Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wearing a Veil

I don't know how
not to care...
to pass by an animal
dead on the road
and not think about
its Birth and Life
and tragic Death.
It lays there alone
melting into pavement
instead of Earth.

I don't know how
not to care
about melting ice caps
and drowning White Bears
and great Inuit Hunters
and not think about their Births and Lives
and tragic Death.
They sink into the darkness of Water.
which should be ice

I don't know how
not to care
about the dying Water
watching Bird and Turtle and Child
swimming through gas and oil
unknowing of the cancer,
mutation, sickness
and not think about their innocence
and our guilt.

I don't know how to wear a veil
that shields my eyes
from the suffering of our of world
the way some do...
those who drive over carcasses
drill for more oil
pour poison into River
without a
much less

Is something wrong with me
or them.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Solitary Confinement

In my fifties
Living as if 93
and friends all dead.
Children never call.
Phone never rings.
Only the dark places of my mind
offer their company
And I drown again
in loneliness.
Night after night
weekend after weekend
month after month
year after year.
Whatever was my crime
to be sentenced
solitary confinement?

"John Cacioppo, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, is the world’s leading expert on loneliness. In his landmark book, Loneliness, released in 2008, he revealed just how profoundly the epidemic of loneliness is affecting the basic functions of human physiology. He found higher levels of epinephrine, the stress hormone, in the morning urine of lonely people. Loneliness burrows deep: “When we drew blood from our older adults and analyzed their white cells,” he writes, “we found that loneliness somehow penetrated the deepest recesses of the cell to alter the way genes were being expressed.” Loneliness affects not only the brain, then, but the basic process of DNA transcription. When you are lonely, your whole body is lonely." --Stephen Marche, The Atlantic.

The blue light of the clock
glows like the moon
in my room.
Thoughts wake me
every hour.
I turn to see the glowing numbers
over and over again.
I close my eyes and breathe
hoping to smell patchouli and rose
from the pillow you once lay your head upon.
So many losses over the years
each taking a piece of my heart
before there has been time for healing.
Now time feels suspended
Where am I?
Why am I?
And who really cares?

A recent study by AARP reported that in 2010, 35% of people over 45 were chronically lonely while just ten years earlier the number was 20%. Some say the advent of social media has made us more lonely, creating superficial connections that do not feed the need for deeper human relationship. Kind of like our diets. We can't eat just one cookie, it must be five or ten or more...we are never satisfied because we are literally starving for nourishment.

I have met two types of single women. Type A never wants to be in a relationship again, due to prior bad relationships/marriages. A healthy, happy relationship is beyond their comprehension and they see no other reality than repeating their past. These women have given up on love. I have never heard them say they are happy being single, only that they never want to be married again.

Type B women really want love in their life and have worked hard to try and heal things about themselves that have contributed to relationships that didn't work out. They believe it is possible. And they suffer the most with their loneliness because they still dream of a loving, happy relationship.

I have never had a single person tell me I just need to learn to enjoy my own company, although many partnered folk have (none of these well-intentioned individuals have ever lived as a single person). Believe me, I know how to enjoy my own company, I am with me enough. It ain't about that. It is about connecting with another human being. It is about having someone to talk to, to go grocery shopping with, to laugh and cry with, to hug and kiss. It is about having someone to share a meal with, to care about your well-being, to get you a cup of tea when you are sick. It is about seeing a loved one when you come home. It is as simple as touching another human being. I could go on, but I hope you understand.

I am fairly well-known because of my music career, my work, my wild foods connections. I know many people. And I am very lonesome. It is not about quantity it is about quality. Inner circles. Soul connections. I don't want a Facebook life. I want real time with real friends. I want a companion. Sometimes I feel like I was plunked here by mistake, several centuries late. Is my longing for connection a thing of the past, too? I don't think so. I believe it is a common human need that partly defines who we are as a species. We are Wolves, Crows,  Caribou. We need connection with each other to feel alive.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Divine Moment

It is hot today. So hot there are warnings. I am sitting in my air conditioned house, looking out at the steamy air.

My shirt is damp from the cool drops of the sprinkler. You see, I was driving down my street just now and saw a large garter Snake writhing on the hot asphalt. It was trying to cross the road but was getting burned from the extreme temperatures taken in from Sun and held in the black asphalt. I slammed on my brakes and ran to Snake and tried to scoot it off the road. It had given up. It no longer tried to crawl.

Ok, at this point I share with you one of my humiliating traits. I am afraid to pick up Snakes. Luckily I had a towel in the car. I grabbed it off the passenger seat and gently cradled Snake, who had only enough strength to spray its nasty smell as one final gesture of defense. I smiled. She was still alive.  I put Snake into my car and traveled the last one hundred feet or so to my house.

What to do? I closed my eyes and listened. Coolness. Shade. Safety.

I took Snake to my raised garden beds and carefully laid her in the tall grass which grew along the wooden sides of the bed and needed trimming. At this time of day, shade now blankets the beds. Snake didn't move. I could not see her breathing.

"Come on Snake, stay with me, you'll be OK I promise".

I turned on the sprinkler, which rained droplets of cool refreshing water onto Snake's skin. I left her there, went in the house, and prayed.

I remembered last year, I had befriended a garter Snake I called Elizabeth. I saw her regularly, she was the most beautiful Snake I had ever seen. One day last summer, during the heat wave I found Elizabeth coiled up by my front sidewalk, mouth agape. She had died from the heat. I took a breath and held it. Please, Creator, let Snake live.

After about a half hour I went to check on my new friend. She had not moved, but I did see her breathing. I again left her alone.

I waited again for a quarter hour before going out into the steamy summer evening to check on the well being of my patient. She was gone, but not far. Snake was slowly making her way to my herb bed. I softly spoke to her, telling her to stay here in the yard or go to the woods behind the house. That she would be safe there. "But," I warned, "do not go across the black river. Never go across the black river." On she crawled. I moved the sprinkler so it would soak the herb bed. Snake disappeared into the leaves.

A simple gift of cool water saved a life today.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Aurora Borealis

I-69 takes me from my home in central Michigan to the place I was born, Angola, Indiana. My Dad helped build part of that highway when he was a young man and I was about three feet tall. He is now retired and I am now dreaming of retiring.

Back in the early 1990's, I was traveling north on I-69 after a wonderful visit with my Grandparents. It was dark and the sky was peppered with stars. Off in the west I could see the beam of a spotlight, the kind that a business might use to attract customers, shining straight up into the night. I kept driving.

Then I started thinking.

Off in the west was nothing. No towns, no cities. No stores that would shine a spotlight up into the sky. I kept my eyes on that light, curious.

The Creator blessed me that night, for it was precisely in a random moment that I was watching the light when an arc formed around it and out poured the deepest crimson I have ever seen, as if someone had a giant pitcher of liquid color and was emptying it across the sky.  Soon greens and blues appeared, swirling across the black sky. I blinked hard, rubbed my eyes, for a moment unable to comprehend what I was seeing. Then it hit me.

It was the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights.

I pulled to the side of the road and turned off my car. As I watched the colors dancing across the heavens, I started to cry. I had never seen anything so beautiful and it literally took my breath away, moving me to tears at its magnificence.

Grandma! I had to call Grandma!

I started up my truck and raced to the rest area, which was only a few miles up the road. Thank heavens I had lots of quarters for the payphone. I began dialing. Grandma answered.

"Grandma, Grandma, the Northern Lights are out! Go outside quick and look up between your trees. I know you can see them! Hurry!" I exclaimed, barely able to contain myself.  I then put in quarter after quarter, calling every person I knew to tell them to go out and look up into the sky.

Everyone at the rest area was standing outside, silent, watching the beautiful reds and greens and whites and blues swirling and pirouetting across the midwestern sky. It was Sacred. There was reverence.

What a glorious place we live in, what amazing and awesome gifts we are given in the form of beauty on this Earth. It is beauty that must be shared when we experience it. An instinctual response put there to keep us all connected to such things that steal our breath. I hope you see something beautiful today, something that steals your breath and makes you run to the phone to call everyone you know. And I hope they all answer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Devaluing of Wisdom

Once upon a time this land was covered with large Trees...giant white pines, red and white oaks, sugar maples, and hemlocks. Trees that size have wisdom. They have witnessed decades, sometimes centuries, of life. Those giant old Trees along your street that are 150 years old? They have seen a time when your neighborhood was a beautiful, peaceful forest. They were around when humans traded their horses in for the Model T. They lived through the Civil War, the Apache War, the Snake War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to name a few. They have lived through 29 Presidents, starting with Abraham Lincoln. When these Trees were born, there were a little more than 1 billion people on the planet. Now there are over 9 billion.

All that wisdom held within the big old Tree in your front yard.

Wisdom takes time. It is slow growing. It is cumulative. Its only requirement is time.

Our throw away society no longer values wisdom. Time is too expensive. The worker who has been on the job for 35 years commands a larger wage than an inexperienced 20 year old. So the company gets rid of the older worker and replaces him or her with a sapling.  The sapling will grow and eventually be harvested, too. Just like our forests. Never given a chance to mature and grow to reach their fullest potential.

All that wisdom, gone.

There is also something else lost in this process. We lose our roots, our sense of belonging. I would argue that consistency brings security to our lives and Spirits. Ever wonder why old folks long for days gone by? Because all the rapid changes that occur in our world everyday are destabilizing. Much of our daily experience is driven by the greed of capitalism - the race to keep up with ever changing products and technology, geared more toward sales and profit margins than actual necessity. Do we really need a new and better iPhone every year? Or a new Windows operating system on our computer? Or three new sizes of iPads? So much energy spent learning how to operate this or that. Rotary phones were so simple, you put your finger in the dial and turned. The rest of your time was YOUR TIME.

I like to call it "imagined deprivation".

I see children of friends and co-workers doing this and that after school, being shuttled to this game or that lesson. It tires me out and I am not the one driving them!  But what are they really doing? Packing in so many different activities, rarely sticking with any one where they might actually develop a skill or talent...the beginning of wisdom. What, if any, of these activities will they take hold of and carry through their lives?

Folks used to stay in the same jobs for decades. They lived in the same houses for their lifetime. They kept their friends and family close. They held the wisdom of their town or Tribe, they knew the place they lived in and all their neighbors. They were the storytellers and historians. We used to live like Trees.

Some might say, so what? Here's what. I am looking around and I don't see this way of being making the world a better place. There are more children going hungry. We are becoming more detached from each other, more distracted by technology. Wages are lower as corporations strive to increase profits in a global economy. Mother Earth is hurting and we are destroying the environment, our true home. I would bet the Trees would tell us we are heading down a path of self destruction. They would know. They have seen it all.

If we fail to allow ourselves to develop wisdom, it we continue to devalue this great gift that we have been given, our world will begin to resemble a high school with no teachers to guide us. I don't know about you, but I would prefer not to go back to those days.

Maybe the first step we can take is to go have a talk with our old Trees.