Monday, January 31, 2005

Wild Geese

STOICISM (tolerance)
Give me the insight to know that pain is only part of the whole, not the whole.
Let me live with the awareness of the warmth from the sun gives ease and energy even when my senses are clouded and my mind stormy.
Help me understand that a life lived in the moment enables both joy and sorrow to be fully experienced but not engulf me in either constant euphoria or depression.
I alone live my life, I alone experience what that is truly like, I alone interpret and understand the meaning of its rhythms, I alone have the choice.
The choice to rejoice, the choice to live, the choice to embrace the good and bad with equal acceptance and positive interpretation, neither denied nor given precedence one over the other.
-- With permission of Stepping Stones, linked at right

Instead of a regular blog entry today, I would like to share a poem that has been a beacon of light in my emotional landscape for a number of years.

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
- Mary Oliver

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Weapons of the Spirit

"Thus we see that the all-important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being lucky or unlucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die; finally, how we choose. We walk, and our religion is shown (even to the dullest and most insensitive person), in how we walk. Living in this world means choosing, and the way we choose to walk is infallibly and perfectly expressed in the walk itself." —R. H. Blyth

This is a time for remembrance of the end of the Holocaust 60 years ago.

As an adolescent, I was rather obsessed with trying to understand the horror of what had happened just years before my birth. Through reading Chaim Potok's The Chosen, this Lutheran girl half-believed she had been meant to be born an Orthodox Jewish boy and study Torah. Why had the Holocaust happened to "my" people? I read histories of Nazi Germany, biographies of Hitler, etc., etc. Of course, there were no answers. It was simply a visitation of Evil.

There were other moral choices available to citizens across Europe, and many individuals hid and cared for Jews in their midst. I discovered the most shining example some years ago through a Bill Moyers program, Weapons of the Spirit. A group of French Huguenots, poor farmers and townspeople, lived in the Le Chambon area of Vichy France. During the war, 5000 Frenchmen sheltered 5000 Jews, sharing their own meager food and small homes with them.

The Huguenots had been persecuted throughout the centuries. Their Christian philosophy was simple: Love God; love your fellow man; help those in need. In the towns and farmhouses, they just lived their faith. Though the German military surrounded them, and perhaps thought "something" was going on, no-one spoke and they were not betrayed. A couple of Frenchmen were caught and sent to prison, but the rest just continued on sheltering Jews.

After the war ended, the Jews left Le Chambon, and the Huguenots continued their simple lives. They did not consider their sheltering of Jews an extraordinary act, and they did not talk about it. They had simply, in their minds, done what their faith had asked of them.

Bill Moyers and the producer of Weapons of the Spirit, Pierre Sauvage, speculated on the reasons this event in history is not widely known. One reason is that the story is not about battles and military victory, but moral and spiritual action. Another is that it was usually the woman of the house who responded to the knock on the door and made the decision to welcome in Jews.

The shelterers lived by simple, "old-fashioned" morals. I will commemorate the Holocaust this year by preparing my spirit to answer a knock at the door, lighting a candle in the window at dusk.

There is an excellent book on Le Chambon, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, by Philip Hallie.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Red Hat Together-Time

A lifetime may not be long enough to attune ourselves fully to the harmony of the universe. But just to become aware that we can resonate with it -- that alone can be like waking up from a dream. --David Steindl-Rast

Since my flu-avoidance is keeping me inside for now, I am remembering some pleasurable times that occurred during my two-month blog hiatus.

Our January Red Hat Society outing was to go to Mystic Lake Casino and have the buffet dinner. Upon our entrance, the casino staff starting clapping and cheering. There were a number of events that day to collect in my "cozy-memories basket".

We have one member who is quite financially strapped just now. As she was about to pay for the buffet, a hefty $17 or so, a man stopped her. He possessed a comp-card, or something like that, and he simply said, "Your meal is on me!" She was the one person among us who really needed that kindness, and it thrilled her.

As I went back and forth from the buffet tables, two 40-ish couples at the next table kept smiling at me. (Let's face it, being 4'7", using a classy little green walker, and wearing a big, flamboyant Carol Channing-type hat with red feathers all over it tends to bring smiles from strangers.) They asked what the red hats were all about, and I had the standard Red Hat Society conversation. As I started to leave them, one man stretched out his hand and declared, "You are simply adorable! I'm going to marry you!" We bantered for a while, laughed, and parted with an agreement to meet at the back of the casino in two hours to get married. All of this was overheard by the others in my group. His last name was Gallagher, and all afternoon women were joking, calling me Mrs. Gallagher, etc. It was fun, even though I want NO men in my life in a romantic way.

My friend J, who had weight-reduction stomach surgery in December, had a great variety of items in tablespoon-sized portions. I was so happy that she had some relief from the boring sameness of her food. She'd had some low emotional points prior to that day. At the buffet she stayed low-fat and low-calorie, but she enjoyed! I think she turned a corner that day.

After eating and visiting, some gals went to gamble a little. The rest of us grouped together for more emotional battery-charging conversation.

I know that reviewing happy memories is a good way to give oneself comfort and cheer. Writing this entry did just that!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Smugly Smiling

"One of the blessings of age is to learn not to part on a note of sharpness,to treasure the moments spent with those we love,and to make them whenever possible good to remember, for time is short." ~Eleanor Roosevelt~

John at Journal of a Writing Man got me enthused over the possibilities of an RSS feed for my blog. I began understanding it only as a means to increase one's blog traffic and audience. I reasearched a little at The FeedBurner program seemed most appropriate. It only involved insertion of some html code in the proper spot in the template.

Now, I am not very well-versed in computer technology, and my first computer was Windows 95. When I began blogging, typing in links and changing my template page was definitely scary. I'm feeling smug and happy that I can do such things now without a hint of panic.

It is well that I have a new blogging "toy" with which to play. There is widespread flu now in Minnesota. The flu shots do not seem to be protecting vulnerable people very well. My brother and a good friend, who both got shots, are now sick with either a bad viral bug or actual influenza. From prior personal experience, a bad case of this would likely mean an inpatient stay. For the next week or so I intend to minimize actual contact with other humans and keep my personal geography more virtual than physical.

Writing A Tribute

Hatred ever kills, love never dies. Such is the vast difference between the two. What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred proves a burden in reality for it increases hatred. Mahatma Gandhi

I spent several hours yesterday reflecting and writing about a very special woman. Miss Lorine Grosz was my English teacher and advisor in high school. She gave of herself to me in many ways. I will not go into great detail, because in truth it would sound like boasting.

She has been gone for many years, and it took me many years to realize the fullness of what she had done for me. In the reflecting and the writing, however, I felt that I had created a tribute to her that went out of myself into some universal knowledge. Out there, somewhere, Ms. Grosz knows I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Two-Month Hiatus

Enlightenment is a rare combination of innocence and intelligence, having words for expression and, at the same time, being very silent. In that state, the mind is fully in the present moment. Whatever is necessary is revealed to you in such a natural and spontaneous way, you just sit and the song of the nature flows through you. - Sri Sri Ravishankar

I have been absent from the blogging world for a couple of months. I think this stemmed, in part, from a post-election mental fug. Now I am emerging to search for more ways to take my progressive position out into the fray.

The realities of living with dwindling abilities came upon me again with the arrival of snow and ice in the Twin Cities. Much more than last year, I am afraid of falling. This greater trepidation arises, I know, from actually seeing an x-ray of my spine last June. Normal bones show quite white on the black film, but mine are pretty shadowy from osteoporosis.

It has become impossible for me to cart up groceries and other needed goods, and cleaning is too hard on me.

I realized I needed to look at leaving my condo-home of 18 years and going to assisted living. I was able to use radical acceptance to rapidly achieve peace about this. However, the cost would mean that my own financial resources would be gone much too fast. I would rather enjoy my own income a while longer.

Therefore, I will purchase the services I actually need at this time, cleaning help and a grocery-shopping service, along with Meals on Wheels.

For times when I do need to venture out in ice and snow, I mentally designed a personal sand-shaker. My brother is fabricating it. We'll take a one-pound coffee can and punch a few holes in the bottom. When not in use, the holes will be covered with plastic lids on both ends. When I approach treacherous ground, I can simply remove the bottom lid, shake sand as needed and then proceed safely.

A Food Delight from Childhood

Today I revisited a fondly-remembered taste of childhood: eggs fried in bacon grease. (Let the health-conscious types restrain their gasps!). They were simply wonderful!

I regularly purchase a pound of bacon and fry it up at one go, draining it carefully. I store the strips in the freezer for use as needed with a grilled cheese sandwich or to garnish a salad. The last three bacon-preparation times have found me saving a bit of the grease to fry two eggs. My cholesterol level is very good, by the way. Lipitor has brought it down from the 300-plus range to a nice, healthy 166, with 2/3 of the count being "good" cholesterol. I will continue to scorn guilt and enjoy this simple pleasure periodically.

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