Nine days after the world changed

Hate is a poison
Love is a remedy
Singing out like the sweetest of melodies
Hope is a ghost in the deepest of memories
Stronger than ten of me
Fear is the enemy
In the dark and it creeps like a shark
In the coldest sea
In the deepest part but
Hope is the beat in the oldest heart
A hand in a hand and a brand new start ….

Love is the truest of words
Love is the last winter bird
Love is the only song I’ll sing

~Passenger, Coins in a Fountain

This past week and two days has been a mood swinging period for me.  Along with a great many other people, it appears.

We have such crazy hopes going, those of us who were knocked over by recent US election results.  Hopes that since the winning candidate flip flops a lot he will eventually “do the right thing” by minorities, women, the LGBT community, understanding the science of climate change and why it is so vital to protect our planet from ourselves.

Then come the cold fingers of realization to remind us of that old Native American story about the person who picked up a snake to carry it away from a danger, only to be bitten by it upon setting the creature down in a better location.  “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up…” it hisses.

But, but… Doesn’t each human being have the intrinsic ability to go suddenly beyond themselves, to get a glimpse of the greater good?  To be inspired?

It is heartening to see a lot of people hard at work, building bridges with others who may have voted differently yet have much in common.  The ones who believe in human rights for people of all colors, genders, sexual preferences, religions, disabilities, who believe in wholehearted support of the Paris agreement, the ones who have lost not only their jobs, but their very way of life that goes back generations in coal mining country, who have had their jobs sent overseas.  I was one of the latter back in 2006, when AOL closed down its American call centers, sending all the calls we once took to India.

The ones in rural areas of the country, including the western states where I have spent decades, fed up with universal federal rules applied to their lives and very particular livelihoods…

And those from any subset who reach across ideological borders to say to one another, “We are all Americans here.”

There is no going back, for anybody, to the days when coal was king, women and minorities “knew their place” and LGBT people kept their heads down in public.  There is also no going back to the days when Planet Earth kept a normal temperature, species were not going extinct massively, glaciers were ice and the oceans had predictable habits around shorelines.

No, there is never any going backwards for the human race, we are left to pick our way through the present towards other ways of life. We can choose what to honor though there is no choice but to deal with these matters or live in a moribund state of nostalgia.  We choose only  how much to work together or put ourselves in isolation, stagnation, the trouble that comes from trying to insist that there is only one angle for seeing things in a 360º circle of possibilities.

Maybe it took this one Very Unusual US President Elect in order to vividly bring into the open long neglected needs and set aside aspirations of disparate parts of the US population?  As some rise, why are others losing out?

On such bridge building I stake my happiness in life.  As a Baha’i woman it is my core belief that the human race is one family, with a common God, on one small planet among countless galaxies with endless suns, many of which have their own planets — and possibilities.

But for over a week I have been subject to periods of very dark near despair in my concern for our minorities who now face an Administration that has placed someone closely allied with white supremacists in its midst, with the prospect of the US going idiotically backwards on the Paris agreements — becoming the laughing stock of the enlightened world beyond our borders. A world in which fossil fuels will be needed less and less as jobs and hopes for a healthy future are shifting fast into alternative energies.

Why is it so hard for some to see that there are jobs and new possibilities that are simply different from what we are accustomed to, to historic ways of life?  Change is the only constant of life.  What good reason is there to assert that skills we acquired in lost industries can’t be adapted into new ways of living?  We must encourage one another patiently  in getting through times of difficulties, knowing that we, too, could very well find ourselves in similar circumstances, rather suddenly.

Don’t much care about being a laughing stock for the more scientifically educated nations on earth, but I’m passionate about the need of ALL of us to do our parts in preserving what we can of life on Earth.  Doing our parts, to me, means including everyone’s well being, not just our own.

But there have been distractions from these larger thoughts for me, which are buoying my variable spirits.

For one thing, I have at last bought a wheelchair van, now being shipped to me from Georgia.  It’s a 2010 Dodge Caravan.  When it gets here it will be set up so that the driver’s seat can be removed, allowing me to drive from my wheelchair.  It will have hand controls, a thing I have always used to drive.  There’s a lowered floor and a side ramp for me and the wheelchair to go in an out.  Space for Elf and Opus’s traveling crates.

Plus — and this is very big — it looks as though the lengthy difficulty in getting new batteries and a footrest for my ailing power wheelchair is drawing towards the finish line.  More on that as facts come in.

Another source of good humor is the January move to Fresno.  January will be the month of several important changes — which I can’t entirely discuss quite yet — and they are very good ones!  For my part, Elf, Opus and I will find a good apartment with dog walking opportunities.  My dear daughter, with whom I now live, will be nearby.

I hope to learn something I currently have no understanding about — how life is for people whose livelihoods are in the middle of Big Agriculture in the US.  This, for me, will also be a return to desert (well, semi-desert) country with extremely hot summers and cool winters.  Fresno features a great deal of winter fog, known to locals as Tule fog, a thing New Mexico sees only rarely, briefly.  This, too, will be interesting to get used to.

One thing the recent election brought home to me is how very much a bubble the Silicon Valley and greater San Francisco area are, how different lives are here than from most of the US.  It has been extremely pleasant, being here from early June among people whose lives center, or have done, on high technology.  People who, confronted with some kind of problem, tend to get a thoughtful look rather than a worried, angry or sad look, and go to work on figuring out a solution in their heads or via the web.

A lot of people in the Silicon Valley have their lives so aligned with science that it is difficult to relate to those whose lives are driven by other forces.  With those who do not live so close to a place where ravages of climate change are only too plain — California’s Central Valley.  Where I’m going soon.  Drought country, a place where people driven by science are seeking new ways of getting/reallocating the water needed for growing crops to feed much of the country and other parts of the world.

As a person with an active left brain I appreciate the ascendency of science around here, while my imaginative right brained side has empathy for people who only see the destruction of their traditional lifestyles and livelihoods by the perceived threat of globalization, the need of the human race to deal with man-made changes in Earth’s air that is bringing on a domino tumble of systems.

These things are bigger than we are, that’s for sure.

This is the most comfortable and, I admit, privileged, place I’ve ever lived for all reasons but financial — rents are higher than any other place in the country, and still rising steadily.  There is no end in sight for the contributions of high tech to the US economy, so there is no likelihood of affordable housing in this area, either.

In the condos where I now live we have a great many elderly German people, some Russians, numerous Asians and some from India, along with Caucasians such as myself.

In Fresno there will be these and more, including lots more black Americans than are present in the Silicon Valley.  Diversity amongst humans is a thing I love to be part of.

That and the lower rents are Very Good Things.  Right up there with a wheelchair van and a fixed up wheelchair.  Yay!

Meanwhile, here is Opus enjoying a good cuddle with friend Paco.

paco-and-opus

 

 

 

Ahimsa

 

I learned about the idea of ahimsa from Dan in one of his yoga classes recently, the concept of non-violence toward all living things. Do no harm.  The events of this week have me thinkin…

Source: Ahimsa

In the wake of the recent election today I am becoming aware of the abrupt unleashing in the USA of previously held-back hatred and prejudice.

I cannot imagine the horror of finding the Ku Klux Klan leafletting my neighborhood, but it is happening in my friend’s part of Birmingham, Alabama.

However great the sorrow this causes me (and others), wallowing in the reaction is a waste of time and, in its way, as unhelpful as the swastikas, blackface, taunts, threats and physical harm now being leveled towards America’s minorities and vulnerable citizens.

There are many, many people of the opposite view taking quiet stands against this uncoiling hatred.  This morning I am uplifted by this post by my blogger friend Denise Gainey, who lives in Birmingham, and so I share it here.  Denise makes glorious music with her clarinet, traveling far and wide around the country and the world with it, sharing it with her students at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.  It is a language for all people, bringing us together in spirit.  This makes Denise — I think — a Warrior for Nonviolence Towards All Living Things (Ahimsa).

Check it out:  The View From Here

The morning after

The day after the US elections…

Nothing can catch me when I’m moving fast 
Even those rattling chains of the past 
So I’ll go like that arrow but with nowhere to land 
I am losing velocity, height and command

We all hit the ground, we all fall from the sky 
We burn up, we break up, we wreck and we cry 
But we’re bound up together by sight and by pact 
That begins with the touch of your hand on my back

~Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Your Hand on My Back”

Link to the song is at the bottom

e-feet-with-monet
Meditating by the sunny balcony door

 

 

I sat up through the night, off and on, watching the US election results with first dismay, then a cold, spreading, numb disbelief.

I cried for my county and the greater world a good long time, finally falling asleep with Buzzfeed’s reportage on the iPad in front of me.

After I awakened the results were there for all to see, and in my Twitter feed there was a segment of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech.  Watching it in my half-awake state of suspended disbelief it seemed I was watching a stage filled with people who were weary to the bone, whose disbelief at finding themselves there perhaps surpassed my own.

Well — things will be changing rapidly as this day progresses, no point in dwelling on half-formed images and conclusions from last night.

What I am sure of is that it is reassuring this morning to realize that the USA is woven tightly into the fabric of world citizenry whether all of us realize that or not, whether we like the fact or no.  In watching the reactions of world leaders in over a dozen countries early today I felt my heavy heart begin to lighten.  There are treaties, expectations, the rules of diplomacy.

The generation Mr. Trump belongs to is my own generation — Baby Boomers, the ones who made such a fuss in the 1960s about breaking up The Establishment.  The ones who protested the Vietnam war — I was teargassed in front of the Pentagon one memorable flower-powerday in the latter ‘60s.  Those who proclaimed that Love was the fix for most things, that we all should Make Love, Not War, but The Establishment had to go.  Somebody stuck a flower in the gun barrel of a Military Police gun, a photographer caught the moment, and that image went as viral as anything could in the years when we didn’t have an internet.

Of course, Baby Boomers went on aging right along with everybody else, and there are those Millennials today who accuse the elders, basically, of having become the very Fat Cats we were so set against back in the day.  Further, of being to some large extent the catalyst of the social extremes of today, in which a large cohort of retirees depends on a smaller, less propertied or well paid generation to keep BBs in Social Security and Medicare benefits.

I can’t blame them.  It has been disappointing to me, even if unsurprising, to consider how Baby Boomer values morphed as the generation grew up, to the point where Boomers became even better at being The Establishment as those they had once reviled.  This election proves that people want to give another good shake to that Establishment.

Perhaps the next President of the United States will be the last hurrah of the Make Love Not War generation? Where BBs seemed to start and where things have ended up don’t feel congruent, necessarily.

I am Baha’i, therefore I do not participate in partisan politics.  I vote, I keep up with issues, and with all my heart I will continue supporting those plans and actions that bring people together, that foster mutual respect and tolerance.

Such a point is made about how divided we are, in the USA as well as in many other countries.  This is, I suspect, related to the growing maturity of the human race, nudged into higher speed by the internet, by improvements in transportation and communication.  People appear at times uncertain about whether to respond to world events with adolescent insecurity and bluster, or with a deepened awareness of how things work, how actions and reactions have far reaching consequences, how we diminish ourselves when we act in ways that harm others.  What justice is about, how practicing it enhances appreciation of life.

If we keep on focusing on the rage, the separateness, the hostility for one another will certainly grow… and grow… until we do our best to annihilate one another.  And for what reason?  Egoistic posturing, absence of empathy, determined to be “right” in our own eyes no matter the cost to others?

Instead of that mindset, I, together with fellow Baha’is and millions of others of like mind, will continue to give energy to bringing humans together.  Most want the same things, which are not that complicated and don’t require that others be demeaned or suffer in order for them to have and do what they think they need to.  We want love, security for our families, meaningful work, what lifts our spirits. No matter who we voted for.

Loving appreciation for one another as beings held together in the unimaginable vastness of an ever moving universe by the tiniest threads of a great cosmic force — Love — is what enhances the well being of all the systems needed to continue to support life on our Earth.

Hatred, untrustworthiness, and unfairness serve as the concrete boots pulling a gangster victim down, down, down to where the body can be swiftly reduced to nothing but breaking bones.

I have faith that most people have the vision to see the difference.

The banner on this site says the following, which I think is worth repeating here:

Cleanse ye your eyes, so that ye behold no man 
as different from yourselves…. 
See ye no strangers; rather see all men as friends, 
 
for love and unity come hard 
 when ye fix your gaze on otherness. ~Baha’i

ripples-across-the-balcony
When I meditate in the morning ripples from a swimming pool reflect against the white walls across the balcony… Reminding me of how ephemeral human emotions can be, moving across systems of beliefs, intentions, life goals…

Mary Chapin Carpenter singing Your Hand on My Back:  uTube

 

 

Small shocks of life

opus-at-my-knee
What, me, noisy?

Things have been a tad upside down and inside out in life around here lately.  Jericha, my daughter, is unusually busy, between work, Baha’i projects and her social life, while the dogs and I have mainly been keeping the condo company.  As usual, while I continue to hope my power wheelchair gets repaired sometime before I Ieave.  This place, not this world.

Had you going there for a sec, yes?

Every time I am assured that things are almost… almost… ready to move forward, there erupts yet one more round of misunderstanding between the doctor’s office and the medical group processing the authorization for Medicare.  This state of affairs is beyond human understanding, because who on earth could actually be dumb enough to keep making these same mistakes over and over, if both sides are to be believed?

 

elf-looking-at-me
Would I ever paralyze somebody with my mighty bark?  Me?  I didn’t mean to!

We got off to a very late start this Saturday morning.  Our friend Paco appeared about 10:30 to take the eager Elf and Opus out for their morning constitutional.

His happy arrival had been preceded by bouts of  unusually noisy barking approximately every five minutes, starting at 8 a.m. — the time of their normal weekday early walks.  Every time a door banged down the hallway, or someone came up the stairs adjacent to our front door — or the dashing young French bulldog in unit 6 pranced along to the elevator from the far end of our hallway, Elf and Opus emitted volleys of woofs.  “You are making me deaf!” is my often repeated scold when they do this.  Because since moving here with my daughter with her perfect hearing, I am suspected of not hearing everything I ought to — and she is probably mumbling in my presence.  Who knows the truth of that?

While Paco was gone not only for the exercise and relief of my my two good canine friends, but also to allow them to assist him in choosing us a bunch of bananas at a 7-Eleven nearby, a fire alarm went off in the building.  A real one, not merely somebody’s smoke detector.

Clang-clang-CLANG and a whackity whack!!!  On and on it went.

A hub bub of voices gathered in the hallway outside.  Shouting above the clamor.

Thanking heaven the my precious pooches were already leashed up and in the custody of a smart and faithful friend, I thought of gathering up my iPhone and iPad chargers, various personal items and a hat in case somebody insisted I leave the building.

That would be a pretty good trick, actually.  A Very Bad Thing, since we live on the second floor, and the only elevator — a little black thing whose door you have to open for yourself every time you want in or out of it — is out of commission in the event of a fire.

Contemplating my options, I remained in the condo so as not to give neighbors any wild ideas about rolling me and my 330 pound power wheelchair down two flights of stairs any time soon.  I poked my head out the balcony door, seeing nothing smokey, noting the absence of sirens amongst the city sounds.  After some five minutes of alarm, shouldn’t somebody be coming?  What if we really needed saving?

At length, hearing my daughter’s voice in the babble outside, apparently in conversation with another voice which was quite loud and somewhat… elderly… I poked my head out.  Our roommate Shirley rushed me back inside, saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, no problem, we don’t have to leave… Somebody in seven was taking a shower and it set off the alarm.  He says it happens a lot when he takes a shower.”

This peculiar explanation of our would-be emergency was announced after somebody said that the problem started with unit 7 — and when they knocked they were greeted by a  fellow wearing nothing but a towel…

shower-guy-with-fire-alarm
Towel guy, drawing by Emily Lee

Hmmm, I muse, we’ve been here since the beginning of June and there’s been no alarm till now…

So down the hall I roll to see what, or more accurately, with whom, Jericha is up to something.  An older woman stands in front of the long unoccupied unit next to ours, rather looming over Jericha.  This must be the person who only lives here half the year, spending the other half in a home along the coast further north.  Uh oh, she is the one that we have been warned is… “Very particular!”  With searching looks, “Yes, you want to get to know her, Emily, befriend her, hopefully things will be okay…”

Errrr…. Say what?

The woman waves Jericha off, telling her to “Explain this to her,” gesturing at me.

When we get back to our own place my daughter tells me that this woman has an extreme reaction to loud noise — say, oh, dogs barking — to the point where she actually becomes paralyzed when she hears them.  Her bedroom, she has been telling Jericha, shares our living room wall.  The very room in which Elf and Opus have been giving tongue to their eager desire to get out for some exercise for several hours this morning.  She can, she says with emphasis, STILL hear them when she leaves her bedroom, shuts the door, and heads elsewhere further away from us.  She only returned here last night.

And to think that if that toweled neighbor who popped open his door to tell the assembled crowd that the fire alarm was caused by his shower hadn’t done what he did, we might not have realized that the … particular one … has now returned for the winter, so Extraordinary Canine Steps Must Be Taken.

Elf, Opus and I have been discussing the matter of quiet-tude steadily ever since.  We will see how well they have understood soon enough, I expect.

The episode leaves me feeling relieved that Elf, Opus, Jericha and I are likely to be packing our belongings — again — for a move. It appears that we may be returning to a desert like environment, though not one in New Mexico — hotter.  Not even Arizona.  Nope, right here, somewhere in the Central Valley of drought stricken California, right in the middle of Big Agriculture country, where the drought is having its most terrible impact not only on this state and its residents, but also on  much of the US food supply in the fields.

Maybe.  We will see.  Changes ahead, most likely…