Always

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(photos made by me, November 7, 2016)

Two years ago, I woke up on election morning, in LA. The Cubs had won the World Series  just a week before and as I went about my morning, I thought about what I would say to my 5 year old nephew that night, when I called him on the phone.  I would tell him how cool it was that his normal would be going from an African American president to a woman president and that, of course, the Cubs always won the World Series, not just every 108 years. I couldn’t wait to call him.

That night I went to a friend’s house to watch the returns come in. I brought a bottle of wine. The polls had just closed on the West Coast. “It doesn’t look great,” she said from the kitchen. “Oh, don’t worry,” I waved her off, “it’s still early.” But, then it wasn’t early. My friend stayed in the kitchen, unable to watch the unfolding reality. I covered my eyes and slumped deeper into the couch.  I left a few hours later, in a blur of disbelief, unable to comprehend that a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist narcissist, completely lacking in intellectual curiosity and empathy, had just been elected by my fellow citizens. Late that night a friend called me on the phone, sobbing.

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(photo taken by Colleen Hayes, November 8, 2016)

I awoke the next morning crying and the reality set in. I went to get coffee in an attempt to confirm that the world that had existed yesterday, still did. Los Angeles was a ghost town. The few people I saw on the sidewalk looked like zombies. Some were crying. I remembered a similar feeling of shock on 9/11, but with the distinct difference that on that day we had been attacked from the outside, whereas on 11/8 we had done it to ourselves. I don’t remember so much public crying in 2001.

And, now, here we are. Election Day, 2018.

Two years of confirmation to how bad it really could get. An old, rich, white, male club in its death throes, clinging to power as the world around them changes and evolves. Make America Great Again; an idea grabbed onto by so many, as if there is ever a way to go backwards, to a time of privilege for few and oppression for many. As our greatness was called into question, one thing was sure; the muck was rising to the surface and a level of bigotry of which I had been totally ignorant prior to 2016, shocked me daily and continues to do so. The level of privilege I had been granted because of my race, economic class, and sexual orientation became blindingly clear.

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(selfie, July 4, 2018)

Who are we? Who do we want to become? The macro imitating the micro. Involved, kind, present, and compassionate. As we practice these ideals in our households, they  permeate into our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, country, and finally planet. There is no other way, that I can see.

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(photo taken by me, January 21, 2017)

I’m antsy right now. I am blogging to keep from checking my phone, social media, or listening to the news. I voted. I donated. I asked others to do the same. Now, I wait.

It’s a beautiful, autumn day outside. I’m going to go for a bike ride. I’m going to make lunch. And, because of the PTSD I still feel from watching the results two years ago, I may go dancing instead. I have faith in you, my fellow citizens and humans. Love will always win in the end. Even when the road looks dark and the way unclear.

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and, for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it- always.

-Mahatma Gandhi

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And VOTE!

 

 

Dead Can Dance

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The Guest House-

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and

invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

-Jellaludin Rumi

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Do not stand at my door and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glint on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,

I am the swift, uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there, I do not sleep.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.

I am not there, I did not die!

-Anon

Feliz Día de los Muertos.

Besos.

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Neighbors

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I recently watched the documentary “Won’t you be my neighbor?” about the life and work of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’s Fred Rogers and, as the credits rolled, I sniffled quietly with much of the packed theater, as we collected ourselves before reemerging into the world.

“Love is at the root of everything, all learning, all relationships. Love or the lack of it.”

-Fred Rogers

I remember watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” with my sister in the 1980’s, on the rare occasions we were allowed to watch television. We felt that his questions were directed through the screen to us personally. As he hung his coat, changed his shoes, and zipped up his cardigan, we, and thousands of kids just like us, settled in for a half hour of this kind man’s undivided attention.

That’s still all any of us want, I thought, watching the documentary; to feel heard, seen, loved and to be told that we are enough, just the way we are; scared, curious, unsure, confused, and still totally lovable. We are those same kids at heart.

Emerging from the theater, back into the heat of a late June afternoon and into the news of family separation at the border, I couldn’t help but wonder about a young Donald Trump and how different the world might be if he, and all children, could have grown up aware of their intrinsic worth and with the knowledge that there is nothing needed externally in order to prove that worth or to be loved.

The greatest thing we can do is to let someone know they are loved and are capable of loving.

-Fred Rogers

How different might the world be if we remembered that all we are here to do is to love and that we are given these wacky pods called families with whom to practice? With nothing to prove, no perceived internal lack to make up for, how might we act?

My mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world.

-Fred Rogers

While thousands of people around the country march today, to protest our government’s current policy of family separation at the border, I am with much of my family, together in Colorado for my cousin’s wedding. I can feel the presence of my beloved grandmother who would have been so happy to be here today. I think about all that families go through together, from death to divorce, elections, and illness and am beyond grateful to have been given my pod with whom to practice this thing called love.

Watercolor painting of me as a two year old, painted by my grandmother, Maryann Clarke.

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A Flower’s Example

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How to follow the example of flowers, trees, and snakes and let our petals, leaves, and skin fall away when it’s time, rather than cling to all that no longer serves? The balance of nature surrounds us, yet following that example can feel more like a blanket being ripped from a toddler’s hands than like some divine wisdom meant to lead us to the best versions of ourselves.

Which stories are on repeat in our heads? What are we afraid of? How do we let go of that fear? How do we trust and have faith that not only are we meant to be happy but that as soon as we let go of fear, we will be?

I woke up a few weeks ago and, though it could have been just another morning, this morning I woke officially sick of all of my stories. You want to get a dog, but can’t because of work? Old story. You want to be the crazy artist instead of wrangling crazy artists? Then go do it. You don’t like your job? Do something else. Seriously, my soul whispered, get on with it already, this discussion is boring me to death.

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On my nightstand- The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer and A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson. Morning routine- Live Awake guided meditations by Sarah Blondin (so good, found on the Insight Timer app), hot water with lemon, followed by stretches and/or dancing.

All of this helps me tune into that inner voice which, though always there, is so easy to ignore when the idea of change seems overwhelming. But, guess what? Suppression will make it ten times harder in the end and, as we know, the soul will have its way.

So, why not listen to the whispers, make the move, get the dog, ask the question, and change the story? You’ll be fine, the whispers say. Better than fine. You will thrive.

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When the world trips over itself to make you smile.

Do you ever feel like the world is tripping over itself to show you its beauty, make you laugh, excite you, nourish you, and wake you up, but that, until you’re ready, open, present, and willing, the effort goes unnoticed?

My sister recommends the perfect book that is exactly what I need to read, this relates to the radio show I happen to hear while driving to work, which happens to be down the PCH at sunrise, after which my favorite song begins to play, etc, etc, etc. (Not to belittle the magic, but there have been too many of these moments to mention).

Let go. All roads lead to letting go. Every book, every podcast, every teacher. Let go. Let it flow.

Fly. Trust.

Ok world, I hear you, thank you.

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39

Love after Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

-Derek Walcott

IMG_3963I’ve loved this poem since the first time I heard it, years ago. That idea of coming home to yourself and saying “oh, hello there, look at all of this awesomeness I have been too preoccupied to notice. Hello life, hello self, hello world, hello beauty, hello late night moments of contentment, morning stretches, new songs, old recipes, friends…

Today is my birthday and all I can say is thank you for the clarity that grows a bit stronger every year….the idea of time as a spiral rather than a straight line, a journey that can be mistaken for going in circles until one realizes the lessons lead us around until learned, but always go deeper, never really repeating…the certainty that my intuition is always right, even when I choose to ignore it… the realization that my four/ten/eighteen year old selves knew what they wanted and I am simply coming back to that certainty now…the soul will have its way.

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39.

Soundtrack… Boxer Rebellion-Ghost Alive

Diet…Waffles

Exercise…Dance, Laughter

Destinations…Biarritz, Portugal, Bruges

Goals…Love, Draping, Embroidery, Dog, Patternmaking, Presence, Gratitude

Color…Pink

Currency… Abundant Prosperity

Tarot Card…Queen of Wands

Advice…Let Go

Muah!

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Chapter 4- You must have confidence.

“You must have confidence, madam, to live in India.” Lokesh, our driver in Rajasthan.

Lokesh becomes our second driver one week into the trip, in Jaipur, after his brother Hari’s foot is run over by a scooter.

Saris on the backs of motorcycles, sidesaddle, their backs to us, the man driving in front. Colored silk blowing in the wind, sometimes two or three children pressed in between. I realize, as I watch them pass, that I, age 38, am the age of the grandmothers, not the mothers.

Cows, dogs, bikes, cars, trucks, pigs, monkeys, and motorcycles navigate the roads.

Blow Horn. Use Dipper at Night. These words are written on the backs of trucks. Why? we ask Lokesh. Blow your horn and flash your lights so the trucks can see or hear you. Some people need to get places quicker than others, he explains. In our country everyone thinks they are those people, we explain.

On the subject of marriage- Arranged is best, he says. Your parents love you, they know you, they’ve lived with you for eighteen years, they want you to be happy, and will find you a good match. Love marriages rarely work out.

He slows to let us take pictures of particularly well decorated trucks, or camels, or elephants, or elephants in the backs of trucks, or camels doing the work of trucks.

Bahubali is the best movie. Parts 1 and 2. Lokesh tells us to find it and watch it. The most expensive movie ever made in India and his favorite.

He tells us about recent uprisings in towns close by. Tension between Hindus and Muslims runs high. A movie has been made that depicts Hindus in an unflattering light. Threats of violence towards theaters that show it. He agrees it should not be shown. We don’t tell him we actually want to see it.

He tells us which days of the week correspond with which Gods and Goddesses.

I have a sore throat after leaving Jaipur and he pulls off at a chai stand and asks them to add extra ginger to my chai.

On the way from Udaipur to Jodhpur, we stop at the Om Banna motorbike Temple on the side of the highway. Om Banna was killed in a motorbike accident on the site in the 1980’s and, after his bike was cleared by police, it mysteriously made its way back to the site three times. Thus, a Temple.

He explains that village people are the happiest people. Wake with the sun, go to sleep with the sun, grow food, barter. All traditions still going strong. But, change is coming, he says. Fast.

We pass field after field of mustard, wheat, and dill. The villages surrounding Udaipur are amazingly beautiful; with lush fields divided by low, stone walls.

“Tika, tika, tika.”

“A, cha cha.”

Spelled phonetically, both mean something like “ok” in Hindi.

I finally figure out that what look like two lane highways are actually three to four or five, depending. The traffic flows with a chaos that would bring US drivers and freeways to their knees in under one second. Horns and beeps a language of their own.

As I write this, we are hurling back to Delhi and blogging seems a better use of time than worrying about the possibility of dying on an Indian highway. Sometimes it is easier not to look. As the Buddhist saying goes, if there’s something you can do about it, why worry? If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry?

And, as Lokesh says, one must have confidence, madam, to live {in India}. Dear Gods and Goddesses, all 330,000,000+ of you, please help me to integrate this wisdom into my life.

Namaste, India. Namaste, Lokesh.

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