Hone Love

As winter solstice draws near, the shadows grow longer, the light burns brighter, and the air is crisp. It’s a contemplative time, a time to reflect on the past and to gather strength to prepare for the spring. If we have done our work through the seasons, we’re able to enjoy this time and celebrate with deep appreciation.

If this season catches us unprepared, we run the risk of missing its quiet beauty. Winter for all its harshness is a time to go within. It is also a time to share.

Everyday is worthy of celebration and giving thanks. Yet living close to the land awakens an appreciation of the return of light. It is something we share with our predecessors and with people throughout the world. We receive the longer days with this recognition: That even though the harshest times may still be before us, we will have the increased vision and strength to see it through.

There are many who will not be able to feel the subtle changes of the season. There are some who do not care. For whatever reason, we have handed the reigns of power to people who have forgotten they are of the earth. They cannot feel the magic or the majesty of living. They are content to destroy it all for material gain.

Yet the lovers of the earth will continue to love.

I am learning to not curse the cold, nor surrender to the darkness. There is something that softens my heart and feeds my soul. It’s simple and it’s absolute.

I am alive. In these complex and challenging times we are alive.

And there is so very much hope in that. Celebrate the light and hone the gift of love.

It is the only thing ignorance cannot destroy. Hone love and fight like hell.

Prayers That Never Falter

I recently learned of the passing of a great man.

In mid-2016, I was drawn to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock. I visited to see if I could help keep the oil pipeline from crossing the headwaters and the tribal lands.

When I returned in September, it was with the conviction to remain. I had no tribe and no affiliation and looked for an opportunity to make a formal request to stay.

Each day began with prayers around the fire.  From my bed in the car, I could hear his voice over the loud speaker as the light barely cracked the darkness. “Kiktapo! Get up. We have work to do. We must stop the black snake.” And there he would be welcoming all to the fire. People came from all corners of the world and all faiths and he welcomed them to offer their prayers.

And when I would attend the day’s orientation, he would be there again leading with prayer, holding the vision, teaching us about courage and strength through example.

He was the one I asked to stay in the camp. I made my offer to help and he welcomed me. And when I asked where to place my tent, he told me, “Here, next to my family.”

The next several weeks were life changing as weather, rubber bullets, water cannons and infiltrators cut into us.  But the prayers never faltered.

Guy Dullknife   was a cherished father, husband, artist, veteran and member of the American Indian Movement, but those are not my stories to tell.

For me, he was a link to my deepest wishes for humankind. That one-day we will rise, all people, with acceptance and respect, and take back the earth, which is our right. As the living, it is our right and our duty.

Thank you Guy, for prayers that never falter. We carry on.

Guy and Angie

Grateful to Love

A friend came by to help us ready for winter. He’s a young Amish gentleman and we have shared laughter and good wishes for a few years now. He mentioned he would be traveling to celebrate Thanksgiving and I asked, “What foods do you have for your meal?” “Turkey most often”, he replied. And I thought about it a bit and asked, “Do you tell stories of Pilgrims and Indians?” “No”, he said. “Me either”, I said, and then added, “I must be a bit Amish”…and we laughed.

We had many sweet conversations that day as we puttered about moving wood and fencing, and getting the barn ready for the sheep to winter. He was brave enough to have his first taste of curry as we sat to eat our lunch, and liked it enough for seconds. He spoke about his new bride and how happy he is in his new life. I could feel his joy. It was infectious. I read to him a note of thanks that I had received and he smiled.

We talked about how good it would be if all people could respect each other in their differences and delight in their similarities. And once again I marveled at the ease of speaking to another human being who cherishes life first and foremost.

As the day wore on I felt our kinship grow and was grateful for the brief times we share. While driving home he made note of, and thanked me for, slowing down as I came upon a horse and buggy. “Too many people don’t take the time to slow down”, he said. “I know”, I said. “We too often forget there is precious life there.”

The silences in our conversations are laden with communication.

And he is one of the many people I am very grateful to love.

 

Best wishes in this season of wonder and gratitude.

Love Conquers

It’s time to change the narrative. You know, the stories of our lives; the beliefs that were handed to us and go unchallenged. The fabrications of falsehoods devised to divide.

There are some real perks to rural living. One is the solitude that comes from the physical distance of other people – the good, the bad and the ugly. The downside to rural living is our ability to avoid anyone or anything that challenges the comfort zone of beliefs we commonly share. This isolation into sameness often drives me to discover a different glimpse of humanity.

Our Winding River library system carries a wide variety of important films. I was grateful to borrow the 2018 film “The Hate U Give”. This American drama is based on a novel by Angie Thomas and directed by George Tillman, Jr.

In the movie we are given the opportunity to witness a black teen exist between two worlds: a white suburban high school she attends and her home in a predominantly black and poor neighborhood.

It would be very easy to reduce this clash of two worlds to sound bites, but the written artistry, superb directing and passionate acting present viewers with complex themes in a human touch.

Tupac Shakur and his message of “Thug Life” play a central theme in the movie. We’re invited to explore Tupac’s explanation of the meaning of “thug” in these, his edited words, “The Hate U Give Little Infants, “Effs” Everybody.”

This is a movie that explores hate but is triumphant in love.  And that is profound in a world insistent on division.

My advice? Rent the movie. Take time with it and make sure to engage the extras on the menu. Look at life from another’s point of view. Take time to see how hate destroys, but love conquers, and then, let’s change the narrative.

 

 

photo from Wikipedia

Choose Clarity

What’s the dirtiest part of the human body? I know what you are thinking, but traditional people will tell you the dirtiest part of the body is the head. That’s due to uncontrolled thinking that can lead to depression and despair, anger and hate. To some, the washing of the hair and the head when done with intention and care, is a sacred and loving act.  It’s designed to help a person rid unwanted and nagging thoughts. Intention and love are indeed powerful weapons in ridding darkness.

The Chinese also have this saying or so I have been told, “You can not keep the birds from flying around your head, but you can keep them from nesting there.” This appears to be another way of combating nasty thoughts. It implies two very important concepts: One is that you cannot stop the thoughts from coming to you and two is that while you cannot stop them, you still can choose what will alight upon you.

Fear based thinking is loaded with dark thoughts. And our culture is currently loaded with fear-based thinking. Not surprisingly our darkest thoughts generally cast aspersions on others while allowing our own nasty inclinations to go unabated.

Let’s face it we’re all plagued with this “devil” within.

But what if we take some tips from old wisdom? What if we choose to ignore the rumblings of our lessor selves and seek clarity instead of confusion? What if love and good intention can keep the birds of prey from nesting on our heads?

Bad habits can be reversed.

I heard an old friend and teacher, Prem Rawat, sum it up this way, “Our thoughts are a gift to us… but what we choose to think about is a gift we give ourselves.”

Open the gift of clarity. It is closer than we think.

 

Big Thanks to WDRT for airing these 2 minute commentaries, “Consider This”, every Thursday, 5:30pm CST. Community Radio. Support it.

 

Love of Place

Every apple seed can produce an entirely unique tree. Every tree has a story to tell and there is so much to learn. I have the pleasure of living in an heirloom apple orchard. It delights the senses throughout the seasons, it informs and it nourishes; its beauty has captured my heart…All of this has caused me to ponder the significance of love of place.

We cannot all stay in the place of our birth. My maternal grandmother left a beautiful seaside town on the west coast of Italy to come to the United States. And while I am sure she missed the sea, the foods and flora of her home, she taught me through her actions the importance of love of place. Well into her 70’s she tirelessly cared for her garden, her chickens and her bread with a gratitude to the land that allowed it all to be.

The people of the Bahamas are now beginning the struggle to rebuild after the destruction of Dorian. The people of the Amazon who have been displaced by intentionally set fires are forced to uproot. Throughout the world migrants traveling by sea and by foot are being forced to leave their homes. It is through my own love of place that I can possibly understand their grief and their uncertainty.

Love of place. For those of us who live by the fruit of the earth we are inexplicably bound to her. Love of place is essential to our well being and it is hard to comprehend living without it.

Many of us have lost this relationship to land and I suggest to you that it may well be the cause of much of the disharmony and disrespect that we witness today.

Science now tells us that we need more time in Nature. This is something that our hearts have always known.

 

 

The Heart Breaks Free

“What will they say when they realize there is no hell?” These were the words a reverend told me, when I asked him to help someone who was dying and who feared the wrath of hell. I had told him, “Your church put the fear there and now your church needs to take it away”. His response told me that he was the person to help her, but it also carried the irksome reminder of the folly of faith.

Faith born of knowing does not require a middleman – or woman. Knowing is sufficient unto itself. So this threat of hell or the promise of heaven has not held much sway with me, once I set my sites on the need to know and not simply believe.

I have been having chats with people who consider themselves to be “religious”. It has been revealing. In the quiet one-to- one of conversation they express doubts and concerns about their chosen faiths. They will even express doubts that only “true believers” will make it to the pearly gates. And that is common sense.  Knowing someone and witnessing their kindness and enjoying their friendship, makes it hard to condemn them to an afterlife that may or may not exist.

The kindness we offer and the gratitude we feel are the wind in the sails of our hearts.

And hearts are designed to be free.

This past week Wisconsin lost a warrior of peace. He was not famous except to those who passed him on the street with his anti-war signs and his “veterans for peace” vest. Those of us, who put peace before war, loved him; for Lars lived what he knew, and he walked his talk.

Death is a great teacher and reminds us of this: We have this moment called now. Make the most of it.

 

 

The peace photo came from Lars facebook page as did the quote below. To know and not simply believe is the challenge.

“Sometimes war may become the only resort available, but never try to justify it, by saying that it’s the right thing to do, because war is never the right thing to do, no matter how right you feel. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die – you don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn – how many hearts will be broken – how many lives shattered – how much blood will spill until everybody does what they are always gonna have to do from the very beginning – sit down, talk and try to understand each other beyond the petty little differences born from instinctual tribalism.” 
― Abhijit Naskar, Fabric of Humanity