Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Man Who Talks with the Flowers

“How do I talk to a little flower? Through it I talk to the Infinite. And what is the Infinite? It is that still small voice that calls up the fairies.” Dr. George Washington Carver

Having been an interfaith minister for almost twenty years, I have hundreds of books in my personal library on a wide variety of theological and spiritual topics. But one short, sixty–two–page booklet, is one of my most favorites: The Man Who Talks with the Flowers: The Life Story of Dr. George Washington Carver by Glenn Clark. It’s the source for this article offered in celebration of Black History Month.  

Most people know GW Carver as the one who discovered over three hundred uses for the peanut and over one hundred and fifty uses for the sweet potato. Some may remember him as a renowned agricultural scientist, a Black man who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who always wore a flower in the buttonhole of his jacket—the old, scruffy, black one—he bought for about $2.00.

But few know of his deeply spiritual side and to what and to whom he credited his amazing discoveries. A clue: consider how he started each day.

“All my life I have risen regularly at four o’clock and have gone into the woods and talked with God. There he gives me my orders for the day. After my morning’s talk with God, I go into my laboratory and begin to carry out his wishes.”

And when asked, “You have a habit of talking to the little flower or peanut and making it give up its secrets. How do you do it?”

“You have to love it enough,” answered Carver. “Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.” And he added, “When I silently commune with people, they give up their secrets also—if you love them enough.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this love. I don’t think it’s the more common emotional love we’re used to that can grow and wain with circumstance. No. I think the love Carver was referring to is what I would call devotional love—a love so complete unto itself that it needs nothing. For example. when I’m able to listen to, say, another person with this kind of love, my own agenda, thoughts, imagined replies are not playing in the background waiting to chime in. I’m able to be completely present to the one right in front of me because I’m not in the way. Simple, yes but, surely, not easy. But just imagine what might happen, how it could shift our national dialogue, if more of us strived to do this with one another.

For Carver, the ability to extract information from the peanut, sweet potato, clays of the hills, the flower or just to create a heart-space within which another person could land, was directly related to those early morning talks with God. He didn’t need to spend his time searching for approval, agreement or validation from others because he already knew himself to be a child of God of God and knew his Creator would guide him to serve the greatest good.  

He’s best known for being able to talk with the flowers as he felt they were windows through which he could see the face of God. Toward the end of his life, he shared an important message he’d received from a little flower: “It told me there is going to be a great spiritual awakening in the world, and it’s going to come from people connected with you and me, from plain, simple people who know, not merely believe, but actually know God answers prayer. It’s going to arise from men who are going about their work and putting God into what they do, from men who believe in prayer, and want to make God real to mankind.”

While Carver was a Christian, I don’t believe it matters what faith tradition you practice as all religions can agree that God is love. But the life of GW Carver gives us a glimpse into just what that love might look like in real life—emanating from the peanut, sweet potato, clays of the hills, flowers, and, most blessedly, from the hearts of our fellow brothers and sisters.

Can we too imagine loving enough to see all creation as that window through which our Creator speaks? Can we too love enough to join hands across faith traditions, with all God’s children, to create that great spiritual awakening? It just may be, in the end, what’s needed to save us, our world, from escalating chaos and destruction.

But, like GW Carver, I have hope that it’s possible. Why? The flower said so.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Cedar Chest

It’s almost the New Year and many folks are considering New Year resolutions. Me too. But today I’m not thinking of just the future. Today I’m taking a stroll back . . . back to recapture moments . . . something like rummaging through an old cedar chest . . . to find snapshots from long ago . . . just waiting there to be held and remembered, still and quiet, in the vapers of time.

In my human journey, I am my past. And I am my future. As I sit and embrace both, I find the sacred beauty of the present moment, spacious enough to hold both, all of me. It’s where I see the many faces of love that have graced my life and where I can pause and hold each one a bit more tenderly. In those moments, I am full, whole and complete. And it touches a sweet longing in me, deep and true. I wrote a poem about it called “Before I Knew.”

Before I Knew

It’s right below the surface

that pool of tears . . .

Not tears of sorrow or joy

But of a sweet longing that runs deep

A longing to recapture you

in that moment long ago . . .

To hold you close again

before I knew

it would be gone

forever

The poignancy of life, those moments that can fully disarm us leaving only the pulse of love for this amazing gift we’ve been given called life, is, in the end, all that really matters. It invites us to live fully into each moment before it is gone. Don’t blink! Touch it. Kiss it. Hold it close. But the good news is, if we’ve missed it, or just want to remember, we can always return to the cedar chest, quietly waiting in a distant chamber of our heart, where each tender moment yearns for our return.

Here are some of the pictures I found in my cedar chest. Maybe you’ll be inspired to revisit yours . . .  

My great grandparents, aka “Big Daddy & Big Mamma,” out front “Down Home.” Strong. Gritty. No nonsense. Kind. Big Daddy used to chew tobacco and spit all the time. I thought it was so gross. Big Mamma was fast moving like the wind. Her feet never seemed to touch the ground. A cook who came in later years told us that, in the afternoon when they’d lay down for a nap, they’d fall asleep holding hands. Do you have memories of your great grandparents?
Down Home – I’m standing on the corner of the porch many years ago. Joe grew up here and Mini cooked here. (See my blogs, “To Joe” and “For Mini”) Do you have memories of a family home you visited as a child?
“Nanny” – my wonderful, sassy, grandmother on her 70th birthday. Nanny was the oldest Down Home. At 16, she crawled out a window in the middle of the night to meet my grandfather down the road to go get married. He’d only come courting a couple times. He was twice her age and even had a car. Big Daddy was NOT happy! I always said I wanted to be like her when I grew old. I hope I come close:) Do you have a sassy relative you admire?
My grandparent’s home where I spent many wonderful summers – the only place I ever thought of as home. Did you have a favorite place growing up?
My dear mom…I sure wish we could sit on that piano bench once again. (See my blog, “The Piano Bench.”) Mom could play a song on the piano, full chords, she’d only heard once. Never had a lesson or learned to read music. I always thought it was so amazing. Is your mom still with you? What are your favorite memories?
Me with my amazing, beautiful daughters when I was a struggling single mom. Do you remember a time that was equally sweet and challenging?
When I married Doug, I became stepmom to two wonderful boys. This is Ross, the oldest. The quality I’d come to really appreciate about Ross over the years was that he could always laugh at himself and could readily admit when he’d messed up. He also worked very hard to provide for his family. He’s no longer with us but greatly missed.
And this is Mitch, the younger. Some of you reading this know him. I have many fond memories of Mitch over the years. One was when we’d just moved to Maine and had bought a big Victorian home. Just after we’d moved in, Doug went to the store. Mitch and I got curious about what might be under the thick carpet in the living room and proceeded to pull it up. Doug came home to a pile of torn carpet and to see the most beautiful, patterned floors we’d ever seen.
The love of my life when he first took me to the wilderness all those years ago. Do you have an old picture of someone who still makes you smile that sweet smile remembering?
Taken about ten years ago…Do you have a favorite picture of you and someone you love?
My granddaughter Greer. We used to have tea parties in her room when she was little. Do you remember sitting in a tiny chair at a small table having tea or just playing? It was the best. She’s in graduate school now.
My dear grandson Sean before he started hating having his picture taken. I’ve always loved his smile. We used to sing and dance to the Wiggles when he was little. He’ll graduate from high school this year. Do you have a loved one who is unique and special?
My granddaughter Luna so alive and vibrant. From early on she could make beautiful things out of scraps one might usually just throw away. One day we were playing in her room, and she picked up a pile of strips of paper and just make them into a beautiful ball to use in a game we were playing. Do you have someone in your life able to see the beauty in the everyday?
My grandson Jack who’s a lover. He had a special relationship with their sanitation truck driver who one day gave him this truck. One day in the fall when we were laying in the leaves in his backyard, and I was talking to him about how wonderful the Spirit of the Wind was blowing down all the leaves. He immediately said, “I love you Spirit of the Wind.”
Luna & Jack just a couple of years ago…Don’t blink!!

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spirit of Place

I already knew the place had been well loved. This wilderness camp we’d come to call 3 Feathers. I knew long before I’d heard of the Mormon family that had built the cabin from trees off the land some fifty years ago. How they’d arranged the logs across the ceiling in the living area in alphabetical order: Beech, Birch, Hickory, Maple, Red Oak and White Oak. Before I knew why there were big hooks on the ceiling and scattered on trees around the cabin, and why there’d once been a zipline chair down to the road—the husband loved swings.

Before we’d met the woman who’d owned the cabin and land the longest, twenty–three years. How she’d added the screen porch saying she wanted to feel just like she was in the woods, replaced the two huge boulders out front for steps, and added a flower bed. Though alone, she said she was never afraid and that just being there was a sweet respite from her busy city job.

Before she’d sold it to a family in Massachusetts who only owned it a few years before it’d found us. They hadn’t visited much so when we bought it there was a certain silence about the place. Clearly well loved, yes, but silent. Not even birds came to our new birdfeeders.

So, Doug, my husband, and I took cornmeal and my drum and we went around the cabin and surrounding land singing to the Spirit of the Place and offering it a blessing. Mostly, we gave it our love. Within just a few weeks our birdfeeders became home to a wide variety of birds. We saw our first bear on our crittercam who’d come to check out the place, and I got to know the tree that held up the foot of my hammock. It’s just what happens when you love a place. Not with the kind of emotional love full of need but, rather, with a more devotional love that seeks connection, not completion.  

We all think of cleaning our living places, repairing what’s broken, maintaining. But do we think of blessing the space that surrounds, holds and supports us in so many ways day after day? Do we think of offering its Spirit our gratitude and love? Instead of decorating to the latest trends, what might happen if we just went about surrounding ourselves with all the things that most tenderly brought us to love? What might happen if we more clearly understood that just like our rock, plant, animal and human friends, where love only thrives from reciprocity, our surrounding places also have a Spirit seeking, not to merge with us, but rather to dance with us in mutual care and delight?

What if we suddenly knew the Spirit of a Place had as much to give, to teach us, as we to offer it? Perhaps then we’d find ourselves, more often, gently resting in its essence . . .

sheltered and at peace.

Below are some pictures of how we’ve loved our blessed 3 Feathers . . . and how it’s loved us in return . . . enjoy!

Doug’s special sign for our piece of heaven . . .
Many a marshmallow roasted here, and stories told . . .

Love this bell!
Indeed . . .
Simple pleasure . . .
Treasures from the land . . .
From our fairy garden outside . . .
Handmade by a sweet grandchild . . .
And another gift made by a grandchild . . .
And another . . . how blessed are we?
My daughter cooks amazing meals on this ole stove and I and my husband are learning too! So fun!
Doug and I painted these chairs and added the cushions . . . best seats in the house!
Made by a dear grandchild from items she found around the cabin and land . . .

Love this picture!!

This tree has taught me so much!!
Love it at night . . .
Many nights spent here . . .
We enjoy the sunset from our screen porch every night . . .
Good night!

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Proud to Be “Woke”

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The first time I heard the term “woke” it was used in a derogatory way to describe people on the political left. Like me. Curious, I decided to find out just what it meant. I learned the term originally emerged in the 1930s in a recording by Lead Belly, and later by Erykah Badu, to signal attention to the social and political issues affecting African Americans. In 2014, following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, it became a cautionary watchword in the Black Lives Matter movement meaning to stay awake to police brutality and unjust practices. Since then, the term has taken on a more generalized meaning and now is often used as a catchall for leftist social justice politics.      

Interesting. It seems in our current climate of increased polarization, hate speech, violent rhetoric, and mass shootings—in a country where anyone eighteen or older can carry a weapon of war—I’d say, if you’re not “woke” to your surrounding conditions, you’re not paying attention. As a nation, we are simmering on a high flame toward a boil and anyone of us, at any time, can be collateral damage in some indiscriminate act of terror. Now, no matter our race, religion or political party, we are each someone’s enemy. Now, sadly, drawing from its original meaning and use, we could say it behooves all of us to stay as “woke” as possible.

But I believe most people, across the political spectrum, don’t want to live in such a climate of hate and distrust and, in particular, don’t want to be responsible for the potential fallout of such a state of affairs on our children and grandchildren. We recognize childish bullying for what it is, masquerading too frequently now as normalized political discourse. We see the extremism, emanating from the far corners of both political parties, religious groups, and nationalistic movements promoting ideologies that thrive on divisiveness. And many of us are disgusted, feed up and simply exhausted.    

The irony is, if we removed the labels Democrat and Republican, we’d likely find the majority of Americans would feel quite comfortable, if not proud, to be called “woke,” as the term is more often used today. For example, to me, “woke” now means striving to overcome barriers to an atmosphere of tolerance, even when inclusion feels incompatible to personal beliefs and points of view. It means a desire to legislate reasonable gun control so we can send our children to school with less fear of a mass shooting. It stands for a yearning to think of ourselves as a people worthy of our Statue of Liberty, a people who welcome immigrants fleeing rampant persecution with an immigration policy that is both compassionate as well as judicious.   

“Woke” now means we want the government out of our doctor’s offices, bedrooms and healthcare decision–making, and that we’d never think to require a ten–year–old girl, or any woman, to endure a pregnancy, in particular, started by incest or rape. It means we herald free speech in our schools, encouraging children to practice the Golden Rule and older students to engage in real dialogue and examination of where we’ve been and who we are as a people, and how even the greatest nation on earth can do better. And, finally, at its core, “woke” means we want an American democracy run by the people, from the bottom up, and not by a theocracy that legislates unilateral beliefs and values from the top down. Yes, I, for one, now stand proud to be called “woke” and suspect there are many Americans, from across the political divide, who would stand with me.

Can we imagine unarming our hearts so we could, at last, see the truth of what we have in common? The place where, regardless of our political party, religious affiliation, racial or ethnic status, we could join hands in the spirit of common purpose and unconditional love to work together to form a more perfect union—where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for all peoples, could, at last, become the final word in reality.  

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Once Upon a Time

This article is my latest published in the NH capital’s Pulitzer Prize winning daily newspaper, the Concord Monitor. It is particularly timely. Enjoy!!

Opinion > Columns

Opinion: Praying for those of different faiths to come together

By STEPHANIE RUTT

Published: 10/9/2022 7:00:30 AM

Modified: 10/9/2022 7:00:18 AM

Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt is founding minister of the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple in Amherst. She lives in Nashua. To read more of her writing visit becomeaforceforgood.com.

It feels like a fairy tale now and yet it wasn’t even twenty years ago. I was Convener of the Souhegan Valley Interfaith Council and we, joining with the Nashua Interfaith Council, sponsored a series of discussions called “To Hear How Others Pray.”

We invited clergy and laypeople from across faith traditions to join — Christians, Catholic and Protestant, Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, and Bahai among others to share their experience of prayer within their tradition. My hope was that we might see more clearly our common humanity, while at the same time, practice respecting our differences.

The talks were well attended and received, and unmarred by hate speech or violence. But this was, again, once upon a time.

Later, I decided to send a letter of invitation to join our Council to all the faith communities in our area not already involved. One reply was from a pastor of a Christian Evangelical church who was writing to politely decline my invitation. He described, simply, how his congregation, and others like his, had different answers to community and societal problems, leaning on biblical scripture.

He thanked me for inviting him and said he appreciated my efforts to bring people together. Cordial, respectful, and appreciative while still standing firm in his beliefs. It’s almost hard to believe now. But this was, again, once upon a time.

What has happened? It seems to me such gatherings and respect shown among those who clearly hold different beliefs can only thrive when there is a mutual understanding of the importance of the separation of church and state. Only then can my Evangelical friend and his church community feel free to meet, attract the faithful, and worship just down the street from my church community doing the same.

There’s a reason the founding fathers didn’t specify we should be a Christian theocracy. As many were fleeing religious persecution, I believe that they, imperfect individuals as they were, heralded a higher vision for this great experiment, ‘We the people.’

But in only a few years, as the separation of church and state has steadily blurred, we find this great democratic experiment on the verge of self–destructing as we careen out of control heading straight into Christian nationalism. Sadly, I know many devout Christians are watching this, with nothing short of incredulous disbelief, as one sect of their faith tradition charges forward leading this destruction to make way for the new ‘We the Christians,’ as defined by their particular religious ideology.

And we the people, where the majority has a say in creating policy, become the fallout. Already it no longer matters that the majority of Americans, secular as well as religious people, for a variety of reasons, want legal access to abortion. It doesn’t matter that most Americans, fully supportive of the right to bear arms, also understand that ordinary citizens don’t need to carry weapons of war. It no longer matters that our Statue of Liberty used to offer the promise of welcome to all. Now, reasonable, compassionate, immigration policy is only a dream as, in particular, growing hate groups conveniently blend national, ethnic, and religious ideology, asserting neo-Nazi and white supremacist values.

As I watch the current political ads, I see Democrats focusing almost exclusively on the issue of abortion and Republicans on the economy. Both are missing the mark as I see the much larger issue being: do we uphold the great ‘We the people’ experiment or stand by and let one sect of one faith tradition lead us all into unilateral conformity with their beliefs and values?

I would challenge all of us, regardless of political or religious persuasion, who see ourselves as Americans first, who believe in ‘We the people’ first, to resist polarization and stereotyping and not be shy about standing firm in defense of our great democratic experiment. Those who are leading the charge toward a Christian theocracy are not being shy or camouflaging their goals. They’re actually using the freedoms of ‘We the people’ to their advantage.

It is we, Democrats and Republicans, Christians and those of other faith traditions who uphold and value the separation of church and state and are committed to ‘We the people,’ who must stand together, talk together, work together.

Maybe then, once upon a time can be our time again.

We the people . . .

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A Love Song: Wild and Free

Listen only with your heart

There is a song waiting just for you . . . your special song . . . waiting

And when you least expect it

it will quite suddenly find you

And leave you bursting open

Singing . . . Your love song   

From a distant star

SRutt

For thousands of years, holy men and women from indigenous cultures have gone out into nature to hear their power songs, songs used for healing and ceremonial work. It’s less known that each of us, as well, carries a song, one that silently waits in the deep caverns of our heart yearning to, one day, escape free singing. I like to call it a love song because its power engenders a deep connection to all of life. I’d been sending a prayer on the wind of the Great Spirit asking for my love song to be sung and then, one day, out walking with my drum at our wilderness camp, 3 Feathers, it came. It so took me by surprise, this song–chant I’d never heard before, now suddenly singing me, that I rushed back to our cabin to write it down so I might look up its meaning. (And the Great Spirit was smiling) Of course, I couldn’t find any such chant or even anything remotely like it. This is because our love song is a fully unique expression of our soul. Pause. Imagine that.

Now, each time we visit 3 Feathers, I take my drum, or rattles, and go out singing my love song into the Spirit of the Place. And sometimes when I stop and become very still, I can feel its love in return. And, together, our song fills my soul as my Spirit, and the Spirit of the Place, become one.

Would you like to find your song so your soul can sing again? If so, leave the known way and follow the path known only to the high-flying hawks, budding sunflowers, whispering stones, hidden springs and the night stars lingering now, shining just for you, from a lost time. It will arise from the Great Mother into your feet as soon your steps and turns will instinctively propel it out, singing onto the breath of the Great Spirit to bless all on your path. And you will know a joy that comes only when you find yourself releasing all you carry not essential to the beauty and goodness of life as your soul dances . . . dances now . . .

wild and free.

Nothing like the Spirit of the Rain for play on a hot day!

Heading out the back with my rattles…singing my love song…
View from my hammock…the Spirit of this Tree has taught me so much…
The Spirit of the Sun never fails to call me…

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Just Barely Free

As I watched the reactions to the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, I noticed a small group of young women huddled together, gleefully celebrating. And my heart broke. I wrote this open letter to them . . .

“Please forgive this grandmother’s offering to you, but I can’t in good conscience remain silent. Why? Because I can remember what you cannot, and I fear you’re celebrating at your peril. As a teenager, I knew girls, only a little younger than you, who became pregnant and had to sneak away to strange, often dingy, back bedrooms for abortions because telling their parents simply wasn’t an option. Sometimes, the fathers cared deeply and would go along. Sometimes not. But what was clear was that the pregnancy was solely on the girl. Mostly, I remember being so afraid for them, hoping they’d be okay and that the worst wouldn’t happen. These were the years just before Roe v. Wade became law.

Still, even as women were soon discovering and enjoying a new autonomy over their sexuality and reproductive rights with the adoption of Roe and the availability of the pill, there remained a clear resistance to such freedoms particularly from the more fundamentalist Christian communities where there was a strong patriarchy. This resistance is now on full display across our country.   

Think about the recent Texas ruling on abortion which many states are now duplicating. If truly protecting the welfare of the unborn child were the issue, and life begins at conception as Christians strongly believe, then why did the ruling not also require expectant fathers to immediately begin paying child support with the confirmation of a positive pregnancy test? And why weren’t similar vigilante groups legalized to aid in the reporting of any noticed financial delinquencies or, worse, to report any fathers trying to skirt their responsibility? Would not this also have been in the best interest of the unborn child? But, no. No such accountability for the man, now a father, was legislated.   

And over the years, I’ve noticed that the most extreme example of this double standard can happen when there’s sexual abuse occurring within the family. I pray you’ll never be one of those moms (yes, you never imagine it could be you) who discovers that your husband is visiting your daughter’s bed at night and naturally believes that your clergy leader will help and support you. Sadly, it’s not entirely uncommon to find that it is you who are blamed because, of course, the natural solution would be for you to be a better wife.

As very restrictive anti–abortion laws now go into effect around the country, and many don’t allow for exceptions for incest or rape, my dear young women, please pause and consider what will happen to that thirteen–year–old now pregnant with her biological father’s child? She could be your younger sister. And where would you go if, God forbid, you were brutally raped and found yourself pregnant?

Oh, my dear young, beautiful, alive, gleeful women: when a secular democratic society morphs into a theocracy based on one particular religious tradition, or in our case just one part of a tradition, the fundamentalist wing of the Christian faith, a blurring of church and state occurs. And men tend to win as women lose. And this is exactly what’s happening.  

Think I’m being an alarmist? Christian fundamentalists have been laying the foundations for this morphing for quite a while now but, fortunately, other God loving Christians have joined the fight to push back. I urge you to check out former President Jimmy Carter’s article, Losing My Religion for Equality, He talks about severing his six–decade ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after the Convention declared women to be subservient to their husbands and stressed its opposition to women as pastors.

It makes me truly frightened for you to imagine what could be next as Christian fundamentalism, intent on no less than patriarchic theocratic rule, sweeps the country now emboldened by a Supreme Court majority. For example, could women soon be, subtly yet persistently, discouraged or even forbidden from pursuing other leadership roles in our society? If the goal is to largely silence a woman’s voice and curtail her full participation, then is it not a too–far cry to imagine a future time when even a woman’s right to vote could be brought into question? After all, in such an environment, would she ever dare to have a difference of opinion from her husband, or other male figures, and actually make it known? Would she not naturally look to them for guidance on right thought and action? Would not the male voice, and vote, then naturally speak for her, for all women?

Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale? If not, oh my dears, do it now! Wake up before it’s too late! Wake up beautiful, young, gleeful women while you are still . . . just barely . . .  free.”

Image from The Handmaid’s Tale

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Seeing One Another: A Gift from Nature

Anais Nin said, “We don’t see the world as it is. We see it as we are.” I believe when we’re fully in the present moment, seeing, feeling, sensing, absorbing what is right in front of us, it is who we are. When I see the faces of the children and teachers who were gunned down at Robb Elementary School, my belly starts to shake, and I can’t stop the tears. Can’t. I’m a mom, a grandma. I can’t imagine how you make it through. How you get up the next morning, and the next, get breakfast for your other loved ones, take out the trash, pay bills, take a shower, clean . . . how you live through the birthday each year, grill hotdogs on the 4th of July, carve the turkey, hang the Christmas lights . . . all without the little one you’ve lost. What do you do with all that sweet – please don’t touch it – mess in the bedroom that was hurriedly left behind on that fateful morning? How do you continue on as if things were even remotely something like they used to be? How do you do that? I can’t begin to say. And yet, so often now, moms, dads, grandparents and other loved ones do—everyday.

But something else happens if we’re fully in the present moment with all the horror, the absolute most painful and tragic times of life. Sometimes we can feel ourselves abruptly jolted and cracked open, to now fully see one another as simply fellow human beings. In times like these, I could care less if those grieving are Hispanic, Republican or Democratic, black, brown or white, rich or poor. Care less. Now all I see is my sister, my brother right there in front of me. I am them. They are me. And we’re crying together.

And I feel something that is often, at least temporarily, awakened in many of us in the quake of such horror—a love for my fellow brothers and sisters that is now truly unconditional. Perhaps this is the unintentional byproduct, or could we possibly even say the gift of such times, to now be able to feel our oneness, free of labels or conditions, with those who, just yesterday, were simply strangers passing by. If so, just for a few moments, we are changed for now we see the world as it is—and as we are—one with all our brothers and sisters—beyond the surface of all those differences we may have once felt so important.

Something I love to do is to go out in nature and find different items wanting to come together to create something new and beautiful. Much like us, these nature items are, initially, unrelated in almost every way. They’re found in different places, they’re different colors, textures, sizes, and at different stages of growth and life. But when I look at what’s created, it makes me wonder if we too could come together in much the same way in times such as these?

I believe we could if we can allow ourselves to see, feel, fully know the horror of this moment—and to experience all the unconditional love it arouses. If so, maybe, just maybe, we could come together to imagine some new, more beautiful pathways forward, pathways that honor those brief moments when we were cracked open to see and remember our oneness with all our brothers and sisters.    

First nature creation of this year just brought together yesterday. . .

17 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Mountains are Dancing!

Did you know that something quite extraordinary happens every April? I can tell you that I’m absolute certain it’s not what you expect! Yet, every year, it’s enough to bring my heart to that same place of hope that happens when I saw, for example, that young girl singing a song from Frozen in a Ukrainian basement, or one of the several musicians set up their own solo orchestra in some littered, dirty, deserted town square to fill the air with music—music tender and enduring enough to drown out the flash of sirens.

But I first discovered this awe–filled yearly event many years ago in a poem by e e cummings: when faces called flowers float out of the ground. . .

when faces called flowers float out of the ground

and breathing is wishing and wishing is having—

but keeping is downward and doubting and never

—it’s april (yes,april;my darling) it’s spring!

yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly

yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be

(yes the mountains are dancing together)

I just knew that one day I’d get to go to New Hampshire and visit Joy Farm, e.e. cummings’s summer home, because I just knew it was there that he found those mountains dancing! And, sure enough, in the mid–1980s, fate brought us here and soon after, in April (of course), we made our way up to Madison in search of Joy Farm and those dancing mountains. 

It was a weekend and, being April, lots of snow was still on the ground. We managed to find the entrance to the long driveway up to Joy Farm but it was fenced off and clearly not passable by car. Undaunted, me, already in full swing with those dancing mountains, was not so easily dissuaded! So, we made our way back to town in search of someone who might be able to give us some kind of permission to venture up to the farm by foot. Doug, my husband, whose feet were a little closer to the ground, well, actually on the ground, kept reminding me that those mountains would not be dancing, so unabashedly, with me in jail! Luckily, we were able to locate a man with some authority, in one of the local establishments, who gave us the ok. I remember he looked quite puzzled when I, especially, could not be persuaded to return in a couple of months when the road to the Joy Farm would be passable. Didn’t he know those mountains were dancing now?!   

So, at last, up the long driveway we went! The house had been vacant for a while yet still felt to be alive, standing, waiting patiently for the return of bare feet, frivolous chatter, the smell of barbeque and stargazing off the porch. The grounds were open and rambling and a small gazebo–like room, in the middle of the back field, seemed timeless. 

But, without a doubt, it was those dancing mountains, cradling, holding us, that kept me frolicking round and round as if I could somehow fly right into the center of their waking, unguarded alive;we’re alive,dear:it’s (kiss me now) spring! pulse. 

Away with respectable composure! Down with petty self-consciousness! Let’s dive as all the pretty birds dive to the heart of the sky and climb as all the little fish climb through the mind of the sea! 

It’s April! We’re sun-drenched alive! Our faces like flowers float out of the ground! We’re opening as every leaf opens without any sound! We’ve quivering, waking, pulsing as the little fish quiver so you and so i…

So, yes! Let’s dance, unbridled and undone, for its april (yes,april;my darling) it’s spring!  and, most wondrously…

all the mountains are dancing; are dancing

A pen and ink drawing of Joy Farm by my husband as it looked at the time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Way of the Warrior

I’m an interfaith minister. My default for addressing problems has always been the way of nonviolence. Two of my lifelong heroes are the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. So, it may surprise you when I say I’m not a pacifist. I do believe there are times when right action calls for the warrior to rise up. When Hitler was seeking expansion and engaging in ethnic cleansing, giving rise to the eradication of the Jews, was one such time. Today, Putin’s war on Ukraine is another. But I’m no military strategist or political analyst so I’ll leave such commentary to those better qualified. Instead, I’m going to share a story in hopes that it’ll reveal just why I believe that this moment, indeed, calls for the way of the warrior.     

“Imagine you live in an old family home, well–aged by several generations of babies’ cries, backyard birthday parties, holiday gatherings around the large, worn, wooden table, and by the many cherished nights of star gazing from the tree swing out the back door. It is who you are. All you’ve known. Your great–great grandparents had settled in this home and you want nothing more than for your children and grandchildren to know the feel of the old, curvy, wooden floors beneath their bare feet and to smell all those lingering scents drifting out of the kitchen from the homemade biscuits, pot roasts, and apple pies.

Then, one day, when all of the extended family had gathered for a family reunion, the unthinkable happens. You wake in the middle of the night and you smell smoke coming up from below. Frantically you run down and discover a small fire, just starting, from the back wall in the kitchen. Luckily, the fire department is close by so you immediately call but the person answering the phone, after taking down your address, says they’ll have to call you right back.

Shaken and confused, you race through the house yelling to wake everyone while still trying desperately to keep calm for the children. The biggest challenge is to get your elderly grandmother, who’s unable to walk without help, down the stairs from the top floor. All of your other relatives are now up and rushing around erratically trying to grab what they can from the closets, drawers and cupboards. As smoke begins to fill the house, you call the fire department again and, this time, the voice on the other end, trying to be as compassionate as possible, tries to explain that, because you’re just beyond the town line, they’re not able to come.

“What?! But you’re so close!” you shout not believing what you’re hearing. “I’m losing my home!”

“I’m so very sorry,” the person says with a shaky voice. “I really wish we could help. Really. But we’ll send over some supplies, some things to help to get you through. They’re on the way.” And the call ends.

Meanwhile, two of the children have run back into the house to get their special stuffed animals, and now they’re nowhere to be found. But there’s too much smoke coming from the house to go back in to look for them. You know now the house will soon collapse.

Numb, tremblingly uncontrollably, shrouded tight in your worst nightmare, unable to fully grasp the magnitude of what’s happening: the children inside, burning, about to be buried in the rubble, you frantically call the fire department again this time screaming into the phone unable to control yourself.

“Please come! Now! Two children have gone back inside and the house is about to fall! Please come now!!!”

But the voice on the other end, choking back tears, says again, “I’m so very sorry, sir. I so wish we could help. Your supplies will be arriving soon.”

*********

Now I realize this may appear to be an overly simplistic representation of Zelenskyy’s plea to us for help. But is it? I don’t know about you but if it were my children trapped inside a burning house, my family’s homestead about to be leveled, my entire life literally going up in smoke, I wouldn’t care so much for the arbitrary reasons given by the fire department. Being told my home is outside the town line would feel about as irrelevant and nonsensical as being told in essence, “You’re not a part of NATO so, sorry, please understand we’re under no obligation to do what really needs to be done to help you. But we’ll send you what we can—just short of this—along with additional supplies.”

Yes, I do understand the larger potential implications of sending what is really needed, the fire hoses, the full force of our military—and the possibility of nuclear warfare and the start of World War III. And I get that I’m well beyond fighting age and have largely lived my life so it’s likely easier for me to advocate for such a response. But please tell me, what better use could there possibly be of the world’s most powerful military than for it to defend an innocent democratic country being unjustly and brutally attacked by a much larger and more powerful autocratic one?

So, as hard as I try to be sober about the possible ramifications of such a response, somehow all the good justifications crumble when I witness all those bunny ears atop crying swollen faces; the teddy bears being held tight as tiny exhausted feet try hard to keep up; the moms now having to hold themselves and their children together, not knowing if or when they’ll ever see their husbands again; the fathers, everyday men, now suddenly warriors called to fight to defend their homeland. An innocent people being assaulted. A country being annihilated. Their house is burning. And we choose to send everything . . . everything except the fire trucks.

And what message does this send to Putin and to all the other autocratic leaders around the world? What not–so–silent message does it send to all the democratic countries watching the most powerful nation on earth not show up to do what’s really needed? To me, it broadcasts worldwide that the forces of terror and genocide are prevailing as the ultimate darkness in the human spirit is now unleashed and on full display.

So, what will we do in this critical hour? Will we rise up to follow the way of the warrior, to defend the innocent, right a wrong and restore justice or keep giving arbitrary reasons that allow for the darkness to prevail?

The way of the warrior always requires fearlessness in the face of death . . . it does so because it knows some things are worth fighting for . . . dying for . . . so, freedom and justice for all, for all peoples around the world, may prevail. 

Imagine, again, if it were your children trapped inside your burning home . . .

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized