Nothing Less Will Do

Native peoples and environmentalists celebrated this week as a judge ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline should be shut down pending a full impact review. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been cancelled and the Keystone XL Pipeline was stalled again in court. In addition, public pressure on a Washington, DC football team is forcing them to remove their racist name. Finally.

“Take your knee from my neck” is the silent and not so silent sentiment among people no longer willing to suffer senseless inhumanity.

While monuments of bronze and granite are being toppled, it is the ideals of colonialism and capitalism that are being unraveled. We are learning the torturous costs of building empire and the dismantling of it is long overdue.

Goliath does not go down without a fight, but the battle will not be won on his terms. The battle is won by conviction and the knowledge that there are better ways to coexist.

We do not have to fear this transformation. We have explored the brutal side of humanity; now let us lead with kindness and respect.

In these uncertain times, the certainty is this: to the people who have fought tirelessly for water and the earth; for those who honor their ancestry with a will to do more than endure; and for the ones who recognize that humanity is far greater than we have ever allowed it to be – this is our time.

Mainstream politics may not reflect it. Some religion may fight to conceal it, but this resurgence will not be stopped.

The strength and the resiliancy of our communities will be reflected by how we care for one another, how we listen to one another and how we honor one another. Nothing less will do.

 

Photo taken at Oceti Sakowin camp. My time in the camp continues to inspire and direct my course. Water is Life.

Humanity Rising

Apparently evolution is a slow process. A few hundred years ago, some people decided to break free of King George, and declared: all men are created equal. This was a great ideal for a new beginning. But then they were slammed by their own ignorance of how to treat “others”. We may have left the king behind, but we carried the imperial desires of conquest and greed into this new land.

Later, we helped defeat the Nazis, but we ignore the fact that they took a page from the United States’ playbook on how to systematically eradicate people. Our history taught the Nazis. Think on that.

Caught in the lies and the shame of it all, we have allowed ‘ole time religion and crooked politics to morph into the travesty we now call leadership.

But there is this positive note: many of the descendants of the people who were brutalized by the Doctrine of Discovery and of those who were enslaved to build this country, have never given up. We should be grateful for their strength and for their effort. We should stop hiding our shame behind militarized police and stop supporting the corporate kings, who now rule the land.

We should be grateful: for the constant reminders of what it means to love the land; grateful for the resilience of those who choose to triumph with love instead of fear; and grateful for the opportunity to make it right this time.

It is a beautiful land and it needs to be preserved. And yes, we are all created equal and with the unalienable right to Happiness. In spite of all the violence and the struggle for justice, there are those who still remember we are one race.

For that I am grateful.

Dear Graduate

Dear Graduate,

You are alive. You live in a most exciting time. You live at a crossroads in humanity and choices are very clear. You can continue to plug away at the dying systems you see floundering around you or you can reimagine and recreate something new and better for yourself and those who come after you.

To do this you must take stock of your strengths and your passions. You are alive. You hold within you great seeds of possibility that are yours and yours alone. There has never been another you. Cherish that. Honor the seed of your becoming and let it grow. Nourish it with kindness and respect. Allow wonder and remain a student of Life, regardless of what comes.

Give of yourself. Volunteer. Plant a tree. Tend a garden.  There is so much awaiting your loving touch.

And allow your cup to be filled. Accept kindness. It comes from strength not weakness.  Hone your gifts of humility, hope and courage. They will remain your steadfast friends throughout your life.

Do not curse your time, nor accept curses of others. You have potentials that have yet to be tapped waiting for you. Carry on.

And to those who fear for them: your fears are your own to unwind and discard. Do not pass the baton of fear. Systems crumble but from their ashes the phoenix rise. Do not doubt that something better can emerge from this unsettling time. It is never too late to reconcile errors of the past and make way for a better tomorrow. Forgive yourself for doing what you were told instead of discovering what was meant for you. In the time that remains you, find peace.

Respect

If you support the words and actions of this president, this piece is not for you.

If you want people to obey unjust laws, this is not for you.

If you believe that destruction of property holds the same value as systemic injustice towards of people of color, this is not for you.

If you are pushing for a civil war, this is clearly not for you.

If you are hoping the election will save us, it’s not for you either.

If you think change isn’t possible; I encourage you to think again.

This is for the Ones who recognize we are one People, one Race.  It’s for the Ones who won’t allow systems to control our human narrative.

It’s for the Ones who despite the entire struggle, can still make hope take action, and can still choose kindness over fear.

This is for the Ones who are picking up the pieces in shattered neighborhoods and who are feeding and clothing their communities. It’s for the Ones who are growing food and providing shelter, knowing that winter’s on the way. It’s for those who are stepping up to have the hard conversations. And for those who are not standing down in the face of militarized force.

The rhetoric of violence has been dominant too long. It’s time to let the healing begin. Yes, in the midst of absolute chaos, let the healing in.

Find your strengths, find your allies and fight like hell. Not with violence, but with the resolution of those who know it is our time.

Don’t tolerate ignorance. Save your energy and your passion for those you love and for creating something new. The old will wither and die. Let it die.

Stand firm in our common humanity; it is worthy of respect. And so are you.

It’s Good to Cry

 

Sometimes these days I am overwhelmed by a news story, a radio sound bite or a friend’s hardship and the tears begin to rain. Thinking about this need to cry, I am reminded of an old friend who once watched me tear up. In shame I tried to cover it and she said to me, “Don’t hide those tears. They’re precious. Not everyone can cry. I wish I could.”

Or the time my Navajo mentor explained to me that sometimes “hearts have something hard inside” and we have to allow the hard place to become soft again.

So now as I learn of impending famines, countries overwhelmed, the horrific death caused by the virus, or the need of relief for our health care workers, the tears come. I don’t try to hide them. I don’t try to stop them. They are part of my heart softening. They’re part of my prayer. A prayer without words; a prayer that beckons for all that is good and right to prevail.

There is a part of us that wants to cut to the chase. It wants the political posturing to take a back seat. It wants the allure of acquiring capital to not come at the expense of the living. It wants to stop hearing, “when we get back to normal”. And it is grateful when someone acknowledges that we can create the world we know is possible, not simply default to old and decaying ways.

We have before us a great challenge and it is not in discovering a vaccine. It is to allow our humanity to replace our greed. It is to demand more from one another so the Earth can continue to heal and feed her children.

Our tears are the forebears of action that will make it right once more.

 

photo by Noho

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Resetting Priorities

I don’t believe in the devil, but if I did I am sure he would have been the one who planted the seed “divide and conquer”. And we have fallen for it for far too long. You would think with the new reality before us, wisdom might prevail and people would resume living with kindness leading the way. You might think with this pause and forced contemplation we could come up with something far better than fear baiting. You would think with all the good news that the earth is healing in wonderful ways, we would unite and make promises to never let it go back again. You would think.

And in many cases you would be right.

This is our reality: We are getting the chance to reset our priorities. Perhaps this time we will get it right. People and the environment before profit; kindness before capital; humanity over ignorance, these should be our rallying cries.

We are learning the difference between want and need and while it is scaring the crap out of corporate capitalists, many find it liberating. Mutual aid groups are forming helping those in need, picking up the slack of a government in disarray.

The demand to release ICE detainees and elderly prisoners is on the rise along with our growing compassion. And while it may come a bit late for some, may we act to ensure that lives were not lost in vain.

We also have a bit more time to think about inhumane policies like sanctions on countries during this pandemic. Our reach of kindness cannot be limited to our country, we must rise to the reality that we are one people, one planet.

Our sickness came long before this pandemic. Fear and hatred have divided us. Let us reset our priorities. Let kindness win.

 

Window of Opportunity

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.

Right on Time

 

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

Revolution of Understanding

I have had the good fortune to visit Australia a few times. I deeply appreciated the beauty, the wildlife, the kindness of the people and the bits of aboriginal wisdom that I gleaned. The fires consuming much of that continent are leaving behind horrific loss. The efforts to save the animals are heroic and inspiring, but the sorrow is palpable.

Last year’s fires in the Amazon were attributed to agribusiness and the unwillingness of people to consider the consequences of such catastrophic change. Indigenous leaders are assassinated routinely as they desperately inform us of the folly of over consumption.

The media rarely tells their story.

Or are we simply too busy maintaining unsustainable lifestyles to care?

The unprecedented flooding of Jakarta is mostly ignored, as has been Puerto Rico’s never ending quakes. Compassion, once a revered trait, now takes a second seat to costs and profits. But, no worries, we have unlimited finances when war and oil are the concerns.

In the debate over climate change we have lost a lot of time. Corporate advertising and political lobbyists have successfully lulled too many into a stupor. The President and Congress are eliminating laws that protect our water, air and public lands – and giving corporate greed even more incentive to destroy the earth.

What will it take to turn it around?

A while back I heard the phase “revolution of understanding”,* and I have concluded that yes, if we are to find a way through this nightmare, it will take tremendous understanding. It will take the understanding that we are one people and one planet.  It will require vision and courage to make the choices that could have been made long ago.

Most importantly it will demand our love; the fiery kind of powerful love that refuses anything less. We can do this.

 

  • “Revolution of understanding” is a phrase I heard from Prem Rawat, a human being whose conviction towards living helps others to walk their own walk. And I for one am grateful.

 

Resolve This

We make resolutions because we want things to be better. That is our nature. It’s our nature to be hopeful and when our hopes are dashed we suffer. Suffering is not part of our nature. It may appear that we are good at it, but in truth we run from it in every way we can. And we should.

Our culture has made a mockery of our nature. Whole industries are based on the fact that we want things to be better: better bodies, better minds, homes, and all. We are expected each year to declare personal resolutions. Books are written, tips are given and counselors are waiting at the ready when we fail.

When we are unclear about our nature we can be exploited. It doesn’t take much to see that exploitation is on an all time high. Our air, our water, and our relationships to one another are being trounced.

But I would suggest to you that this is happening because we are allowing it. And it is happening because we have forgotten our true nature.

We have grown comfortable with things that should not be comfortable. We have accepted leaders who are more content with war than peace; with food that is no longer nourishing us, but in fact makes us sick. We are comfortable with arbitrary divisions that are used to create arbitrary borders and arbitrary laws that destroy our humanity.

In forgetting who we are we have given our power away.

So if you are still searching for a resolution, why not resolve to know your truest nature, not the one the culture has determined for you. Our greatest gifts are in our absolute uniqueness and in our undeniable similarities. Our greatest longing is for peace. Not simply on the outside, but within.

And surely what lies within can be echoed out.