Sunday, November 26, 2017

kairos time

It is a gift to live a mile from my daughters’ elementary school and we’ve walked as often as possible for the last eleven years. I walk for days like today.

Ready earlier than usual, Karios, the last one in elementary, was glad we could stroll rather than race the tardy bell. Her name, Greek for God’s timing, represents the qualitative, feminine aspect of time as opposed to Chronos--male, masculine time.

Yesterday we were late, cross and spoke hardly at all, Chronos time. But today we are on Kairos time. We talk. Or rather, she talks. Or rather, nuggets of ten-year-old gold pour from her mind and heart, her whole being really, and I scramble to collect them before they evaporate.

Taking turns leading, we shuffle through leaves. We stop to rub a neighbor’s rosemary bush then inhale each other’s hands. She makes vibrant leaf bouquets then rains them on us. We peek into a restaurant being renovated, finally, after a fire. The barber, Jim, pops out of his shop to ask about grades and Christmas wish lists. Counting the number of tires on trucks, we speculate on how it’s decided if a vehicle needs to be a twelve, sixteen or ten wheeler.

Such gold already.

Soon she whispers she's had a bad dream but won’t share it because it’s too scary to say aloud, especially outside. I mention feeling the same at her age. Then I ask her to promise to tell me or her dad if anything scary happens to her in awake life. She agrees and holds my hand. Some people, I offer, believe dreams help us sort through daytime stuff we can’t figure out. Like messengers, she quips. Yes, like that. This nugget of understanding; it is what I strive for as a parent.

We’re quiet for a moment. Then she confides: A stalker who shoots birds entered our house with his gun and she’s frantic to escape.

I remark on her bravery. She’s shared what minutes ago was too scary to say aloud, outside. Gold. May she look what scares her in the eye and name it. May she take wing in the presence of what aims to take her down. May she know the strength of her wings.

Later, we notice mottled bark on a tree. She comments it looks like Snowflake Obsidian then asks if I even know what that is, her tone an affectation borrowed from the twelve-year-old sister. I don’t, which means she gets to educate me. It’s the toughest stone there is and native peoples used it for arrowheads. There’s a piece in her classroom she can show me when we get there. But, she questions, how did they break it if it’s unbreakable and strong? Another nugget, ‘can you imagine how tightly packed the atoms and molecules are for it to be the strongest stone?’

I kiss her goodbye at the classroom door, our hands fragrant still with rosemary.

At home I learn this about Snowflake Obsidian:

It is calming and soothing. It teaches you to value mistakes as well as successes. A stone of purity, Snowflake Obsidian provides balance for body, mind and spirit. A stone for transformation, fulfillment, metamorphoses, manifestation. 

Kairos time.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

does Dave Ramsey cover this?

Confession: I have never budgeted.

I’ve gotten by because I’m frugal. Plus my dad’s addicted to Costco and ensures I never run out of granola bars or cereal. But rather than relying on my cheapness or a stream of bulk items, I'd like to be smarter with money.

Then, Halloween.

Middle daughter and three friends dressed as M & M’s. Now, this did NOT mean a colored pillowcase with M & M Sharpied on it thrown over jeans. These are middle school girls on snapchat and instagram M & M’s. 

This required—
1) rainbow knee high socks
2) white Keds
3) white leggings 
4) suspenders
5) M & M t-shirt
6) a tutu

Yes. A tutu was essential for the M & M Halloween ensemble.

Middle produced the list at the same time I read this year’s stats on Earth Overshoot Day, the day on which humanity's resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth's capacity to regenerate those resources for that year. We hit overconsumption on August 2.

Meaning, we’ve already shot our planetary budget for 2017.

For the remaining 151 days of the year, we will be consuming resources we don’t have, borrowing from the future. Buying all this stuff new is the environmental equivalent of paying with a high interest credit card or cashing out at a Payday loan. It fucks up the future. While there may be a line item for Halloween in a family budget, there is no ecological line item for this expenditure. We are deficit spending the planet.

Since Earth’s revenue is maxed out sustaining life for all earthly beings, how can I ask the planet to supply these items in order for my daughter to be a yellow M & M for six hours, max?

But budgets are concentric rings.

The first ring is my daughter’s needs and wants to be considered.

Then there is the 12-year-old middle school girl ring. The priority in her social budget is to be included in and match the pack; belonging is paramount. Good grief, I remember.

Next ring out is the practical consideration of do I have the finances to manage all six items given everything else I’m responsible for.  

Most of us stay within these budgetary rings. For my lifetime and I suspect yours, we’ve been taught these alone are our priority. While we strive to balance our input and output columns to the penny, we have been woefully ignorant of the reality that we exist within a finite planetary ledger. But denying the overarching ecological ring renders all others pointless. Yellow suspenders cannot substitute for clean water.

Unlike my dad who inflates my fiscal capacity with a steady supply of string cheese, there is no one outside this planet sending in clean air, water, soil, intact ecosystems, carbon sequestering forests, and whatever else we need for a life-supporting healthy planet.

There’s not even a Costco, a big box planet store.

Clearly, there is no ecological budget to justify Costco. But my dad feels connected, useful and gratified providing my daughters high fructose corn syrup food product. Yet another ring to consider.

How do we honor the budgetary rings we daily operate in-the personal, familial and social- while being mindful of the ecological circle that encompasses everything? Clearly neglecting this ring is catching up. 

The planet is the ring that rules us all. 

Attending to my daughter's first two rings if it jeopardizes her capacity to meet her future needs is not in her best interest. I struggle with this tension daily. 

So with Middle’s Halloween list, or when I have to purchase anything, these questions run through my mind:

1)   What do we have? (white tutu, rainbow socks, keds)
2)   What can we borrow? (yellow suspenders)
3)   What can we find at the thrifty? (white leggings)
4)  What can we make from what we have? (dye white tutu) 
5)   Do we absolutely need it? (Friends dressed as M & Ms)

Wait, does that count as budgeting? Yes, yes it does. 

In a planetary vein.

Monday, August 21, 2017

days of miracle and wonder

While the eclipse was spectacular, I’m baffled by the hoopla.
People stood in line for hours to get special glasses, took off work, traveled, camped. T-shirts were made and purchased and even alternate driving routes were publicized to mitigate traffic. What is this about?

It is about our need for wonder.

You see this in the way we fetishize weather-glued to hourly forecasts as though we spend any real time out of doors. We need connection with phenomena in a meaningful way. Craving communion that will expand us beyond our mundane lives, we long to be plunged us into something greater than ourselves. But because we are accustomed to instant and insistent gratification, we gobble up the spectacular without proper, contemplative digestion. The deeper connection, the thing we’re really after, is lost on us. 

As Paul Simon sings, ‘these are the days of miracle and wonder.’ And yet we do not know how to revere the miraculous and wonderous so we turn them into a commodity to consume with a side of selfies.

This leaves us even hungrier.

Maybe ‘the days of miracle and wonder’ has less to do with extraordinary events and more to do with cultivating Einstein’s perspective, “there are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Maybe we have forgotten that already, each seemingly ordinary day, we are literally given once in a lifetime opportunities to tap into wonder, to pay homage to intricate detail and wise calibration, the graceful harmony of form and function that is this planet, this galaxy. This. Now.

The universe trafficks in sacrament on the daily. You don’t need glasses from Amazon to bear witness.

That's why a picture of a heart shaped beet. A humble veggie pulsing love in dark soil. A marvel in its own right.

Take off your special glasses
the ones that eclipse the world into the ordinary and extraordinary,
the ones that say this but not that,
it is the same binary that poisons the world into us and them.
Take off your lenses
~all around you: wonder.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

communion: one with

Global warming will force up to 150 million climate refugees to move to other countries in the next 40 years.

I sidestep cratered sidewalks sprinkled with sweet gum balls ready to turn an ankle, along front yards mudsliding to coat pavement; skirt children’s toys and tree roots. I pay homage to my favorite trees massive and regal in our grid of small shirtwaists and airplane bungalows; pass various yards scaped with natives, vegetables or sprinkled with yard art. I inhale tantalizing aromas from the Pakistani restaurant tucked along a strip of storefronts. 

I am strolling through my neighborhood, along streets I’ve known since before I was pregnant with my now 14 year old daughter and have in fact paced through each pregnancy; trudged with babies in slings, in backpacks, pushed in strollers, and walked with them finally self-ambulatory. It is raining, a favorite time to walk because I am surrounded by homes cozy dry; pockets of sanctuary everywhere.

These streets hold our story.

As I turn down my block, I think of my neighbors and our history: the one who to drove to the ER when my youngest caught a goose egg falling on her head; the elderly one I’ve taken slow careful walks with who has since passed; the new one on the corner who turned her backyard into a retreat-like haven; the one up the block who makes Christmas sweets for everyone; the traveling ones for whom we cat-sit; the one who donates to every fundraiser my daughters approach her with; the one across the street who clambered up a tree to chainsaw a branch after watching my unsuccessful attempts with long handled loppers; the ones on either side who kindly buy whatever crafts my kids concoct and sell on the sidewalk.

I think of the 70 year old one next door who taught my girls to hula in the rain, getting drenched along with them; the one down the block who fixes my fix it projects; the neighbor patiently helping me overcome my fear of cycling; the one down the block who gives me poopy straw from her ducks for my garden; the ones who showed up costumed for child-planned Halloween parties; the ones who taught me to garden; the ones all around who kept my car from being towed when I was away birthing my second child and the street was being repaved; the former neighbor who drops by with bags and bags cucumbers from her garden each year and stays for a catch up cup of tea.

This neighborhood holds our stories.

When I think of climate change, I think about the connections in my neighborhood. It is these very webs we humans create that are jeopardized. We take for granted a stable planet to build such community. But tragically, webs established by the intentions and needs of people in relation to one another have been wrecked the world over already.

Indeed our interdependence is predicated on the precise web of an interconnected planet. Just as our needs and intentions shape our relational webs, they also affect the planet’s. We know how relationships suffer when we neglect them. To our peril, we’re experiencing what it is to neglect our habitat.

I cannot stress this enough: now we’re shredding the very web that supports our human-made webs. Think Jenga. When you destabilize the base to build the tower, eventually the whole structure falls apart.

What do we do with this knowledge?

Sometimes when I wish for a different house, one with two full baths, a different layout, a basement that doesn’t love rain, I think of my neighborhood. Then it’s house enough. In fact, it’s plenty. 

I know it may not seem an answer but I wonder if it’s a start. Maybe gratitude for what we already have can satisfy insatiable desire, the heedless drive for more wrecking the webs we actually need. Wrecking our pockets of sanctuary.

What then will happen to our stories?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

the Sness of a thing

I am not T shaped. I am S. But I have spent most of my life hammering my Sness into Tness because I believed T to be good, S not.

No one criticizes S for not having the sharp angles of a T or expects  S curves from T. Besides, S and T serve different functions and aren’t interchangeable. No one hates either for not being like the other.

But many of us hate winter because it’s unlike fall, spring or summer. I did. I dismissed winter for not having the attributes I defined as pleasing or beautiful: it’s not warm, it gets dark early, the wind is biting, the sky stays grey for days.

I even hated winter trees for not sporting fall colors, the blooms of spring or verdant summer leaves. Their starkness made me uncomfortable. They were S and only T was good.

It was around the time I began recovering from bulimia that it occurred to me maybe winter trees carry a different beauty. Branches are sturdy yet vulnerable bones. Nests hidden during other seasons reveal themselves. The textures and patterns of bark, again overlooked in other seasons, become apparent. And then there is the graceful, ceaseless magic of snow clothing naked branches.

As I began to embrace my Sness, I could embrace the Sness of winter.

Luckily around this same time, I had a boss who insisted we walk during meetings. Outside. Regardless of weather. I had no idea people spent time outside when it was below 50. Other than trees, I began to notice new things: the crisp scent of cold air, the slant of winter sun, scat and paw prints in snow, foliage of wintering plants.

And I didn’t die. And it wasn’t miserable.

It was enjoyable. Invigorating.

Here’s another way to look at it. When getting to know Joan, I didn’t compare her to my friend Martha. I got to know Joan on Joan’s terms. How could I value Joan’s Joanness if I was measuring her against Martha’s Marthaness?

Learning to value winter for its winterness feels like spiritual practice. The cold, early darkness, biting wind and grey skies come with the package. What can I learn from experiencing this as it is, without judgement? How can I embrace the myriad seasons within myself and others?

It is also practice in living in a specific here and now, a particular topography. The Midwest allows us to experience a broad spectrum of weather. Not just T and S, but almost an entire climate alphabet, if you will. Gardening highlights the value of this variance too. Do you know we have three growing seasons? Spring, summer and fall grow different veggies; then the alchemy of winter replenishes the soil. What a gift of this longitude and latitude we inhabit.

Appreciating winter is also an opportunity to trust, anticipate and savor rhythms not of one’s making; rhythms ancient and wild and orderly and purposeful and with more wisdom than narrow human ideas of what is pleasing or beautiful.

But this appreciation didn’t happen overnight. Embracing something you once loathed, whether it's a person, one’s body or a season, takes time. Time spent getting to know the Sness of a thing. 

On its own terms.