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OUR ONLY WORLD

I came across this post by Bruce on Earth Day, but have been busy attending and presenting at two conferences and completing work with student teachers. My delay provided me with room to reflect on what Earth Day means, raising questions for me about its meaning. Quite often, we relegate one day a year to celebrate a particular event and, once done, we relegate it do a shelf for another year. I think Earth Day is treated that way.

What Bruce’s reminds me of is the daily wonders I experience when I consider Earth Day an ongoing event. In this particular post, he draws on Wendell Berry who is an elegant voice on the concept of caring for the nest we share with each other. In his writing, Wendell Berry reminds me ecology and economy come from the Greek oikos, meaning household. My mother used to say “Even pigs do not poop where they live, eat, and sleep?”

Humans are not separate from nature. We are an integral part of nature and how we treat nature, including one another, speaks to who we are as part of nature. Do we exploit nature for 364 days without any consideration for tomorrow? Or, do we conserve its beauty and while over its worth and common good? I think a word that is often overlooked is prudent. Do we live within our means? Do we care for our household with prudence and care?

I understand the political notions of conversativism and progressivism as a false dichotomy. What does it mean to converse? What do we want to conserve? When we progress, what do we throw out? Both sides, if it can understood as sides, do little to conserve. In fact, I contend that, if we solved our environmental issues, the people who stand on opposite sides would be unhappy. They would be left with nothing to argue about and unable to point accusatory fingers at one another.

The post concludes with: “Only the present good is good. It is the presence of good – good work, good thoughts, good acts, good places – by which we know that the present does not have to be a nightmare of the future. ‘The kingdom of God is at hand’ because, if not at hand, it is nowhere.” In a Judeo-Christian biblical narrative and despite what many claim, we were left to be stewards of nature, to care for it, and allow it to flourish so we might flourish. This is not unique to the Judeo-Christian traditions. There are teachings attributed to The Buddha that speak to how we should treat animals. This includes their habitat, food source, water source, etc. and is not simply the treatment of pets and livestock. As well, Indigenous people share an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature and the universe.

I leave with you three quotes and I found many others.

Religion is what binds us together. It is not a set a beliefs, but faith in a community to do what is proper and share with one another.
Indifference is the opposite of love.
Share words and acts of grattitude and love for Nature.

Ode to Joy~ —

Signs of spring. A jolt of joy! Blossoms cheer, weary hearts. Ode to Joy, hope and faith. Cheers to you and Happy Spring~

Ode to Joy~ —

I am back. I took a sabbatical of sorts from the blog, as I only checked in on comments and to follow up through the reader. It has been a busy time supervising student teachers, attending online events, presenting at online events, writing, getting published, and life in general. I am unsure how active I will be. I hope to be posting 2-3 times a week and maybe write some new poetry.

I return with a share from Cindy who takes wonderful pictures of nature close to home in the Holler and further afield. The images remind me we are entering the time of the year where life comes alive after its dormant period, Yes, things do remain in a state of flux with weather. Despite the uncertainty, it is a time to rejoice and search out the joy and beauty located wherever we look in nature.

Cindy shared a video of musicians playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as a virtual ensemble. Artists of all forms find ways to lead us in the most challenging times and COVID-19 is no exception. I am grateful we have wonderful artists who take the lead in meaningful ways.

It has been hard this past year for each of us with less social interaction. An emerging area of interest for me is the role virtual communities can and will play in our lives moving forward. It is what I presesnted on this past weekend and am fleshing out an article for submission. People surprised me with their response to what I talked about. I see hope and joy in sharing online. It brings me together, often with people I have not met and likely will never meet.

Common is the root word of community, communicate, and communion. What do we have in common that brings us together, besides our grievances and grief? In short, what gives each of us joy? How do we experience communicating what we receive from others and share with others? How has listening to others changed in this brave new world? Communion goes beyond the religious concept, speaking to a level of intimacy. How do we reveal who we are in a virtual world? Virtual and virtue share etymological roots, speaking to our character in these communities.

I leave you with a video from Mavis Staples. How do we get it together and bring joy into our lives as a collective and community?

Warrior’s Quest

Sometimes, I make sense of the life and the worl in paradox. With questions I can deepen conversations. I serve questions. Father Richard Rohr says  maturity leads us to stop chasing certainty. In this way, I seek eloquent questions without ready answers: and invite others into dialogue.

After I read Chögyam Trungpa‘s Shambhala:The Path of the Sacred Warrior, I realized a warrior combats his/her own self-ignorance, moving towards being a human with a brave mind and ethical impulse. I cannot attain these qualities, but they are always worth questing towards and they do not come without struggle. Shunryu Suzuki and Thomas Merton used the analogy of a meadow to explore how we each can meditate, contemplate, and pray.

Warrior’s quest;

Resting in paradox–

Seemingly incompatible;

Space inviting space,

Forming spacious meadow.

Deepening dialogue;

Lacking pre-formed answers–

Questioning with eloquences;

Remaining open,

Experiencing wonder.

Lightening load;

Being grateful for gifts–

Even suffering,

Serving the journey;

The questing.

Emerging path;

Readying to step–

Understanding it is meant,

Fulfilling its rightness;

Knowing only it is unknown.

The warrior’s quest is much like standing at the base of a mountain. It is exhilirating and creates a sense of wonder: What is there on that mountain? On the other sides? I took this picture of Mount Robson on one of our many trips to visit family and friends.

Canadian Thanksgiving

It is Canadian Thanksgiving today. Instead of Thanksgiving being a once a year day with underlying commercial interests, it raised questions about being full of thanks for each ensuing moment. What if I were grateful and thankful each day-each moment? This is impossible. What I need to do is hold the thought at the forefront and perhaps it elevates the thankfulness I experience.

We began with a dinner last night with our oldest son and his partner. He headed out to an out-of-town job today. Tonight, we celebrate with our youngest. He worked last night, so was unavailable.

Gratitude and thankfulness–

Turning to beloved;

Embracing one another;

Celebrating what held sacred.

In each moment–

Experiencing the extraordinary;

Revealing itself in the ordinary;

Sensing it is there.

Harvesting bounties–

Sharing common weal;

Valuing de-monetized wealth;

Feeling blessed.

I took this of Kathy standing on a rock above Rearguard Falls on the Fraser River in Mount Robson Provincial Park. I am thankful for the time we spend together and Nature.

Spacious Sanctuary

Wendell Berry wrote a series of poems about Sabbath and taking time to let the spirit mend and heal. Wayne Muller wrote a book called Sabbath and provided a number of Sabbath practices from various traditions. After we read the book, we used practices and wrote reflections about how we each responded to them at a hospitality retreat.

How each find moments of peace and solace in a busy world is personal and reflects who we are as humans. For me, it is time spent walking, reading poetry, and writing. It is challenging as I need to adhere to a routine without being to rigid. What I observe, feel, hear, etc. needs to able to reach me in meaningful ways.

I wrote this poems as I entered a lengthy Sabbath period, taking time away from screens of various types.

Stepping aside–

Easing into spacious spaces;

Sensing stillness–

Unsquaring eyes,

Fidgeting less,

Being.

Resting–

Embracing wakefulness;

Emerging from frenetic hibernation–

Moving yet remaining still–

Enriching spirit,

Rediscovering lightness of being.

I took this picture on a hike in Glacier National Park. Nature just is. It exists for the sole purpose of existing. Humans need to do this more; just be in a given moment or time.

Sensory Explosion

This is a new poem. I started working with another, which I will post later and this emerged.

What happens is contemplative exercises allow me to become mindful as I move back into my daily life. These activities can be meditation/prayer, time to walk, reading poetry, etc. What I experience moments remains with me.

I embed activities into my daily routine. For example, I try to get out and walk each day. I note what and who I see, hear, smell, and feel. The other day, I observed autumn’s musty smell had arrived, as trees shed their leaves. We have had little rain the last few weeks, but some drizzles may have hastened the smell of decomposing materials.

When we travel, we spend time walking and hiking in and out. I love waterfalls and mountains, so they speak to me and linger with me, forever changing me.

Walking away,

Richness lingering–

Thunder booming,

Spray hovering,

Power reverberating,

Water smelling–

Life-giving.

Hearing, feeling, seeing, sensing–

Walking away,

Lingering,

In my ears,

On my skin,

In spirit,

Re-entering quieter world–

Life-giving.

From the Margins

When I traveled to attend events based on the writings of Parker Palmer, two gifts emerged. First, the settings chosen were beautiful and peaceful, with considerable access to being able to walk. Second, along with the time outside, there was considerable time to reflect in solitude and with those gathered. Part of the reflection, was to listen as one spoke and hear, as if for the first time, what one was/is saying.

I wrote the following poem after time reflecting on my pedagogic practices. I taught in a setting that required me to be present and I was falling short and, as a result, letting students, families, and myself down.

Over time and without realizing it, I had fallen into habits of just doing things the way I had before. I experienced a false sense of security in my teaching. This was something I promised I would not do when I entered teaching.

To teach, I felt I had be on the margins and be awake to each student and their particular needs, listening to what they and their families told me about them. The margins are what surround us. Too often, I wanted to be in the centre of things, where I was comfortable and the centre of things. I don’t learn much there.

sensing false security,

being the centre,

yet, margins surrounding–

paradox of one’s being.

standing out,

revealing blemishes,

making them obvious–

reveling in them.

finding comfort on the margins,

not hiding in the crowd,

reflecting one’s character–

stepping out and away with pride.

composing one’s humanness;

in deep concert with others,

sharing perfect imperfections–

enriching human moments.

This took some doing to edit the final poem, but here it is. I chose the picture, as it is a reminder that nature does not provide perfection. It provides perfection in imperfect patterns that emerge.

In nature, trees like the ones in the picture find a way to survive. Despite their lack of size, these trees are at least 100 years old and have survived, one might say thrived, living on the margins. They have a wonderful view from a precarious vantage point.

October’s Song

I originally wrote this on a rainy, warm day several years ago. It was a hard rain, but still 18 Cin Edmonton. Despite the warmth, we had a forecast of wet snow and coolling temperatures for that evening. In Alberta at this time of year, things can change weather-wise quite suddenly.

The forecast is for above-average temperatures for another week. Even then, it is not cooling appreciably. Instead, we will have rain as a possibility.  Most trees still have an abundance of leaves, although they are turning colours.

In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving as crops are harvested and stored by mid-October. It is not a sure thing, but that is the premise. The agrarian roots of Canada are deep, so the tradition of an October Thanksgiving remains.

Nature singing,

Whispering–

Painting the world anew.

Harvest gathering.,

Storing bounty–

Hearth calling.

Gathering,

Joining hands;

Bowing heads.

October arriving,

Thanking, sharing, celebrating–

Readying for winter’s respite.

 

 

I took this picture in Fairmount Hot Springs a couple of years ago. It was Thanksgiving weekend and it snowed on our way back. You can see the colours have changed in the distance and the mist over Columbia Lake.

Ongoing Quest

I wrote this during my last year teaching. It had been a particularly challenging day in the classroom and beyond. The students were full of energy and it was not always healthy. I grew frustrated and visibly annoyed part way through the afternoon. Part of it was a lack of a healthy relationship with the administration, which seeped into my teaching at times. It was challenging to set those frustrations aside, particularly with little support and how it impacted my teaching.

Having said thi, I chose to teach anothere year and wanted to teach those particular students. On myway home, I realized I need to establish a different, encouraging tone. In a sense, my ability to influence is my ability to recognize my reality and walk into the fire, the crucible, so to speak.In his teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me even weeds of a tough day serve a purpose. They fertilize and increase the yield of a crop: children’s learning and this could be lost on on me. For the remainder of the school year, some 7-8 months, I used this as my touchstone.

Sometimes, I allow myself to assume what is out there makes me who I am. If I let it, I succumb to those forces. On the other hand and stepping back from the brink, I reclaim my view and my callings in life. I do not let others and circumstances dictate who I am. I can choose how to respond. This is no mean feat as, in the heat of  the battle, it is hard to not be reactionary. The best I can do is be the best I can be in a moment, reflect later, and grow anew with fertilizer provided by tough moments.

transforming–

ongoing quest,

seeking vision,

unearthing a better, truer self–

digging deep,

resting in my heart.

transforming–

polishing the gems of self,

righting speech! righting action!

influencing others properly–

reclaiming my voice,

bringing forth my best.

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I got The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan when I was in high school. I still have it and still spin the vinyl after all these years. Although it is now almost 60 years old, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall still rings true for me today. Dylan wrote this in the midst of the Cold War with nuclear threats all around. Today, we are in the midst of multiple crises: health, wealth distribution, inequities, etc. The question I should ask in difficult times, small and large, is how can I be the difference I want to see in the world to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi? Even if it is difficult, it is noble, virtuous, and hopeful, in the face of great obstacles, to speak truth to power, (re)calling I can only make the difference I can make.

Medicine Wheel

I am unsure the title fits the poem , but I left it as is. This was a hard poem to write as I delved into something I am not 100% confident with and that is quantum spirituality. As a quantum physicist writing from a feminist perspective, Karen Barad writes about entanglement. In short, we are entangled with one another, with non-sentient beings, and the inanimate of the Universe. This involves moral responsiblities in relating to those other beings and things, without even knowing what it is and how we are related to each of them.

Medicine wheels are part of many First Nations’ cultures. They connect people to Nature and reflect our interdependence with Nature and each other. They signal the need for harmony in lives and ground us with and in our world. In my understanding, they have quantum aspects to them as we are entangled in ways that suggest we are always seeking harmony in hopeful ways. What a medicine wheel asks us is to acknowledge interdependence, something those who wield levers are woefully reluctant to do. Instead, humans become resources and chattel in making profits in a zero sum game.

After my post In Seeming Chaos, Hope, I wondered about the current state of world affairs e.g. political crises, health crisis, economic crisis, etc. They are entangled with each other. I cannot simply wish one away and the others remain. Moreover, they existed before COVID-19. We did not see them easily. A lack of access to health care was in place for many people before the pandemic. We warehoused elderly people (the not-so nice term is aging people) as has become our custom in the advanced world e.g. schools.

I began to look for a spiritual connection with quantum physics and entanglement and found it. What was interesting was I have been reading about the connections for years in the writings of The Dalai Lama and Fritoj Capra. (The link is to an article where both are referenced.) What Karen Barad does is presents a detailed case for it from a scientific and feminist perspective. I think the feminine perspective is essential, as I consider bell hooks, Mary Belenky, Riane Eisler, etc. to understand how we move away from what Eisler termed a dominator, patriarchal world based on binaries and assigning a number to one that incorporates a participatory, matriarchal world. In this world, Belenky refers to intuitive, feminine, and I would argue, indigenous ways of knowing and wisdom based on the quality of living we each experience. These are impossible to quantify. However, we can describe them in poetic language. What if we had leaders like Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel instead of people who pass themselves off as leaders and fall far short of leading?

Basking in Brother Sun’s warmth–

Healing (in)spiriting waters–

(In)haling sweet air–

Replenishing.

Here,

Feeling welcomed–

Homing in on what’s proper,

Resting in one’s responsibilities.

In relating to the Universe–

While standing in Nature–

When Supporting other beings–

Discovering hope(ful) ways.

Intuiting as quantum beings–

Accepting unfelt entanglement–

Hearing unheard voices–

“Crossing love’s hearth.”

Enriching alchemy–

Inspiring magic.

Seeking peace,

Speaking truth to power.

I took the picture on Bowen Island and began to write the poem.

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