Tag Archives: Adversity and Resilience

Reflections about Loss

Reflections about Loss
Carol A. Hand

When you change
what remains
of the friends who used to be?
*
Slipping away like shifting sand
you’ll simply need to understand
learning graciously to set them free

***

July 20, 2012 – Cookie’s first summer in her new and last home (~2000 – 2013)

***

Things are not the same
but there’s no one to blame
so there’s no need for an apology
*
Although each loss brings sorrow
may you rise again tomorrow
open to new adventures yet to be

***

Remembering Too Many Tragedies

Carol A. Hand

Listening deeply to inner silence
Here, but also present in another reality
Aware of fear,  dis-ease,  loss,  and violence
while feeling the   poignant ache   of possibility
Seeking courage moment to moment to make a choice
to allow wisdom,  compassion,  and joy  to guide my voice

***

Ava swimming in Lake Superior, Photographer – Jnana Hand

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Time Away from Blogging

Carol A. Hand

You have all probably noticed my frequent absences recently. Autumn is always a busy time for me. This year is no exception – except it already feels busier.

The rotting board on my deck has been repaired and the deck floor has a new coat of paint. I think I’ve washed off most of the paint from my hands and arms, and under my nails.

Weeds and branches are secured in large paper bags, waiting to be transported to the local collection site. I still have many more branches to bag, though. Hopefully the bags will fit in my little car (White Pony).

Despite the heat and drought, life has been kind.

Smoky Sunset – August 2018

There are bountiful gardens to tend and harvest.

Gardens – August 2018

Another round of editing has begun for the book manuscript I’ve been working on for years. This time, I have a plan.

Soon I will have a digital copy of an original painting for the cover thanks to a dear friend, Carl Gawboy, an Ojibwe artist, scholar, and storyteller. Here’s the old photo that has now become part of my chapter one rewrite. It illustrates shifting times. Children who were once surrounded by nature and family live on reservations where the original forests were clear cut. The first generation didn’t realize the magnitude of the environmental and social changes that would follow when most of the trees were gone. But the next generation lived with the consequences of yet more losses.

A quick visit today to the on-line site for the class I will be teaching beginning on September 8 was a rather alarming reminder about the amount of work I have yet to do on my syllabus and assignments. Luckily, the new edition of the course text arrived yesterday. Of course, I will be trying something new, again. We’ll be looking at the link between access to clean water and community health. That means some research, thinking, and writing. Any suggestions you have about relevant research articles, online resources, or innovative initiatives would be greatly appreciated.

I hope you all know how much I value your presence in my life. For now, though, I will need to carve out more time to deal with these pressing responsibilities. I can’t predict how long I’ll be gone. I have an unpredictable muse who surprises me now and then with something urgent I need to write and share. Of course, I can’t post something without reciprocating visits and responding to comments (often belatedly). As you all know, that takes a lot of time. Frequently I resist posting until my muse makes my life unbearable.

With My Daughter and Grandson – August 2018
With My Granddaughter and Grandson – August 2018

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À bientôt (see you later) and best wishes to all.

***

Reflections about Giving

Carol A. Hand

Ultimately we are all alone
in a universe that seems indifferent
to the suffering of so many
our hearts may sometimes feel the pain
yet we can do little to understand or change
the ongoing forces of destruction and oppression

The only response may be doing what we can
to at least ease distress in the moment
when someone knocks on our door
not asking for healing or sanctuary
but merely a temporary respite
from chaos and imminent threat

The forces of harm remain unabated
attracting those who feel they have no worth
like moths mesmerized by a candle flame
that will surely consume them
unless they wake up in time

Perhaps kindness from a stranger
who asks nothing in return
will be enough to lighten the burden of aloneness
for both the askers and the givers
temporarily revealing the importance of compassion

***

A Candle in the Darkness

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Inspired by real life and two differing perspectives. The first is a reminder of the work of Albert Camus (1913-1060), who

“… introduced and developed the twin philosophical ideas—the concept of the Absurd and the notion of Revolt—that made him famous. These are the ideas that people immediately think of when they hear the name Albert Camus spoken today. The Absurd can be defined as a metaphysical tension or opposition that results from the presence of human consciousness—with its ever-pressing demand for order and meaning in life—in an essentially meaningless and indifferent universe. Camus considered the Absurd to be a fundamental and even defining characteristic of the modern human condition. The notion of Revolt refers to both a path of resolved action and a state of mind. It can take extreme forms such as terrorism or a reckless and unrestrained egoism (both of which are rejected by Camus), but basically, and in simple terms, it consists of an attitude of heroic defiance or resistance to whatever oppresses human beings. In awarding Camus its prize for literature in 1957, the Nobel Prize committee cited his persistent efforts to “illuminate the problem of the human conscience in our time.” He was honored by his own generation, and is still admired today, for being a writer of conscience and a champion of imaginative literature as a vehicle of philosophical insight and moral truth” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

The other is from Kosmos Community News,

“When did the world break open for you and reveal its radiant light?

“I’m guessing we all have had fleeting revelatory glimpses of the sublime, the numinous. Sometimes it takes a great loss or crisis to trigger the moment of grace….

“These diamond-sharp moments cut through our haze, yet inevitably fade. We may relegate them to a corner of mind as moments of madness or anomaly, but such non-ordinary experiences seem to be in the increase and may be showing us a world more real than the one we think we know” (Kosmos).

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Memories – July 24, 2018

Carol A. Hand

Sitting on my step sipping coffee
listening gratefully as the little oven bird sings
greeting morning once again with sweet melodies
listening to the sound of the train on the western ridge
whirring by then fading
listening to leaves rustling in the gentle breeze
remembering times long past
of setting off alone again and again
to begin anew in different places
like the little chickadee in another song

***

***

I would have preferred to live in a fantasy world
escaping to other places in books and daydreams
but I sense that I chose otherwise
long before I was born

Remembering the dark worlds I’ve entered
institutions that mistreated Mickey and Donald
students, elders, and communities
beset with oppression they didn’t deserve
Someone had to offer kindness, strength and solace
even if imperfectly
just because
that was the right thing to do

***

July 24, 2018

***

Sitting here now in the morning
listening
remembering past encounters and new beginnings
healing old wounds to my spirit and building strength
to face whatever comes next

***

 

Reflections about Living and Leadership

Carol A. Hand

***

It’s not easy when others expect you to be a bodhisattva
or describe you as the smartest person in the room
You know it’s the kiss of death to friendships
Those who seek status and control will vengefully attack
Those you thought friends will opine “I’m not in your league”
and demand you assume responsibility, make decisions, and lead

How can others learn their own wisdom, strengths, or who they are
if they always expect others to know the answers and serve as the vanguard?

You know you’re not anyone’s guru –
you stumble and fall more times than most

After a while you retreat and grow silent
knowing others need to find their own truths
all you can do is to keep seeking and forging your own path

It’s a paradox, isn’t it
when the only way to lead is to simply live
without need of recognition or followers
in hopes that others will find the song in their own hearts
that’s been waiting patiently to be discovered all along

Note:

I wrote this poem when I was wondering if I would recover from a serious illness recently. Although I am recovering, there are no guarantees for the future. It’s only one moment at a time now, so I have to be ever mindful of how I spend those moments. I had no intentions of sharing this poem until today when I read the following passage from Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore.

37

I THOUGHT that my voyage had come to its end at the last limit of my power, ⎯ that the
path before me was closed, that provisions were exhausted and the time come to take
shelter in a silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me. And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country
is revealed with its wonders.

(from Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee, pp. 31-32)

I wonder how many others have felt silenced by others’ expectations for them to be strong, smart, or a spiritual healer because of their Native American heritage. Reading Tagore is helping me focus on following what’s in my own heart. He’s a gifted thinker and poet.

If you want to read more of Tagore’s work, you can access a free copy from The Spiritual Bee. “This e-book is a reproduction of the original “Gitanjali – Song Offerings” by Rabindranath Tagore, first published in 1913. This book is now in the public domain in the United States and in India; because it’s original copyright owned by the Macmillan Company has expired.”

The Spiritual Bee also has a number of other copyright-expired books that can be downloaded for free.

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Morning Reflections – June 28, 2018

Carol A. Hand

Morning gardens dappled with sunlight and shadow

*

June 28, 2018

*

a few bumble bees and butterflies feasting on flowers
as another dry June day begins – this one already hot

*

One of the few butterflies this season

*

Last evening’s promise of rain unfulfilled
despite the dramatic sunset sky
*
Sunset (1) – June 27, 2018
Sunset (2) – June 27, 2018
Sunset (3) – June 27, 2018
Sunset (4) – June 27, 2018

*

Dark clouds quickly effacing the rising full moon
on their way east to deliver rain elsewhere

*

Full Moon Rising – June 27, 2018

*

giving me an opportunity to do the best I can
to gratefully sustain life in times of adversity

*

Memories of My Father

Carol A. Hand

My father was 76 when he died on April 26, 1994. He was surrounded by strangers on the psychiatric ward of a veterans’ hospital when he passed away. I have a haunting photo of him during his last days. (Even if I could find the photo that I’ve misplaced, it’s not how I would want my father to be remembered.)

I was the only one in my family who could have visited him at that point, but I didn’t feel it would be appropriate. As a responsible daughter who could see no other options, I was the one who had to initiate an involuntary placement in the hospital with an order of protection. He was threatening to kill my mother before he planned to commit suicide. He would hold a loaded gun and point it at her. My mother, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, was terrified he would kill her. My younger brother was threatening to kill my father to protect her.

So the responsibility fell to me. Someone needed to intervene in a reasonable and compassionate way. My father’s threats needed to be taken seriously. I had survived his physical and emotional abuse during my childhood and witnessed his violent emotional instability and attempted suicide.

Paradoxically, though, I came to understand his emotional volatility. His bipolar disorder and the deep insecurities he carried given the traumas he experienced during his own childhood made his life so difficult.

***

My Father – 10 years old

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His years as a Marine during the Korean Conflict added new dimensions to his trauma. I remember times when he cried but couldn’t give voice to the experiences that brought him so much pain.

***

My Father in the early 1940s
My Father – somewhere in the South Pacific

***

I had forgiven him decades before I had to act to protect my family, perhaps because I had educational opportunities that he never had. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that I had embraced my mother’s Ojibwe culture as I eschewed the cold, dour nature of my father’s Anglo-American heritage. He could rarely bait me any more with racist, angry tirades. I had learned how to respond with gentle humor. “Well, Dad, this is an enlightening conversation,” I would say as I smiled. “I think I’ll go see how Mother is doing.”

As I think of him today, I am grateful for the many things I learned from him. Most importantly, I learned how to understand someone who was suffering with compassion and forgiveness. That’s what I remember on this father’s day, along with sadness for people whose suffering may not be healed during this lifetime. I hope his death brought him peace and I hope that wherever he may be he knows that I am grateful to him for doing the best he could with what he was given in life.

***

My Father – 1986

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May you finally know peace, dear Father.

May Snippets II – May 30, 2018

Carol A. Hand

This is my final post for an indeterminate time. I wanted to let you know why I have been so slow responding to comments and remiss in visiting your blogs.

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Rocking Away Pain (May 27, 2018)

Tears flowing silently
unbidden
Shivering
despite the growing pile of blankets
lovingly placed to warm me
by the daughter and granddaughter
now holding my hand
while I lie supine
in a hospital emergency room

These are not tears of fear or regret
They come from gratitude
and the deep knowing
that ultimately we all die
The time and manner of passing
are not really ours to determine

For my daughter’s sake
my choice at this moment
is courage
to face the uncertainty of fate
not knowing if the dye that will be injected
for diagnostic tests
will stop my heart
as it did to my mother’s
starving her brain of oxygen
the first step in her long journey
wandering through the unknown territory of dementia

With an explicit advanced directive
“Do Not Resuscitate”
for me the test might mean death

This time, instead
it meant painful survival
and days in my glider rocking chair
trying to rock away pain and discomfort
and choking down food despite nausea

Even now, though, I find joy and humor in life

***

Recovery Reflections (May 29, 2018)

There is a time to bring forth blossoms

and a time to release flower petals
to dance in the spring winds
and softly clothe the earth in beauty
followed by a time to focus on forming fruit
then giving it a chance to ripen
before the first frosts come
signaling the time for rest
and deep reflection
to gather strength
for next season’s
bloom

It’s the necessary cycle
to feed one’s spirit

***

This morning when I awakened, silent tears of gratitude fell as I thought about my life. I have been blessed with so many gifts. Even now, I have the privilege of tending lilacs I can share with others who can no longer do so. It’s the small things we do that bring beauty and kindness into the lives of others that matter, as many of you have done for me over the years. Thank you so very much.

Please note that I have attempted, perhaps unsuccessfully, to close comments for this post. I am not sure when I would be able to reply. Let me just send my deep gratitude and best wishes to all.

What Would You Choose?

Carol A. Hand

We teach the next generations
through our lived example
how to care for the earth
and all our relations
We’re ever creating the world
our children and grandchildren will inherit
across all of earth’s imaginary boundaries
and within diverse fictive nations

The question to consider
is what we want that world to be

Do we teach children to care,
cooperate, and conserve?
Or do we teach them to compete,
conquer, and consume?

The answers matter profoundly
but we need to remember
awareness can’t be imposed
through legislation
It can only be encouraged
through living examples
that offer another kind of education
opening up new possibilities
that demonstrate the value
of compassionate contemplation

A lesson from an “Inchworm”

Note

Sometimes it feels futile and foolish to work on creating healthy gardens on a city lot that has long been neglected. Factories just to the east churn out foul-smelling toxic fumes. My neighbor on one side has spent more than a decade burying garbage along the fence-line. Lately, the garbage has merely been left exposed, joined by plastic toys his children abandon when their interest wanes.

I have tried to engage in reasoned conversations and offered to help create a healthy landscaped transition. My words have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps suggestions from an Ojibwe grandmother (you know, a triple whammy – age, gender, and ancestry) even exacerbated his unwillingness to consider alternatives. The experience has taught me how profoundly cultures and life experiences affect our ability to discern how our everyday choices affect what our children learn and the health of the environments they will inherit.

I’ve been told it’s a matter of perspective. Some prefer landfills that will someday look like manicured lawns despite the toxic or dangerous things that are hidden from sight, while others prefer healthy gardens.

May 31, 2014

May 23, 2018

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I still wonder, though, how someone who claims to love children doesn’t seem to realize his actions are destroying a child’s garden.

July 3, 2015 – My granddaughter standing next to the garden she helped create.

May 23, 2018 – Damage control in process as the wooden divide grows ever higher to protect my granddaughter’s garden from the growing pile of refuse (including piles of dog feces).

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