For now…

I had a forceful intuition this morning that came on with all the common sense of a parent making the decision to change her child’s poopy diapers–they’re dirty, change ’em–or put her child to bed–he’s really freaking tired and needs to go to sleep so I’ll put him to bed, even if he’s screaming. What prompted this forceful intuition (wait for it…) was a questionnaire sent to me by the Democratic Party. This questionnaire, among other things, wanted to know whether I agreed with several of President Obama’s plans, including:

  • a plan to take executive action on issues that Republicans refuse to bring to a vote, such as immigration,
  • a plan to increase the minimum wage,
  • a plan to make it possible for more American workers to earn sick time and family leave,
  • a plan to close the wage gap and ensure women receive equal pay,
  • a plan to close tax loopholes and to simplify the tax code so that corporations and the ultra-wealthy will pay their fair share,
  • a plan that will allow American workers to gain the modern job skills necessary to compete in the global economy,
  • a plan to reduce carbon pollution, accelerate the development of clean energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and invest in sustainable and resilient infrastructure projects to prepare for the effects of climate change, and
  • a plan to provide a community college education to any American who is willing to work for it.

Well, sure, I said to myself. I agree with all of these things–except maybe the one to prepare for the effects of climate change, because I’d damned well rather reverse the effects of climate change instead. But it is good to be prudent and prepare for all eventualities I suppose, and our infrastructure is in any case in dire need of attention. So yes, I agree in theory with all of these things, but what exactly are these plans–what do they really say and how does Obama propose to carry them out? I was discussing this with my dear mate when the intuition bubbled up out of me: What actually needs to happen is to call a complete halt to anything but the absolute necessary functions of human life on this planet. Call a halt to production of unnecessary goods, call a halt to polluting, call a halt to everything but the bare minimum necessary to sustain humanity–then figure this the fuck out.

First, help Nepal get back on its feet, clean up the war zones, feed all the people and make sure everyone has clean water and adequate shelter. Get everyone–everyone— to the point of level two at least of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs. That gives everyone at least the level of safety to work from.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Source: WikiPedia (Yes, I know, I really should donate. I will donate.)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Source: WikiPedia (Yes, I know, I really should donate. I will donate.)

Then we can figure out what to do about the massive mess we have made on Planet Earth, the only home we have in the vast reaches of space. It’s time to change the poopy diapers. It’s time to put overtired children to bed and be the adults.

Because otherwise this is all too slow. It’s too damned slow and government is made up of people who are in the business of trying to maintain the status quo as much as possible so as not to ruffle the feathers of those who keep them in office by giving them campaign contributions. In this state of affairs change is glacial, and we end up watching a bad, neverending football game in which the Republicans gain ground, then lose it to the Dems, who lose it to the Republicans, and back and forth ad nauseum. If indeed Obama has plans for these things, which I hope he does, he will never realize them in this system as it stands. All it is is more talk, when what we need is positive action.

Action that can be taken only by the people. If we wait around for government or, god forbid, corporations, to do what is necessary and right, we and our children and grandchildren will be living in a much more severe nightmare than the current one, and it will be our own fault. But it is so easy to be lulled into doing nothing, for we have been raised, like cattle on a CAFO, to be corn-fed, docile, unthinking, and powerless. Twelve years sitting in school, preparing to “earn a living” in a society that dispenses ever-decreasing returns to those who support it. We are conditioned to be afraid and conformist, and most of us are too tired at the end of each day for much more than a highball (or choose your poison) and a televised something or other.

But this isn’t what we are alive to do and be. The other night, on my way to see Night of the Iguana at the Albany Civic Theater with my two grown sons, I drove by a community garden in the middle of the city. It was a lovely, warm evening and people of all ages were out, talking to each other and digging in the earth. It felt so right to be with my funny, intelligent sons on our way to community theater, passing by community gardeners. It felt true and right, and nourishing.

It is this I put forth: not that we should take it upon ourselves to do a great something and change the world, but to do many and sustained small participatory somethings and thereby, seemingly without effort, through the actions of all of us, change the world. Feed those in your reach, be kind, think about whether your actions–what you eat, what you buy, what you do for a living–participate in the harm of other living beings. Change what you can, simplify your life, find out what is essential to you and stay close to that, leaving the rest. What is essential won’t be the same for everyone, and that is good…that helps keep the balance.

If we all, or even a majority, or even 50 percent of us did this, we could stop the runaway train we are on, and give ourselves time to come up with solutions. If we did this, the solutions would likely come about naturally and inevitably, like spring after a long, cold winter.

La Llorona

Deep in the black velvet ooze
At the bottom of the saltwater cavern,
I found her weeping for her children.

Her weeping makes her monstrous.

Mothers warn their young ones away
And secretly worry
about where choices have led them–
About the salt in their blood.

I see her

Raw fingers raking the sludge,
so long from giving love.
My hands ache and sweat;
I taste my death but cannot look away.

Her hollow eyes focus on me and the time is fulfilled.

I kneel in front of her,
Take her hands to my breast,
And kiss her wide mouth long and full.

8.21.02

I Stop

Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged. Missing me one place, search another. I stop somewhere waiting for you.
~Walt Whitman

[Context: I had run away from home (for a week. yes I did set a time limit. mother of two after all–maybe not the best, but the only one.) because pretty much everything I had built my world on–my belief in what was the right way, who were the right people…the right according to everything I’d been fed and swallowed (or rebelled against and paid for dearly)–had fallen in rubble to the ground. Bad scene but also a chance to pick and choose what you’ll build with this time. If you can survive. (Which you can.)]

 

∞ ∞ ∞

Brand-new, clean notebook. All possibilities exist here. I love paper, and it hardly costs a thing. This 70-page, spiral-bound, college-ruled notebook cost 25¢ at Wal-Mart. It is one of the best-kept secrets of our time.

My feet are speckled with gray, the rim around my toenails black. I have a black smudge on my calf, just below a freckle, which is itself below the scar that is a reminder to me of Albert…nope–can’t remember his last name. Italian. Started with a C. These marks on my calf form a constellation–an anchor, perhaps. Here I sit, on my eldest son’s camp chair, up in the North Country. Sharp Bridge Campground, 40 sites and the cleanest bathroom I’ve ever had the pleasure of using while camping.

I wanted to write a little before doing the dishes, even though it will get dark soon. So much of my life is spent going, doing, or planning on going and doing that I almost never get the chance to just sit and daydream, or notice the activities of the little ones–worms, ants. A giant bug flew into my campsite this afternoon–I heard it rather than saw it at first–a dark humming, more bass than bee, and when I caught the movement that went with the sound I was prepared to get nervous if this creature did not go soon. But then it stopped moving and hovered in the air for a moment; it looked at me and I smiled and said, “Ahh! a hummingbird. Thank you.”

Ugly Duckling

Now I float upon the cool water,
My webbed feet gently keeping me true
As I breathe and come to.

Here I am upon the calm water~
The ungraceful dance,
Frantic footwork to be what I am not,
Is over.

In the distance swans take flight:
Recognition leaps in my heart
And my wings give a sympathetic shake.

Now, here, I am what I am.
My webbed feet paddle the cool water,
Moving me forward, swift and sure

Until yearning meets with knowing,
And I unfold large, beautiful wings
That carry the drumming of my heart
Across the years and vast deserts I have traveled.

In a moment,
Through a flurry of sun-kissed water,
I am airborne,
Flying to meet my mates.

Sharp Bridge Campsite, August 2002

It dawns on me that I have a tendency to expect too much from people. More specifically, I expect them to be “better” than I am–more enlightened, more understanding, more generous. I don’t expect this from everybody, but I do tend to expect this from those I admire, and often from those whom I love.

Sharp Bridge Campground

Sharp Bridge Campground in North Hudson, NY. Photo by Michael Lechasseur.

It is the morning after an afternoon and evening of rain. Every patch of sky I see supplies a crisp blue outline for the pine needles way up there. Long streams of sunlight lay upon the ground, flowing and shimmering when a breeze moves the trees. The white pines grow cathedrallike here–columns shooting straight up to the fronds at top. Steam rises from the ground and the trunks. We are all glad for the rain. We all need it deep down and often. And it does make the sunshine so sweet.

Thought

I hope that the raggedness can be overlooked as one would overlook dirt on a child or wrinkles on a beloved grandmother. It is life I want to see here, to communicate. It is messy and beautiful.

People

My kryptonite and my lifeline. What I think people think I should be or am, and fighting against it. Meeting people and exchanging various forms of love, nourishing each another, often in the most ordinary places (passing a stranger on the sidewalk and sharing a smile). I’m lucky to tread a balance, but often stray into hopeless entanglement with my need to label everything and tell myself what it means. To grab hold of it and make it something instead of letting it be whatever it is.

The trick is to always stand on your own two feet–to always know where you are and engage from there, instead of trying to figure out where the other person is and act from that imagined place.

The trick is doing it not just writing about it.

My two feet.

My two feet.

A Thought from Grandpa Joe.

We must be willing to get rid of
the life we’ve planned, so as to have
the life that is waiting for us.

The old skin has to be shed
before the new one can come.

If we fix on the old, we get stuck.
When we hang onto any form,
we are in danger of putrefaction.

Hell is life drying up.

Excerpt from A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living