Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Letter of Resignation

Dear wayfarer,
Now indulge me in a sober moment.
Please set down your glass.
I can help you write a letter of resignation
To all your fears and sadness.
~Hafiz
 
Dear Sadness,
 
We have been constant companions for lo these 52 years. Whenever I felt alone, you were there to assure me that I was not.  You have always been quick to remind me that you would always be there with me, no matter what. I appreciate your devotion. I honor your consistency. These are qualities I have learned from you. I thank you for that.
It is time for us now to part ways. I know that we may meet again, from time to time, as former schoolmates whose eyes light up at the sight of each other years after graduation. We may embrace and even kiss at times when I am, once again, caught by surprise at the sudden and seeming loss of a loved one. However, I shall not walk with you side-by-side on a daily basis anymore. This is my graduation, and I am ready to face the brave new world with a full and happy heart. For indeed, happiness is my birthright and ecstasy is my Divine state of Being.
The path we walked was twisting, uneven and, at times, treacherous, which is why I appreciated your steadying hand.  I gladly received your reassurance that I need do nothing, other than to envelop myself in you. I know that the road that lies ahead of me now is uncertain and may, at times, be treacherous, as well; after all, I did not come to this life to rest in my easy chair and snooze.  There will be times when it is challenging for me to feel happy, let alone ecstatic. It may be tempting to seek you out, to invite you to dance, just one more time, for old time's sake. I beg you not to come to my aid when and if I do call out for you. 
 
This is not a condemnation of your being, for I know you have your place and you have served me well. It is as with that former school mate who once tutored me in geometry and whose counsel I no longer require. I hold fond memories of my classmate, as do I hold bittersweet memories of lying on the floor and weeping with you. This is not the mentoring or counsel I now require.
The pit in my abdomen in which I harbored you has been with me for so long that I do wonder how it will feel not to carry you there any longer. They say that nature abhors a vacuum, so it occurs to me, in the same moment as I bid you adieu, to invite in another, rather than leave the occupancy to chance. To say that I will make the leap from sadness to happiness as my constant companion seems too great a chasm to cross. Who, then, shall I invite in? Am I ready for another roommate?
There is a part of me that feels I'm not honoring my mother, my father, my cousin, my lost kitties if I don't feel sad when I think of them. It is tempting to keep your room open for you and you alone. It occurs to me in this moment that there is another favorite companion who may take your place: laughter.  Yes, I said it: laughter.  You both tend to come to me at the most inappropriate times.  You both cause me to clutch at my sides.  You both can make tears stream down my face. 
 
I see now that sadness and laughter can walk side by side, so I am sure you two are well acquainted. You may trust, then, that I am well supported, even when we are not together, for Laughter offers services that you cannot.  Laughter elevates my mood, making me turn up the corners of my mouth even as tears fall down. It offers me an elevator ride up out of the abyss, sometimes all the way up to happiness.
 
This, then, is my commitment today: whenever I think of my "lost" beloved, I shall think of something he or she said or did that was funny, hilarious even. Devilishly irreverent, that suits my coyote animal spirit. I'm the one, after all, who must force myself to suppress laughter at a funeral. Why not use laughter when I am holding my own "funeral" for my loved ones?  Laughter says, "yes!" and that it is here for me in the same way that you have always been. 
I wish you well, my friend.  I thank you for your tender care.  Be on your way now.
 
I am ready for a funny story.
Peace and blessings,
Cheryl
 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Hummery

My back against a twisted and wizened old pomegranate tree, I hear a hum of buzzing overhead. This tree is flowering profusely and ecstatically, hundreds of vibrant orange flowers gracing its slender branches. Whereas I once would have been afraid to be so close to so many bees, now I am glad to be in their company. I know how they are threatened, these busy creatures whose industry makes possible nearly a the third of the human food supply which depends on pollination. A hummingbird drops in and hovers above my head, the hum of his rapidly flapping wings an octave lower lower than the bees. I am surrounded by creatures whose work is to extract and share the sweetness nature offers. I feel blessed. I feel forgiven.
Earlier this morning, I had been feeling low. I had been contemplating the part I have played in creating the disastrous environmental conditions that exist on the Earth today. While it is tempting to blame the Corporations, the Government and the Rich, I know I must accept that I have been their unconscious partner.
I have preferred unblemished fruit over their bruised siblings because they look more appealing. I have purchased items made of plastic made in faraway places instead of items made of renewable sources made by local artisans simply because the plastics were cheaper. I have driven my car when I could just as easily walked.
A part of me wants to shout, "but that's that's what I was taught to do!" It is true that I have learned my habits from my well-meaning parents who made choices fueled by their desire to give my sister and me the most and the best they could. Having grown up in the fifties, they were the first generation who had so many options available when choosing how to provide for their families. Who wouldn't choose the best-looking fruit for to feed their children? Who wouldn't choose toys without the sharp metal edges that could cut little fingers?  Who wouldn't want electric appliances so mom had more free time to enjoy with her family?

My grandmother got married in 1931 at the age of 22 and gave birth to my mother, her only child, at the at the ripe old age of 31. I once asked my cousin, a contemporary of my mother's, "what on Earth did my grandmother do for those nine years? She didn't work or volunteer and she had no children." His response made me realize how much a product of my own time that I am.

"Running a household back then was a full-time job back then. There were no frozen or commercially canned foods. People still grew and canned much of their own food. They made their own bread and cake from scratch. There weren't any freezers to keep food for long periods, so cooking was a constant and daily chore. They sewed most of their own clothes and household linens. Laundry was scrubbed in a tub and hung out to dry. There were no wrinkle-free fabrics or electric irons. And, in the 1930s when your grandmother was a young housewife, there was no extra money for luxuries like paying for help. In those days, keeping house, whether or not there were children living in it, left little time for navel contemplation."
Recalling his words now, I suddenly understand how those same people, my grandparents, could be the ones who fed me canned fruit, packaged treats and soda pop.Sure, they still grew their own summer vegetables, sewed clothes for us grandchildren, and put clothes out to dry on the line in nice weather. After decades of long hours of work devoted to sustaining a home and garden, however, those newfangled convenient products must have seemed like a godsend, freeing them from the labor their parents endured throughout their entire lives.
It's no wonder my mother's generation so quickly embraced the canned soups, the TV dinners, the Bisquick, and boxed cake mixes; how glad they must have been to buy that washing machine, the dryer, the electric skillet and the microwave. This was the dawning of the Women's Lib movement, and the technological advances made their movement possible in a way that the suffragettes could not have even imagined.
There's no point along the timeline of Modern Progress where I can criticize my forebears for the choices that they made that created and fed our current environmental challenges. None of them were evil people intent on destroying the planet. Nor, I suppose, were the companies who invented, manufactured and sold the convenient foods and gas-guzzling cars that they bought. They were simply providing what my parents and grandparents wanted. We all thought, in our own way, that we were making choices that made life better.
And yet it still pains me to think of anyone intentionally poisoning our air, water and land with toxic substances. I want to lash out and blame the people who turned a blind eye to the dead fish lining the banks downstream of their plants, to the demise of songbirds because of pesticides they produced and to the lives shortened because of exposure to toxic chemicals. I want to blame those bad companies, their owners and managers for putting us on the path of over consumption and valuing production at the peril and detriment of nature today. Surely, they are the ones to blame.
However, I recall and must confess what I myself knew. In college in the early eighties, I majored in interdisciplinary ecology, a program through which I considered the challenges facing our planet from sociological, economical, philosophical, religious, biological and geological perspectives. I read Silent Spring (1962), Small is Beautiful (1973) and Diet for a Small Planet (1981). I did a term paper on the impacts of global overpopulation. I knew as well as anyone the impacts of our modern lifestyle on our planet.  In 1981, I was even featured in an article in the local suburban newspaper which read, "Stephens College sophomore Cheryl Leutjen of Gladstone is concerned about the world's dwindling energy resources and deteriorating environment - and she is determined to do something about it."

What did I do about it? I bought a car that achieved 50 mpg, a phenomenal efficiency even by today's standards (and nothing short of miraculous in 1985). I bought my fruits and vegetables from the local natural foods market. I recycled my bottles and cans, which, back then, meant taking them to a recycling center. I gave money to Greenpeace. And I went on to live my life, pretty much the same as anyone else. Hardly the kind of bold action implied in the article.
Here I am, nearly thirty years later, wondering how I could possibly have failed to employ that determination I once had. I recently watched "An Inconvenient Truth," and I considered the sharp contrast between my life and Al Gore's. He, too, learned about global warming in college, several years before I even graduated high school. He has been talking to people about it ever since. Because of Al Gore's political offices, he has had the position and name recognition to reach vast audiences. However, lack of notoriety is not an excuse for my silence, my inaction.
For this, I was chastising myself before stepping into the hummery. How can I blame anyone else for their contributions to environmental degradation when I, who admittedly had all the knowledge, as well as the passion to make a difference, went to sleep for nearly thirty years?
Sitting here in the healing hummery I understand that it is time to forgive everyone, myself included, for the parts we have played. Blaming and berating ourselves and others solves nothing. The past is simply the vehicle that has driven us to the Present moment. I do not curse my car for taking me to a place I wish I had not gone. I put myself back in the driver's seat and chart another course.

The busy, busy bees humming all around me are telling me, simply, to get back to work, and that there's no more time for pointing fingers or self-flagellation. We have all played a part in creating the conditions on Earth and we all have the opportunity to engage in the healing of our relationship with her.  I take a moment to speak a word of gratitude for my nature partners who are entreating me to act. Indeed, it is only in partnership with all All of Us that we may chart a new course for our existence on Earth.