A Great Fullness

Originally published at engagedliminality.org for the Guild of Engaged Liminality (July 2020)

IMG_6753  Photography has long been my solace and my escape from everyday stresses and expectations. I have fussed with apertures and shutter speeds, filters and special effects.  Ultimately though, it is my interaction with the natural world itself that co-creates the picture, with technicalities only enhancing (or sometimes obscuring) what is already present.

Recently, I was looking through a New York Times photo essay titled “The Great Empty,” shot in March 2020, the first month of global shutdowns due to the coronavirus (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/23/world/coronavirus-great-empty.html). The photos, situated in the world’s great cities, show empty streets and isolated people, silhouetted in high-rise apartment windows. The absence of crowds and traffic in these photos is jarring. And hauntingly beautiful. Some cities remain in isolation at this writing, but most are opening up to human movement for the sake of resuming some sense of normalcy in the workplace and in social life.  We are still in the liminality of pandemic, feeling our way globally into the emerging future. Experiments focusing on the flow of life and work continue with a step forward, then back, then a step in another direction, as science rushes to keep up with a virus that morphs and spreads indiscriminately.

The Great Empty refers to the movement, or lack thereof, of human beings. Yet, I have been encouraged with reports over the last few months that the slowing of human pace has created space for other creatures to find more space – A Great Fullness.  Whales increased communications with each other because cruise ships were not interrupting signals.  Turtles showed up on beaches where they had diminished in numbers significantly. Bird migrations were more cohesive.  For a moment, the planet breathed again – and so did human beings.   Photography essays showing signs of the natural world rebounding in a few short months brought me a moment of hope, countering my growing cumulative despair after decades of evidence pointing to human culpability for the planet’s demise. I don’t know if my hope will last; much depends on all of our choices during this liminal time.

Questions arise now about whether we can find our way to live well and make space in the world for the rest of creation. Economic anxieties and racial unrest are at the fore of human consciousness, rightly so, yet the plight of the natural world will likely move to the background once again rather than take its place as an integral connection to inequity and resources.  Until industry and mega-corporations make a decision that the natural ecosystems are essential for thriving, there is small likelihood that we will find a sustainable co-life with the world’s natural resources and non-human creatures.

So this forced, virus-based liminality necessitates our asking the essential question that Margaret Wheatley, a leadership entrepreneur and writer, poses: “Who do we choose to be?”  Notice that the subject is plural.  We are in liminal space together, and creating hope for a sustainable future is a shared decision, which is a complex prospect. Choices in the present are tempered with both grief and hope – grief for loss of the past and letting go of what we do not need, and hope for the emerging future. Moving through these states of being is essential for good choices.

The Great Empty gives us a picture toward which we might strive: breathable air, slower pace, space for creation to renew, working from home rather than clogging the streets and skies, focus on beauty.  The brilliance of collective human focus can take this picture and make something sustainable of it – if we choose well.  We pay attention to our shutter speeds (pace), our apertures (what we take in), filters (what matters and what doesn’t), and our special effects (how we bring beauty into the world and how we receive what is given to us). The possibility is endless.  Who do we choose to be?

 

 

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Disintegration

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We are well into our third month of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  I don’t know about you, but I am busier than ever – my inbox can’t be contained, my writing opportunities are fast-increasing, and I am suddenly aware of the home clear-out possibilities that could be done right this very second.  Building a coaching and consulting business during this time has its own frenzy to it. I’ve never felt more connected to people whom I almost never see, and I’ve never felt more disconnected from the people I try (tried) to see often.  Someone reminded me the other day that this blog site is called “liminal space” for such a time as this. Yeah. I know. Now.

Liminal space as a concept is taking on a life of its own these days. The term is cropping up in the business, academic, social service, and religious worlds. Every day, dozens of articles land in my inbox, telling me and my business to be agile, prepared, flexible, and to mind my supply chains.  CEOs need to keep morale high and show just the right amount of vulnerability, but not too much, or people will lose confidence. Anxiety and grief are fine as long as it is fruitful and handled well. Being with the people in one’s care matters. Mindfulness, compassion, exercise, sleep, and support are crucial.

Oh for goodness’ sake.  Can’t we just deal with disintegrating for a minute? The calendar is hard to follow (temporal disintegration), meals are not on schedule, work and home life are fused (fragmentation), and today, there’s a tornado watch in my part of the country.  None of these things is inherently bad, but they need a lot of space to swim around in for a bit.

Liminal space means “in between” and in between has chaos in it.  Trying to control the chaos every second is exhausting. Sometimes, we have to ride the currents even as we’re planning that next executive meeting or sorting out the schedule for workshops, Zoom calls, and the next possible date to get on a plane.  This situation calls for a both/and – we have to ride the current and we have to swim too. Tricky. Necessary. But I hope the “ride the current” part doesn’t get lost or we are going to disintegrate into swimming into exhaustion.  And I hope the “swim” part doesn’t get lost or we’re going to disintegrate into being feckless, depressed victims of the times.

Here’s the thing about disintegration.  Those who have a sense of what liminal space is know that disintegration is the first part of the chaos; things get messier and messier.  They kind of fall apart or split wide open.  Then we get our footing and look around to see where we are and what’s going on around us. Then we begin to figure out a short-term plan. Then we get to better footing and find a few people. Then we figure out a short term, better plan together.  Then we continue along these lines until there is a whole team working on the same thing: the other side of chaos. And then the plan becomes action.  Part of the action is medium-term planning. And then the action becomes the new thing, and we have launched into a future that we hadn’t really seen before. Then we plan long-term.  That’s the process – coast a little, swim a little, look around, coast a little, swim a little (I feel a song coming on).

That’s the beauty of the pain of liminal space.

That rock that split in the picture above?  Look closely at the top of the left half. There’s a little tree growing on it. And that tree’s roots are going to cause another split. Liminal space is cyclical – it’s how we grow, whether we’re hit by a disaster or we sense that it’s time for a change that we can initiate.

I hate this pandemic and what it’s done to the world. I also know that the disintegration will bring new life out of loss of life and normalcy. What will your new life be as you coast a little, swim a little? Only time will tell.

 

 

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Unfurling

IMG_6686 Something is unfurling these days.  

 

We’re past the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic, but still in the throes of panic and grief. Weariness over long-term battles with the virus, fear over a tanking economy (affecting most people anyway), and suffering over various levels of isolation–this is just the beginning. Or rather, the beginning of the middle. Liminal space has new meaning now; we aren’t where we were a few months ago, and we have no idea what’s next. This long-term (in the human scheme of things) middle space isn’t pretty. 

On the other hand, the planet is getting a rest, the whales are showing lower stress and higher levels of communication uninterrupted by cruise ships, people are breathing cleaner air in asthma-inducing cities, and we all are enjoying birdsong and the audible sigh of the wind as noise pollution diminishes. This short-term (in the planetary scheme of things) middle space is pretty.

I find myself ping-ponging between listening to the mindfulness/encouragement industry and rejoicing over the positives for the environment, and reading gruesome detective stories where the dregs of human behaviors assert themselves in violence, meanness, and disruption (sort of like news headlines). I hold this paradox–hope/despair–in my mind and body every single day, rather helplessly: a state of being that I do NOT LIKE. This ping-pong game isn’t pretty.

At the same time, I wonder about ping and pong. Is this action a merely back-and-forth  across a net, trying to score victory against the unknown?  Or might it have a different purpose: a fervent give-receive/push-pull in place of great disruption and discomfort,  shedding an old game for a new one? A new kind of life? For those who survive, that is.

The encouragers are clear that we are entering a new awakening, complete with scars of course, where we have opportunity to pay more attention to what matters and what we can let go. The new awakening calls for us human beings to be more mindful of our spiritual selves and our interconnection with the planet. On the other hand, those who warn us speak to the oncoming economic recession, if not depression, that is going to catapult us into years of discord and days like the early 20th century, with accompanying poverty and misery for the masses.

I suspect that both perspectives have elements of truth. What can be done? What can we do? Ultimately, we choose who we want to be in this paradoxical time of swift change.  That means we choose what we support, how we will act, and what we will stand for as we move forward. The choices are crucial and frustrating; in one sense, we are waiting things out, and in another, we are gearing up to be the best or worst we can be no matter what is on the horizon. Collaborative or competitive?  Handing out toilet paper and food or hoarding it?  Voting for openness or protection? What about both? Can it be both?

We have some power over what actually unfurls.  I have it, you have it.  The future is a co-creation and it will take conversations, work, and hope that is beyond our knowing. The pretty and the un-pretty are going to be there together.  Who will we choose to be in in the unfurling?

Because something is unfurling these days, no matter what.

 

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Disruption

SONY DSC When I named this site “Liminal Space,” I had a sense that we were moving into turbulent times, but had no idea that we would be in worldwide state of quarantine in early 2020. I’ve been writing about liminal space (in-between spaces and times) for years now, so some of the responses/reactions in the here-and-now do not surprise me. But they concern me.

Viral infections come in physical manifestations (COVID-19), but they also come in collective and personal mental infections, including clusters of ideologies  that can be exceptionally destructive. We have seen this mental viral infection spread throughout history, and if we’re paying attention, even today: mass killings based on a attempting to establish a dominant belief system (power over others), genocides, political statements that incite hate, destructive messaging on FaceBook, command-and-control leadership, police states…

Health workers and other leaders are working hard to contain COVID-19 for the sake of humanity; we do our part by physical distancing (“social” distancing is a misnomer – it’s time to be even more social, albeit in safe ways). However, it is up to each of us not to spread mental viruses by lashing out, falling into racism (the “China virus” label is just that), and by providing help, support, and kindness in this disruption that feels like a life-siege.

We are in-between right now.  In-between, or liminal spaces, always are uncomfortable at best, mind-blowingly painful at worst.  Grounding ourselves as best we can is our immediate task. We can stay grounded and sane by acknowledging hardship while looking for opportunity;  looking for ways to be helpful and kind; asking for help when we need it; making sure we’re in touch with others regularly; conducting tasks that have been long-neglected (clean the basement!); and finding the inner creative artist. In my neighborhood, I see parents and children walking up and down delivering needed goods to those who can’t leave their homes.  I see on the neighborhood social media site people asking for help and others responding immediately.  I also see people saying really hurtful things to others, name-calling, shouting at grocery store workers, and blame-mongering. I can’t imagine what is happening in the realm of domestic violence as I write this piece.

Both the best and the worst are coming out of humanity in early 2020, a normal response/reaction to liminal space caused by disruption.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of long-term consequences of this disruption ahead of us–mostly financial though many physical.  In two months, things are not going back to the way they were; such is the way of moving through liminal space.  We can never return to the old way. Moving forward is the only option. We will discover new ways of being together, of using technology, of having available (and enough) health care responses, and we will also discover that the unemployment rate has risen, more people are going to be living on or over the edge, and that our social services networks will be completely overwhelmed.  Money will get more and more concentrated in certain sectors and less in others. This is long-haul stuff and we are in space now to try and figure out our best responses (vs. reactions).

I realize that I’m not sounding hopeful while at the same time calling for the best of humanity to emerge as much as possible.  Liminal space is always a mixed bag, messy, and tiring.  Let’s make sure we’re in life-giving spaces with life-giving people so that we don’t succumb to the mental viruses of unbridled anger, despair, and blame/shame.  No good comes from such things.  Stay socially connected.  Share.

Peace in the chaos, friends.  Strength and courage for what is unfurling in our futures. The “we’re in it together” mindset is indeed our courage for each day ahead.

 

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Wheelchair

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Pain. The great leveler. The great teacher. Pain does not discriminate.

As is the case with millions of people, I have a lifelong relationship with back discomfort. Perhaps moving heavy objects with impunity when I was a self-sufficient kid started my descent into the realm of maladjusted spine in my early twenties. Over the years, I simply cope with the aches and muscle-bunching burning after numerous failed attempts to alleviate its distraction. Prolonged exercise and repetitive physical therapy fire up the inflammation, so I simply function with my daily tasks until such time when pain becomes a little more dominant and I need to make adjustments. Acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage have sustained me for over a decade now with only a glitch here and there.

Boom! Suddenly two weeks ago, I could barely use my left leg; my long-term bulging disc took out my hip, wrought havoc with my knee, and my calf turned into cement with upset nerves snaking through immovable, cramped muscle: a veritable war zone, complete with shrapnel, pepper spray, and nerve gas. Every breath became a gasp.  Worse, who has time for such a thing?  I had to be at the airport in four days, I had to fulfill a contract in Chicago (I WANTED to!), and I didn’t have the experience or even the imagination to cope with a disabled body.  Canceling was not an option at this late date. I hate letting people down.

My chiropractor listened sympathetically to my crisis and then said the dreaded word, “wheelchair” to me, especially helpful for long airport concourses. NO!

I drove to Chicago instead. There are always consequences to be paid for six hours of physical inertia: stairs to my (inaccessible) temporary living quarters provided an almost insurmountable pain barrier. I had to sit or crouch every few steps and pant. By then, I was on pain meds, but they didn’t even put a dent in the war zone. I realized with sinking heart based on all things fiercely independent that I was headed for a wheelchair.

The next morning, I arrived to teach about leadership in tough times, having accepted the on-site staff’s help by collapsing into a procured 1950s-tank-of-a-wheelchair with a wobbly wheel. I entered the classroom, highly conscious of first impressions. Lo and behold, right in front of me was an auditor for the class, in the most beautiful, sleek, lightweight wheelchair I had ever seen. I bet that chair could win marathons. We greeted each other, me in my awkward can-barely-wheel-the-thing chair, and he in his athletic fluidity, having over time made the chair part of his presence.  Hmmm. Ranting against my disability, my loss of fierce self-sufficiency, suddenly took a turn. Good-bye indignation.

For five days, I succumbed to being wheeled around in a chair with a wheel-mind of its own, books and laptop and water bottle piled on my lap.  I learned to maneuver the chair slowly when I needed to, with a little help from the right foot. I did not stand to shake people’s hands.  I did not stand in line for lunch.  I did not walk to get a cup of tea. I calculated doorway widths and obstacles in my path. I thanked people who offered, helped, wheeled, waited, brought food, drove me to the door in their cars, traveled hours to be of service (a special blessing to the traveler!). I answered the “how are you?” question constantly.  My angst, my gratitude, my need to be clear-headed to teach were a whirling mess wrapped up in leg and back pain.

Meanwhile, the man in the beautiful chair watched and encouraged and told me his story about reframing his own notion of fierce independence over 13 years. He told me about his current struggles and his meaning-making based on what life had brought him against the odds he had been promised by a surgeon. He was present with me, offering some of the deepest compassion I have ever known.  A beautiful man in a chair.

At the end of the week, several students told me I had had an extraordinary presence and sense of calm throughout the week.  (WHAT?! On whose planet?!) Some said that the community of the classroom had been, for the first time, so important that they felt sad about disbanding.  Two people cried. How had this happened? Two people in chairs with wheels, eleven others deeply linked through their own invisible-to-the-naked-eye disabilities. Beautiful people sitting together in our various chairs.

Pain is teacher, leveler, learning community: compassionate connection in tough times.

Disability. My leg still hurts, I can walk very short distances and climb stairs, but it’s not over yet.  I know that I will become “abled” again. But now it’s my turn for a reframe. My disability isn’t primarily physical. The desire for almost-autonomy is far more severe. Accepting gifts of compassion, oh so different than pity, is the hardest lesson of my life thus far. Pity I can dismiss angrily.  Compassion breaks my heart, opening it to all the grace that awaits me.

Where is that wheelchair now? How long will I need it? What will it take to make the pain a necessary part of wholeness?  The more powerful question is, who will be my companions along the way?

Thank you to compassionate companions, temporary and long-term:  Joseph, Judy, Kara, Emlyn, Sandy, students, staff, and healers Blandy, Cheri, and Mary Jo. I am grateful.

 

 

 

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Bats

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(Published in the Delaware Gazette, October 25, 2019)

One of the greatest daily gifts I receive in the autumn evenings is the ability to sit on my small patio and watch the final day-flutterings of birds and the night-emergence of bats. Bats buzz my head if I sit still long enough. Perhaps they are curious about the unusual echo-location vibe I send their way. Fleshy, big, breathing. I silently urge them on, hoping that they’ll eat as many mosquitoes as possible and then some.

It takes a certain quality of quiet to hear bat wings brush by.

These bats teach me.  Their command of the air currents and their accuracy of locating air-borne food provokes awe in me.  Their laser-focus through listening helps them hone in in less than a second.  They move like swifts and swallows and flap like hummingbirds, but have even greater maneuverability. And how cool is it that they perch upside-down?  They are mammals. They are regional pollinators for tropical fruits and chocolate. They can fly over 100 miles per hour. They chatter when they are in their colonies (I’ve heard them). They provoke screaming and arm-waving in the movies or sometimes in one’s home.  Some are endangered. They are associated with vampires via their mutal toothiness.  Bats carry all kinds of interesting characteristics and mythologies, and I get to watch them hunt for food every still night in the summer and fall.

Ah, to be able to super-control my movements and to hone in with the concentration of a bat.  Listening with a purpose, responding immediately and accurately, eating all I wanted with plentiful supply—my respect abounds.

The level of listening and response, accomplished by sending out experimental sonic waves to measure distance between cry and echo, instructs us human beings.  I remember as a child experimenting with echoes against cliffs and rocks.  I was amazed to hear my voice sound off several times; that’s what I sound like?  Today, in my coaching work, I am trained to listen deeply for echoes of things not said, finding messages through non-verbal cues and responses to a meaningful question.  This kind of listening takes tremendous hours of practice on top of intentionality.  It requires getting distractions out of the way and tuning in to a relational field that is between me and client(s), not visible, but real.  Some people call this state “in the zone.” Perhaps it is the path of the echo between us.

I wonder what this world would be like if we all intentionally listen with such intense focus.  I don’t think we’re capable of doing so every moment of every day because the very act of honing in takes a great deal of energy.  However, listening deeply seems to be a waning skill in the culture of soundbites and quick messaging.  When someone feels listened to without judgment or advice, she or he feels validated, believed, and honored.  If human beings could feel these things regularly, we might find a way to be less resentful, reactive, and polarized.  Our egos would settle down.  Our self-worth would rise.  Our sense of possibility and adventure might be valued more highly.

Deep listening is nothing new.  Biblical stories of Jesus show his ability to speak to the unspoken, the Torah tells stories that impart meaning not explicitly stated but require a “listening” stance for the underlying message.  Sacred texts in all religious traditions and spiritual practices of any sort require a centered a listening that doesn’t concentrate only on information but also on interpretation and agile, appropriate response to the context at hand.

My concern is that we are losing a culture of deep listening, and therefore, deep connection.  I hope for self-correction beyond the individualistic mindfulness practices so that we hone in on each other’s stories, listening others into wholeness.  For me, that’s a clear spiritual calling.

You know, I wonder what a lightning bug sounds like to a bat. What happens when bats eat lightning bugs? After all, we are what we eat.  And we choose how and to what we listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yellow

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“Life is hard” was the throw-away comment we teenagers used in middle school when exam results or friendships didn’t achieve the perfection we desired. This phrase covered a host of difficulties, while also blithely hiding from the world how bunched-up our guts were about the latest crisis.  “Life is hard” became analogous to “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps,” or in more contemporary lingo, “move on, already.”

In reality, life is indeed hard if it is lived anywhere beyond surface interactions and events. Even for those who are committed to stay distanced from the world, there is a time when loss or disruption catapults us into difficult space.  It is in this space that we have a choice between living in denial or accepting the change and drawing on our inner resilience.  If the disruption is unjust, then resilience might look like garnering resources for challenge. If the disruption is caused by accident or death, then resilience might look like grief and anger for a time.

There is one exceedingly difficult disruption that the choices above don’t quite address: the pre-meditated change (we know it’s coming—we’ve been part of the conversation!) where the transition nonetheless feels awful.  Retirement, job shift, location move, empty-nest syndrome, family drama leading to relational cut-offs, you name the change, and it isn’t easy to accept and “move on, already. I am in job transition myself, but it’s not the first one in my life so I’m familiar with the territory. Familiarity does not mean ease. An odd tug-of-war occurs in this difficult space: self-doubt mixes with determination, regret mixes with adventuresome spirit, anger mixes with relief.  The emphases shift every day, but this tension continues to pull in both directions at the same time, especially in the gut.

I was musing about change-as-disruption in the midst of deep frustration about how traffic lights work in Delaware County—actuation versus timing when traffic is heavy, which is constant during daylight hours.  Choices about how to respond to change seem to be much like the yellow phase of the traffic light.  Stop or go, or go really fast?  Every single yellow light is a judgment call.  How long has it been yellow?  How long will it be yellow, verging on orange? How much traffic is sitting around?  Is there a car in front of me or too close behind me?  My brain pulls in dozens of impressions when deciding whether to go or stop for the yellow signal, the caution signal.

One day in October, I encountered the highest percentage of yellow lights I had ever experienced.  Was it a sign? What was I being cautioned to do or not to do? Better yet, had Delaware County just discovered timing versus actuation? By the end of the day, I was laughing every time I encountered the caution light. The ridiculous amount of yellow in my life had my attention. Thoughts strayed toward lemons and butter and sunshine, but the traffic lights held their own as the dominant source of yellow that day.

When I told a friend about the preponderance of yellowness, I was gratified that she too laughed. She knows about such things as body energy, and she told me that yellow is centered in the solar plexus (stomach). It deals with determination and taking charge of one’s own wellness.  The phrase associated with this energy is “I can and I will.” So much for caution! The bunched-up-gut place that came to the fore in early life-is-hard teen years is still functioning in full gear, this time shifting up to move forward with caution into “go.”

My own faith tradition enters in.  Living well in transition is living in primarily a gut-place, a place of faith rather than certainty.  The gut-place has potential to bring out our worst selves or our best selves.  Anyone who has been part of disruptions knows this potential.  High stress brings out destructiveness (neediness, sabotage, back-stabbing, striking out, poor decisions, road rage) or greatness (empathy, relationship-deepening, presence, building-up, meaning-making, road courtesy).  We have a choice in the midst of change.  What are you called to do with your yellow light?

 

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Curry and Cupboard Cooks

[Curry and Cupboard Cooks first appeared in the Delaware Gazette, May 31,IMG_0154 2019.]

I don’t cook very often.  I never use recipes.  When inclined to cook or when I have company, I tend to look in the cupboards and see what is available. Then I make up a sauce for the fish or the chicken and another for the vegetables.  Most cooking events don’t end in disaster, though occasionally I do wish I hadn’t used so much garlic or curry.

I taught two young teenagers in another country to cook this way:  look in the refrigerator. What appeals?  Look in the spice cabinet.  What goes together?  What might be surprising?  We would mix spices together with oils or creams or butter (maybe all three), as grand experiments, do a little taste testing, modify, and then sauté or roast as desired.  Their parents were trusting, long-suffering, or delighted, depending on our choices and their palates. I sometimes can’t believe these friends let me use their kitchen to teach their children how to cook this way.

An aside: Recipe officionados and the whole cookbook industry frown upon such methods; after all, why reinvent the wheel when someone else prescribes things exactly so? Perhaps there is a personality type difference at play here, but to me, it’s so much more fun to create something from what is available rather than go to the store and fulfill the list.

The two teenagers are grown adults now.  They are cupboard cooks.  Of course, we cupboard cooks all must keep cupboards semi-stocked with basic supplies include cream, lemons, curry, garlic, pepper, oils of different sorts, any other spices one likes, and perhaps a little parmesan, just in case.  Then add your main course and your side foods.  Over time, certain tastes become favorites and others discarded. Once in a while, throw in a new spice or base.  What the teens and I learned in the midst of our kitchen immersions is the extraordinary fun of a cupboard NOT well-stocked – then the creativity really has to flow!

Such experimentation with what is already in supply translates to other parts of life as well. Teaching creativity is indeed an immersive experience, and what better way than by rustling through cupboards and creating something new from what is already present?  It seems to me that such a way of cooking is a good way of being ourselves in the world. Sometimes we live the tried-and-true mixtures, sometimes we throw in a new spice or base just to see what comes of it.  Creative experimentation with our lives expands us into better and better selves, the selves God is calling forth in us.  Some experiments will be failures and that combination of spices need not be tried again. Some cause allergic reactions, or worse, and are not good for us.  Some are so good we want to repeat them until we make them even better.  Some are just weird.  All are worth the experience of putting something new together and trying.

The older I get, the easier it seems for me to become routinized and comfort-seeking. Some of this state stems from body aches and joint groans, but some simply is a different energy in life.  However, I am reminded when I do cook that life really is seeing what is available or what presents itself, followed by  what I can make of it as a good result.  My own spiritual journey wakes me up over and over as I experiment here and there even when I’m not sure the outcome is going to be positive.  It’s in the experimenting that I learn the best way forward.  I am convinced that God gives us each lots of ingredients in the cupboard and says, “Go for it! See what happens!  I’d be happy to sit at your table and let you know if this experiment should be repeated or not!”

By the way, curry does wonderful things to all foods whether used as a subtle under-flavor or all-out mouth-heater.  Try it.  Enjoy the experiment.  Yum.

 

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Local Lore

IMG_0065 I love to travel.  I love to dwell in one place in a different country, then take day trips to explore new vistas and adventures.  Most of all, I love to find a local bakery, cafe, or gathering place where I can overhear the news. (The driveway paving job is outrageously overpriced!  Farmers are finally done with the fields for the season. Did you hear that Millie is sick again?  Foul weather is coming! Hunting season starts today.  The platform being built in the town hall will never get done the rate those guys are going.  We can’t believe there was snow north of here while we have warm sun–it’s going to be a hard winter, mark my words.  Did you hear what the [U.S. president] said yesterday?)

Tiny towns are a wonderful reminder to me that life is both difficult and simple.  Gathering places serve the function of making sure no one is isolated in any circumstance.  Important (and perhaps less-important) news is brought to the table.  Men gather in groups and women gather in groups.  The news differs at each table, but  weaving together all the stories provides a pretty comprehensive picture of goings-on. Even beautiful landscapes outside the window pale in comparison to the generous camaraderie over a cup of tea and a sugar cookie.

Best of all, these gathering places remind me that humanity is not doomed to have relationship only with electronic devices despite all the editorial claims otherwise. The social ways of community are not lost completely.  I never thought I would enjoy the downright gossipy nosiness of small village; perhaps I wouldn’t if I were the subject of the conversation.

Uh oh. They’re sending me furtive glances.  I am the subject of their conversation!  Stranger in the midst with the only laptop in the whole bakery.  (Who is she? Where is she from? How long is she staying? Where is she staying? Is she listening to us? Why is she smiling? — sotto voce) Ah well.  Yes, I am listening. Time for another cup of tea.   It’s a small price to pay to hear the local take on politics, the state of the season, joys and concerns, and what makes the world go ’round.  I wish I could take pictures.  Sotto pictura.

 

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Autumnal Equinox

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It is the first full day of equinox (9.23.18). Where I live in the U.S., I see that the day/night are not equal lengths quite yet.  But the sun is passing, to our eyes, over the equator to the Southern hemisphere until the end of its trek, winter solstice.  Then it appears to move north again until June, when it reverses its travels.  March will mark the passing over the equator again.  Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, giving us the delight of our seasons.  I saw quite a sunset last night after two days of high winds and a drastic change in temperature, along with a near-full moon–a most appropriate way to mark the equinox  and to welcome autumn.

The mechanics of seasonal change for Earth are elegant.  No matter what environmental degradation we inflict on this spinning and rotating ball, the sun-earth-moon relationship will continue whether we are ultimately here to see it or not.  Such is true for solar systems everywhere, though with different time intervals, magnetic pulls, and different suns and moons.

As I grieve and mourn and protest all the ice meltings, the massive pollution, the overpopulation and forced migration, the wanton trophy-killing, greed and terror gone wild, the destructive “isms” and human and animal slavery on this planet, I take some little comfort in the seasonal change mechanics.  The sun, planet, and moon continue on their way, quietly witnessing our deadly dance.  This knowledge makes me stop and be quiet in my mind.  We are small.  We are deadly, but we are small.  Perhaps this dose of reality can humble us enough to get off our own path to destruction.  Perhaps not.

Whatever the end of humanity, if an end occurs, I suspect living organisms will survive.  And the cycles of spin and rotation will quietly continue.  Something new will arise after we have left a toxic soup.  Back-and-forth, spin and spin.

Ultimately, life isn’t all about us.  Strangely comforting somehow.  That doesn’t mean I give up though.  Grief and protest and living life fully continue.  It’s the perspective we carry that counts for every human being, and with it, humility can go a long way to counter greed and quick-fixes.

Blessed equinox, my friends.  Be humble, truthful, and aware.  And move steadily, back-and-forth, spin and spin, to keep weaving seasons of kindness and love.

 

 

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