It’s a Matter of Balance

Carol A. Hand

Be moderate in all things:
Watch, listen, and consider:
Your deeds will be prudent.
(Midewiwin Code)(Source: Johnston, 1976, p. 93)

When it comes to gardening, I do read and listen to what the experts have to say. And then I study my environment. I watch how the light changes during the day, notice the various types of soil and plants that grow in different spaces, and observe how the land changes with the seasons. And then I contrast what I observe with “expert wisdom” – the newest fads and what the experts say is really true now.

Other experts got it wrong in the past. But now we know the truth. Don’t dig in the soil. Weeds are beneficial.”

All of them? Even if they’re deliberately-planted species from other parts of the world that have no natural controls in this environment and quickly smother indigenous life? From my perspective, that sounds too much like the colonial and capitalistic hegemony imposed on Ojibwe people for centuries. “Don’t think for yourself. We know best!” It’s taught me to question those who believe their way is the only right way – those who are too certain of their infallibility.

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Photo: Crabapple Blossoms – June 2015

What happened to the spirit of inquisitive inquiry? Will I really harm the earth if I remove the nails, metal fragments, glass, plastic, concrete slabs and building debris that has been scattered for an untold number of years throughout my yard? Should I simply leave the land banked and contoured so all of the run off from the rain flows into my basement, or into my front yard from the neighbors’ artificially raised yards on two sides? I do know that I have no way of knowing what’s in the new dirt I’ve trucked in to address these issues, fill the newly-built raised beds, and improve the hard-packed nutrient-deficient soil.

I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to undertake labor-intensive experiments. Of all the various home remedies I’ve used to deal with deer, only a high fence worked. Using the sod I dug up when I created gardens to contour the slope of the land away from the house worked, even in the flood of 2012. Removing concrete slabs and gently contouring the land on both sides of the front yard seems to be working as well – not just in terms of preventing the formation of mini-ponds after heavy rains, but also with improving neighbor-relations.

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Photo: Gardens – June 2015

Some things don’t work as well. Straw mulch does control weed growth and minimize the need to water during long dry spells, but there’s a downside. It provides slugs with an ideal breeding ground in a long, cool rainy spring. Once firmly entrenched, they’re truly destructive. And while high fences keep deer out, they don’t deter hungry squirrels who have discovered their appetite for small green tomatoes and baby squash.

I have also learned that maintenance is crucial, but there are always competing priorities in a fixer-upper yard and house. Still, it’s a great learning lab for creative problem-solving. Many innovations come from economic necessity and repurposing resources, like the sod I dig up or the boards I salvaged from the old fence. They’ve become part of the system to address higher land on either side or my yard.

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Photo: My Granddaughter by Her Garden – July 2015

The other lesson I keep learning? It’s the process that matters. I can’t help trying to breathe health and beauty into the places I live and work, even though I know nothing is permanent. Everything could change tomorrow. What isn’t as likely to disappear are the memories my granddaughter has of watching the seeds she planted grow into flowers. Or the memories of my grandson who learned that it’s wisest to approach challenging jobs by selecting the least destructive alternatives even if you’re strong. In the long run, it often takes less time. Or the memories of my neighbors who say their lives are enriched and inspired by the gardens and flowers they can see from their windows or as they walk by.

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Photo: My Grandson Holding His Team’s Rugby Trophy – 2015

Deciding whether to dig and weed is really a multidimensional conundrum nested within a specific geographic and human context. I don’t know what long range outcomes will follow from the decisions I make today even though I do my best to watch, listen and consider. I’ll be long gone, and perhaps my house and yard will be gone as well. It could be part of an extended parking lot for the church and apartment building across the street. It could disappear in a storm like the one that broke a huge branch from my beloved willow tree this year. Regardless, I do believe that the love we put into the things we do and the places we live survives as an essence in the places and people we touch long after we pass on.

Work Cited:

Basil Johnston (1976). Ojibway heritage. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What If …

Carol A. Hand

What if –
We believed everyone is born
With a special gift to offer the world
Each one has a unique and necessary role to play
That no one else can fill

What if –
We welcomed and nurtured each new child
Enfolded them in love and warmth
Helped them develope their gifts
Encouraged them to share their spirit song joyfully

What if –
We learned that all life is sacred
And found ways to live in peace
To tend our gardens together and share
To blend our voices in harmony

Dreaming of possibilities is the first step …

drawing

Acknowledgment: This was written in gratitude to the Tribal staff for the Honoring Our Children Project who created initiatives to welcome each new child and rebuild communities, and to my granddaughter, Ava, for inspiring me to draw.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

We Can All Be Ordinary Heroes

Carol A. Hand

Is there evil in the world? As I read the news today, I ponder this question yet again when I see a picture of Scott Walker with an article about his ideas for repealing and replacing Obamacare. I’m no fan of this ill-constructed legislation that supports corporations – insurance companies that provide no health care or useful life-affirming products and drug companies that fail to heal and at best, merely anesthetize. But he’s just one face that represents the war against joy, freedom, and life. A windigo made visible?

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Photo Credit: Windigo, by Ashere

Yes, I remember the colleague who once asked me the meaning of a gesture made by a former Native American friend who became an enemy. “Can you tell me what this means from a Native American perspective?,” she asked. “My partner and I gave our friend a gift, a beautiful vase made by a famous Native artist. [I can’t remember which artist these many years later.] After a disagreement, she sent us a package. Inside the package, we found the pieces of the vase we had given her. It had been pulverized. Does this have any special significance?”

She seemed sincere in her question, but her partner, also present, scowled. I decided to reply honestly. “I can’t really say what it meant in her tribal culture, but some Ojibwe people believe that objects hold the energy of the giver. Gifts from people whose actions hurt others are felt to carry bad medicine. Things that they gave or touched are disposed of or returned to the giver.

Her partner shouted in reply. “You can’t REALLY believe that NONSENSE! You’re an EDUCATED woman!

I decided to reply. “Yes, educated in two cultures to a certain degree. Your partner asked a question that I did my best to answer truthfully.”

But does evil exist? I always try to see the good in others and the world, but as I look around at the state of the world today, the evidence is rather compelling. Destroying other’s careers as these two women did? Killing others because you can? Because you want something they have, because you don’t like the color of their skin or where they were born? Denying them an opportunity to live, love, eat?

In my work as an advocate, I have had to stand against powerful, charismatic people who were doing harm by enticing and encouraging others to feed their own insecurities and appetites. Sometimes you create powerful enemies by taking a stand for integrity. I remember one in particular. Years passed after our battle and some of the damage she left in her wake had been healed. Who could predict our paths would cross again in the most unlikely of places – a national conference on the Queen Mary dry-docked in Long Beach, CA? We were both selected as presenters.

The workshop I presented with a colleague from Wyoming was one of the highlights of the conference. The standing-room-only audience was excited and energized. Afterwards, my colleague, his partner, and I toured the coast. Exhausted after the long day, I went to my tiny room below deck, with only a small porthole to view the harbor and shore. I fell into a deep sleep and had the most disturbing nightmare of my life.

I found myself in a dark, cavernous space. My body was covered with oozing sores and I was struggling to breathe. The guide who has spoken to me in other, more uplifting dreams, said, “This is evil.” I replied , “I don’t believe evil really exists.” Breathing became more difficult and the pain more excruciating. The guide repeated, “This is evil. You need to admit it.” “No, I can’t believe that,” I said. As I struggled to keep breathing, I knew I was dying. One final time the guide repeated, “This is evil. If you won’t face the fact that it exists, you will die.”

(My choice is obvious. I’m still here to write these memories. I don’t know if I would be had I made another choice. ) I survived and woke up in a sweat with my heart pounding as I sucked in air. It was four in the morning. I began packing, intent on getting a cab to the airport as soon as possible.

Does evil exist? I believe all of us are capable of doing incredible things, both good and bad. If the only powerful examples we have encourage us to lose hope, to doubt that kindness matters, needless suffering, death, and environmental destruction will continue to exist. Is keeping hope and kindness alive through our thoughts and actions in dark times the path of the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell wrote about? I don’t know.

Opportunities to find deeper power within ourselves come when life seems most challenging. (Joseph Campbell)

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Photo: Sending Light to the Four Directions

Living the light as best we can may not be enough, but it’s what we can choose to do.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Pivotal Years of Momentous Change

Carol A. Hand

After I posted my last essay, I realized that I forgot to mention my gratitude to a dear friend, Cheryl Bates. She reviewed various drafts of the play (You Wouldn’t Want To Hear My Story) and gave me very helpful feedback and suggestions. Although she took a hiatus as my blog partner to focus on her work as an assistant professor, we still talk and exchange emails. She has often helped review some of the odd things I write. Some were refined and published on my blog as a result of her feedback, and some remained as unfinished fragments that were revisited and sometimes woven into later posts.

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Photo: Dr. Cheryl A. Bates

Although I have always had special friends wherever I found myself, I noticed how they dissolved over time when I took on new responsibilities and moved to new places. The threads that connected us gradually frayed as our lives and work took different directions. Although fond memories often remain, holding onto the past is something I do mostly in my thoughts to make sense of the present and reflect on the future. My friendship with Cheryl is unique because it was forged and strengthened by facing challenges together as allies during a year of momentous transitions for both of us. The year 2010 was a time of life-changing events.

I often ponder the old adage: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”

The saying helps me look back at a life of many moves from many different perspectives. Honestly, I do wish I had purged a lot more of my furniture, files, and mementos when I made my last move. But I did leave all of my dear friends behind as I have been doing since I made my first pivotal move at the age of 12. While my parents and brother settled into their new home, I spent the summer of transition with my grandmother on the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin. My summer experiences and the shock of entering my new home just as school began influenced my lifetime far more profoundly than I realized at the time. I learned that for some people, like my grandmother, growing up in adversity doesn’t necessarily make one kinder or wiser. Sometimes, people are too wounded to care about themselves or others.

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Photo: My Mother and Me (at home in NJ) – 1959

My transitional summer from childhood to womanhood was spent in the company of an abusive alcoholic. My grandmother’s abuse was different than my father’s physical beatings. I had learned to endure physical abuse by using my mind to focus on other things so intently that I was oblivious to pain.

Taller and thinner than many of my Ojibwe relatives, I felt like an awkward giant. Bespectacled from the age of eight, I was used to being called “four-eyes.” I suspect my grandmother could read my awkwardness and insecurity. That may have triggered her abuse – cruelty that cut deeply. At least a hundred times a day, I was wounded anew each time she ranted about how ugly I was. She ranted in private and in public at every opportunity.

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Photo: My Mother and Me (outside our home in NJ) – 1959

Now, I wonder if perhaps her cruelty was due to jealousy. She was a gifted hair stylist and beautician. (It’s not a gift I inherited.) And as a young girl, she was stunningly beautiful. But age and hard living had taken their toll – makeup and hair dye couldn’t erase the effects.

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Photo: My Grandmother and Her Sisters (my grandmother is the one on the right)

Every evening after my grandmother closed her beauty salon, she dragged me along as she made the rounds to local taverns, drinking up what she earned each day. She dressed me up in clothes way too old for a twelve year old, with make-up and carefully coifed hair. Older men tried to pick me up as they laughingly referred to my grandmother as “Black Agnes.” Next, she started accusing me of stealing her money and sleeping with men. I begged my Aunt and Uncle to let me stay with them when my grandmother kicked me out. They did take me in.

And then, the summer came to an end. I moved to my new home where I didn’t know anyone, shredded with self-doubt and internalized shame. My new school was three to five years behind my old school in every subject – reading, math, and even home-ec. Hoping to end it all, I downed a huge bottle of aspirin. But my mother, a nurse, found me too soon. (I’ve been allergic to aspirin ever since.)

Surviving wasn’t easy, and I didn’t really try. The only real friends I had for the five years I was in my new temporary home were the elders who lived in the nursing home my mother owned and administered. I learned about grieving over loss and death from them at an early age as my older friends healed and went home, or had health setbacks and moved to hospitals or died. When I headed off to college, there were really no friends I would miss and I had no intentions of returning when I finished school. My yearbook and mementos were recycled decades ago, and I’ve never seriously considered visiting the town or attending a high school reunion.

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Photo: My Mother and Me (on my way back to college after spring break) – 1966

In a strange sense, I realize my grandmother had given me a gift. I accepted the fact that I was unattractive and decided that was okay. I was smart, charming when I wanted to be, and multi-talented. And I learned I could survive without approval from others. But these gifts also came with costs – some obvious, and some that have waited decades to be understood.

I began to understand some of the hidden gifts and costs in 2010. It’s the year I split with my partner of 35-plus years. He finally had a decent paying job after 20 years so he could afford to support himself. My mother died that year after 13 years of progressive decline due to Alzheimer’s disease. Her death was a blessing. Her suffering ended and she was finally at peace.  I still miss her and grieve because of the hard times she lived through, but these old photos brought back healing memories. Without the ongoing challenge of figuring out how to cover the costs of her care, I could contemplate the possibility of retirement. After one last ugly battle against institutional discrimination targeted toward vulnerable students and colleagues, I did decide to retire at the end of the academic year (2010-2011), a lot earlier than originally planned. It was obvious that academia was not going to change for the better given the cast of characters in power who allowed these abuses to continue – and continue – and continue – despite the best of my efforts. I guess that’s something else my grandmother taught me. Hurt people hurt people and sometimes people are just too deeply wounded to heal.

Cheryl and I shared the battle and its aftermath, and I will be forever grateful for the friendship that we developed. We left at the same time. One of us moved a little to the northwest (me), and the other, to the southeast, one to retirement, and the other to another position in academia (Cheryl). We both left our other friends behind.

Battle weary, I sold my house (well actually, Wells Fargo really owned it and charged me most of my salary to live there). I moved closer to my family to see if I could be the kind of grandmother I wished I had had so long ago.

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Photo: My Grandchildren and Me – Summer 2011

Only time will tell if I succeed, but that extra furniture I moved continues to provide a place for my daughter and grandchildren to share meals, sleep, play, and teach me new things.

Dear Cheryl, I apologize for forgetting to mention your invaluable help. Please know that I am grateful for your continuing friendship, your honest feedback, and your presence in my life.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shifting Perspective

Carol A. Hand

In the past, waiting for a response from others was always the hardest part of completing any initiative for me. When I created something to share with others, it was often an experiment to try something new. I wondered if and how others would respond. I remember sharing this with my graduate advisor when I handed in exam papers. “I always wonder if what I write or say will make sense to others. Is it brilliant, confusing, or merely mediocre?” His response was slow. “Your work is so – it’s so – interdisciplinary.” That didn’t really address my anxiety.

When I submitted my first ever play for review a few days ago, the same questions surfaced. And then I realized that my reason for writing and submitting this work, and other works before it, was not really about others’ reactions. Sharing stories, ideas, and possibilities about crucial issues past, present and future is an attempt to inspire productive dialogue and constructive changes.

I hope the play will make a difference for at least some of the reviewers. Maybe it will even be selected as one of the plays that will be performed for an audience. But once submitted, what happens next is not something I can control. So why should I be concerned? It’s a diversion from the more important question I should be asking, “What’s next?

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Photo: An unidentified perennial in my hummingbird garden – early July 2015

If you breathe your spirit and heart into what you do, how others respond is really not the most important consideration. You’ve done what you can to share something meaningful. In this case, what I tried to do was to honor the words and experiences of others who trusted me to share their stories in hopes that their suffering might help others. Those who have followed my blog faithfully for the past couple of years would recognize some of the stories highlighted in the play. Uncle Raymond and Auntie Lucille share their early childhood experiences within their Ojibwe reservation community. They describe how these and later childhood experiences affected them throughout their lives, and the ways in which the lives of the next generations were influenced as well.

The title of the play comes from the words Auntie Lucille whispered in my ear when I was visiting the elders’ center during lunch nine months after my study began – “You wouldn’t want to hear my story.” Her warning that it wasn’t a happy story proved true. She was removed from her family and community when she was nine and spent the next nine years in an abusive White foster home far from the reservation. Yet her story is distressingly similar to that of so many Native American children throughout the centuries of continuing colonial oppression. Child removal and out-placement practices still continue today.

Uncle Raymond’s contrasting story demonstrates that there have always been effective culturally appropriate alternatives to keep children safe in their own tribal communities.

I don’t want to spoil the suspense by sharing the ending. But I can say that the ending brought healing tears to my eyes while it warmed my heart with hope. I have no way of guessing how it will affect the reviewers. Regardless of what they say, I am grateful for the important things I learned as a result of trying something that took me outside of my comfort zone. I’m also deeply grateful to Diane Lefer at Nobody Wakes Up Pretty for the encouragement to try. (Chi miigwetch, Diane. I have learned so much from your blog, books, and televised interviews.)

I promise to let you all know what happens with the play. In the meantime, I send my gratitude and best wishes to all.

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Photo: The hummingbird garden – August 12, 2015

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ah – Memories

Carol A. Hand

I just took a quick break to contemplate the ending of a play I have been working on this week. As I sat in my garage thinking, the eagerly anticipated rain began to fall. (We’ve been in a two week heat wave without any rain. Of course “heat” here means any temperatures above 80 F degrees.) As I heard the blessed sound of rain hitting the roof and hard ground, a memory surfaced.

I remembered my daughter’s wonderful story, “The Only Raindrop,” with a mixture of pleasure, sadness, and righteous indignation. And I remembered how amazed I was as I read her story for the first time when she asked me to let her know what I thought before she handed it in to her fifth grade teacher. It’s one of those treasures that were somehow lost in our many moves, and one of the very few that I truly regret losing. (Her original story was far better than the following reconstructed adult version.)

It was a story about a farmer in a drought-stricken prairie. Every day the farmer would check on his gardens and his corn field, and his heart ached as he saw the plants wilting and suffering. He tried his best to keep them watered but it just wasn’t enough. Finally, he couldn’t hold in his grief any longer. He stood in his field and wept as if his heart were breaking. And it was. His sobs were so loud that they attracted the attention of a lonely raindrop in the sky. The raindrop felt sorry for the farmer but wondered what possible difference it would make if it fell on the fields. But the farmer’s sobbing was more than the raindrop could bear, so it decided to fall anyway. It dropped right next to the farmer’s feet.

raindrop

Source: Microsoft Office Clip Art

The farmer was overjoyed. He laughed and jumped and shouted with glee. Other raindrops heard his joyous racket and decided to go down to see what all the commotion was about. And the farmer shouted louder with even greater joy. Other raindrops heard the noise and soon, raindrops were all falling all over his field and gardens. The Only Raindrop did what it could, and because of its sacrifice and the farmer’s joyous thanksgiving, life-saving rain came in time.

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Source: Microsoft Office Clip Art

This was an essay worthy of a commendation from my perspective. So when I got the message that my daughter’s teacher wanted to talk to me, that’s the first thing that came to mind. Imagine my reaction when the teacher began by saying she was concerned about my daughter’s work. My daughter needed to learn how to write her own essays. No child could possibly write the kind of stories my daughter handed in without adults helping.

I don’t remember my exact words, but I do know that I let the teacher know that my daughter did indeed write her own stories. And I asked the teacher if her assessment of my daughter’s abilities was based on the fact that her complexion was darker than that of the other students in her class. I let her know that I found her response to my daughter’s creativity and talent insulting and of deep concern. I stood up and told her that I would be carefully watching how she treated my daughter.

How quickly a mother’s pride and joy can turn to anger and concern. Skill and creativity are especially threatening when they come from someone on the margins. But of course, that’s where these qualities are more likely to be found. Is it any wonder that these are also where the worst public schools are located, and the most devastating economic and social conditions? Who knows what the world would become if we eliminated structural oppression and the never-ending assault of macro and micro aggressions?

Well, I need to get back to the play. I did finish the first draft before I fired off this post (You Wouldn’t Want to Hear My Story). Sorry for the rant but this incident still makes me really angry almost forty years later. How could anyone accuse a delightful, talented ten-year old of lying and cheating simply because her skin tone was darker?

Remembering this incident makes me aware of how grateful I am for all of the teachers, bloggers, advocates, and activists who challenge oppression every day. Your actions are like the life-giving rain that finally comes because someone hears what you have to say and spreads the word… Thank you for what you all do!

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Promises to Keep

Carol A. Hand

Sometimes I wish there was someone to rock me to sleep
To lighten my burdens and give me time to weep
Some days the cruelty seems too heavy to bear
The powerful keep causing suffering and don’t seem to care.

Hubris and profligacy rule in these days
Tragically it’s the earth and the majority that pays
Let me breathe in love, let my courage run deep
Let me love life fiercely, I have promises to keep.

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Photo: Aadi, Ahma (Me), Ava, Jnana – Duluth 2009

Postscript:

I wanted to give credit for the eclectic sources of inspiration woven into this work:

Rock me to sleep” was inspired by a song that I remembered from years ago, “Rockin’ myself to sleep.” It was written by Stuart Stotts and recorded by Laurie Ellen Neustadt (1987), Harvestime songs of aging. Madison, WI: Laurie Ellen Neustadt & Bi-Folkal Productions, Inc. (Link for more information)

Hubris and profligacy” were the words Andrew Bacevich (2008) used to describe the current policies and actions of the U.S. government in his book “The limits of power: The end of American exceptionalism.” (Link for more information)

But I have promises to keep” are words Robert Frost used in his poem “Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening.” (Link for more information)

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reflections about Choices and Possibilities

Carol A. Hand

As a young child, I had two recurring dreams. In one, I was on a screened porch. Just beyond the screen were hungry, scary monsters. They were snarling and clawing in their attempt to break through the screen to get to me, and I huddled in fright. I would awake with my heart racing. But this dream was often followed by another. In the second dream, I would stand at the top of stairs in my house with my arms widespread. I would jump gently and soar thought the air. I easily exited my house as I swooped though the front door and realized my thoughts could take me high into the sky far above the earth or allow me to hover just above people who were walking on the earth. I still have days that alternate between these two possibilities.

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Photo: Crouching Child

I often think about these contrasting choices – to feel boxed in and exposed, paralyzed by fear or to fly free above the chaos. Both are lonely choices for a life lived on the margins. I’m sure there are other choices, yet these two seem to alternate in an endless loop for me. And I return once again to contemplate the words of Krishnamurti.

“The urge to find out what truth is, what God is, is the only real urge and all other urges are subsidiary. When you throw a stone into still water, it makes expanding circles. The expanding circles are the subsidiary movements, the social reactions, but the real movement is at the centre, which is the movement to find happiness, God, truth; and you cannot find it as long as you are caught in fear, held by a threat. From the moment there is the arising of threat and fear, culture declines.” (p. 89)

As I think about what is happening in the world today, I see the consequences of fear – paralysis or efforts to ensure safety by conquest and control. And I see the consequences of people who have continued to pursue change or revolution by fighting inside of the imprisoning paradigms of the oppressive, limiting assumptions they have been socialized to accept without question. I was one of them in the past.

“Have you not noticed how arrogant idealists are? The political leaders who bring about certain results, who achieve great reforms – have you not noticed that they are full of themselves? In their own estimation they are very important. Read a few of the political speeches, watch some of these people who call themselves reformers, and you will see that in the very process of reformation they are cultivating their own ego; their reforms, however extensive, are still within the prison, therefore they are destructive and ultimately bring more misery and conflict to man [sic].

“Now, if you can see through this whole social structure, the cultural pattern of the collective will which we call civilization – if you can understand all that and break away from it, break through the prison walls of your particular society, whether Hindu, communist, or Christian, then you will find that there comes a confidence which is not tainted with the sense of arrogance. It is the confidence of innocence. It is like the confidence of a child who is so completely innocent he [she] will try anything. It is this innocent confidence that will bring about a new civilization; but this innocent confidence cannot come into being as long as you remain within the social pattern.” (pp. 94-95)

Of course there are risks when one takes flight, free from the comforting confines of tradition. It is takes great faith and love to dare the lift off – and even greater faith and endurance to remain in flight. But the first steps may seem impossible. How does one free oneself from “the dust of many centuries, the dust of what we call knowledge, experience”? (p. 101) The first step for me is recognizing it is crucial to free my heart and mind so I can leave the screened porch to see new possibilities. It’s a hard step to take in these times. The second is mustering the courage to take flight outside of the prison of “yesterday’s reminiscences.” (p. 101) Although I carry the weight of my ancestors’ historical trauma and my own, let me choose to take the risk at this moment. As one simple ordinary person, let me observe what was and what is without paralyzing fear from the distance of love and possibilities for what can assuredly come to be.

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Photo Credit: Dancer (Carol A. Hand)

Work Cited:

Krishnamurti (1989). Think on these things. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Scent of Sweetgrass

Carol A. Hand

Suddenly, I awake when I’m in your presence –
The scent of sweetgrass
My attention is sharpened and focused,
I feel peace and hope and joy surge in my heart.

You appear at the strangest of times.

sweetgrass

Photo: Sweetgrass. ( Source – Four Sacred Medicines …, Kade M. Ferris )

I’m not sure what I am doing just before
Your delicate essence drifts by,
A gentle wake-up call to become aware
Of the beauty of life that surrounds me.

Even in a world where people are suffering
And fighting pointless endless wars
For things that will never bring them happiness or peace.
Your presence gives me hope that peace is possible.

Chi miigwetch for reminding me of what really matters,
For reminding me to breathe deeply
To be present, to love and to celebrate simply being
During the fleeting moment of this life.

 Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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