Pride and Practicality

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my father tinkering at his workbench. Actually looking back he wasn’t tinkering, he was repairing something that needed a bit of help. I distinctly remember the two-sided toaster that he dismantled to get it up and running again. I loved that toaster. 

A young soldier in World War II, my father took pride in the skills he learned in the service. He took pride in his tools. He was a practical man. And practicality included not throwing things away that could be fixed. 

It was a different time. But was it?

Fast-forward to the recent Federal Trade Commission’s stance on ending the restrictions manufacturers place on individuals repairing their own goods. From cell phones to tractors, companies currently “own” the right to repair. Buyers, like us, are often unable to purchase parts needed and attempts at repair are forbidden.  

That liberal leaning state of Massachusetts led the way with its 2020 Right to Repair Initiatives and now corporations are crying foul that the right for the buyer to repair could become the law of the land.

My father was a conservative. He was conservative in his politics, in his faith and in his approach to life. I am 100% certain he would be 100% against corporate ownership of repair. He would not have let anyone take away his ability or his keen sense of wonder.

This isn’t about liberal or conservative. This is basic Humanity 101. Everyone needs a little elbow room to live as they wish.*  Everyone needs to live in dignity.

I still have some of my father’s tools. I use them proudly. I can’t fix everything, but hey, that is the gift of community. We help one another. And you can’t take that away.

*I first heard that phrase from one of the greatest advocates for humanity, Prem Rawat.

Learn more about the Right to Repair

And get involved.

What Time is it?

“What time is it on the clock of the world?” I remember the first time I heard Grace Lee Boggs use the phrase her husband James had brilliantly coined. Not simply what time is it in my day, in my existence, but what is the time on the clock of the world? For decades now the couple’s passion for humanity helped spark a revival of community in Detroit and beyond.

There are precious few who call us to a greater awareness of our commonality. Yet everyone has the ability to feel the preciousness of our interconnection. Everyone enjoys the benefit of unity. 

In many cultures children are raised to understand their position within a lineage and the importance of community. They’re taught to maintain the circle of life and are invited to play their significant role, whatever that may be.

How fortunate are those who have maintained their cultural relevance in a time when many are hell bent on assimilation. Spending time with indigenous people who recognize the sacredness of all life and who understand the concept of “all my relations” is a cherished gift. We can learn so very much as we unlearn separation.

What time is it on the clock of the world? It’s time to relinquish our self-importance. It’s time to return the garden.  

If you have the good fortune to find yourself in the company of those who are striving for the good of all, play your part.  Play it to the best of your ability. 

As long as we’re alive the game is afoot. And not all the plays have yet been made. There’s still time on the clock for human kindness to prevail.

Oyster Mushrooms

In a year when the late spring frost crushed the apple blossoms and willful and cunning raccoons killed two broods of chicks, an abundance of oyster mushrooms is a welcomed gift.

Oyster Mushrooms

There on the dead tree the golden yellow glow of mushrooms keeps calling and offering up delicious treats. As in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you might find… you get what you need.” 

Living on the land you learn to be accepting. A friend suggested it is stoic, but that word suggests indifference to pleasure or pain and that is not the pill I care to swallow. I never want to stop feeling the magnificent range of emotions granted us. But I do welcome the ability to surf the peace that lives beneath the tides of my emotions.

And then there are the golden oyster mushrooms. Succulent and almost sweet, they combine beautifully with nearly every meal. Like finding the first eggs of the season, or pulling up garlic or digging potatoes, there’s a familiarity and an excitement that can’t be denied. 

Liam getting ready to dry the mushrooms.

Those golden mushrooms signal a reminder that not all is lost, that among the dead and dying there is life and goodness. And when you ride the wave of acceptance and open your eyes so very much is given.

We live in a desperate time. We are ushered away from our inner solitude and are urged to chase illusive dreams of success. We’ve forgotten that being alive is the success. We’ve forgotten the earth is our garden of plenty. 

We have so much to remember…

Fortunately there are oyster mushrooms for those who have the eyes to see. 

Lauren loving the abundance…

Neglect is Abuse

On this Fourth of July I exercise my patriotic right to dissent. I cannot celebrate a nation so very willing to talk a good game and live another. We can and we must do better.

From this week’s “Consider This”:

From 1869 through the 1960’s thousands of Native children were forced from their families into residential schools for “cultural assimilation”. Many never made it home again.

As hundreds of unmarked graves continue to be located near former Canadian schools, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland launched a similar search of old boarding schools here in the United States. This project is set to complete in 2022, opening wounds and bringing closure to the inhuman practices of our government towards Native people.

And a friend asked me, “Do you think they were abused?” I responded, “Neglect is abuse.” 

We’re talking about children. We’re talking about ripping families apart. We’re talking about inadequate facilities and more importantly we’re talking about uprooting the sources of love and respect of their very existence.

And before you think, “How awful, how could that have happen?” Let’s go over a few more facts: More than 14,000 migrant children are now in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, some have been held in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, some have been relocated to emergency sites like Fort Bliss. Some have been held in these places for months. Thousands are held in Fort Bllss in tents, in the desert…children…

There are reasons people are fleeing their homes. A lot has to do with US foreign policy. And the link between violence and gun trafficking from our country can no longer be denied. 

So before you say, “How could this have happened?” think on this: It has happened on our watch. It is and has happened during the leadership of both parties for decades. 

We can stop this cycle of violence and inhumanity, but it will take all of us. We need a revolution of the heart. We need a revolution of understanding and kindness. 

It will begin with those who care. 

image compliments of wikimedia commons

Pride Never Ends

I remember my first sting of prejudice. It was innocent enough, a third grade conversation asking my best friend if she liked a certain boy. “Oh no”, she replied, “He’s Catholic and Italian”. Hmm, I’m Catholic and Italian. And so it began, the recognition that you are different. 

That was my introduction to human ignorance, not enough to rattle my self worth but enough to know that good people hold foolish beliefs. 

A few years later that momentary sting of exclusion became a lifetime of caution and hiding as I reckoned with my reality of not being heterosexual. 

I’m a survivor. And its true, what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger, but the current hatred of people who are different is no longer something I care to witness. Not simply for myself, but for the youth and for those yet to come who find themselves in an intolerant world full of prejudice and judgment. 

Not everyone can take the beatings this society handily dishes out and no one should. If your faith doesn’t permit you to be anything other than hetero, so be it. Enjoy your missionary pose, but leave the rest of us alone.

Carl Nassib is the first active NFL player to come out as being Gay. His eloquent statement was powerful and I agree with him, there should be no need for these announcements, but unless and until we are given due respect, Pride Month will never end for people like us.

It is time to out-Christian the Christians – or any other members of faith that hide their hatred behind the name of God. 

Like it or not evolution is afoot, and we will not be silenced and we’re not going away. 

Ripple the Status Quo

It’s easy to fixate on evil. A twenty-year-old white man drove his truck into a Muslim family, leaving only the nine-year-old son to survive. And the count of Native children’s bodies continues to rise, as boarding school graves are unearthed. The atrocities and the hatred of dominant culture on people who are different is a story that has been with humankind throughout history, but it is the strength of those who have been victimized that I choose to honor, not the ignorance of a few.

I choose to honor the thousands of diverse people who marched the 4.4 miles from where the family was struck down to a near-by mosque. “Hate has no home here” and “Love over hate” were the signs they carried. Compassion and unity rallied over intolerance.

And the “disappeared” are now being found and mourned as the ongoing trauma inflicted on Native people is no longer a hidden secret. 

The Senate and the House will make Juneteenth a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery. And the true story of the Tulsa massacre will now be taught as facts are brought to light.

But it’s the resilience and the strength of the people left behind that I look to for guidance. It’s their courage that inspires. It’s their unyielding defiance to remain human that I respect.

Their prayers and their efforts to overcome teach the real power of being human. 

Dominant cultures flourish by ascribing others as evil. They subjugate people and foster division. Any ripple to the status quo is to be feared and controlled. 

If we are to flourish we must overcome the dominance of fear. We must find the courage and clarity to let love prevail and ripple the status quo with our conviction to be human.

photo courtesy of wikimedia commons from a photo taken in Aukland following the Christchurch Mosque shooting attacks in March 2019

What Nature Demands

Our chickens free range and not in a confined space. It means you’re likely to see chickens anywhere on the property. And of course that means every day is an egg hunt. We try to locate the nests before skunks, ‘possums or raccoons do. 

We were lucky to locate two sitting hens and move them to safe quarters. Seventeen chicks were born and pranced behind their fearless mothers.  Later a third hen yielded another six chicks. 

All seemed well until a predator unlocked the coop and killed all but one chick. Certain it was a raccoon; we set a live trap and ensured the third hen and her chicks were secure in another coop.

Next morning the trap was full of one extra large raccoon. But his audacity knew no bounds as he had ripped a board from the smaller coop and killed the hen and five of her chicks.

These are the times that challenge my desire to be peaceful. I’ve caught wild animals before, but none had demonstrated the strength and cunning of this big guy. And now we had to drive him away and set him free. 

His ferocity was intimidating, but the task was to free him and the hope was that he preferred his freedom to retaliation.

All ended well as he ran from the cage and scurried off.

We returned to find the solitary survivor chirping away, eager to live and to tell us all about it. We found two more nests in safe locations, so the chickens will do as they are meant to do and procreation will continue.

We’ll set traps for those who also do what their nature demands of them. 

And I will work hard to be true to our nature of love and compassion.

The Greatest Lie

Two hundred and fifteen children’s bodies were unearthed at a former residential school for Indigenous youth. Forced assimilation was the hallmark of schools throughout North America. 

And we are finally acknowledging the 1921 massacre of Tulsa’s thriving Black community, as we continue to uncover the systematic racism that haunts us.  

These are not merely historical one-offs. The mindset that created them is alive and permeates all dominant cultures. It’s a sickness that forbids diversity and that is why trans people are among today’s targets. It’s a virus willing to stifle anything and anyone that may interrupt its control and that is why children from Palestine are routinely arrested, as are imprisoned Uighurs of China and on and on…

If we view these atrocities as separate issues, change seems hopeless. How can we possibly stop all inhuman acts? We lack the will and our excuses are endless. But if we look to the source of the sickness…we have a chance.

Our sensibilities give way to self-destruction. Our insistence on conformity and our inability to see ourselves in another allow ignorance to thrive. It’s not enough to “love the sinner and not the sin”, as my Christian friends are eager to say.  No, it is best to slay the dragon of judgment that we each carry. 

It’s not enough to cry for the two hundred and fifteen children and their families, rather we must stop perpetuating the greatest ignorance of humankind: that we are separate from the whole. It is the greatest lie.

One people. One planet. Every action carries consequence. Every silence is betrayal.

Print / photo compliments of wikimedia commons.

For more on the evolution of humankind, Listen to John Trudell.

Hold Onto Wonder

In years past I traveled the world. Humanity’s contrasts of life styles and beliefs are a marvel, but it was witnessing our similarities that touched me. At the end of the day, we all want and need the same things. Good food, clean water, fresh air, “a little elbow room”* to live as we please, and peace. Settling into farm life, I questioned if my travel discoveries had come to an end… but now it seems the world comes here.

This region is a magnet for people seeking to enjoy the natural world and a simpler way of life. There is migration afoot in this melting pot of milk and honey and I’m grateful for the kaleidoscope of diversity and the richness it brings.  

People often say, “It feels like home,” and I smile because the “home” to which they refer is not the terrain. It’s in the welcome, the beauty and the acceptance. “Home is where the heart is” most surely and when we live within our heart, we’re always at home.

They visit in one season or another and usually leave wanting to see them all. The stars are the same stars, the moon is the same moon, but living outside the neon jungle is a rare gift and those who have not lost the wonder of it appreciate the darkness. 

And in all of this coming and going and listening to each other’s stories, I learn why one has said she’s from Burma instead of Myanmar, and glean deeper understanding of Palestine from a young Muslim couple. 

For a brief time difference is irrelevant and human sweetness is victor once more.

Hold onto wonder. It opens the door to Love.

Hold Israel Accountable

What’s happening to Palestinians is a crime against humanity. Eleven days of Israeli bombs have, with full knowledge and disregard, wiped out entire families, schools, hospitals and communities. Still the government of Netanyahu refuses to let up. 

Make no mistake it is genocide.

Yes, Hamas chose to retaliate the Israeli police attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem. Much like Geronimo refused to go quietly into the hell of his oppressors. Much like Jewish men and women of the Warsaw Ghetto fought against the Nazis in 1943.  

No one should die. Either side. Innocents are caught in the cross fire. Dominant culture exacts its power aided by United States weaponry and yet another president unwilling to hold Israel accountable. 

But how surprised should we be? Zionist thinking fuels this “good Christian nation” and our history’s attempt to exterminate Native people was a playbook for Hitler’s holocaust

We could end this horrible tragedy with one strong united voice.

But we have not yet learned that it is a very few people pulling the strings of war. We haven’t learned that our collective voice for peace could prevail, but for that to happen the silent must speak.

Yes, the silent must speak, those who have grown weary of their allegiance to hatred even though it comes in the form of religion and government. 

Yes, the silent must speak, those who have not lost compassion and are brave and loving enough to say, “No more.”

It’s wise to remember that a people are not their government. Jewish people the world over – and in Israel – are standing for peace. 

Everyone knows the blockade of Gaza; the injustice and loss of life are inhuman. To remain quiet now is to sanction Israeli apartheid.

Let us act on our humanity. Speak up.

image compliments of wikimedia commons and Carlos Latuff