Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Forgiveness


I've been trying to get down
to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Forgiveness
   — Don Henley, "Heart of the Matter"

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Green Bay Packers: A Celebration of Persistence and Resilience

January...time to recover from the holidays, clean the house, watch the days get longer, play in the snow, and watch playoff football. I love football! What's not to love? It's all about trying to reach the goal, overcoming obstacles, sometimes getting pushed back, changing strategy, and, with practice, skill, and a bit of luck, sometimes bursting ahead with everyone cheering you on. It's life. It's who we are. Moving forward. Never giving up.

Let me be very clear; I'm a Packers fan. I was born in Milwaukee, German and Polish heritage, third generation, I believe. I didn't live there long—we moved to California when I was six—but it stayed with me nonetheless. Gimbals department store, Quality Candy Easter cream eggs, Pabst beer (the only kind my father drank), a family bar on every corner, Friday fish fries, cheese, sausage, cold weather, piles of snow...and the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, and Paul Hornung. I grew up hearing those names over and over. My father watched the games in his "man cave," which was also our garage. He'd sit there in front of his tiny black-and-white TV set with his Pabst; our boxer, Heidi, by his side, occasionally licking his empty beer glass; and I'd be running in and out, riding my bike, playing hopscotch or four-square with my friends. My father would call out, "they ran it in for a touchdown," "only two minutes left," "come, watch!"

Once I left home, I didn't think much about football, but when life settled down to an easy, comfortable rhythm, I started watching games again. By that time, Brett Favre was the quarterback. You had to love him; he made it look so easy and always looked like he was having so much fun. This Mississippi boy was known for never losing when the temperature was below 32 degrees, and when isn't it below 32 in Green Bay? Fog pouring out of the players' mouths; snow falling; fans  bundled up in parkas and scarves and mittens, hunks of fake cheese on their heads; players standing on the sideline wearing those enormous football-player capes to stay warm. It all hit a very tender spot inside me, the part of me that is still so much about Milwaukee, and I was hooked. I live in Maine now, and when the Packers game is televised here, it's a great day. My husband makes a great big pizza with lots of onions and sausage, chills the beer glasses, and we settle in to enjoy a cozy afternoon.

These days it's Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Mike McCarthy. Sunday's game against the Cowboys couldn't have been better. Packers took a big lead early in the game, the Cowboys fought back to tie the score (twice) in the last few minutes, and Rodgers, always looking cool and calm as if he just got up off the massage table, drove the Packers down the field in the last thirty seconds, Jared Cook made the catch of his life, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal (twice because the Cowboys decided to ice him at the last second) to win it. Utter perfection!

We like the tough games better, the wins that require some hard work. The same is true of life. We're told to set lofty goals, have big dreams, be prepared to work hard. You don't know what you're made of unless you reach for the stars. You'll get pushed back. You'll begin to think it'll never happen. But, with lots of practice, skill, and a bit of luck, we really can find the end zone. It's who we are. Moving forward. Never giving up. That's what we celebrate when we watch football...our resilience, our persistence, our willingness to fight in the face of so much opposition. Thanks Aaron and all the guys. It means so much.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I Still Have a Dream

It's been a difficult few months . . . for me, for many people I know, for our country, for our world. The result of the presidential election was a shock, partly because it seemed so clear that Hillary would win, but mostly because it seemed so ridiculous to think that Donald Trump could be president. Who would vote for this lying, libelous, filthy rich con artist? Who would vote for a man who denigrates women with his actions while saying nonsensically that no one respects women as much as he does? Who would vote for a man who worked so hard to destroy Obama by purporting the lie that he was not born in America, then later denying his actions and blaming the entire birther escapade on Hillary? Who would vote for a man who worked to keep African Americans out of his apartment buildings, made fun of a disabled person, ridiculed John McCain by saying he prefers people who don't get caught, and on and on and on? Who would vote for someone supported by the Ku Klux Klan?

But people did. Lots of people. Enough to get him elected.

I've been asking myself these questions, and many more like them, for months. I was quite convinced that Trump couldn't possibly be elected. But I was so wrong.

Happy in my cocoon in Maine, I missed what was happening in this country. As a child of the 60s, I grew up with peace signs and peace marches, women's liberation and the rise of reproductive rights, Martin Luther King talking about his dream that seemed to have some hope of becoming reality, and music that made everyone want to move and groove and "love the one you're with." I grew up in a family with little education and little money but lots of hope for the future, for my future. I would go to college, I would not marry the first guy who came along, I would make something of myself. I had options, something no other generation of women ever had in this country. The future looked so promising.

But not everyone saw things as I did. Not everyone saw excitement and hope. Some saw what they were losing, not gaining. Some saw "sin" and destruction, not freedom.

So, the future chugged along, a few steps forward, then a few back. The Civil Rights Act, Affirmative Action, Rodney King, Voter Restriction Laws . . . Roe v. Wade, the Equal Rights Amendment (in case you've forgotten, it didn't pass), Title IX . . . Don't Ask Don't Tell, Marriage Equality, so-called "Religious" Freedom Rights, Matthew Shepard . . . the decline of the middle class, the mortgage crisis, corporate welfare, tax cuts for the wealthy. There are many more examples of the battles that have been fought in our country in recent decades for equality, fairness, civility, and decency; some won, some lost.

For the past eight years we've had an African-American president, and this year we had a woman presidential candidate. These are major social accomplishments that cannot be overestimated. But another setback, a clear indication of the backlash to the changes of the last half century . . . the election of Donald Trump for president. I can make sense of why some corporate wealthy people voted for Trump . . . they have a lot to gain from a Trump presidency, but it's inconceivable to me that so many of our country's poor and middle class individuals voted for a man who is likely to do them such harm . . . raise their taxes (directly and indirectly), destroy the economics of health care in favor of business profits, cut social security and medicare. Sadly, they were won over by Trump's aggressive, braggadocious, tough-guy demeanor, the perfect antithesis to what Obama and Clinton represent.

I saw a Trump voter interviewed on a news show last night who readily admitted to seeing all of Trump's failings: sexism, racism, xenophobia. He even said that he didn't want to see anyone, not even "illegals," rounded up and deported. So why did he vote for him? "He's not Hillary." He may as well have said, "He's a man, a white man."

Women suffragists picketing in front of the White house, 1917
I still have a dream. That's just the way I am, ever hopeful, ever looking forward. But the future now is uncertain, perhaps even volatile. One can feel the volatility like the first rumblings of an earthquake. So we must steady ourselves, seek shelter when necessary, but never forget that as a society we always pick up the pieces and rebuild. That's what we do. That's what I do.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Late Summer Acorns

This time of year I lie in bed and listen to acorns plop as they drop off the oak tree in front of our house. Before I go to sleep, when I wake up during the night, and when I lie in bed absorbing the sweet quiet and  goodness of morning, I hear them fall. One by one. Sometimes they bounce, and I hear a few rapid plops in a row. Sometimes they hit the metal roof of our wood shed, and the sound is sharp like a bang. But most of the acorns hit the wooden porch or steps, or the shingled house roof, and the sound is robust but dull, like a strike on a kettledrum.

Like the glorious sound of birds singing in March as they arrive from the south, the rumble of the first thunderstorm in April, the buzz of cicadas in late summer, the falling of acorns is a sound that for me marks time. Dipping a spoon to get that first delectable taste of maple syrup from the pot boiling in the shed; admiring the beauty of the first brook trout caught in the spring; picking bright red raspberries up the Mt. Chase road in August for muffins; grabbing my orange jacket and shotgun to go grouse hunting with my very excited dogs on the first day of October; filling the woodstove on a cold day in December for the first fire of the winter. There is indeed a season for everything. We eagerly await each one, even though they remind us that time seems to move far too quickly and nothing lasts forever. The raspberries will be gone, the trout will go to deep waters for the summer, the acorns will eventually stop falling . . . until next time. So we wait until next time, doing whatever keeps us busy in the moment. 

Time isn't linear; it's a revolving circle, the embodiment of perfection and eternity. We go round and round, enjoying the view and resting in eternity.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel 1928-2016
Growing older means facing loss over and over again. It is what it is. Recently, though, a number of people have died who played a huge role in my personal growth and development of my spirit, values, goals, and attitudes. And, another one yesterday, Elie Wiesel. 

More will die; I cannot stop that. But I can help keep their truth alive; we all can, and must. Wiesel and others like him, through their words and actions, fundamentally alter the air we all breathe. It's up to the rest of us to sustain that. So, breathe deeply of that air today. Hold it in. Feel its goodness, its grace. Then send it back out into the universe with your wish that it may continue to journey through the universe, growing ever stronger and more vigorous. 


"Think higher and feel deeper."
— Elie Wiesel 
 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elie_Wiesel.jpg

Trust


Some days everything fits together . . . no rough edges, no sharp objects, no puzzle pieces missing. Balance and equilibrium in every moment. I feel as if I blend in . . . part of the flow. Nothing special, nothing distinctive.

But other times, obstacles are everywhere. Rough edges, sharp objects, locked doors, barricades. I stumble, lose my balance, get scraped and jabbed. Bleed and bruise. Why me? Me? Me?

Is it the stars, my hormones, or did I get out of bed on the wrong side? Will things be better if I take my vitamins, have a cup of coffee, or go for a walk?

I don’t know. But just as I ponder these questions, a voice from somewhere says: “Don't compare. Be fully present to every moment. Be here . . . now. Be present . . . and trust.


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/2006-01-14_Surface_waves.jpg

Monday, June 13, 2016

Christine-in-the-Pulpit

I love Jack-in-the-Pulpit. It's my favorite flower, and I'm guessing you never heard anyone say that. It's a funny color for a flower . . . mostly green and very deep red, almost brown. Also a curious shape . . . a kind of pouch with a flap very nearly enclosing a generously sized stalk . . . "Jack" being the stalk and the "pulpit" being the pouch. Then too there is the fact that you have to be on your hands and knees to see one of these things, as they grow six to twelve inches off the ground, nearly hidden by the plants two large leaves. But I truly love it and eagerly await its arrival every spring.

My home in mid-coast Maine (south of Downeast and north of Portland) sits on a large five-acre lot in the woods. Tall white pines, hemlock, spruce, some oak, sugar maple, red maple, poplar, beech, a few birch, and a couple of crabapple trees that birds must have planted some years ago. Also lots of ferns, violets, bluets, paintbrush, raspberries, blackberries, and goldenrod. The first wildflowers to bloom in the spring are anemone, trout lily, violets, bluets, and trillium. And by the end of May, Jack-in-the-Pulpit is ready for its very subtle show.

I've been in my house for close to twenty-five years, and I've spent thousands of hours in my woods—walking, snow-shoeing, picking flowers, studying plant life, clearing unwanted brush, sawing dead limbs, picking up sticks, watching baby birds and their mothers in their nests, and on and on. For a very long time the only Jack-in-the-Pulpit I was aware of was a grouping of five or six plants that came up every year just in front of a birch tree about thirty feet from my sunroom. I looked for them every spring and throughout the summer would make a point to stop to look at them, always trying to keep my dogs from stomping on them while I bent down to enjoy them. Several years ago I found a few other small and immature groupings and had the idea to try to replant them in my various gardens—around the house, around the garage, along both sides of the long driveway, and in front of the wooden fence that outlines one side of the front lawn. Some wild plants do not transplant well: Lady Slipper is one good example; best to leave them wherever you find them. But that's never been a problem with Jack-in-the-Pulpit. So for the last several years I've been spreading these unique plants all over the property. This year I realize I've been rewarded as I'm seeing Jack-in-the-Pulpit everywhere!

A couple days ago I paused to wonder why I like these plants so much; most people don't even know they exist. The answer came to me rather quickly: they're a lot like me. Jack-in-the Pulpit are happiest in the shady part of the woods where sun is sparse and the ground is cool. They are shy and unassuming and easily missed by those who walk by. They aren't colorful, but they are unique. And, to get to know them, you have to put forth some effort. Well . . . me too. I'm happiest in the woods: I love glorious tall trees that tower above me, the cool and moist forest floor that supports ferns and wildflowers and mushrooms, the sound of the wind in the leaves, and the smell of pine and spruce after a rain. I too am shy and reserved and easily missed. I'm not loud or brash or flamboyant, but I like to think I'm one-of-a-kind. I'm careful about who I allow in to get to know me and I open up slowly but generously. I'd be very happy to be perched on the forest floor, lovingly protected by a couple of large leaves. So now, dear Jack-in-the-Pulpit, I understand.