The sweetest birdsongs greeted my morning walk and the sky was the blue that I remembered from my childhood. There is less traffic on the road and fewer animals killed. The nettles are coming up enough to garnish our lunchtime quiche. For all the concern of the virus that is plaguing us, which is real, there is gentleness in this moment that is worthy of our attention.
Each day on the farm, we try to tackle a project that had previously escaped us. Today we began to fill a wound in the earth. It is erosion caused by our mules that we had too long ignored. But now we have the time and nature has supplied the means so we grabbed the window of opportunity to do a little mending.
Tasks often loom large and formidable until you actually begin them. Downed branches and dried grasses are abundant and create the perfect fill. We could also see another breach where the mules tend to walk and so we were able to mitigate that problem before it began.
And I cannot help but compare these everyday experiences to the predicament before us.
If we only listen to the pundits and the debates surrounding this crisis we may miss a very real opportunity. This is our chance to learn. It is our time to build our strengths. Our time to review what we have allowed and what could have been done differently. This may be the window of opportunity that we have long awaited.
Taking stock of our lives and everything our lives touch, making amends and mitigating mistakes before we fall prey to them again; this is the possibility before us.
We are being asked to be conscious, for ourselves and for each other.
What an amazing gift! Let us open it.
Boredom is something I whole-heartedly avoid. Luckily life keeps welcoming my attention and is willing to teach. These days the sand hill cranes are echoing through the valley as they prepare their nests and stake out their terrain. And the young trees that we planted years ago have survived the deer and our neglect as we tend to them with manure and straw and new fencing.
There are even a few stubborn chestnuts and hickory saplings still standing strong. They were planted with the knowledge that we may never see their fruit, as it may be as long as forty years before the nuts are harvested. Yet with care and love, they will certainly grace some future passer-by with a tasty bite. And that is good enough.
My mother would often use the western Pennsylvania saying, “Give it a lick and a promise.” It meant when you start something, give it your best and if you cannot complete the task make your promise to return. Well this moment of “stay in place” is revealing a lot of unfulfilled promises that need my attention. And I am grateful to be able to oblige.
Today we unearthed the tiny strawberry plants and covered them for protection. We removed bits of wood that will stand in the way of enlarging our garden and all the while kept feeding the mule tuffs of last year’s grass to make him happy.
Plants and animals are thriving. We all flourish with a little bit of love and care. This tending to life is amazingly rewarding and yields the greatest gains.
Self –care has taken on a whole new meaning. Taking time to find courage and strength to persevere and to feel love and compassion is imperative.
This moment of hardship and struggle offers possibilities that we have not yet dreamed. We cannot know what the future holds for our families, our communities or our world, but we can tend to life. Therein lies richness.
Our biggest fears are now up close and personal. The invisible enemy walks among us. We will pass through this pandemic in many different ways. Health care workers will carry on with compassion and conviction, in many cases without the help of proper gear or proper testing. Teachers will find a way to teach. Students will find a way to learn. We will all find ways to feed our children.
Vindication has come to those who have pleaded with capitalism to be more humane as many move closer to economic ruin. Medicare for all, a living wage, rehabilitation not incarceration, and ending the barbaric treatment of refugees are all ideals that are finding a way to our lips.
And while polls still show a country divided along political lines, how long can we as a people survive in the wake of so much uncertainty and unrest?
The emperor has no clothes. And the king’s men are unwilling to tell him. Both sides.
What is left? We must find ways to care for each other and ourselves as if our lives depend upon it; because in fact, they do. We must reinvigorate our communities in whatever ways we can.
How we engage today will determine tomorrow’s course. Some will arrogantly dismiss the warning for social distancing and will bring harm to many. Some will succumb to paralyzing fear and require comforting. Those who do fall ill will give us the opportunity to be brave, empathetic, and human. And the ones who will not make it through will remind us of the precious and fleeting moment that life holds.
This is going to take every one of us and all that we have to give. It is going to take our courage, our stamina and our love.
Our better angels are being summoned. Do not stand in their way.
The International Women’s Day has come and gone. Symbolic commemorations were held. Some aligned with patriarchy and capitalism, while others took to social media with memes of respect and women’s victories worldwide.
It all seemed curious at this particular moment in time. With much of the media warning us of socialism, it is forgotten that the first International Women’s Day was born on the heels of a socialist workers uprising. It was an eleven-week strike led by 20,000 women during the brutal winter of 1909. Young strikers, many of whom were immigrants, faced opposition from manufacturers, police and the courts. Their struggle continued for five years, inspired movements around the world and gave birth to the day we honor, March 8, 1910.
Today, women cry “misogyny” over Elizabeth Warren’s presidential withdrawal yet remain unaware that Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race. They act oblivious to the Democratic National Committee’s exclusion of Tulsi. It is even more telling that women of color, who are taking the lead to educate and rally people towards justice and inclusion, are ignored or chastised for their strength. And yes I am thinking of Nina Turner, AOC, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib to name a few.
And in the patriarchal and whitewashed commemorations of women’s day, how many remembered or taught about the murdered and missing indigenous women or highlighted the efforts of those trying to end human trafficking?
How many acknowledged or are aware of the efforts of Mexican women trying to end the rise of femicide in their country? Or recognized the 80,000 who marched in MexicoCity on that day?
Perhaps it is time we leave the ivory towers of patriarchy and the comforts of capitalism to be more inclusive, to be more human, and to be more effective.
Roll up your sleeves, there is work to do.
photo of some of the women who participated in the 1909 shirtwaist strike, compliments of wikipedia
Here come the first hints of spring right on time. I heard a robin sing yesterday and today the call of the sand hill crane caught my attention. The snow is melting and the mud and the ice are treacherous if you take a wrong step, but the brilliant sun makes the cold wind cower and you know it is only a matter of time before you will walk barefoot again.
And there is hope, right on time.
The news in any given day is bleak and I am inclined to believe it is intentionally so. It is easier to control a population when it is kept on edge. It is easier to drive an agenda if you do not give people a chance to find their own way. But at the end of the day, it will always be our choice to fall for fear mongering and hate baiting or to strive to create sustainable peace.
Winter in the Driftless is not for those afraid of a good challenge. But it is the beauty of the season and the brilliance of the night skies that soothes the soul and holds the promise of spring.
I couldn’t live in a hopeless world. And the return of the sand hill crane reminds me of that. I muse over the latest news on the coronavirus, or the hatred that has reared its head against Muslims in Delhi. Yet I rejoice to hear the Korean woman tell how she survived the disease and how the Hindu man saved many Muslim neighbors making trips by motorcycle.
You see, spring returns. And with it hope. Not blind hope, but hope born of reason, conviction and action laced with integrity. We are born for this. We are born to be victors over fear, hatred and ignorance, because we are born for love.
sandhill crane in flight courtesy of wikipedia commons
As the news that the coronavirus has reached Italy, and the numbers of infected people in South Korea rise, the world shrinks in fear and the stock market trembles.
The stock market trembles.
I stopped respecting the stock market years ago when a serious broker at Chicago’s Board of Trade told me he was happy when milk farmers struggled because he made money. I have further distanced myself from the market as I learned that the largest industry in the United States is the making and selling of weaponry. It is our largest industry.
Millions of innocent people in the Middle East are caught in the cross fires of United States weaponry. Homeless, hungry, hospitals bombed and borders closed there is a desperation that we seldom hear about. Their inhuman plight does not send a ripple through the market like our fear of a virus that may or may not be coming to get us.
And there in lies the curse of capitalism.
As long as making money is number one, we allow ourselves to not see. As long as our portfolios climb, there is little incentive to ask our handlers, “Where is the money coming from?”
President Trump recently visited India. Prior to his coming a huge wall was erected so that he would not have to see a slum on his drive to Ahmedabad. Trump has told us that the sight of homelessness is a stain on the beauty of a city – a stain on the city but no mention of the stain on our conscience as we allow people to live in squalor.
And that my friend is the curse of capitalism. Capitalism without conscience is a disease we can no longer afford.
Fear abounds these days. Socialism is coming to get you. But what the pundits warn as socialism is simply common sense.
photo courtesy of wikipedia commons: banknotes
There can be little doubt that we are in an evolutionary change. The choice between taking the green path or continuing the scorched earth path has never been more obvious. The systems we have employed to make life better have failed as poverty, homelessness and addictions rise. Extraction of resources, human or other, have been given a green light. Yet amid this chaos there is a growing conviction to choose another way.
Twenty young people of the Sunrise Movement were arrested this week as they protested at the Capital. “Step up or step aside” was their request to Senators who have not yet signed the Green New Deal. And the rail system in Canada has been shut down as indigenous people act to save their land and way of life. The inconvenience of truth telling reverberates wherever usury and greed meet up with those incapable of living lives of self-destruction and harm to the earth.
There is a massive movement towards sustainable living that is emerging. It may be political and take aim at the powerful, or it can be found in the upsurge of community activism, cooperative living and the efforts towards food sovereignty. Reduced consumption; local energy production; the refusal to use plastic and to drive cars are all fueling new ways of thinking and new ways of being.
Young and old are finding one another as they “make a way out of no way”*. Whether due to governmental calamities, or because the natural world is no longer playing nice, the good news is there is a wave of “can do” that is sweeping through us. From refugees in encampments learning to grow food in place to colleges and universities divesting from oil, we are all being invited to this revival.
The earth can heal and so can we. The time is now.
*”Make a way out of no way” has been attributed to James Boggs.
photo from wikipedia commons: Banner for a Green New Deal. Chicago Sunrise Movement rallies for a Green New Deal, in Chicago (Illinois), 27 February 2019.