous and they are strong and their bravery may save what’s left of democracy. Thank God for them, and may others follow their lead. But let’s not call them heroes. They and their ilk are largely responsible for America’s minority overrunning the majority, and for the Supreme Court’s dismantling of our freedom and independence just in time for the Fourth of July, 2022.

PRAYERS AND SPIT

I pray fervently for our nation this Fourth. Most especially for the direct victims of the Court’s recent rampage through our life, liberty and happiness: My heart is with all women — especially low-income women — and with Black voters, Native Americans, and kids who fear getting blown to bits at school. And of course my heart hurts for every living creature threatened by the Court’s choice of corporate profits and climate chaos over life. Amen.

Let’s celebrate this day with intention and determination and courage. May we all spit in the face of fear and take a hard hold on hope this Fourth of July.

Soon We Will See Their Faces

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We all know how this goes. Soon we will see the pictures on our screens and in our newspapers. The scrubbed and smiling faces of the newly dead children, murdered by our inaction on gun control. By the National Rifle Association and the elected officials it pays off to make sure there is no action taken to save such children. 

The children of Uvalde, Texas went to school today with their sticky homework papers and lunch bags tucked inside their little backpacks. They trusted the adults in their lives to keep them safe. But their trust was misplaced. The grown-ups of America are allowing the continued  slaughter of these innocents.

So far this year, 134 children under twelve have been killed by gun violence. All those little faces. 

Many GOP senators have already spewed their disingenuous prayers all over social media. Shut up. Just shut up. Stop pretending you care, you craven hypocrites. These children don’t need your prayers. They need you to stop voting against gun control. They need you to stop accepting money from the political strategists and lobbyists behind the NRA carnage.

And if you are inclined to tell me not to talk about politics while we are grieving? Don’t. Do. Not.

Life is Good. Death is Not Bad.

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Today is National Death Doula Day. “OK, what the heck is a Death Doula?” you may well ask. If you’ve heard of Doulas at all, you probably think of them as companions who support women through the birthing experience and care for new babies. But increasingly, Doulas are there to care for us at the other end of life, and the movement has really taken off during the pandemic.

A Death Doula is a trained non-medical companion who supports others through the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences involved with leaving this life. They’re trained in end-of-life stages and help families understand the natural processes, while providing comfort and practical support, 24/7. They are sometimes called Soul Midwives, Transition Guides, or End-of-Life Coaches. Whatever you call them, they can fill the gaps in mainstream medical and hospice care.

Death used to be revered as a sacred part of the life journey. It’s only within the last century that we’ve stopped accepting the end of life as a natural component of our lives. Western culture doesn’t like to talk about it or hear about it, so when death visits our lives, we are often completely unprepared. Denial and avoidance make death and grief far more difficult for patients and family members.

I’ve taken some training in this field and am considering doing more. It takes a deep commitment, as you can imagine, but it seems to be a place I am naturally gifted and called. I’m pondering and praying about it. These words from Suzanne O’Brien, who trains Death Doulas, really resonate with me:

End of life is a human experience –  not a medical one. With the right education, kindness, and support, end of life can be the sacred, positive experience it was meant to be.”

Today is a day set aside to bring awareness to the field and to the benefits it offers patients and families. So I thought I’d share. Here are a few articles and a podcast that give some history and an overview of the movement:

https://hospicenews.com/2022/04/11/pandemic-pushes-death-doula-awareness-hospices-seek-strengthened-ties/

https://time.com/6128469/death-doulas-covid-19-pandemic/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONAvdqyDfFM



BEAUTIFUL RAGE

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I may not be the most qualified to speak on the topic of anger. Though I am well-versed in the costs of bottling it up. I could probably buy a small Russian yacht with all the money I spent on cocaine in my twenties and therapy in later decades. Avoiding conflict is one of my specialties: “None of that unpleasantness, now,” as my mother would say. My older brother and sister seemed to relish rolling in the unpleasantness, while I cowered wide-eyed behind the couch. And you never knew when my alcoholic father would blow. So I learned to hide out.

Fury at Injustice

It’s a lifelong challenge for me. But there is one exception: I have always raged at injustice. It’s why I chose a career in environmental protection, to speak out and fight for the defenseless. At first that meant animals and trees and vague visions of future generations, but when this privileged young white woman learned about the heavy costs of environmental degradation on poor people and communities of color, my rage knew no bounds. Which may be why I march around the streets of D.C. and wave signs and yell at the top of my lungs from time to time. That’s my therapy now.

Interesting that my rage only seems to grow as I age. No mellowing out or going gently into that good night for this aging hippie. I mean, shouldn’t things be getting better by now?? We know about climate change and its disproportionate impacts on marginalized people, we know about police rage and violence, we know about the ownership of politicians by the NRA and multibillion-dollar corporations, we know about systemic racial injustice in housing, healthcare, education, land use, the justice system, pollution exposure – well, everything.

And then comes the rebirth of authoritarianism, not just “over there” but right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. Even for those who find it hard to do “unpleasantness,” how can you not rage right now, watching yet another tragic, senseless slaughter caused by a narcissistic strongman and his pandering cronies?

And now, corporate-backed American politicians are using Putin’s murderous rampage to call for more drilling, mining, and carbon-dioxide spewing in the name of “freedom,” when any person with a brain (and a heart) can see that solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources could free us from foreign energy sources for good?! Great God!

Don’t Just Rage, Do Something!

Speaking of God (see how I did that?), it’s the start of Lent, as I mentioned in my last post. What about trying a Lenten practice of feeling and expressing anger at injustice in a healthy way? I find that much of my anger comes from feeling powerless. What’s breaking your heart and raising your blood pressure these days?

You’re smart. You’re creative. Find one useful thing you can do about it. Write a letter to a decision-maker. Write a letter to your local newspaper. Call in to a news show. Get your neighbors together (in a COVID-safe way, of course) to watch a video about an issue that gets your ire up. Gather a few friends and have a “honk and wave” on the street corner, holding signs about racism, the climate crisis, Ukraine, your passion. You are a co-creator of this world with God – get out there and generate some beautiful holy rage!

“God of Holy Rage,

Too often we fear that to allow for anger is to become less like You. Let us meet the God of the prophets. You, who tells the truth. You, who holds fury at injustice. Help us to remember that You, in embodied anger, flipped the temple tables at the site of injustice and exclusion.

In a world where the powerful terrorize the marginalized – exploit people and land – would You help us to become faithful discerners of when to calm and when to rouse? Rejecting that anger which leads to bitterness or hatred of another, yet tapping into a righteous rage when that which you’ve created is under abuse and neglect. The dignity of creation demands our emotions. Make ours a beautiful rage.”

Cole Arthur Riley

You Are Awesome – Please Consider Changing

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“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Carl rogers

I came across this quote today, from psychologist and author Carl Rogers. I think it’s the perfect sentiment for the season of Lent, which started this week. 

In the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday, many Christians adopt Lenten practices that help them explore who they truly are, as Jesus did in the Biblical story of his forty days of fasting in the desert. When confronted by the devil, Jesus basically said, “No, you can’t tempt me with material things, that’s not what I’m about. No, you can’t tempt me with fame and fortune, that’s not who I am.” The devil couldn’t even tempt him with immortality. Jesus had figured out and accepted exactly who he was: He was God’s child, and he responded only to God’s guidance. 

Jesus wasn’t going to accept all the false selves the world wanted him to put on. He went inward to find his true self, the one not driven by ego or fear or insecurity. The one lovingly dreamed up by God. 

Embracing Humility

And that’s what we do during Lent; we courageously examine ourselves, we explore our motivations, accept our imperfections, and become willing to change — or “repent.” When we are weighed down by egoic insecurity and fear, we are too busy covering up and defending our fragile false self to accept our true selves just as we are. It takes humility to become willing to change. 

Sometimes a whole religious sect can become a “false self,” defending itself as perfect and its scriptures as “inerrant,” fearing change instead of embracing God’s living presence and guidance, rejecting self-examination and declaring ever louder that their particular IMAGE of God actually IS God. 

God, the Divine, is way too big to be contained in the constructs of a human mind. Hence, humility.

My Lenten Prayer for You

My prayer for you, dear readers, whether or not you consider yourself religious or spiritual, is that you might take some time to look inward during this spring season of new beginnings. To gently prod your sore spots, warm your frozen places, and open your heart to accept the truth that you are unimaginably awesome just as you are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the ancient Hebrew scriptures say. 

Once you accept that, may you recognize that you have unique and glorious gifts to offer to the rest of us. And that it would be best for everyone if you jettison the crap that holds you back from being fully who you are meant to be.

Amen. 

This post is dedicated to my beautiful friend Bill Duncan, who passed away from COVID a year ago today. He spent his life humbly striving to be his best, truest self, the person God created him to be. 

What’s Climate Justice, Anyway?

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Guess what, Dear Readers? Writing With Spirit has syndicated!! No, I don’t mean the New York Times wants to include my pearls of wisdom in a regular column, I mean that I am going to run occasional words of wisdom from another source called EarthTalk, which is affiliated with E Magazine. Don’t worry, no money is changing hands in this transaction, because God forbid I should make any money from my writing habit, right?

Couple of reasons I’m sharing these posts: First, I want to keep learning and sharing information about what we can all do about the climate crisis. Plus, this will encourage me to blog more regularly. EarthTalk (ET) publishes a longish Q&A every day, but I’ll just share excerpts when the mood strikes me. Their words are in italics, mine are not.

The question today is whether wealthier people generate more carbon pollution than lower income people. As a person who follows Jesus, I’m particularly interested in the justice implications of climate disruption, the roles of wealth, poverty, and race in our planetary crisis. So this column seems like a good one to start with.

Read these statistics slowly, they represent human beings:

Yup, Wealthy People are Most Responsible

for Our Climate Crisis

The richest 10 percent of humanity was responsible for 52 percent of global emissions between 1990 and 2015. The richest one percent alone produced 15 percent of global emissions, more than double that of the entire poorest half of humanity. This phenomenon is called emissions inequality: Wealthier nations and individuals emit excessively large amounts of greenhouse gases, while poorer nations and individuals suffer the bulk of the consequences.  

The result is that pollution is harming those least responsible—and least equipped to combat its effects—more severely than those who are most to blame. In the United States, this is partially a result of systemic racism. Polluting factories and power plants have overwhelmingly been built near non-white and poor communities, which often lack adequate resources to resist powerful corporations.

Global income data tracks closely with emissions data: The World Inequality Lab’s 2022 report found that the wealthiest 10 percent earn 52 percent of all income, while the poorest half of all people earn just 8.5 percent. Why does wealth correlate so closely to emissions? On an individual level, people with more wealth are more likely to own cars, travel by airplane and own big homes that consume lots of energy.

From here, EarthTalk offers information on the stock market and how that affects climate investments. Bottom line: environmental benefits often take time to show a profit, so actions like reorganizing for a greener supply chain aren’t attractive to corporations that want an immediate payoff to stockholders. ET also recommends green investments if you do buy stocks. Check out Good With Money.

EarthTalk concludes:

Still, the blame for greenhouse gas emissions falls squarely on the shoulders of corporations and governments, not individuals. While many companies have taken modest steps to reduce pollution, overall emissions are still increasing and will likely stay that way until the governments of major polluters like the U.S., China and the European Union force companies to transition away from fossil fuels. Until then, the wealth gap will continue to grow, and emissions inequality will grow along with it.

I do not disagree with this. In the end, it’s going to take strong action by our governments. And that means we need to elect leaders who prioritize climate action. But I don’t want to let us off the hook. There are plenty of ways for individuals to make a difference. Conservation and lifestyle changes add up. And unless you keep your money under a mattress, you can help by joining the movement to stop banks from supporting fossil fuel production. Did you know that since the Paris Accord was signed, these guys have given more than THREE TRILLION BUCKS to fossil fuel corporations? Check out this action by Third Act to hold the biggest banks accountable. https://thirdact.org/what-we-do/bug-the-banks

* * *

CONTACTS: Carbon emissions of richest 1 percent more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity, oxfam.org/en/press-releases/carbon-emissions-richest-1-percent-more-double-emissions-poorest-half-humanity; World Inequality Report 2022, wir2022.wid.world/www-site/uploads/2021/12/Summary_WorldInequalityReport2022_English.pdf; Good With Money, good-with-money.com.

EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss for the 501(c)3 nonprofit EarthTalk. See more at https://emagazine.com. To donate, visit https//earthtalk.org. Send questions to: question@earthtalk.org.

Stubborn Hope in the New Year

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So many social media posts this week sound like gasps or relief: Finally, it’s over! We made it! A fresh start! 

I don’t know what planet they are living on, but I don’t see much changing for a time. 2021 felt like a continuation of the dreaded 2020, except that it started off with an insurrection at the Capitol and the loss of one of my dearest friends to COVID. 

It’s hard to hope in the midst of the latest COVID surge and against a backdrop of historic floods and droughts and wildfires. Any yet. And yet. Here it is New Year’s Eve, a time of looking forward with hope to what a new year might bring. My pastor recently said that hope takes courage and determination, and it seems that has never been more true. 

We must be stubbornly hopeful. What miracles might we hope for? 

“Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down”
Jackson Browne

Pandemic Lessons

First of all — leaving aside the maniacs celebrating at Times Square tonight — most of us have been gradually learning to let go of bright & shiny distractions, extravaganzas, and expectations that we will be endlessly entertained by . . . something, anything. Spiritual sages throughout history have taught that “letting go” and “surrendering” are essential to spiritual growth. COVID has provided a master class in surrender.

We are learning to truly appreciate and sometimes cherish simple time with our families and close friends, those we lost to COVID and those still with us. We have rediscovered taking walks instead of “going for coffee,” making meals together instead of going to restaurants, reading books instead of going to concerts or movies or — well, anywhere. 

I confess I have felt resentful about those brief periods between COVID variants when we cautiously began to gather, to hug, to dine out. It felt like 2021 dangled hope before us and then snatched it away. But remembering those fleeting moments and the deep relief of getting vaccinated, I see that my thirsty soul was filled with a good dose of hope in 2021. I sat at a few dining tables with close friends, I ate food made by hands other than my own, I sang around fire pits, I went to crafts fairs and even made a few new friends. All of these are reminders that life will return to some form of normal. There is hope.

Possible Miracles

Maybe we will all be so sick of Zoom that we’ll reduce our screen time and enjoy time with actual human beings! Maybe the new habits of walking and gardening and chatting with neighbors will take hold and we’ll become healthier people, more in touch with our bodies, with our communities, and with the earth. Yes, there is hope. 

There is hope that the climate disruption we witness every day now, either personally or in the news, will be enough to overcome the evil greed that keeps our nation from acting in its own interest. 

I have hopes that the committee investigating the January 6 insurrection will hold public hearings to expose the involvement of past and present elected officials in the effort to overthrow our democracy. There is hope that someone will be held accountable.

There is hope, too, that the GOP overreach in various states to keep lower income communities and people of color from voting will be so egregious that a voting rights bill will actually become law. Perhaps our republic will survive when we are all equally able to cast our votes. Perhaps then there will be the will in Congress to reform the police and judicial systems. Maybe even protect our schoolchildren from the NRA! 

“Nothing is impossible with God,” says the Bible. And I believe that. I do. I just forget sometimes.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

My Own Personal Miracles

I long ago gave up New Year’s “resolutions” or “goals,” but I do have three “intentions” for the year 2022. The fact that they closely resemble my 2021 intentions does not bother me; I have learned to give myself a whole lot of grace. I am framing each of my intentions with hope:

  • I will declutter my home with the intention of entertaining loved ones in the future. I haven’t opened my door to friends since grief overtook me and entropy overtook my abode eight years ago. Clearing and cleaning my space will fill my head with hopeful visions of post-pandemic life. I may be stuck alone here right now, but it’s not forever. 
  • I intend to write hope into the world. This intention will keep me on the lookout for hope, so that my blog brings light into dark times. Please hold me to that, dear Readers, if I get too cynical or sarcastic. I also intend to finish the first draft of my memoir. It’s a hard process, reading old journals and remembering past angst & pain, but I nurture the hope that if I stay connected to my God, She will reveal hidden value, meaning, and connections in my life story. 
  • My last intention is most important. The lynchpin of my courage, determination, and hope is my relationship with the Divine. So my intention is to go deeper with God, to open my heart to hope and to miracles. I think I’ve become self-absorbed and stuck in my head during COVID. I’ve limited myself and God, forgetting that “nothing is impossible with God.” It’s time to reconnect with my source.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Her, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Grumpy Advent

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I’m home in Maryland after five months at my grandmother’s place, one of those cozy white Cape Cods with green shutters in the woods of New England. The kind of place Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye might show up wearing Santa hats and caroling at the front door, and I would invite them in for mulled wine and ginger cookies and we would sit by the Christmas tree and reminisce about the war. 

Isn’t it weird how that generation is so sentimental and misty eyed about World War II? I think it was the pinnacle of both my parent’s lives. I guess it’s because national – and even global – crises bring people together with a sense of unity and purpose and sacrifice for the common good. We could sure some good old fashioned “goodwill towards all,” these days. Too bad there’s nothing traumatic happening to bring out the best in us, like a deadly pandemic or maybe an ecological crisis that makes polluted air and water seem like a picnic in the park.

Anyway, I’ve buttoned up my little hideaway in New Hampshire for the winter. Funny I still think of it as “Beedie’s house” even though my grandmother has been gone, near as I can tell, for thirty-plus years. I say “near as I can tell” because I’ve been wondering lately if all my departed loved ones have actually departed. There are so many family memories in that creaky old house, it’s hard *not* to believe there are loving spirits hovering about, still rooting for me, comforting me, encouraging me, playing a role in my life that I’m totally unaware of.

I’m currently planning a contemplative Advent Quiet Day at my church, something I organized for years with my recently departed friend Bill Duncan. I swear I can hear his voice, his skeptical reactions to my musings, his laugh. He feels so close sometimes, not “gone” at all.

Christmas is Coming, Ready or Grumpy

I’m working on not getting depressed, because that often happens when I return from New Hampshire. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s the holidays again and everyone’s dead and even if they weren’t, I couldn’t see them because of this unspeakably horrible unending pandemic. And now we are all supposed to be the worried about this new Origami variant? I just can’t.

I spent Thanksgiving night in a hotel room in Pennsylvania with my adorable cat Alice and a fabulous book, and I got to have fried onion rings & tater tots for dinner. So I can’t complain about that.

Alice & Amor

But when I got home Friday, my pipes had frozen and burst and there was a flood in the kitchen. I pulled a muscle in my back trying to drag the washer out from the corner where it was spewing water. So I’m feeling sorry for myself and pissy about the holidays and am really hoping that these hovering spirits give me a good kick in the pants and get me outside for a walk, because I can’t abide self-pity, especially in myself. 

That’s how I am today. Happy Advent to you, if you are one who entertains visions of angels hovering in the sky over shepherds and flocks. You never know about such things. You never know who’s hovering.

I’m going to go outside and cut some cheerful red holly. Because Christmas.

September Journal Snippets: Mountain Musings

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My journal snippets are always some of my most popular posts, so in the absence of anything profound to say, I’ll share some of my September musings with you. The first two weeks of the month were all about road tripping. I drove from my pandemic hiding place in New Hampshire back to my home in Maryland for the COVID funeral of my dear friend Bill, then took my annual pilgrimage south to Hot Springs, North Carolina for the Wild Goose gathering, a festival of “spirit, justice, music, and art.” I briefly returned to Maryland to allow my dermatologist to snip my ear to biopsy, and then headed back to the mountains of New Hampshire.

I will spare you the suspense and let you know that I do, in fact, have skin cancer, but it’s not serious and hasn’t spread. So don’t worry.

Without further ado: 

  • September 1

.Cabin #4, Hot Springs, N.C. Before-bed hot tub. Early morning hot tub. Gonna be a rough trip. I will say, I feel guilty. I’m trying to embrace the both/and. Yes, Taliban terror is already starting in Afghanistan; yes, Bill and 600 thousand others have gone; yes, climate catastrophes abound: Hurricane Ida and another massive direct hit on New Orleans. But also, yes! I hear the wind in the trees, the rushing river, the whir of the wings of the approaching Wild Goose. It’s all captured in the dark clouds of Ida’s remnants roiling over these peaceful mountains.  

I feel so painfully aware of my privilege, sitting here. It’s kind of obscene. It is a gift to have the amount of money and time that I have and to live in the U.S. I want to be fully aware of that, and also to give back where I can. Such abundance. I’m feeling very spoiled. It is a nice connection, too, to know that Bill sat in this very hot tub, relaxed and happy; that he gazed across these treetops to that mountain. Sat at this table on this deck and wrote in his journal. My dear friend. 

At this table, on this deck
  • September 4

Notes I made at Goose Wisdom Camp: “indecision, confusion, restlessness, aimlessness, uncertainty. A little frantic. Fears underneath, of dying, of aging, of not having done enough, been enough, of over-committing, of failing.” At another session, author Gareth Higgins spoke about seven basic fears, the deepest being fear of death, and another being fear of having led “a meaningless life.” That resonated. 

The question is pretty simple, really. How do I spend my remaining time and energy? And how can I best align with my true self, with God’s vision for me? I need to re-read Parker Palmer. My passion for environmental work has faded, for whatever reasons. Too depressed about climate? Disillusioned? Hopeless? Don’t get out in nature enough? I do feel some passion around spiritual growth and pastoral roles. Yet I stepped down from being an official pastor. Kind of lost my mojo around blogging and have to force myself to work on my memoir. 

I believe the small things matter, loving your neighbor, being kind to kids (and adults), serving in simple ways. But I still want to save the world.

  • September 5

Taking a tea and chocolate break to both rest and wake myself before my guests arrive at the cabin. {Bill’s wife Shobha, his sister Linda, and our mutual friend Lori.} I love our tradition of a left-overs feast on the last night of the Goose. Poignant this evening because today is six months since Bill left. That seems incredible to me. I believe I need more chocolate.

What We Need Is Here
  • September 11

Twenty years. Just a check-in, not time to reflect on 9/11, except to note that it wasn’t that long ago that a national or global emergency would bring out the best in us, bring us together regardless of politics, remind us that we are one. No longer. Now millions of grownups refuse to get a shot or even wear a cotton mask to save children’s lives. This Delta variant is cramming pediatric hospitals. No words. And so I just live my life. Today is packing day, I’m on the road back to New Hampshire tomorrow. Awaiting a biopsy. Won’t think about that, I have cleaning and packing to do. 

  • September 13

Ah – what a whirlwind the past few weeks have been. It is good, good, good to be back in the silence. There are just the beginnings of fall, a blush of red and a few orange-tipped branches. I’ve cooked up a batch of hummingbird sugar water in case some of my friends are still around, or at least passing through. How I wish the mosquitos would migrate elsewhere! 

  • September 14

It’s a lovely sunny morning, warming up after a chilly start. The dew is offering up tiny rainbow prisms on the tips of the grass, and the crickets are singing their late-summer chant. There’s a hummer in the phlox, there’s wind in the trees, and the rustle is drier now, crisp, higher pitched than it was a few weeks ago. The maples by the driveway have turned their muted gold, steady and understated sentinels. An orange swallowtail flits from phlox to goldenrod, unaware or unconcerned about its tiny lifespan. It is enough for it to become itself, to taste nectar, to feel the sunshine, to float upwards on the breeze, wings outstretched. An acorn falls. It is enough. More than enough. 

The grasshoppers are mad this year, flinging themselves this way and that, seemingly unsure of  direction or purpose . . . or am I projecting? Need I ask? Better the unconcerned butterfly than the frantic grasshopper. 

Why Am I Not Writing?

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I’m not a big believer in writer’s block, despite the fact that I’ve had it for over a year. I’m supposed to be writing a memoir about an intriguing woman’s various addictions, her career in environmental politics on Capitol Hill, and her ongoing search for God. I haven’t written a chapter in — I don’t even know. Last fall, maybe? 

Writing group deadlines are the only thing that keep me writing at all. Recently I’ve been dashing off essays on random topics like food justice and grieving after COVID (if we ever actually get to AFTER). I revised these essays based on the group’s feedback, submitted them to one publication each, was rejected, and went back to writing grocery lists on sticky notes. 

I thought this solitary pandemic time would result in multiple completed manuscripts and possibly a book contract or two. In reality, I’ve barely produced a blog. 

The Poetry of Avoidance 

I’ve come to realize that taking classes is one of my favorite ways to avoid actually writing a book. I’ve taken at least six classes in the past year, for which I write short, one-off pieces connected to nothing meaningful. Little challenge, little reward. 

I got a few poems published, which was nice. At one point, though, a memoir teacher asserted that when writing a memoir, one shouldn’t distract oneself by doing things such as signing up for poetry classes. This is just a way to avoid commitment, she said. I don’t know if she could see me blushing on Zoom: I had already registered for her poetry class the following week. Regardless, none of the classes resulted in a new paragraph appearing in my memoir.

COVID Sucks

Maybe it’s too convenient, but I do blame COVID. I have lost three friends to the virus so far, including my very close friend Bill, whom I’ve been grieving deeply since March. Watching his wife Shobha — just as dear a friend — bear her grief, and not being able to carry it for her is excruciating.

Bill & Shobha: where my heart is

Bill was one of my blog’s biggest fans. Like me, he immersed himself in politics, environmental policy, and spiritual transformation. He read every blog I wrote, and often sent me encouraging notes or commented on my posts in our conversations. So writing a blog without the promise of his appreciative reception is a challenge. In fact, I haven’t written a blog since Bill left us. It feels more than ever like sending out words into an empty universe. 

But I guess I can’t blame my lack of words entirely on Bill’s passing. It’s been going on the whole bloody pandemic. I mean, I’ve nearly stopped reading actual books, as I have zero attention span for anything. (Thank God for audiobooks.) Anxiety looms, moving from the background to the foreground, depending on the news or who is sick and how sick they are. Or whether a crazed mob has tried to take over the Capitol.

After getting vaccinated this spring, I began to entertain the idea of an end to isolation and anxiety, but then WHAM! — three friends of mine (one family) got COVID despite being fully vaccinated. And I had just spent an entire day with one of them unmasked, riding in a car, and sharing meals! Needless to say, I am masked up again.

Piecing It All Together

As I did last summer, I have hauled dozens of old journals up here to my New Hampshire “writing” retreat, as fodder for my memoir. I also brought along a jigsaw puzzle I was simply unable to focus on last year. Seems silly, but this really bothered me, because jigsaw puzzles are one of my favorite ways to relax; to declare, “this is truly leisure time.” And COVID took even that simple pleasure away from me.

I’ve had some luck with the puzzle recently — at least I have the border together.

Life is a Puzzle

Maybe that’s a sign. Perhaps I’m ready to take another shot at piecing together various scenes from my life into a meaningful whole. One memory, one word, one prayer at a time. And perhaps it will all come together into a story Bill would have loved. 

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