use it or lose it

highschoolMy junior year of high school read like something out of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Now is not the time nor place for me divulge the nuts and bolts of that story, but suffice to say, I was not in a good space. So many things were going wrong at once that it didn’t feel like anything could possibly go right.

At exam time of that school year, I was in the thick of emotional upheaval. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was a honor student, didn’t drink or mess around with psycho-active substances. I liked to dance. But I somehow missed a crucial day in chorus class in which the teacher informed the class that in order to get an “A” on the chorus exam, all we had to do was show up on the scheduled exam day.

Since I didn’t hear the announcement and there was no reason to stay at school on exam days if you weren’t taking an exam, I missed chorus that day, and failed the exam. My no-brainer “A” in chorus turned into a “D”. Yet another Unfortunate Event.

I am grateful to be finished with high school and college, but this memory comes back to me now, in election season, because exams don’t really end. They just change.

Election season is past-paced and rabid in its intensity.  The sentiments get pretty ugly and immature (maybe that’s what jogged my high school memory).  It can be exhausting and frustrating to watch.  BUT, voting is one of the really important “exams” that we face as bona fide grown-ups in the U.S. Of A. We live in a participatory democracy. It’s a great thing. But in order to keep it, we have to do what is required of us, which is to participate.  It may be that every one of you is a voter, but when I hear that only 20-something percent of the voting-eligible population of our county turned out for the primary, I feel a need to speak my peace (or is it piece?).

Our democracy is imperfect. As far as I’m concerned no form of larger civilization since we left off the 150 member tribe has been without flaw. Our system, with its noble beginnings (as long as you weren’t a Native American or African), has been corrupted with greed, fear, and money, but it at it’s root, it is basically a good system. And it is up to us to use it or lose it.

Here are some of my basic ideas for good use of a democracy:

First, show up. Vote. Every chance we get. But it’s no good to vote if we don’t know who or what we are voting for. It’s like showing up for an exam and drawing christmas trees in the multiple choice boxes.

you are hereSo, second, we have to study. We all have our sticking points, which is natural and good. I am partial to environmental issues and certain positions regarding small farmers, of course, but I know that there are a lot of other issues at stake, too. If a candidate didn’t meet ALL of my requirements, but I felt good about their moral fiber and leadership capability, then great.  Likewise, if a candidate supported small organic agriculture but insisted in holding my Muslim friends in concentration camps, there’s no way in creation s/he would get my vote.

Third, don’t give up.  If our side doesn’t win this round, just keep voting.  Politics isn’t about winning ALL. It’s about threshing it all out, hearing differing opinions, and working out a compromise. No one should come away with EVERYTHING s/he wants. We’re a complex country of over 320 million people. Unified consensus will be hard to come by.

I have heard commentary from some this election season that they are voting “with their middle fingers.” If we used our middle fingers back in high school when taking our exams,  we failed. I’m not exactly a child of “the establishment”, so I get the frustration, but this is not an attitude that leads to success.  Understandable sometimes? Yes. Powerful commentary? Maybe. A way to participate in a democracy? Nope.

we are not aloneIt’s also important, in my opinion, to think outside of ourselves. Besides being a melting pot of many beliefs and cultures, we are also a major world power. The leadership we present to the world really matters. The middle finger theory critique applies here, too. We have international responsibilities, like it or not, and our approach to our foreign neighbors (yes, neighbors – all over the world) is no small deal. Not only does a leader have to work with differences of opinion within the country, s/he has to be able to do good work with people who may not look, speak, or think like s/he.

Fourth, but not least – we can vote with our dollars, every day. There’s no denying that we have definitely become a global economy. Money is like water – it flows through all of us, everywhere – and it collects in some low places.  I am glad that the amount of money in the political race is getting a little more attention in this cycle, because it is absurd. Politicians should not be bought. Politicians need to be public servants, not corporate servants.  It is telling, and disturbing, to “follow the money” flowing through our educational, medical, scientific, religious, and political systems. Why would a corporation give lots and lots of money to a congressman, or a school, if they didn’t want something in return?  If someone makes money from war, what will be their deepest consideration when our children are the most available cannon fodder? And if it isn’t our children, it is any better that it is someone else’s children?

food dollarUltimately, the game of “Follow the Money” starts at home, and if you are skeptical of how much your vote matters, you shouldn’t be skeptical at all that how you use your dollar has great influence on the national and international stage. It’s not easy to know where our money goes anymore, but it’s worth trying, and it matters.  If We The People are able and willing to spend lots and lots of money on plastic toys, electronics, clothes from sweatshops, and cheap processed food, then we collectively send the message to the corporate and political leadership that the agricultural and economic systems that make empty food and sweatshops work are OK with us.

I have been to a place where you could consider who to vote for while a representative of the leading party held a gun, or maybe a machete, to your head. If you have an opinion that might be considered unpopular to the regime, you had best not express it near an open window or anyone who might have anything to gain, or lose, by hearing you out. Meanwhile, the developed world pats itself on the back and celebrates the “birth” of a new democracy.

I have also been to place where there is no voting. Bureaucrats two thousand miles away in a different climate tell farmers when to plant and harvest. There is only one time zone. Each morning, loudspeaker blare out “Good Morning – It is time to go do your patriotic calesthenics program now! Aren’t you grateful to live in this great Nation?” And gentlemen in long dark coats sit alone listening to the conversation of foreigners and NGO workers in the restaurants. You always ditch your email account when you leave because it is probably being read, or at least collected.

High school isn’t a democracy either – it’s perhaps more of a socialized foray into a free-enterprise system, with some a few opportunities for team work. In chorus class, we really just had to show up and that was it.  Also, those of use who “failed” the “exam”, didn’t influence the GPA of anyone else in the class.  That isn’t the case with the grown up voting exam.  We are all in this together.  If we engage, we will succeed as a democratic nation.  Not necessarily just in terms of the economic bottom line, but as a people willing to govern ourselves, live, and thrive, together.  The alternative is much less pleasant than a few sour notes.

Thanks for hearing me out. Please, vote.  Peace.rose 3

same planet, different world

lotus picture

out of my element, but having a fine time.

When saints speak, it’s good to listen.  Here’s one thing Mother Teresa said:

“If you judge people you have no time to love them.”

So I remembered this over and over as I moved through the airport with all the security upgrades that I haven’t been paying attention to in the past 11 years (since my last flight).

I am not a fish out of water.  I am just another person on an airplane.airplane

That was my other mantra, of sorts.  Realizing that, though life is precarious at 28,000 feet in the air, it is also perfectly mundane.

I had a catch in my throat when I saw a plane lift off the runway. But the crowds at the airport were reassuring.  We participate in this madness together.  Somehow, it works.  These things I say to myself, imagining a smooth landing in Miami.

It is immensely beautiful to see the world from nearly 6 miles up.  The tiny white crescent of sand on the coast, cast white by the sun.  The Gulf waters shiny and still, or so they look from up there.airplane 2

How remarkable, that we, the hairless, slow, defenseless specks of creatures born with so little protection, without even being able to hold our heads on straight – WE have manipulated our environment this much.  We fly without wings.  We fly from the power of our minds.

On the way to airport, I listened to NPR, tuning into the political circus taking place in the USA right now, and from 5 miles high, it really made me think about humanity and all our works.  What is it all for?

Airplanes don’t last.  Buildings don’t last.  Even great art lasts only for awhile, in geologic time.  Our lives are certainly short.  All I can think of that could possibly matter is love.airplane 1

Every candidate out there will claim to love this country, and that’s great.  Some will claim to love minorities or farmers or other segments of population characteristic of the working poor.  And they are probably telling the truth by their own standards.  But here’s what I’m observing – love begets love.  I’m not talking about romantic love here of course.  I’m talking about big LOVE, agape, or from the eastern side, bodhicitta – the up-welling of the heart with goodness toward ALL.

When that sort of LOVE is present in a person, it is reflected in their actions, and in the action of the people around them.  And LOVE isn’t always sweet and lovely.  Its forms are as variable and diverse as our fingerprints.  Parents all know this.  We scold our children and correct them, not even always gently, but our corrections are made with LOVE.  The fruit of this LOVE is recognizable as goodness, positivity, fairness and compassion.  Even in shows of great strength, there will be a basic goodness.home lulah

LOVE is an attractive force.  It’s something to watch for.

And THAT, my friends, is what this little farmwife was doing on an airplane to Miami.  I left my hearth and home, all that I have grown and cared for over the past decade, for the sake of love, and I was rewarded with the obvious – MORE love.

My dear friend of twenty years (or more) just weathered a big life transition.  As difficult as it was to observe, being there is part and parcel of true friendship, and the longer we live the more obvious that becomes.  I am grateful now to have borne witness to her process, as she has maintained such integrity, and now she is beginning to emerge in a glorious and graceful way.  And in her emergence from the thick of it, she invited a bunch of us, her friends of near and far, to be with her for a weekend in southern Florida.  How could I not go?

There were about a dozen women who carved out time for the get-away.  One of them was another close friend.  Another I had met before.  The others I had only heard about over the years.  It was such a wonderful event.  Totally worth the strangeness of the plane ride.

It was wonderful to spend such concentrated time loving our mutual friend.  We all shared a deep appreciation for her, as she is, and together, we were able to really give her that deep-woman-friend-love that is so necessary at certain turning points.  I hope you know what I mean, because it’s difficult to explain unless you have experienced it.

It was also completely astonishingly wonderful to meet so many GREAT women all in one place.  I could so easily have spent a day talking to each and every one of them.  Each so different, but each beautifully unique in intelligence and experience and that golden key – basic goodness.  It doesn’t happen every day to meet so many enjoyable people at one time, you know?  I am grateful to know these women, not just in my friend’s life, but in my own now, too.group picture

Oh, and the spa was pretty nice.  Lying by the water in a swimsuit was awesome.  Hot tubs and saunas are alright by me, too, once in awhile.  The quinoa banana avocado pineapple smoothie with pistachio nuts, dried cranberries, and coconut?  All I can say is WOW.

But the best part?  You know what I’m going to say.  You know it’s true.  LOVE.

The flight home was wretchedly bumpy.  Everyone was pale as the plane circled through the clouds and down onto the Nashville runway, but but it was good to look down and see the bare trees, the open fields.  So much space we have here.airplane tennessee

I was a tired mess by the time I got back to the house.  There were still little piles of snow along the road on the deepest parts of the hollow.  It only took a few minutes to change back into my old wool sweater, my stained and ripped camo pants.  I walked around with the goats and collected the eggs with the funny feeling that I had just stepped back home from another world.  Not a bad world, just a different one.  There is no bad world as long as there is love.home where i belong

hands on :: kitty

snow right now

this morning.

Yes.  I’m not going to talk about the beautiful amazing snow (which will soon be ALL MUD, but is still packed incredibly deep and solid in our yard and driveway, even after many days of temps above freezing – Holy Smokes folks, we are so unprepared for anything like a REAL winter down here, and  – THANK HEAVEN for the excellent county road grader that we are able to get out at all – whew).

Instead, I’m doing a ubiquitous cute kitty post.

Our youngest, Levon, has gotten the hang of asking Momma to knit or crochet for him.  He’s not shy at all.

“Make me one of those Momma!”  I hear it each time I look at patterns now.

snowy levon

and who could resist?

He wanted one of each of the amigurumi stuffed animals listed in the One Skein Wonder crochet book I had out from the library before Christmas.  I got him to narrow it down, and then I repeatedly asked him to re-confirm his choice.  He was firm.  He wanted the kitty.

Then we had to pick the yarn.  It didn’t call for wool or cotton.  If I could have found some wool, I’m sure it would have worked fine, but Levon found what he wanted, and that was that – a black cotton with cool sparklies wrapped into the yarn.  Again, he was firm.

Let me just tell you right now – if I ever give you an amigurumi it means I love you SO MUCH.sweet kitty 3

I got this kitty done by Christmas.  Actually, I didn’t get the eyes and nose on, because Levon wanted to choose those himself too, so they came a little later.  Because it was black, and the stitches were small (SO small), I could only work on it in broad daylight.  A fortunate day out with a grandma allowed me to put it together without little eyes looking over my shoulder.  Before that, I just let the tiny kitty pieces pile up in the work basket.  They looked like funny shaped black fruits.  The crocheting itself was rather painstaking, but watching the project come together was fun.

The black yarn meant that the white stuffing showed through, but I think it’s worth it. I sure didn’t want a floppy little kitty! Levon doesn’t care that he can see the white stuffing.  He loves the kitty.  And that makes me glad.  I like her too – she was a labor of love.  And just look at the way her tail curls.sweet kitty 1