Wednesday, March 15, 2017

O Earth




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Friday, March 3, 2017

Choice


It’s the contrast—night and day, black and white—where the problem lies.

In the forest I spy an alder leaf of last year’s growth. Dead, perhaps, for several months, it holds on, muddied with age and decay. Transforming: not really gone; not really alive. Beside it hangs a singular berry, moldy now with the rains of winter. It, too, hangs on, not yet willing to relinquish the space to the newly created. It’s a matter of surrender as to when they leave, the timing unique to each berry and leaf.

In their place, sometime soon I imagine, they will let go their tenacious hold on the past and begin anew—blending in with the earth—a rich humus to support and nurture whatever comes next.

In nature there is no black and white—everything is in transition of either coming or going: there is no definitive, only impermanence.

The same with humans. We are always changing, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally, our beingness transforms. We are never really here … or there. Even in the deep stillness of meditation our cells continue to age while our senses ignite in awareness and our concept of oneness expands. We change.

This gives me hope.

I recently read a Guardian article which told of Australian author, Mem Fox’s, recent demeaning experience at US immigration. She had been to America 116 times before with nary a problem. But things have changed: people have changed.

So what gives me hope? Certainly not Ms Fox’s frightening experience or the abusive behaviour of the border agent.  No, what gives me hope it the certainty of change. For 116 times before, Ms Fox had, I would assume, if not positive experiences then neutral ones on her arrival in the US. This time was different. Governments have changed; rules and conduct have changed. We can look at it pessimistically and say, things have changed for the worse and I wouldn’t disagree, at least in this scenario. But I also know of people who have changed for the better, who are actively questioning the direction of the US President, who are becoming more aware, taking to the streets and revitalizing grassroots activism.

It’s all about choice.

And with choice, we can change.
  
We could say, with a black and white perspective, that the border agent and his colleagues were bad men. They certainly acted atrociously but that begs the question: were they always like that? If so, Ms Fox would surely have encountered some taste of this behaviour in previous trips. She denies this. No, I am more inclined to think that with an aggressive bully at the government’s helm, the agents have made a choice. They have chosen to change, and not for the better. But this is not what gives me hope.

What gives me hope is that we all make choices, every day, every moment of the day. Do we stay on the same path or do we walk this way, or that. Do we mimic those in power and abuse the folk we see as different or do we make new connections and find ways to unite? Do we change for the better or the worse or maintain status quo. We all have within us the capacity for evil. There is no monopoly on malevolent behaviour as there is none with altruism, kindness and respect . Nor is there permanence in these ways of being either. No one is good or bad, it’s not black and white. It’s a daily choice—one that needs practice.

So, what gives me hope is that more and more people are realizing that we do have a choice. We can say no. We can stand up to abuse; we can resist the temptation to abuse and we can make change.  We can help our neighbours, smile at a foreigner and support worthy causes. We can pick up litter, visit an elder and look beyond our job description and explore what it really means to relate to another.

There is no black and white. None of us are good or bad. It’s the choices we make, our responses to life, that determine our path and those with who we come in contact.


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Saturday, February 25, 2017

To Witness and to Act



Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.      
 C. McCarthy, The Road
                                                                                                                                                                                                           
I walk through the woods in the early morning hours. The forest in which I wander is a small piece of paradise, no more than three acres in size, located in a wealthy residential neighbourhood up the slope from where I live. A narrow path circumnavigates the park. I follow it to my meditation spot. The trail is used by dog walkers and hikers and those just looking for some quiet. But in the silence of the breaking day, I am alone.

In my solitude, I bear witness.

I bear witness to the greens of the ferns, shiny and clean from the melting snow and to the buds so young, so achingly close to opening, so new in their beginning. I bear witness to the cycle of life. 

I bear witness to the drape of cedar fronds and the softness of fir needles, and to the bark that clothes each tree, a language unto its own, rich and varied. I bear witness to the sound of the creek, running strong with the spring melt over rocks, slippery with moss and glistening with wet, and the dew held in suspension from the hemlock, heavy in weight from a multitude of cones.
  
I bear witness to the squirrel springing from branch to trunk and over to another, and the birds, as if newly awakened, singing in symphonic agreement.

And I bear witness to the silent communication that only a forest can evoke.

This once strong forest, reduced to a small tract of land, also holds signs of our humanness. There is the Tim Horton's cup thrown casually to the side of the trail and the cigarette butts littering the space beneath a sheltering tree. Up ahead, almost hidden behind a log, are several garbage bags laid open by curious predators of the night—empty cans, plastic and tissue, the detritus of modern-day living.

I bear witness to our lack of consciousness.
  
I pick up the waste. How can I not? It is mine. Not literally, of course. I don’t throw my garbage into the trees but as I am human it is mine to own. And I bear witness.

Cormac McCarthy’s quote, printed above, is important in this context. At first glance it seems to speak to complete and irreversible devastation. But like the book from which it derives, the words, the last in the novel, are infused with hope. We can change things. We are not necessarily headed for utter devastation—we are not doomed.  But to change this current trajectory of self-destructive behaviour, we must seek out the deep glens, listen to the hum of mystery and humble ourselves to that which is older than man.

We are nothing without the earth and yet we do daily violence to it. Whether it’s the simple act of littering or the more complex ones of using throwaway food wrap, driving a car or spraying pesticides: our actions matter; our deeds recorded.

To change this course, to transform this path of self-destruction—and truly, that is what it comes down to: the end of life as we know it—we must return to the earth from which we came. We must reconnect to that which sustains and nurtures us; what gives us shelter and context to our lives. We must return and we must respect.

First we must bear witness. Then we must act.

If you like this blog, please "like" my FaceBook page and get notices on your timeline when a new article is posted. 

Also check out my newest blog, the Modern-Day Renaissance Woman where you will find excerpts my new book, Notes from the Bottom of the Box: The Search for Identity by a Modern-Day Renaissance Woman.