Re-Emergence

I went for a haircut a week or so ago. At first, I felt like reality had shifted; like I had stepped into a parallel reality.  No one was wearing a mask! I had walked in wearing one but realized it was okay; still I had to ask,

“Can I remove this?”

                “Yes.”

My stylist Stephanie told me later that she is scheduling people based on their vaccination status. Some days, all are in masks, but not on a day I would be there, as she knows I have been fully vaccinated for over two months already.

Carousel, Festival, Fun, Ride, Fair

Life is returning to some semblance of the world we inhabited before the Pandemic Time.  And yet, in many parts of the world and in some pockets here as well, the threat prevails.

Kids and college students and their teachers will return to their classrooms. Summer camps are reopening.  Restaurants feel safer; I am even shopping on my own again, sometimes masked but not necessarily so, with little trepidation.

Still, what was altered in the fabric of our lives while we were in quarantine? Are we the same people as before? What do we need now of each other?

Carnival, Fasnet, Swabian Alemannic

images are from pixabay.com

 I did not mind being masked.  If I am being honest I must admit I rather liked it.  As a person whose tendency especially in my younger years has been to be introspective, at times to the point of being introverted socially, I have felt some comfort in hiding my face behind a mask during these uncertain times.  I share this because I assume I am not alone in this.  Many of us have found not only a degree of safety but also of comfort in the anonymity of masks and social distancing. As well, through the technology of Zoom and other social media platforms, we have connected somewhat more closely—if not physically then emotionally and spiritually—with people we choose to be closest to. Cloistering and Clustering have intertwined, though this has also unfortunately created greater rifts between groups.

Now that we are to re-emerge; to remove our masks and step closer to one another, I wonder if it will ever feel as ‘normal’ as before.  At this stage I rather hope that masking may remain an option, protecting against flu and common colds in public spaces. 

Yet yes, I am open to gradually relax my own distancing; to re-enter into and to embrace community.  My dog Sophie is ahead of me on this; as always on our daily walks but it seems more demonstrably of late, she approaches everyone to administer love and joy, weaving me back into the fold.

Pink Flamingoes (Set a Sign to Follow Your Heart)

Flamingos, Birds, Couple, Pair, Flight

Some four to five years ago as I was just beginning to consider the prospects of retirement and relocation, I decided to set a private sign that I would see if I was meant to relocate.  I chose pink flamingoes as my token sign because this image was not very common where I was living then in Colorado.  I have used this approach one other time and it was very effective then, so I made my inner postulate to see pink flamingos as an affirmation it was time to leave and hopefully with some indication then of where I should move to after my retirement.

I did start seeing pink flamingos more frequently than I had noticed them before, and sometimes at odd times. Not that this sign was a major impetus for retiring relatively early, but it did help buttress my resolve.  This sign seemed also to show up in ads and such in a way that suggested a certain direction of movement: back East rather than, let’s say, to Florida (though that was not out of the question for me and is where pink flamingos might be more expected). 

Flamingo, Bird, Silhouette, Pink, Nature

I retired except for part-time online teaching in 2018 and relocated to New York state, near to where one of my sisters lives and at the time near where my mother was in a nursing home. This was home turf for me since I had moved Out West from Buffalo, NY over forty years earlier. I first moved to one town I had researched online, Ithaca, for about 9 months. It was nice and I was happy to be able to continue teaching there part-time, but I soon realized it was not my final retirement destination. I started seeing pink flamingoes again when I thought about moving elsewhere, and that next move was to a lakeside community in Canandaigua, still in the Finger Lakes, translated from Iroquois as “the chosen place.”

My second move was also good, and I enjoyed lakeside living for a year and a half in a small, nestled community of largely retired folks like myself. But when the pandemic struck, I started feeling restless again, and isolated in my remote little patio home, and I realized that this was still not my deeply sought destination.  I started visiting and thinking about my original, high school hometown two hours away, a quaint but active community centered around a performing arts center and nestled near a river and a lake, just across the border from Canada.  I sold my lake house, packed up and moved with my pets again, to rent the house where we are living now.

Flamingo, Water, Pink, Sky, Bird, Sunset

I am Back Home (at least in the physical world sense), and it is exactly where I want to be.

A few weeks ago, I went for breakfast at a great little diner up the road a bit from my new home. Although the diner is in the countryside and not very near to any body of water, I realized the theme in all the pictures on the wall was pink flamingoes! This time the sign felt like a confirmation: that this is where I was meant to be moving to, all along. Since then, I have been seeing pink flamingoes quite a lot in my little hometown: at stores, in peoples’ yards, and lately, filling the screen when I turn on my desktop computer.

I haven’t always thought that this practice of setting up a personal sign and paying attention when you see it works. I have had other friends who have used it effectively for themselves through the years, and now the two times I have used the approach, it has worked very well for me too.

Flamingo, Dusk, Sunset, Roseus, Nature
images are gratefully from pixabay.com

But why?  The practice of choosing a private sign is I think a way of working with your own inner guidance or with your higher/ superconscious awareness.  It sets up a suggestion that lets your unconscious mind and your spiritual consciousness work together in tandem; it can align you with your deeper Self, with your own inner compass, helping guide you to find your own North Star.

Food as Medicine for Better Endings

Salad, Fruits, Berries, Healthy

I had a health scare recently when my new doctor warned me my cholesterol readings were sky high.  He wanted to put me on Lipitor.  After researching the side effects of statins and about how to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol naturally, I developed a four pronged strategy. Here is my new regime:

  1. Moduchol : This is plant sterols, proven to lower LDL by around 14% at least, within a month or two.
  2. Low carbs (<30/day) and low cholesterol (<200 g. per day) diet, kept track of with a daily log;
  3. Weight loss (from the low carb diet);
  4. Intermittent daily fasting with 8 hour eating window and 16 hr fast, daily;
  5. Plus exercise from at least daily dog walking for 30 minutes per day

After two weeks on this regime, I have lost 5-6 lbs. and feel great. I also went back to the doc to ask him to break down the cholesterol score and learned my HDL:LDL ratio is just barely within an acceptable range. My goal for avoiding statins is to lower LDL and raise HDL to a better range in three months through diet, supplements and exercise.

Tomatoes, Eggs, Toast, Dish, Plate, Food

So, a sample daily breakfast:

1 slice of Ezekiel seed multi grain and seeds bread, toasted = 15 carbs;  0 chol.

2 egg whites and 1/3 of one egg yolk in a veggie omelet (tomatoes, onions, green pepper, some spinach), over the toasted bread with earth balance olive oil spread = 3 carbs (veggies); 40 g. cholesterol

1 cup of brewed coffee (not from my usual French press that allows in coffee byproducts that raise cholesterol), with 2%milk = 3 carbs, maybe a 15 cholesterol lift but likely 0.

Silhouette, Women, Tree, Yoga

I find it empowering to use dietary changes and more mindful awareness of levels of carbs and cholesterol in foods to manage my health instead of becoming dependent on pharmaceuticals. I am sure sometimes the latter really are called for, especially if an imbalance is mainly genetic.  But I find it is fun to research what foods and natural supplements I CAN include in a low carb, low cholesterol diet; then I enjoy planning menus carefully, preparing meals carefully, and eating! good foods that bring positive results.

Meditation, Yoga, Meditate, Relaxation

Diet and exercise are two dimensions of our daily routines that we have—or can have—some conscious measure of control over.  It is easy to get off track though. I have been eating a low to later a moderate carb diet for over four years now and this has successfully lowered my A1C to a level that is in the Normal range after initially I was drifting into diabetic territory. But now I find that was out of balance as my low carb diet was not at all cholesterol friendly so I have edged into dangerous territory with LDL. So now I aim to integrate both requirements to better balance my diet.

Isn’t this the way life often goes…we aim to be thoughtful in our behavior and actions, but it is so easy to overlook crucial dimensions that could lead us away from our highest goals.  We make adjustments to achieve better endings in the form of greater balance in our life going forward.  Yet this is a process that calls for careful review and flexibility, every step of the way.

The Polishing Zone

After a three month dry spell due to writers block, I am resurfacing. Spring is sprouting in Western New York; I am fully vaccinated; the semester’s online teaching is winding down; and I find a story in me that I wish to share.

I walk with my beloved dog Sophie nearly every day. In our new location after returning to my high-school home town, I have been mystified by an oddity I see every time we walk in our local neighborhood. There are these marble-sized, little white balls that at first seemed to line the streets but that I have also found more than twelve of in my backyard and at a nearby park. I thought at first they were salt balls for winter weather, but no, they are ceramic.

Partly as a way to meet my neighbors, I have been carrying one of these little white marbles in my pocket and I ask people I encounter if they know what it is. Most folks are surprised to learn of them and they have no idea why they are there. Finally last week while doing some yard work, I asked an elderly neighbor working in his adjacent yard behind mine. He has been in the neighborhood for over fifty years.

“They are polishing stones from a grinding mill,” said Joe, matter-of-factly.

Joe said there was a man who had worked at a grinding mill that closed down. He brought home a large bag of these ‘polishing balls’ used in the mill, and he scattered them in his front yard as a lawn decoration.

Aha! Polishing stones from a grinding mill. But then, I wondered further, why are they strewn across at least a six to eight square blocks distance from the original home (I know where that epicenter is now as just two days ago I saw a hundred or more at one corner house in the block next to mine). Joe did not know, saying only, “maybe he put them there” (in other neighbors’ yards).

My landlady Jennifer had a good suggestion:

“Maybe squirrels play with them.”

Squirrel, Animal, Cute, Rodents

That is as close to a plausible explanation as I can figure. Maybe indeed the abundant population of neighborhood squirrels have picked these up over the years from the original yard, thinking they might be edible nuts to store, then leaving them off in other yards when they realized these were nuts that could not be cracked open! Still, that does not account for why so many of them line the roadways, often very regularly spaced or so it seems, as well as peppering the local yards. So I will keep asking; maybe some longtime resident will be able to fill in more of the story.

But now I consider these little white balls as waking dream messages from Spirit, for:

“The mill of God grinds slowly,

but it grinds exceedingly well.”

Sponsored image

I live in a neighborhood with lawns strewn with polishing stones from a grinding mill. I live in a Polishing Zone!

This rings true for the stage of life I am in, on so many levels. I cannot speak for my neighbors (in this same zone as we are together), but polishing is a welcome metaphor for what I am to be doing here.

I have taken a long, arduous journey across the proverbial (I-Ching) Great Waters and back Home again. It is time for me to polish up with the lessons I have gained along the Way.

Rakotz bridge (Rakotzbrucke) also known as Devil's Bridge in Kromlau, Germany. Reflection of the bridge in the water create a full circle. Rakotz bridge (Rakotzbrucke) also known as Devil's Bridge in Kromlau, Germany. Reflection of the bridge in the water create a full circle. across the great waters stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

It is funny how recently, as soon as I gleaned that my purpose here is in part that of polishing up my act, that I have started writing again. I am back to earnestly editing (polishing, indeed) my manuscript sequel to my first self-help volume (Your Life Path). I also am back here, writing a blog post after three long months of wondering whether I would ever write again.

Krasnal, City, Walkway, The Market, Gray
images are gratefully from pixabay.com

Polishing, polishing; editing with a new, more determined and positive energy after over a year of private pandemic reclusiveness. Re-emerging with a hopeful sense of purpose. I was almost ready to walk away from this sort of expressive writing altogether. Writing is supposed to reach out, to connect, to communicate with readers; it is not meant for just passing time or ‘contemplating my navel’.

So I aim to focus better on writing and connecting in this Polishing Zone. Spring is sprouting in Western New York; I am vaccinated; the River of Life flows onward again, and with love and gratitude, so do I.

Turning Point?

Dogman, Rabbitgirl, Spitalfields, Statue

On January 21st, the day after the US presidential inauguration, I was at a pharmacy waiting for a prescription and started chatting with a woman from my home community.

               “The world is crazy!” she opened.

“I hope we can all come back together again. There is a hunger for that.” (My response was from a ‘nudge’ as to how to respond to her distress.)

Just then a man whom I had not seen until then, another patron community member who must have overheard our conversation, stepped forward gruffly. He was wearing a faded US flag kerchief as a face covering, and he avoided any eye contact with me or the other lady, just paced about stoically, waiting also for something from the pharmacist.  I believed he might have been a neighbor from across the street who avoided connecting or talking to me when we had both been raking leaves in November. If so, he and his son (I assume) have had a large T flag hoisted, and I have wondered about how such as his own sub-community might be feeling since the stressful post-election national events.

Handshake, Regard, Cooperate, Connect

The pharmacist gave me the ointment for my dog Sophie’s eyes, and as a bonus I was able to set an appointment for a first round covid vaccination (which I received 3 days later = today!) But here’s the thing:  I arrived back to my house around an hour or so later, and guess what? My neighbor had removed the T flag!

images are from pixabay.com

I hope the words I felt prompted to say, that I hope we can all come back together again, might actually have registered with my neighbor as a waking dream for him, something that could help him to open his heart.  Surely we have a long way to go to restore balance if not unity, but it is a goal I find worth pursuing. We can reach out to one another, whenever and however possible. 

What’s the Point?

The other day I was driving about in my new yet familiar hometown to which I have recently returned to live, and I passed by a small stone church. The name displayed on a sign in front of the church took me by surprise. The ministry is called “What’s the Point?” I looked it up online and that is indeed the name of this local church. It focusses on doing things of service to help those in need, I presume regarding getting people together to give such good samaritan sorts of service as “the point.”

I have been mulling over the broader question of ‘what’s the point’ ever since seeing this church placard. It strikes me as a waking dream sort of riddle. For what indeed, after all is said and done, is the point of it all: of life or exeistence itself; of love, of service, of relationships or places and things; of getting up every morning or to sleep and dream at night, loved ones beside one, or alone?

I used to think I had this question squarely boxed in. What’s the point? Love. Service. Fulfilling responsibilities, or even just experiencing Beingness itself as It Just Is. But in times of a global pandemic and social unrest, the point lately has seemed to shift more to being about just doing the best we can, day after day, to stay in good health and help our loved ones or anyone we might encounter also to be as safe as possible and as sheltered from the fray as can be.

I guess there’s a bit of a Maslovian imperative at work: the basic needs of physical and social survival are taking center stage for the general collective. So for now, the point does seem to be about staying safe and helping others be safe. And maybe that is a very excellent point, even a strong spiritual focus, for now, since that’s where we are at. HOW we stay safe and help others be safe or supported is perhaps where lies the underlying opportunities of this Moment. Exercising caution, expressing concerns, being resourceful, sharing goods and services for the benefit of our families and communities is life affirming, after all. We develop and distribute the Life Force through these times of unusual requirements for fortitude and balance, self-discipline and gratitude for all good things given and received with unconditional love. We are growing, perhaps, through all of this giving, through mindful concern for the welfare of all. Is this then at least a point worth embracing?

Maybe not everyone is in the same boat but that’s okay. Many are suffering, from want or need or from contracting a potentially deadly illness from which they truly might not survive. Many are scared, others are angry and acting out from fear or loathing. That’s not where I am at or where we are at as a whole, I believe.

For there’s a little church in my home town named “What’s the Point” which shows that many are still looking to answer the fundamental riddles of life and to help their loved ones or neighbors in what ways they can. So there is something worth sharing through all of this; whatever happens to each or to all, we are in this together–and apart–in ways both old and newly emerging. Despite the divisions among us, we are One.

images are from pixabay.com

Coming Full circle

Joseph Campbell wrote and taught about the Hero’s Adventure, a mythic story structure found throughout the world. Departure — Fulfillment — Return are the primary phases of the culture-hero story that Campbell often referred to as the Soul’s High Adventure.

Adventure, Hd Wallpaper, Landscape

The prodigal son (or daughter) departs from a heavenly sort of condition to explore and gain experience with the hard knocks of life, ultimately to return Home as a more mature and responsible, individuated Self. Taking the bold adventure allows the heroic acolyte to learn more about life as well as about his/her own nature; completing the journey benefits the Whole as the self-realized individual brings home all of the skills, insights, talents and gifts s/he has honed along the journey so that s/he is better able to serve society and Life Itself.

I have recently completed a micro-heroic adventure, returning to live back in my beloved, high school home town after nearly fifty years away. I am still unpacking, rummaging through the memorabilia and accoutrements I have acquired through the years– so many boxes of ‘stuff’ much of which even after downsizing I realize I no longer need.

Box, Memories, Photos, Books

I have yet to formulate what new and old forms my new life chapter will reveal as I gradually adjust and settle into my new environment. Will I return to writing? (I hope so.) I know I will nourish friendships already formed and seek to expand connections and service roles.

A few days ago I went walkimg with Sophie (my dear Shorkie) at a state park along Lake Ontario where I used to find deep inspiration. I walked a grass labyrinth into its Center at a nearby convent. I feel I am preparing to embark upon a major shift in realizing my life potentials but I have not yet stepped forth. During these times of sheltering from a still raging pandemic, bold steps are taking longer for me to envision or to implement.

Contemplation, Woman, Meditation, Sun

For now, I am safe ‘at Home,’ harboring with my pet family; near to some old friends and closer to one of my dear sisters, surrounded by familiar sites, wound closely in a comfortable shell.

I walked into the labyrinth the other day but I did not walk the fully measured pathway out. I have returned to a spiritual center of the Heart; next comes the process of bringing forth and offering my gifts to share and lessons to apply for my own growth, with love for All.

images are from pixabay.com

I am reminded of one of my favorite all time Hero Adventure tales, Lost Horizon. I have rediscovered a physical plane Shangri-La to which I have long dreamed of returning. From here, there is much to explore and to unfold.

Where is your Shangri-La? What awaits you there?

Change Is Good

Preparing to make (yet another) Big Move is a daunting experience.  Cleaning house, staging for showings, vacating the premises with my pet family, waiting. A rental house is already waiting at my next destination, with deposit and first month’s rent paid.

Lessons abound:  accepting change, having faith in my own reasons for making this move; that everything will be okay, that I can be of service and will enjoy my and my pets’ new lifestyle in the once beloved hometown I am returning to after nearly 48 years.

I am learning about trust, about patience, and about graceful acceptance of change. At every turn, I find reinforcement and support through kind words of friends and family and even relative strangers I meet along the way.  “Change Is Good!” is the affirmation I have arrived at that is helping me after months of preparations, searching and missteps to break through to the new departure.

Under one month now and the movers will arrive to move the furniture. Two prospective buyers at my current house though as yet no contract; hopefully this next week will bring one or both forward.

Making this move during a global pandemic has its own stresses and uncertainties.  I find I am learning more and more to rely on my inner guidance.

For example, around a week ago, worried about not having a solid offer on the house yet, I asked inwardly for a sign that I was taking the right steps. I asked to see pink flamingos; not a common site here in the Finger Lakes.  Just when I thought I would not see any, suddenly for the next evening and the following morning, whole flocks of pink flamingos seemed to show up everywhere! Twice on tv, and on lawns I drove past, pink flamingos were abundant, then after I gratefully accepted the gift, I have not seen any since.

Yes, Agree, Allow, Positive, Thumbs Up

“Everything will work out,” family and even a stranger have been stating outright to me; not in response to anything I had been talking about, but basically “out of the blue.” My sister-in-law, whom I do not often hear from directly, texts me that “It will be alright about the house and even if it doesn’t (work out immediately as you’re hoping for), it will still be all right.”

And it will be all right. I have taken the leap of faith to pay a deposit and first month’s rent, and with that decisive movement forward everything seems to be flowing in a positive direction.

But let me bridge to a more general discussion about how “Change Is Good” on a collective level rather than just in my personal life, and how listening for and acting in response to Inner Guidance can help us move forward as needed.

Avatars, Woman, Man, People, Female
images are from pixabay.com

Recently I was at a car repair place having my car’s oil changed and all systems checked before the Big Move. I wore my mask and went early. A man entered with his wife, daughter, and their dog, decidedly and it seemed defiantly choosing not to mask; this on the very day an American president had been diagnosed with the pandemic virus.

I walked decidedly out of the business, into the safe, fresh air. While sitting outside to wait on a bench, the unmasked man came out and walked right over to where I was sitting. Still unmasked, he coughed at me then went back indoors!

People are so stressed these days, and society has become divided along political or ideological edges.  We cannot account for anybody else’s behavior, but we can hold true to our own values. Certainly in times like these, Change can be Good!  I truly hope we can find our way forward, individually and together, to a more balanced, compassionate and mutually caring future.

Deer Vision II: A Parable

Stag, Wildflower, Floral, Boho, Flower

I find myself hesitant to post much at all during these times. I want to be positive and encouraging with this blog, and that is not always easy. I do not want to be merely Pollyannish but do want to contribute positive or at least neutral, inspiring messages as far as possible.

So let me relate a recent experience and look for its positive message. My dog Sophie and I were walking on a remote road nearby that bypasses a local cemetery. Inside the mostly fenced cemetery was a young deer. His mother was on the other side of the fence but the youngling did not yet know how to jump over the fence to join his mother. I decided to try to help. I walked with Sophie in a wide arc around and behind the youngling, hoping to urge it to move toward the open fence entry. At first the deer approached me and stared deeply at me, maybe thinking I might be his mother. But he recoiled in fear when he realized I was not a deer. Instead of allowing me to ‘herd’ him forth to am opening, the youngling panicked and threw his body sideways at the fence trying to get through but crash landing two or three times. Fearing he would hurt himself, I retreated slowly with Sophie back to the opening. Continuing our walk I called the sheriff because the animal control center was closed, and described the situation so they might be able to assist the young deer. But by t he time Sophie and I had looped back on our walk to the cemetery again, the deer was gone so I called off the sheriff. Probably the deer’s mother had come in and retrieved her youngling by leading it around to another opening in the fence.

Deer, Animal, Lovely, Baby, Nature

Several months back I blogged a piece called “Deer Vision,” about aiming to avoid hitting deer on the roads around here but also about assuming the sort of vision these beautiful, sweet white-tailed denizens of the woods around here have. They carry such positive energy, such loving and playful energy.

So what was my message from the experience at the cemetery as a waking dream? I believe it comes down to a simple postulate:

“Do No Harm.”

In trying to help the youngling, I was Quixotic in my quest; I did more harm than good. Nature takes care of Herself.  By interfering with the natural order of things, I put the youngling in danger of hurting himself.  I take this as a general message. Instead of trying to “fix” situations or beliefs or practices that I might think could ‘trap’ people into less than desirable positions (from my limited vantage point), I should avoiding acting in such manner as could cause strong reactions that could do more harm than good.

images are from pixabay.com

I do not want my vehicle (including this blog) to do harm. That is why it is important for me to try to remain neutral no matter what is happening in society or the world, wishing only the highest good for all in the bigger picture of life unfolding as it may for the better interests of all concerned, which often is beyond my human vision.

May the Blessings Be!

A Golden Thread?

Maze, Graphic, Render, Labyrinth, Design

As I reflect on how many states are now again recently declining after major spikes of covid19 cases, it appears this is due to an increased emphasis on masking and social distancing in the national media and governing actions this past month.  I say this as a New Yorker, who has witnessed the dramatic effect these measures have had in our state over time.  For all of the hardships and trauma the pandemic has wrought and continues to wreak upon individuals, families, schools and businesses, I see here yet a golden opportunity.

IFF, or perhaps by the degree to which this dire threat to human wellness and basic survival can be approached collectively by people uniting and agreeing to step up to protect themselves and one another by masking, social distancing, testing, staying home especially if feeling not well, and disinfecting, we then CAN reach the other side of this mountain, together.  We can bring down the scourge to a much more manageable level while yet awaiting effective vaccines and treatments.

The opportunity I am recognizing here is that we can UNITE to face our common enemy; then this era could serve to help us advance spiritually as a whole.

There is a golden thread that we can follow–like Theseus in the realm of the Minotaur–to re-emerge from the perilous labyrinth we are in.

Contemplation, Woman, Meditation, Sun

The interwoven triad of awareness-responsibility-freedom means that when we act responsibly on the basis of our highest awareness (e.g. responsive to scientific data and medical as well as spiritual guidance), then we can discover our measure of freedom within a given range of experience.

Your freedom ends where another’s begins.”

(Sri Harold Klemp, spiritual leader of Eckankar)

I have the freedom to be in a public space, of course, but I need to act responsibly in that arena on the basis of my own and collective awareness. So, I always carry a mask and put it on whenever other people are present especially within six feet (I try to at least double that myself when I can).  Acting responsibly means looking out for the other person’s freedom in the process of expressing my own.

If we can learn this deep lesson we can emerge from this pandemic stronger and healthier as a global species than we have recently been. We can be more united, more caring, more whole.

Woman, Walking, Dog, Leash, Leg, Foot

But yesterday I had an experience that brings me to add a caviat with regard to this optimistic hope.  I was walking with Sophie (my Shorkie girl) at a lakeside park nearby. We walked along a sidewalk on the perimeter of the park. Usually we would have walked along a path next to the lake itself, but no one was masking except me so I did not feel safe there. Honestly I became perturbed as I realized the park had lots of people organized in couples and small family clumps, walking amongst and past one another freely, but no one was wearing a mask. A woman with two children came along on the perimeter walk and crossed my and Sophie’s path at close quarters to get to her car, no masks. I involuntarily let loose verbally at her:

“Why isn’t anybody wearing a mask?” I asked.

“Go Home,” was her swift as if well practiced reply.

I was miffed, but of course I also felt chagrined and mad at myself for my angry outburst in front of this mother and her two little daughters. “Go Home,” indeed!  What was she saying? That as someone who masks I am not welcome in open public spaces? That non-maskers have claimed this park as their own?

Monalisa, Mona Lisa, Mask, Painting

images are from pixabay.com

I am actually preparing for a move back to my hometown from high school days. Visiting recently while searching for a new home there, people are masking in that slightly more populous town.  So, maybe my harsh encounter with this mother was a waking dream or “golden tongued wisdom;” confirmation that I do not belong where I am currently living so that I should in fact Go Home.  As well, spiritually Home is beyond this physical plane altogether, so maybe she was reminding me to maintain a higher awareness so as not to be perturbed by the course illusional states of this lower plane arena.

Responsibility is the key word of the triad of Awareness-Responsibility-Freedom at least insofar as living in a society is concerned.  For myself, I aim to act in a manner that serves the Whole, not just my own selfish immediate interests. 

We have an opportunity to grow and we might even begin to heal our divisions by respecting one another (my lesson in this encounter) and, yes, by wearing a mask in public spaces during a global pandemic.

Masked Messages

This summer semester as I have been teaching Anthropology remotely online, I have held Microsoft Teams (like Zoom) weekly sessions with students. This past 8 weeks we have been developing a discussion about the emerging cultural messages associated with masking and not masking in the U.S.. The following is my final week announcement to the students about the results of their observations over the semester. Then I have added some of their specific observations below that.

Man, Mask, Blue Eyes, Hand, Mystery

Some of your (students’) key findings:

that women are tending to mask more than men; that masking matters (e.g. spikes have occurred after the Tulsa campaign rally and other mass gatherings); in Colorado Springs students observed more people 30’s to 50’s not masking; that not masking can be a rebellious statement (claiming civil liberties); that whether or not to mask can be confusing due to mixed messages and ambivalent leadership; and that masking is generally perceived as caring and protective as versus not.

I observe that masking has quickly developed a cultural patterning: it adheres to partisan and other divides and becomes a marker of identity when used to draw attention to itself (either to a specific kind of mask–e.g. a fishnet mask observed at a gym, and Black Lives Matter masks) or to not wearing in situations where it is clearly mandated.  WHY has masking, a basic public health measure, become such a cultural phenomenon in America? It mirrors social segmentation and masking behavior may also reveal subtle issues around FACE: e.g. ‘losing face’ or feeling emasculated–nice pun!–when masking  esp. for men; losing a display of individual identity; concern with being perceived as criminal or threatening; though masking can also be associated with superheroes, e.g. caregivers!

Some specific observations:

  • A woman repeatedly attending a gym that has a sign requiring masks, wearing a fishnet mask as a form of defiance.
  • A Chase bank in Seattle with a sign outside stating Blacks do not need to wear a mask (purportedly to defray profiling but isn’t it actually profiling so that security cameras can see Black clients’ faces?)
  • A bus driver bludgeoned with a baseball bat in San Diego, CA for being asked to wear a mask
  • Parents rewarding their 6 yo child for always masking
  • More women masking than men (do men have issues around ‘demasculating’—pun intended?)
  • More 30’s to 50’s year old not masking
  • A student of color sharing that his friends and he are afraid to mask because they fear white people might perceive them as not smiling and therefore threatening
  • Political partisanship showing in degree of masking compliance (more democrats) or not (more republicans)
  • Confusion generally about the effectiveness or need to mask due to ambivalent media statements and ineffective national or state level leadership (versus e.g. in New York state, with strong science based leadership and effective response).
  • Art, Mask, Head, Human, Psyche

 images are from pixabay.com

In a diverse, complex society like the U.S. today, the covid19 pandemic has struck at a vital weakness in the divisive political and social climate here.

We can use masking to declare our CARE for ourselves and for one another.  Not masking can be a dangerous form of protest and may be perceived as a selfish lack of concern for others’ wellbeing.

To build bridges for Better Endings, it helps to talk with one another and to stand up for positive messaging.

A Smile to Bridge Troubled Waters

Bridging The Racial Divide

Black And White, Baby, Boy, Kid, Child

When I was in tenth grade in high school in 1970, my progressive English teacher engaged all of his “lily white” suburban area students with a half a year of Black Renaissance literature. I loved it! This material opened me to a new world of awareness, especially about racial inequalities and diverse voices.  Our book Black Voices  included the following poem that I have never forgotten:

The Incident
by Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Once riding in old Baltimore,
    Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
    Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
    And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
    His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore
    From May until December:
Of all the things that happened there
    That’s all that I remember.

 

This poem by Countee Cullen has been with me since tenth grade and now, with the Black Lives Matter movement still needing to draw attention to persistent racial inequalities in America, it has resurfaced in my own, shall I say, racial memory.  I have had a counter sort of experience I like to share.

Bus Stop, Waiting, Bus, Public Transport

Around 1978 I was living in Buffalo, New York while in graduate school.  I used the bus system to get around in the city, and one night I was in inner city Buffalo near midnight, waiting for a bus connection at around 11:30 PM, the last bus of the night. I was returning to my apartment across town from an activity at the spiritual center I was involved with.

The bus stop was just outside from a bar. While I stood waiting for what would be around 20 minutes there at the bus stop, a man wobbled out from the bar and approached me. I could smell from his breath that he was quite tipsy. He happened to be black, maybe in his mid-thirties or so.

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“My name is Freddy,” the man said as he approached. “That is my car right there at the curb.” He continued: “I bet you think I’m gonna grab you by the arm ‘n drag you over there to my car and take you away and rape you.”

“No, I do not think that, Freddy,” was the answer that emerged from my mouth, much more calm and confident than I actually was beginning to feel about the situation.

“Well I could, you know. All I need to do is grab you and take you over there,” Freddy continued.

“My name is Linda. Do you live around here?” I asked (or something of this nature). I started asking about Freddy’s family, if he was married and how many kids he had.  He reciprocated and asked me about my life. I told him I was a college student waiting for the last bus home and that I had just come from my spiritual center across town.

We talked for a few minutes. Then Freddy said:

“I’m gonna stand right here and wait with you until the bus comes ‘n I’ll make sure nobody does anything to harm you.”

Freddy and I continued to talk for another fifteen minutes or so, then the bus arrived. I thanked him and we shook hands, then I boarded the bus and went home to my apartment across town.

Architecture, Building, Infrastructure

images are from pixabay.com

This encounter with Freddy has shaped a lot of my understanding about race relations.  I feel that so long as we see one another through the lens of stereotypes—helpless white female, drunk inner city Black man—we are likely to interact according to these stereotypes. But as soon as we connect with each other as individuals, as Soul=Soul, the stereotypes dissolve and we can see and hear one another for who we are.

So here is a Better Endings slight revision of the same Countee Cullen poem, The Incident:

Once riding in old Baltimore,
    Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
    Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
    And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, and he looked twice,
   and smiled back just as nice.

I saw the whole of Baltimore
    From May until December:
Of all the things that happened there
    That’s all that I remember.

 

Such a small shift in wording, a smile returned for a smile.

Is that so very much to ask of ourselves?

The Out-of-Doors Time, A Retrospective

There was a time, so long ago that by now many of our greatest scientists question if it was ever more than a parallel reality, when we did not live entirely indoors.  Our social fabric included “stores”: places people walked through to shop for their food and supplies; and physical spaces called “classrooms” and large university campuses where our chidren learned from actual people called “teachers” and where young ones interacted with one another in actual physical locations and events called “playgrounds,”  “summer camps,” and “Spring breaks.”

Back then there were many social ills, such as “racism” and “gender-based sexism.” That is way back in our primitive history, when we did not communicate wholly through our neutrally assigned avatars.

We had families resulting from the random vagaries of biological sexual reproduction rather than from our well controlled allocation of techno-genetic offspring we so value today.

Can you imagine?  We walked unruly pets in outdoor settings called “woods” and “neighborhoods.”  We risked all sorts of debilitating physical ailments: sunburns, aching joints,germs and viruses, and aging. That is before, of course, when we were a fully biological species.

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Such absurd sounding history–and this is but a glimmering–is still preserved in nano-implants you can purchase only if you are eligible to harbor such restricted knowledge.

images are from pixabay.com

Such an alternate reality which we are so grateful to have transcended streches back to a time when our ancestors eked out their survival on a fragile little blue planet called “Earth.”

The Color of Love

A friend recently posted a prompt for her writing group after sharing a picture of military humvees in DC.  She asked, “What is the color of love?”

Here is my my meager response:

The Color of Love

Love is green: a walk in verdant woods, freshly mown grass;

Love is yellow: Sun’s golden rays, wedding rings;

Love is blue: clear sky vistas, soulful music;

Love is also red: beating hearts, lifeblood;

 

 

Love is lavendar: lilac blooms, early sunrise hopes;

Love is black: solace in the darkness, night before dawn.

Love is white: hospital care, a blank page.

images are from pixabay.com

Love is all the colors of the spectrum:

Unity in diversity, melodic harmony, joy.

Love is Light, and Sound; the very essence of Life:

Divine Breath, all the hues and call

of Creation.

Stranger than Fiction?

Are we in a collective, shared and co-created fantasy we call Reality?  Actually there are contemporary physicists who have argued our apparent physical, three-dimensional reality is a holographic projection from the event horizon of a black (or, white) hole. I know, that is mind-stretching to the point we cannot comprehend with our pithy human brains just what that means. But as we deal with a global pandemic and racial rage and mob violence in our streets, our collective story right now does seem to have become rather fantastical.

Panicked woman wearing a face mask against covid-19, she is scared and stressed

Lately I have been watching (and am recording as I write) the film Stranger Than Fiction. I have blogged about it before. The story is about Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) as a tax auditor who comes to realize he is a character in a narrated story about his life, being narrated by an author with writer’s block (Emma Thompson) who always kills her protagonists. A literary professor (Dustin Hoffman) asks Harold to try to figure out if his life story is a comedy or tragic.

The matrix of this movie script leads me to ask what is my own life about and on a bigger canvas, yours; all our lives?

If we look at our current chapter or act or scene as scripted, what is the narrative purpose of the pandemic, the character motivations of the patients and politicians, the doctors and scientists, and people either staying home, risking all to go to work and provide care and service, activists and anarchists, and our neighbors whom we hardly get to see any more? Since not as much as a word is ever wasted in good writing, why is all this occurring, how might it end or develop as a plotline, and what lessons might we all gain if this is—as I expect that it is—composed as a transformational story?

To scale down such a wild hair set of questions born no doubt of my own self-sheltering thought formations, what am I/ are you learning through the challenges and ordeals we are facing?

I am learning to pay greater attention to my dreams and inner guidance.  In fact this ‘time out’ has brought me to a revolutionary, transformative quantum leap moment for turning a page of my own life’s tale: I intend to make yet another Big Move by December or January. Quite to the honoring of epic mythic structure, I am going Home—moving back to the one and only true hometown I have known in this life—where I attended high school and worked for early college summers. Now two hours from my current location, I am feeling inwardly, deeply called to return to my hometown community, at least for awhile.

Maybe my character is seeking an anchor in these decidedly unmoored times. Even though only one of my high school friends—my best high school friend, in fact—is still there, the place itself, a village that is generally a quiet, sleeper community until it becomes an artistic and musical resort town over the summers due to its dynamic performing arts center, is Herself a familiar friend I have always kept tethered to in my heart, a hearth-stone to all of my travels.

images are gratefully from pixabay.com

What about you?  What momentous or meaningful ideas are occurring that could help propel you in your character arc to enact transformational growth or change?  With the time you have for deep reflection—or from the stress you are facing—what fantastical leaps of faith might you be preparing to embark upon?

This is a meaningful passage, ripe for epiphanies.  As such, I am grateful for the gifts that it brings. It is not so much what happens in the world but how we respond to what happens that matters most in our own life story; in this way we are the authors and editors; rather than being merely acted upon, we are agents of self-change.

Sit Still and DO!

Sheltering in place has its opportunities as well as challenges.  On the down side, over time staying home can seem isolating and lonely.  Then it may feel draining.  Time drones on, days and weeks go by with little advancement but for provisioning and maintaining basic contacts by phone and social media.  But on the up side, there are golden opportunities: for solitude and inner processing, and for Doing.

“Sit still and do something” (Paul Twitchell, Stranger By the River) is a Zenlike koan of sorts: a spiritual nugget or seed.  In that context it can mean to be active even while sitting for deep contemplation. Explore your inner cosmos, reflect on life’s lessons, unfold in wisdom and awareness.  But now this phrase can also mean, for me, stay home and yet find ways to be of service to others and to the Whole.

Many of us are fortunate during the current pandemic to have social media and readily available technology.  With these we can communicate by phone or through our computers and other devices; email, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Google generally and online learning platforms allow us to expand our connections while staying home to provide safety for ourselves and our families.

There is a lot of Doing possible, day by day. For myself I continue to teach online and to write. I attend spiritual discussions online and have learned how to conduct Zoom meetings.    I am helping an elder friend get groceries by adding her items to my Instacart orders. I have also helped send out some positive messages for the general public through placing local Pennysaver ads with my spiritual group that offer online public discussions.

I am finding that, when I can sleep, I am often dreaming deeply, and when I contemplate, that too is  very revealing and helpful. I often go to bed with questions or concerns and wake with answers.

images are from pixabay.com

I do wonder what will result socially after all this staying home and social distancing becomes less necessary.  Are we changing as a society overall to an even more atomistic, socially fragmented population?  Or will we emerge as from a chrysalis, with greater appreciation and gratitude for human and natural connection? Time will tell, but I sense we can benefit greatly if we simply choose to  Sit Still and DO!

The Cultural Meaning of Masking

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As an anthropological linguist, I have been noticing how so few Americans, at least in my local area, are comfortable wearing a mask in public. Despite our state governor Cuomo’s executive order requiring all to wear masks or cloth facial coverings “in public,” in my semi-rural neighborhood and wider small city community few except essential workers who are assigned masks are actually wearing them, to the potential detriment of the whole population. Most instead are relying on “social distancing” by a six foot margin; that behavior is not uncomfortable, at least between strangers.

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I recognize this noncompliant behavior may have to do in part with the “cultural markedness” of masking. Since normally the average person would not wear a mask in public, then wearing one is “marked,” i.e. noticeably different. Further, we have negative cultural associations with people who wear masks: they might be hiding something or they could have criminal or “shady” intentions.  People who wear a mask have something to hide, we may unconsciously believe; they are being deceptive or pretending to be someone or something other than whom they really are.

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Now superheroes are the notable exceptions to our negative masking semantics. “Who was that masked man?” we asked after the Lone Ranger or Spiderman or Batman, for example, had saved the day. Superheroes mask because they are selfless, serving the common Good.

In these days of our confrontation with a deadly villainous global pandemic, to wear a mask is to protect not only yourself but everyone you interact with. Still many feel uncomfortable so they choose not to comply.

We need to establish a “markedness reversal;” to reframe the very meaning now of wearing a mask.

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Wearing a mask in public is a demonstration of humility and caring, of respect for others, of service to the common Good.  None of us knows (unless recently tested) if we have been infected. We might be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, and if so, we could be spreading the infection unknowingly.

Be a selfless Superhero!  Wear a mask in public.  You can know privately that when you do so, you are serving the common Good.

When you see someone else masking as you do, give a thumbs up! I would say smile, but of course that gesture may not show except for that kindly twinkle in your eyes. Thank one another. Continue to social distance, but  you can do so while acknowledging how the masks unite rather than separate you from your neighbor.

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We are confronting a common enemy, together.  We need one another.

Give yourself a superhero name or give your neighbor one.  Lovely Lily, Helpful Harry or Generous George.

We are in this together. Wear a mask!

Be Still and Do Something

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Are you spending a lot of time at home these days? Unless you are in an essential service…and bless you if you are!… likely you are sheltering in place as far as possible, as am I.  Yet I am finding that with all the extra demands and stressors I need to deal with day to day, this staying home is becoming like a full time job!

I am reminded of a spiritual kernel:

Be Still and Do Something

There is so much you can accomplish while being still and staying in. Here is a brief list from my current experience. I invite you to compose your own list.

contemplation (active imagination)

meditation or prayer

writing (and editing)

art

reading

conversation (by phone or social media, including

FaceTime, Zoom, Skype)

Online searching

Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, Soduko

     Ordering groceries or supplies for home delivery (e.g. Instacart, Amazon,                                       WalMart.com)

     Cooking, learning new recipes

What are some activities you are engaged in that I have not covered here?

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images are from pixabay.com

I have opened a book of Rumi poetry to this passage (“No More the Presence”/ Coleman Barks, The Big Red Book):

               No more meanings.

               My pleasure now is with the inner sun, inner moon.

               This giving up has nothing to do with exhaustion.

               I walk from one garden to another,

               waves against my boat, ocean flames refining,

               as fresh as flowers and fish calligraphy.

Are you being beckoned to connect with your own inner guidance?  We are never truly alone!

 

 

 

Just Love

I have had a blog post written on the monthly theme of Listening Closely to Others for over a week, but the magnitude and scope of the global pandemic we are all dealing with makes any words I have to say seem weak and vain. So I am postponing regular themes. Today I just want to write from the heart.

At night before trying to get to sleep in these trying times, I have been sending light and love to the earth and all its beings. I visualize sending love and light from the center of my consciousness that then joins with billions of other souls, both embodied and from higher planes, also sending light and love, like 360 degree waves or globes expanding, intermixing and merging to blanket the entire globe in a golden sea of light, love and purity.

It is important I feel when I participate in this global light and love not to try to direct that love in any way. It is not a prayer or petition; it is not asking for anything to occur, just sending light and love and being detached, releasing that love to the whole.  This detachment is necessary to allow the outpouring of love to be humble and pure.

images are from pixabay.com

So if you wish, Just Love.

Gratitude for All Good Things

While dealing with the every day requirements of sheltering in place during the covid19 threat, lately I have come to realize how, for myself, I find I have much to be grateful for.  An attitude of gratitude helps me to tip the proverbial glass from almost empty to somewhat full.

I am grateful for my current state of good health, knowing that for all of us, that is not to be taken for granted.  My state of health allows me to be here for my home family of Sophie (my Shorkie dog), and Emily, my cat, who depend upon me for their own wellbeing.

I am grateful for my family and friends and for keeping in contact with them day by day.

I am grateful for Love. I perceive Love to be the very fabric of the universe that connects all to one another in all planes of Being and to the Divine, always.  Whatever happens, Love is here and now.  Fear can cast a shadow over our perception of Love but if we can remember to turn our hearts to give and to receive divine love, the light can shine through to dispel the shadows.

I heard a doctor quote from Mr. Rogers the other day: “In times of darkness there are always the Helpers.”  I am grateful for the Helpers, whether health care professionals, compassionate politicians, neighbors and friends, and service workers who deliver supplies and services to those quarantined or staying home.  So quickly have these Helpers become mobilized to serve others in ways unprecedented on the planet Earth.

images are gratefully from pixabay.com

What are you most grateful for today? If this question has become a difficult one for you to consider or to answer because your circumstances may seem anything but fortunate right now, of course I honor your feelings and you are entitled to be where you are at.  Whatever you are experiencing may divine love reach you, bringing some comfort to you and your loved ones.

May the Blessings Be!