Discarding Straitjackets

My wife and I binged watched Heartstopper, a British coming of age romantic comedy. I was touched by the openness of the teens regarding their gender questioning, but startled by the hatred and fear that remains towards those not status quo.

In the fifty years that have passed since my own teen-age questioning things have changed. Youth who refuse the straitjacket of heterosexuality can more easily find support. Gender fluidity and non-binary concepts have replaced the need to take on stereotypical labels. Organizations like PFLAG have helped lessen the sting of abuse. Yet abuse remains

The morality police have made it their business to beg local school boards to prohibit any displays of gender questioning. How absolutely foolish this is on so many levels. 

I understand learning that gender is not binary and that gender fluidity has always existed in the human race must be hard for some who’ve been raised with blinders on. But to insist that your ignorance be law is a bit much. We are crawling out of the hole dug by puritanical thinking, and I’m sorry for your discomfort. But march on we will.

Perhaps your discomfort will be lessened if you learned about different cultures and their acceptance of the reality that gender is a spectrum. It would be kind of you to drop your shock and fear long enough to understand the pain caused by bigotry. 

Bigotry: noun

  1. obstinate or unreasonable attachment to a belief, opinion, or faction; in particular, prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.

I can assure you from my own personal experiences, that your momentary discomfort over things that are not your business are nothing compared to the struggle and pain of being gender fluid in this culture. And the statistics on suicide and suicide attempts by gender questioning youth confirm this.

And to youth daring to be: Don’t be robbed by ignorance. Dance on.

There is Enough

It took a huge effort to get the family of groundhogs eating and sleeping in our garden to leave, but we did it. And then of course we discovered the deer have been eating our corn. It’s always smart to plant enough for everyone I reckon. 

The days will be shortening and the winter’s wood supply is coming in bit by bit. I always feel a touch of relief at the Solstice, knowing that the reduction of light will shorten workdays as well. 

The apple harvest looks to be promising this year and I marvel at how human beings survived this dance on the Earth. I guess our ancestors did, as we must now do, be thoughtful, be creative, be frugal and above all be grateful.

Being thoughtful implies deliberate and careful consideration of the land, what it offers and how best to care for it. Being creative happens with the realization that we’re inextricably bound to the Earth in a realm of endless possibilities. 

If that’s confusing to you, stop by and watch the wizardry of my wife (welcome to Pride Month) as she gathers from the gardens and the wilds to create delicious life sustaining foods. And while some of that comes from being frugal, at its core it is an act of love and gratitude. It’s in recognition that the Earth can and does provide all that we need if we can take the time to remember what some have always known: There is enough. 

Another lovely awakening of this time is Juneteenth. Celebrating the beauty and the strength of those who survived the inhumanity of slavery are steps towards all of our healing. We have much to overcome, but we are one people finding our way on this precious Earth. Let’s get to it!

The Will of Life

I found a pile of feathers and straw in the barn. It was a barn swallow nest that had fallen from the rafter. When I moved the fluffy haven three fledgling birds were struggling underneath. Instincts kicked in to save them and I found a basket to hold them in hopes that their mother would hear their cries.  A closer look on the ground showed another seemingly lifeless sibling. I decided to hold it; in case it was not dead and in hopes that the warmth from my hand would ignite its will to live. Within moments it was squirming and I delighted in the will of Life to live. 

This on the morning I learned of the massacre of nineteen children and two adults at the hand of an eighteen year old. And I wondered what experiences had ripped compassion out of that eighteen year old heart? What twisted mindset had found a home in this unfortunate that had him ignore the will of Life?

Gratitude kicked in for all that has been given and for the choices I have made. I have learned to choose compassion over inhumanity, and I have allowed myself to hold kindness over hopelessness. It appears that many are struggling in an abyss of darkness, letting the will of Life pass them by. We have all participated in this growth of despair. It is a choice to belong to the voices that champion our goodness over our evil. And to still believe there is a way out.

We are born with a will to live, to thrive and to flourish. Circumstances will come and go, but the key remains. The will to love life is ours to protect, to learn from and to share. 

We cannot let fear destroy it.

  • The photo is not a barn swallow, but another fledgling that found its will to live.

Love’s Need

Sometimes you hear a song and its full value and timeliness hits home. That happened as I listened to Stevie Wonder singing, “Love’s in Need of Love Today”.

What kind of empathy drives those words? What kind of passion? What arises in us as we contemplate his question, “Did you ever think that love would be in need of love?”

We’re all capable of the compassion expressed in those words and the hope…but we have to wonder what makes a person raise their voice for the only cure that humankind requires, while another will do all that they can to fuel hate?

What is it? What makes a person bitter and cynical and another resolute for change? 

I am of the firm belief that it is not a question of experience, nor is it the coincidence of birth, nor the spin of the wheel of fortune. I believe that for those who can Love, even in life’s hardest moments, it is a choice. 

Hatred and confusion are human defaults. They are throwbacks we cling to when we have not yet learned of our capacity to Love. In the song there is a plea for everyone to give Love, because it is possible, and because it is needed.

People, who have cultivated seeds of empathy, and compassion, can give love. They have turned their backs on fear. And when the purveyors of love pray, sing and dance they open a door for all hearts to enter. When the purveyors of love plant and tend their gardens it is in full knowing that the earth can feed all of us. That the sun shines for all of us. That Love awaits all of us.

Here’s hoping the passionate voices of Lovers continue to call us home and that we open to it.

And for a special treat here is Billy Porter and Michaela Jae singing Stevie Wonder’s, “Love’s in Need of Love Today”

“To Know the Pain of Too Much Tenderness”*

They say when a sheep goes down they are usually gone in a couple of days. That has not been my experience. My ewes are over ten years old now and I am letting them live out their lives on the farm. I have found that sheep, as with many ruminant animals, enjoy the company of their offspring and stay close together throughout their lives, if given the chance.

So it has been with Madonna and her lamb, MissTery who was born on the hillside one sunny spring day twelve years ago. The two were inseparable. So when Madonna, so named because of her singing voice, went down early in the winter, we made an area exclusively for them. 

Through the bitter cold, they shared the space and hay and corn. Both ate ravenously. And while I knew Madonna’s legs would never hold her upright again, I made a promise to care for her to the end. Warm water with a bit of molasses was a special treat on frigid days. It took two of us to move her to cleaner hay and then as she grew lighter, only one. 

Apparently she was waiting for spring to take her leave, confident that her offspring could carry on without her. I marveled at the wonder of being able to witness their closeness to one another. And I was grateful for my own compassion that grew as the days wore on. Tenderness and kindness are incredible human gifts and like all living things they grow stronger with use and care.

We always have a choice. What we will do in times of hardship. What we will do for others in need. We are being driven to be kind and to help one another, if we so choose. Choose love.

*The title of this piece comes from a line in Kahlil Gibran’s “On Love” from The Prophet

The Irony of Evil

Of all that I am and of all that I ever will be I am forever grateful to be a human being first and foremost. Living in a time strife with division, brutality and war, it may seem frivolous to call upon that which we all share in common – our humanity. But I have found no other way to navigate these times. 

There are people obsessed with evil. They see it lurking everywhere and in their paranoia, they go to great lengths to protect themselves from it. Gun culture, military might, and quest for power are not signs of strength, they are signs of weakness. 

The irony of evil is that we seldom see the seeds of it within our self. We’re always sure of its existence outside of us. All those people selling security systems love us for this.

And in this quest to be impervious to harm, we shield away our compassion. In this urgent need to be top dog we miss the tenderness of our humanity. We reject empathy and our hearts harden with uncertainty. In this bowing to fear, we give away the only power that can in fact help us – and that is love.

It is the love of country and countrymen that will let Ukraine survive and thrive again, not fear or hatred. It is the love of peace that will call upon the Wisdom of Solomon to find a way out of this insanity. 

For all that I have seen and all that I know, I will never give up on us. For as mighty is the seed of evil, the seed of love is as powerful, it simply needs our willingness to try and our conviction to overcome.

We have deferred to ignorance for too long.  Let’s give Peace a chance.

Contemplation

Tis the season of giving and the season of gratitude, light gives way to dusk, dusk to darkness and if we are not trying to escape, it’s a perfect time for contemplation.  Contemplation is not worry. It is a pause from the ordinary to reclaim the extraordinary. It’s a gift we give to ourselves in answer to a call that comes from deep within. And if we are fortunate contemplation is more feeling than words.

There is a silence within us that welcomes us home. 

Gratitude wells up there. It arises when we take full stock of all the Good that has come to us and through us. And it arises for no reason at all.

Often the whirlwind of circumstance carries us away but then sometimes by chance and sometimes by purpose we are reminded.

Life is a gift.

It is worthy of our recognition, worthy of our gratitude and worthy of our attention.

We offer up days to celebrate and give thanks. We invite loved ones and strangers into these moments and we hold these times as special and sacred. I have always had a hard time with that – the designation of a day or an hour for celebrating life. 

It has always seemed to me that everyday should hold that celebration, that accountability towards all we dearly love. 

What a difference could be made in this too often cruel world, if more of us would take the time…extend this time of thanks  – even just a bit more.

Be well friends. Seek Gratitude. Share Love and take time for Contemplation

Your Fighting Spirit

Never give up your fighting spirit and learn from others who refuse to conform. 

I had an older cousin who spent the last four decades of her life in a wheel chair. In her early twenties she was paralyzed from muscular dystrophy and could barely move her hands or her head. The first time I learned of her, it was because I heard her voice singing in church. It was a strong and clear voice. It embodied love. When I realized the powerful voice I heard had come from her seemingly broken body, I was amazed. 

She then became my Sunday school teacher. She was devout to her faith, but what I witnessed in her was an unyielding ability to be true to her self. She didn’t tolerate sympathy, because she did not feel lacking. She was not satisfied with Sunday worship alone; she lived her faith and cared for those less fortunate. Many a Saturday I spent ripping sheets apart and rewrapping them to be sent to lepers’ colonies. Many more were spent volunteering at a local Down’s syndrome home – under her supervision. Simply put, she was a powerhouse. 

Her fighting spirit helped keep my own alive. I know her unwavering determination to love caused many to keep her a bit at bay. They respected her, but few could keep up with her. They wanted her to conform to their understanding of what her seeming illness could and should do. But she was defiant, and her resistance to become what others expected of her was a great teacher to me.

We never walk alone. Take courage from those who give it so freely. Let the love and compassion that pulses through us be the victor. Hold onto your fighting spirit.  Resist normality. It was never meant for you.

For Love’s Sake

Once again, the United States has demonstrated its disregard of refugees of color and especially Haitian refugees. Once again we watched as this president followed the directions of past presidents before him. Party affiliation doesn’t have much clout when racism rears its head. 

Thinking people are noticing the implications of climate change. The horrific ordeals the people of Haiti have endured over the past few years coupled with our unending racism damns them to imprisonment and worse. 

The photos of white men on horseback rounding up black men, women and children desperate for aid were absolutely abhorrent. Too painful to look at, but to look away is to ignore. To ignore is an act of compliance and agreement. Compliance with inhumanity is a deadly disease.

Clearly we are engaged in a war to save our souls. We have politicized every aspect of our society and we buy every lie that is dangled before us. The biggest lie of all is the one declaring our righteousness as God’s chosen. We have made outcasts of our humanity and our ideals.  And we elect status quo politicians to keep it that way.

Kindness and compassion must reawaken in our dialogue, in our actions and in our policies. There will be no Superman to save us from ourselves. We hold all that we need within us and it’s bursting to come forth. 

The only thing we have not tried…is Love.

It will only take a few more of us to stand in unity and in peace.

It will take a revolution of understanding to erupt in our hearts and in our minds.

And it will take trying the only thing we have not tried…  

Let us do it, for Love’s sake.

The quote and the photo are attributed to Rev. Jacqui Lewis found on Facebook.

Blessed Existence

Hardship has never escaped the human family. We are pummeled by Nature and by the ignorance that compounds suffering.

My Navajo friend told me how her grandmother fought to keep her baby alive during the forced Long Walk. Mothers who lost their own babies would give what little breast milk they had to the infant. That infant was my friend’s mother. I’ve often reflected on the courage, perseverance and kindness that enabled Annie, my friend, to exist. And how blessed was that existence with all of its hardships. 

I remember witnessing her in morning prayers. Though humble, she was not docile. She stood boldly in her life and welcomed all of the winds that blew her way. 

The story of shared breast milk was not new to me. My mother had been the recipient of wet nurses as they were called. My grandfather had been killed and my grandmother lost her ability to breastfeed. Poverty demands help. And help came in the form of neighbors. I’ve often reflected on the strength and the compassion that surrounded my mother’s existence. And how blessed was that existence with all of its hardships. She, too, had the gift of powerful prayer. 

I am the recipient of the Love of these two matriarchs. With that kind of Love mountains can move.

All of us have been blessed with existence and while our stories vary, hardships and blessings have come our way. Be nourished by them.

These are hard times. These are the times to dig for strength and to uncover our gifts, to seek and offer help. We have the potential to flourish, individually and collectively, despite the hardships.

Have the clarity to be guided by Love. Find the courage to hold onto it.

Regardless of hardship, it is a blessed existence.

The above photo is of Annie.

My Grandmother and me.
My mom and me.