My saintly grandmother often regaled me with stories evidencing her belief that any positive energy you put out into the world comes back to you, twofold. This was not the impetus for her giving; it was merely an observation she made. She was a woman who came from nothing, never had much, and died with very little (tangible, at least). And yet, she would proudly tell you she lived abundantly, was well-loved and reaped queenly rewards. A personal practice of mine provides further evidence of her theory. For 51 years, I know for sure that giving, sharing, serving, doing for others always does two things: it shifts me out of a bad mood or self-centered state of mind and it returns to me a multiple of the energy rendered.
Case in point. I was doing the dinner dishes the other night, when I noticed a teen girl and her dad playing basketball outside my window. The only thing missing was a basketball hoop. In my town, there are literally no public basketball courts. Not one. The reason for this intentional omission is fodder for another Spark, but for now, just know that one year a friend moved back to town with her basketball-loving teen and they literally drove up and down every street in my town. When they called to ask me where the courts were, I regretfully reported, “We don’t have any.” So….. noticing the need for a net and having one, unused, I pranced out the door (in my pjs nonetheless) to meet their obvious need. Case solved.
Flash forward 24 hours. I am sitting at my desk answering emails, when what to my wondering ears should I hear but the bounce of a basketball. Glancing outside, I recognize the girl, dribbling her ball on the sidewalk, headed toward my front door. Here she comes, with a great big smile, card and fresh flowers in hand. Her mother relays how insistent her daughter was to deliver something with gratitude to “The Lady of the House.” And so her letter began, “I appreciate the offer… I would like to take you up on it and come by occasionally to practice. However, I would never want to impose upon you….Thank you.” At this point in the exchange, I am nearly in tears, overwhelmed by the return of energy my simple offer yielded.
When my kids were much smaller, we read together, hours every day. The words of one of their favorite books comes back to me just now….“Whatever you chant, whatever you brew, sooner or later comes back to you.” Think twice about what you do, knowing it will boomerang right back to you. My grandmother says so.
When I was a little girl, my mom had a few sayings that drew lines in the sand and conversations to a close, one of them being, “Nobody ever said life would be fair!” Initially, it was Mom’s way of settling sibling rivalry disputes. She worked hard to treat the four of us equally, though never as her equals. Her parenting was effective, I think reflecting now as a parent, because she had so very little grey area. Things were black and white to her.
I visited the Thompson Center this week, to stand up in the white system for the character of a black man I met in peace circles training three years ago. The seat next to me was empty, until he filled it. Stephen was the last to enter the circle, bringing along a stack of journals as his contribution to our sacred space. Immediately, I knew I had to know his story. And so it has been my privilege these past three years to learn the story of Stephen Jackson. On Thursday, I proudly accompanied him, along with dozens of fellow community members, to his Executive Clemency Board Hearing. Four times a year in Chicago, a panel of mostly white people interrogate mostly black people, who are requesting relief from their social status as an ex-con. Admittedly, we entered the classroom (not a courtroom) knowing that Governor Rauner hasn’t finalized a budget yet, much less cleared an overflowing pile of clemency petitions on his desk. Still, with limited hope, we went to tell Stephen’s story. We listened to the white powers that be interrogate, intimidate and insist that Stephen endlessly serve his sentence. In other words, it was definitely “not fair,” in the words of my inner child.
According to the National Employment Law Project, approximately 70 million people in the United States — that‘s one in four adults — have a criminal record. Unemployment is one of the driving forces behind recidivism. Millions are trying to navigate a world with endless roadblocks including limited employment with a criminal record, trying to increase the chances they’ll succeed in society and lessen the chances they’ll return to prison. We don’t make it easy for them. According to the ABA, we have more than 45,000 laws restricting people with criminal records: they can’t get public housing, they can’t vote, and they can’t apply for certain jobs. As one ex-con said, “It’s so easy to get into trouble, but so hard to get out of it.”
Despite the odds, my friend Stephen (39) is a proud father, husband, circle leader, community member who has found work, created his own business and community; he is a transformed man. As his high school teacher shared, the person he was at 18 is long gone. He served his time, he repented, he contributes to society daily by keeping other teens in school, out of prison. One of my favorite experiences is to walk with a person in their shoes, to see how they see the world and witnessing how they show up in it. When I walk down Lake Street in Oak Park with Stephen, I watch him make his magic with every teen we meet. He is respected, regarded and making a powerful impact on the streets of our town. (Read more about his work here: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-10-2015/A-call-to-action-for-Stephen-Jackson/). Not only should we rip the Scarlet A from his chest, but actually, we need him to be unfettered so he can freely give his gifts.
I remember my dream as a young girl to become a criminal justice lawyer. I recall that moment in Boston when I was a young law student who saw the injustice in the system and took a detour in my career as a result. I know injustice and see how we all suffer as a result. You are right, Mom, life is not fair. And I will continue to dedicate my life to creating a more just world, for all of us.
I often have wondered about the word “community” - what creates community, what is community, how can we better our communities? Wikipedia tells us that: “a community is a social unit of any size that shares common values, or that is situated in a given geographical area. The word "community" derives from the Old French comuneté which comes from the Latin communitas (from Latin communis, things held in common). If we trust the media for our truth, we could easily fear our communities are crumbling or being transformed into virtual communities.
But if you were one of the lucky ones at The Wire in Berwyn last night, you witnessed community at its very, very best! (http://www.oprfcf.org/entrepreneur-leaders) Forty local entrepreneurs gathered to invest in a competition elevating us to tap together our most important human super power - imagining new possibilities. In a kinder gentler “shark tank” style event, the six finalists presented big bold ideas intent to transform our community. Pausing in between presentations, I savored the ecstatic energy present in the room. Everyone was abuzz. Abuzz about ideas, about making connections, about improving our being together. We heard BIG bold ideas about making pickles, sharing skills in time banks, meeting hungry people with surplus meals, enabling seniors to age in place, creating livable landscapes and offering recycling opportunities every day! Each one was better than the next. I found myself wishing I had a giant checkbook so I could support every one of them! We were present together creating a new common square — supporting what we have in common: a deep love for each other, rich resources for improving our world, and a trusting belief that we can do better, together.
Here’s a big idea… we need more common spaces where we can come together to create solutions and share our common values. We desperately need sacred spaces to dream bigger and do all the BIG things we are capable of. Thank you John Houseal, John Harris, Laura Maychruk, Kristin Carlson Vogen, and Michelle Vanderlaan, and all of those who invested in answering the prompt: “Have you ever said to a friend, neighbor, co-worker or classmate, What this community really needs is … “? Big ideas. Big change. Starting now. Get in the game. We need you.
There was a fabulous story in the Times last month praising the triumph of BIG talk over small talk (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/fashion/dating-the-end-of-small-talk.html?_r=0). Tim Boomer declares an end to small talk and ponders this: “Why can’t we replace small talk with big talk and ask each other profound questions right from the start? Replace mindless chatter about commuting times with a conversation about our weightiest beliefs and most potent fears? Questions that reveal who we are and where we want to go?” Big talk is diving into the deep end.
A decade ago, I grew tired of swimming in the shallow end. The big questions of life were stirring in me, screaming for safe places to swim. I searched, couldn't find, and so created spaces for deep dialogue. In the seven years since, I’ve convened 500 conversations; that’s 1,000 hours of BIG talk! I now can confidently claim: BIG TALK is life-changing! BIG TALK cements relationships. BIG TALK brings out the best in us. BIG TALK is scary to be sure, and oh so satisfying! BIG TALK is soulful and wholehearted. BIG TALK is the healthier, more fulfilling alternative to all the other ways we attempt to satisfy our cravings (food/drink/technology/TV). BIG talk transforms. BIG TALK leads to LOL with a spillover effect lasting for hours, and sometimes even days. BIG TALK is the contagious, cure-all we all need, now.
One of my Circles has met 38 times over the past few years. They are involved moms with full calendars, committed to risking undone errands and overflowing piles of laundry to engage in BIG talk. They unanimously voted to continue the conversation because they enjoy it so much, it has changed their lives, and they also report that there are just not enough venues for juicy engagement. For two hours, we turn off tech, tune into each other, enter a space for respectful listening, to talk about the BIG stuff, like who we are, who we want to become, why we are here, and what we are doing about it. We stretch and grow ourselves, reaching beyond our comfort zones, to help each other become our best selves…all through the life-changing magic of BIG TALK! My community is all the richer as a result of all the women energized by juicy conversations.
I am still unpacking gems from dozens of deep dives last month on retreat in Philo CA. Fourteen of us connected in a BIG way from sunup to sundown. I found being completely engaged in BIG TALK all day long so satisfying, so nourishing, so tasty that I needed very little else. Luckily, I can continue to connect to my purpose-guiding cohort through the magic of online wizardry called ZOOM.
“There is a huge and rising hunger on the part of just about everybody for authentic experience and reconnecting with what’s deepest and best in ourselves in an ever accelerating and complex world.”
This form of soulful, transformative engagement requires no fancy setting, scenery, or sophisticated training. You don’t have to travel beyond your own living room and it doesn’t cost a lot of money or demand hours of preparation. That said, know that the risk, the leap, the stretch is BIG. You must get real, speak your truth, and open your heart and mind wider than you think possible. At first, you may feel like you did as a child atop the high dive. You will worry about failing to use the “right words” and risk saying the “wrong” things. BIG TALK is not the norm because it requires sitting down, turning off, tuning in, to engage in thoughtful, heartfelt reflection. It demands a kind of authentic presence nearly extinct in 2016. (Consider BIG TALK 180 degree from the circus of the endless Republican debates.)
“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise.
We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”
—Margaret J. Wheatley
You can create, discover and engage in BIG TALK yourself starting right now. Here’s my question: What kinds of conversations do you want to be in this week? Invite someone else into your inquiry. Roll up your sleeves, turn off your phone and talk about what matters most to you. I hope you join me in hanging up the small talk and making space for BIG TALK. If Tony Robbins is correct and the quality of our life is determined by the quality of our questions, then BIG TALK just might save the world.
“Dialogue could bring about a radical transformation of group consciousness.
Under the right circumstances ‘group mind’ can develop
and then access knowledge otherwise unavailable.”
“When I am among the trees…they give off such hints of gladness, I would almost say that they save me, and daily.”
I escaped my ordinary life for nine days this month to be among the trees. I headed west to the redwoods of northern California, retreating into the wine country — not for the wine — but rather for an intensive training to become a purpose guide. The experience was truly extra-ordinary!
At 50, I consider myself an “edge-walker” and this was yet another, new edge for me to walk: leaving home for nine days, staying with 13 people I hadn’t met before, sharing meals, bathrooms, and intimate details of our lives, at a remote, rustic lodge for eco-activists, River’s Bend. The week before I left, I sent my oldest child off to Spain for the semester. Another edge. Luckily, I felt fully supported by my family and friends who encouraged me to walk this new edge. In the 24 hours before I left, they called and texted, wishing me well and dropping of boots, coats, and sweaters. My family risked their own comfort zone; it was the first time their cook, laundress, and scheduler was away for so long.
Committing to this nine-monthlong intensive with the Purpose Guides Institute represents the culmination of years of longing to “find my peeps,” following deep dives clarifying and honing my own search to discover who I am and why I am here. Thirteen amazing people accompanied me on this journey of a lifetime. I can hardly believe they were ever “strangers,” they now feel so familiar and are so beloved. We journeyed together deep into the wild, and deeper still into the wilderness of our own hearts, minds, and souls. We co-created the kind of community I have been craving — where we are all seen and heard, loved and valued for who we are, where we speak our truth, kindly, and where we explore deep truths together, intent on meaningful and authentic activism. Sharing this common purpose, we trekked through unfamiliar landscape together. Somehow, it all felt surprisingly comfortable there, far outside of my comfort zone, where the Navarro River bends among the trees.
As part of a mini vision quest, we fasted for 24 hours and spent a day entirely alone in the woods, as has been done for thousands of years among indigenous folks. I stepped into the woods a bit trepidatious, and exited, excited about a powerful vision I received. In the spaciousness, free from distraction other than my own thoughts (which quieted, thanks to the fast), I realized how lucky I am to be here, now. I gleaned insight into a new role, a new way of being, and felt deeply connected with All That Is.
When folks ask me how it was, I smile and reply, “AMAZING!” They say I glow. It was utterly amazing. We silenced our cell phones and quieted our minds. We shared space and savored spaciousness. We opened our minds, and our hearts opened wider still. We posited impossible questions, and divined awesome answers. We celebrated accomplishments, transformations, and deepened connections. We held a space for the soul to show up, and BOY! did she!
Leaving that nine-day circle was challenging, and only possible because I feel more on fire with my purpose than ever before, ready to practice what I learned, eager to activate the world around me. Spending nine days in my dream state — Heaven on Earth — gave me a taste of real possibility: of what being better together can be. Walking the talk actualized all I had learned about the power of longing combined with clarity and a willingness to step out of my comfort zone and into a committed community with a shared purpose. Walking the moving sidewalk at the United terminal at O’Hare to re-enter my former life felt surreal. I am still processing the transition.
I am beyond grateful to my friends and family, and to my cohort: Jonathan, Leila, Brandon, Josh, Holly, Praveen, Stephan, Gina, Renee, Katya, Susan, Sharon, Grant — my peeps committed to creating a purposeful society. “And they call again, ‘It's simple,’ they say, ‘and you, too, have come into the world to do this: to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.’” Shine on!
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask:
in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik?
or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh?
How is your haal?
What is this haal that you inquire about?
It is the transient state of one’s heart.
In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?”
When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.
I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list,
nor asking how many items are in your inbox.
I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment.
Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching,
tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch.
Examine your own heart, explore your soul,
and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.
Tell me you remember you are still a human being,
not just a human doing.
Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list.
Have that conversation, that glance, that touch.
Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.
Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye,
and connect with me for one second.
Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart.
Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being,
a human being who also craves a human touch.
OMID SAFI, ON BEING
How is your HAAL? What gives you great joy? What makes your heart ache?
It’s been quite a week for my heart. Riding the waves of teenagers, struggling to understand yet another suicide, hearing yet another horrific homicide (this couple dropped their six-month-old off at grandma’s before shooting) … and before that, savoring a “soup share” where women who circle with me came together, shared soup and stayed for hours, engaged by juicy conversation. Sure the soup was delicious, but the dialogue - the heart-share - even moreso. This week friends called out of the blue to talk (so happy I chose not to be too busy to answer!) and I participated in online conversations that expanded my otherwise aching/breaking heart. With each connection, I felt seen and heard; and I gave the gift of listening and seeing.
There is truly no better gift we humans can give each other than our presence. Our unhurried, focused, heartfelt presence. We heal each other with our HAAL.
A beautiful woman in my town died alone in her Volvo this week, after “missing” for four long, scary days. Her three children will no doubt be burdened for life wondering WHY she left. I bear a heavy heart wondering why we did not take time to look deeply into her eyes and tend to the state of her breaking heart.
Were we too afraid of her darkness?
Too worried what to say if we felt her pain?
Or simply too busy to notice her HAAL?
I believe that the secret to world peace lies in our hearts. I can attest to my week of sharing heartfelt worries and wonderings. It uplifted me and all involved, whether 1:1 walking, 15 minutes on the phone, or a two hourlong teleconference with half a dozen amazing people I’ve not yet met. Science tells us our hearts are 5,000 times more powerful than our brains. Consider putting down the TO DO list for a time to practice how you want to BE and FEEL. Let’s tap the power of our hearts, together.
Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with us.
It's 3:23 in the morning, and I'm awake
because my great, great, grandchildren won't-let-me-sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
what did you do, while the planet was plundered?
what did you do, when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
My great, great grandchildren are talking loudly these days, as are my own children. Are yours, too? Maybe it comes with being 50, having three kids in school for 19 years now or knowing more teachers... maybe it’s life in 2015.
Maybe we are failing our children and our teachers.
I spent many hours this past weekend listening to a few Amazing! friends who have re-created themselves even after successful careers, marvelous mother-hoods, and even more education and expense, to teach. To go back to school to be in school, because they love teaching children. They are teaching for a fraction of what they used to make as lawyers and corporate gurus, a fraction of what they should be paid to do the most necessary job on the planet: teach our children. They are teaching the most stressed-out students ever during a time of more testing and demands than ever before. They are committed to passing along history to make a better future;
but the present educational system in which they operate is failing all of us.
Created at a time when the factory was "the thing,"
the American educational system needs a re-boot.
Let me be clear. These friends are no wilting violets: they are incredible teachers, wonderful friends, inspiring mothers. And they are burnt out. Fatigued from 12-14 hour workdays plus the homework they take home after that. They spend nearly all day Saturday grading, planning ahead, catching up. They feel fried, frustrated and nearly finished by a system systematically destroying its most important element -
those who educate.
I don’t know about you but I detest meetings.
Our teachers are being meeting-ed to death!
As I listened compassionately, reaching for any possible solution to this crazed chaos, I felt like I was sitting ringside watching a crumbling Tower of Babel. As they describe administrators who make multiples of their meager salaries, acting with little sensitivity for our kids or their teachers, I was aghast! They tell tales of managers meddling in their classrooms, making more busywork for them, year after year. They share stories of people who have never been in charge of a classroom trying to take charge of theirs. They give instances of a dozen more demands being placed on them every single year, as curriculum, learning requirements and assessments are constantly modified, tweaked, dare I say, “improved”?
On average, administrators make twice what our teachers do. Many of our school districts spend more per student on administrators than they do on teachers. How is that good for students? (I am not harping on administrators, there are certainly good ones out there. But do we need so many? Is there a chance they have served their purpose and their job is now complete or will we constantly need new curriculum and assessments? When is enough enough?)
This system is broken and it’s wreaking havoc on our teachers. I can't imagine how their stress could not possibly be felt by our students. My kids come home more days than not reporting crabby teachers, teachers who limit the number of questions they can ask, subs in place of teachers because of "meetings." Worst of all, over the past 19 years I have been the parent of children in school, I have seen far too many excellent teachers burn out in the hands of this inane system. I live in a town where more than half the people I know hire tutors, to supplement the lost learning time, to prepare children for standardized tests. Why don't we let them "just" teach?
Our tax dollars are investing in more testing, not better teaching.
Do us all a favor — talk to your kids’ teachers, to your friends who are teaching, to your neighbors who quit. Ask them how they are and then lean in to listen, really understand their concerns. Find out how many hours a day they spend in meetings versus time they spend with their students. How many class periods do they spend administering tests or teaching to prepare for tests? (My reports reveal multiples of classroom time spent in meetings and assessments.) Inquire how many levels of assessments they are required to prepare for, deliver and grade and report on.
(Even the Obama Administration came out this week agreeing with me and thousands of students on this one — “Too much testing!”)
Wonder whether you could last in this insane environment for a day, a week, much less a whole school year. And then, please help me understand how any of this is good for our children, our society, or our future.
Once you know, speak up in any way you feel comfortable. Support a teacher. Say no to more testing. Let’s figure out a way to support our teachers for the love of learning!
Our future depends upon it.
If you can say yes to this interruption, listen to this surprising story of a goat lady, nine goats, and a pair of open-hearted moms.
Women walk and talk, simultaneously satisfying our needs for exercising and socializing. I have weekly walk/talk dates on my calendar; it’s my favorite way to connect one on one. My spirited friend, Maggie, often collects neighbors to join her, and always creates savory stories, on her hikes through Oak Park. Her curious mind and open heart are always rewarded with sweet surprises, deep connection in unexpected places. Here’s what happened this week.
“Do you have time for a detour?” her walking companion teased. Maggie, being adventurous, cheered “YES!” They followed their noses down alleys to find “the goat lady,” a woman shining her bright light on the dark streets of Austin. Their sense of smell does not lie - there are nine goats living in this lady’s garage. Of the 2,360 shootings in Chicago since 1/1/15, 205 of them have taken place in this zipcode. (http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/shootings/)
“Do you have 20 minutes?” Carolyn, aka “the goat lady” greets her unsuspecting visitors. “SURE!” our dynamic duo replies, and they are immediately handed the reigns to help Carolyn escort her nine goats to their grazing space a few blocks away. Along the way, they notice people taking pictures, and how cordially Carolyn greets everyone she meets, especially “Mister Mister,” a man in a wheelchair, who reminds her she forgot to grab the day old flowers from Whole Foods this morning, which he usually rescues for a retirement center close by. Carolyn rescues food that would be discarded for her goats every day from the grocery store. Best I can tell, she’s rescuing more than spoiled food and wilted flowers.
As they walk, the goat lady proudly explains that her neighborhood used to be known for its “drive by shootings.” Since the four-legged residents moved into her garage, there are new drive by shootings, she says, pointing to a person taking a photo of them. Perhaps this is why the state rep, who lives right next door, does not report her noxious neighbors. The streets have been lightened by this goat lady and her goats. Creating community continues to be an antidote to crime.
Stories of problems abound when we sit and stare at our screens. Turn on the news and you can see VW in trouble, Kim Davis making up crazy crapp, and a Wild West-like shooting spree. Relying on the media for reality, the world sure seems dark. Listening to stories of solutions, such as Maggie really showing up in her neighborhood, warms my soul and inspires me. A funny thing happens when we become our own reporters, take to the streets, and choose to make our own sense of reality. Solutions abound!
We hold the solutions to the world’s problems. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They are not hiding behind closed doors or on our devices — solutions walk on our streets, where we meet each other. We need only see, say YES!, and share solutions. We are our own best hope.
When Maggie shared this story in Circle this week, we all came alive, got curious, compassionate and committed to discovering our own stories of solutions. The world is changing with or without us. Are we part of the same old news of what’s not working OR are we co-creating new news? Before winter restricts our walking/talking, take to the streets. Do you have 20 minutes? Do you have time for a detour?
What if our religion was each other
If our practice was our life
If prayer, our words...
What if meditation was our relationships
If the teacher was life
If wisdom was self-knowledge
If love was the center of our being.
This week I had the privilege of facilitating an amazing coming together of local community leaders in the sustainability movement. Under the full moon, in the newly renovated Thatcher Woods Pavilion, nearly 100 of us gathered to celebrate what’s working in OP/RF, hospitality courtesy of Green Community Connections. Oh my — did we have fun!
Over the past six months, a group of us have been gathering in ProAction Cafes, sharing ideas and collaborating, brainstorming, cross-pollinating, all the while intent on taking action. Since we first met in February, we have: curbside composting, opened Sugar Beet Coop, sparked natural lawn care campaigns, created time banking projects, sent Citizens Climate Lobby delegates to wake up political leaders, orchestrated a native landscaping conference, noticed that the monarchs are returning as we expand our wildlife corridor, counted the trees and Oak Park is officially an Arboretum, and more! We exceeded our wildest expectations! In a day when the news is dismal, especially on the environment, this was news we could use… and hoot and holler about!
Remarkably, all of these endeavors began as the dream of one individual and grew into a campaign engaging dozens if not hundreds, and together included thousands. And we are just two villages among many.
Produce sitting too long on the vine withers; the harvest is as critical as seeding, watering, cross-pollinating. With noisemakers as the center piece of each table, we invited local activists to share accomplishments, to harvest what had blossomed from seeds of ideas months earlier. The enthusiasm in the room was palpable. A few spoke about the magic of cross-pollination, the uplift that occurs when leaders and visionaries and activists connect in one room and together share what we care. Whether carbon, chemical-free lawns, monarchs or maple trees, caring concerns in one space connected elevates conversation, creates community and energizes action.
Driving away under the light of a foggy moon, I noticed raccoons and skunks scurrying from my headlights. I couldn’t help but smile a huge, satisfied smile. How lucky was I to be part of such an active community!
As Grace Lee Boggs says at 100 “What a time to be alive! We have the capacity within to create the world anew!”
Hop aboard the bus to building a better future! Let’s do it NOW NOW NOW: Listen in: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=sing+for+the+climate+belgium+%E2%80%93+final+clip&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=DCBD67145F2BDC6C2995DCBD67145F2BDC6C2995
She gently placed her hand on my shoulder, “I didn’t want you to walk into that,” and then pointed to what I was literally nose to nose with: a spider spinning her web. Mel and I were making our way through Thatcher Woods, our last walk/talk before she heads west to Hawaii to open a retreat center. I had been looking down, to avoid tripping on a fallen branch or losing the path which had narrowed and was muddied by a recent rainfall. It was the tenth spider web I had had a close call with in the last week. Accompanied by the lilting tune of a flute player (I kid you not!), we marveled at Mother Nature and then continued our muddy path-finding adventure. While away for a week at the beach, spiders had taken advantage of my abandoned house to adorn every nook, cranny and corner with webs. The wafting music took me back to my oceanic state of mind.
Recently, three friends in addition to Mel have decided to move away from the big city, loving its people but not its mountain-less landscape. Sad to see them go, I completely understand their need for more natural environs, and look forward to visiting them in their remote retreats. During my family’s recent respite from cement in Plum Island MA, we spent nearly all day every day at the beach, sunrise to sunset. No matter what adventure I proposed, the unanimous answer stayed the same: “No thanks, we're going to the beach.” One day, through casual conversation with a native of the island, I learned of a bird sanctuary along an expansive beach (see panoramic photo above). Cars, bikes and runners line up early every morning to wait for one of the precious few 50 parking spaces, and then tote towels and chairs to savor space at low tide. My only disappointment was not knowing the names of the dozens of species of shells, fish and birds with whom we shared the beach. I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gifts from the Sea, again, written when she was my age, and spent hours collecting and reflecting on seashells and other gifts the sea brought to me. Life isn’t perfect at the beach, but it’s darn close. I’m always sad to leave the natural rhythm of the tides to return to the unnatural routine of daily life.
Easing back into urban life, we walked Boston’s Freedom Trail, traversing the very same streets I had maneuvered 25 years ago as a law student, bringing back a tide of memories. My law school is now in a brand new building, standing grandly across from, instead of in the shadow behind, the State House. After being thoroughly entertained by a vivacious historian who gifted me with new eyes on America’s founding, we visited my old stomping grounds at Faneuil Hall to confirm that Durgin Park's clam chowder is still the best; it is. Back home on the streets of Oak Park, I find myself missing the tidal rhythm. I wonder whether my great great grandkids will live in cities or near the sea… Will they prefer mountains or monuments? What story will historians be telling in the future? The most inspiring person I met this summer was Drew Dellinger (Love Letter to the Milky Way) at the IONS Conference here in Chicago. Maybe you’ve read his poem “hieroglyphic stairway” which begins:
“it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing?
as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
I can’t help but wonder about the fate of cities and seashores, not to mention how we will continue to nurture our need for Nature. Will Plum Island survive another temperature uptick or the next hurricane? Will spiders and birds and fish outlive us all, or be something our great great grandkids see only on the pages of storybooks? Naomi Klein’s latest call for action in This Changes Everything lays the groundwork for a global revolution. Last night, I was up at 3:23 and 4:34 and 5:45, haunted by my great great grandchildren urging me to just do something. Time is ticking, the door is closing. What if we took what we are doing in the spirit of our favorite "ism" up a notch? What if we leaned in, turned toward the crises, created spaces for real conversations in our communities and just.did.something?
I made a rare appearance at the beauty salon yesterday, This Changes Everything in hand, and it did (change everything). Shockingly, the TV was turned off; instead of the usual banter, everyone was abuzz about a monarch butterfly that had hatched in a glass jar there in the spa. They were tearful when I told them she needed to be released soon. Together we leaned in and shared all we knew about these migrating marvels. A septuagenarian next to me commented “Wow! This is a really good conversation…instead of 'this'!” (pointing to a magazine on the stand between us). She was right. Later, on the streets of Oak Park, an older gentleman named Ron from California stopped me, twice, eager to share his stories: “Did you know Highway 15 caught on fire?” (http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/17/us/california-freeway-fire/) “Did you know the State of California is ripping up lawns and replacing them with stone gardens?” (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-06-06/california-begins-rip-lawns-because-whole-damn-state-out-water)? With the state’s water crisis, he is considering moving to Chicago, home to the largest source of fresh water in the country. [Note to self: here’s a new selling point when I’m ready to sell (got water!).]
How could we build a worldwide web to connect and hold every one of us, intent on healing our ravaged earth? What would we call this, the largest social justice movement ever — one that weaved together the common thread of Moms Demand Action, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the Occupy Movement, ERA, the Gay Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter, the Million Moms' March, ….? Save the date! A revolution is coming to your neighborhood this September 24.
“History knocked on your door…did you answer?” Naomi Klein
What stories do you want to be telling your grandchildren?
What keeps you up at night?
What one thing would change everything?
Although most of the work I am privileged to do in the world is literally TOO BIG FOR WORDS, occasionally I am inspired to put some words to my experience, and this is the landing place. Chime in on the conversation. Your voice is needed.