When I picked my kids up from school a little over a week ago and hollered, “WOOO HOOO Spring Break!!!”, I never expected the turmoil, the insanity, the unexpected turn of events we experienced in the many days following. No way.
So while adrenaline continues to fuel my days and the unexpected has become almost expected, I actually found myself a little spring zen in my backyard yesterday.
This butterfly seemed so taken by my un-mowed clover. And that’s not the sky in the background but the sky’s reflection on our backyard pond. Kind of cool.
Anyway. It seemed the perfect first day of Spring picture to post.
Breathe. Focus. Don’t mind me. Just finding my zen here on my blog.
(My son is doing fantastic, by the way. He was released from the hospital the day after my last post. And while he tackles his brother in the other room, it’s hard to believe he was as sick as he was. So, back to school tomorrow for him…)
Three closets in this house were crammed — hangers poking out, bits of dry-cleaning plastic, colors, pants legs, sleeves — utterly CRAMMED full of her clothes.
Silk camel colored blouses, peter pan collars, stripes. Lined wool plaid knee length skirts. Brown hand bags. Brown wide-heeled shoes. So many scarves.
Jingling her keys, pushing open the door, home from work with grocery bags, finding me in front of afternoon cartoons, still in my school uniform. Had I done the dishes. Had I done my homework. Could I bring those things on the stairs up to my room. Eyeroll. Fine.
Knit hats, far too large, practical, shapeless jackets. Mismatched gloves. Scarves my grandmother knitted decades before. Snow boots she and I shared.
Walks in Rock Creek Park with our dog. Gray tree trunks, branches reaching to the sky, hills, valleys, brown leaves carpeting the pathway. Our black lab panting at her side. Her confident commands, “Konak, sit. Heel!” We would run ahead.
Thai raw silk shifts, carefully tailored into the memory of my mother’s 25 year old shape. Turquoise, mustard yellow, lime green. Zips up the back. Cool, scratchy lining. Glittery gold shoes. Gloves. Musty, ancient, exquisite.
Clomping around, admiring myself in her bedroom mirror. My mother wistful, wondering when I would be old enough to wear them myself. Those would be mine someday.
Purple turtle necks and worn, colorful Cape Cod sweatshirts. Old light blue faded Levis and white, basic Nike sneakers.
Whale watches out of Provincetown, walking along the pier with my grandparents, wind whipping, boats lolling, chatting, never rushing and relaxed. She was the young parent, I was the child.
All of it has been crammed into black plastic bags. All of it. Well, except for a few items we declared “archival” – like the raw silk shifts and her wedding outfit.
(And the black, suede, “Farrah Faucet” style pantsuit that I could barely squish myself into. The very same pantsuit that, when dragged downstairs on its hangar still, my Dad admitted how “hot” my mom was when she wore it. Ew. Ok, so sure that’s kind of sweet but still… ew.)
But the rest is stuffed away, ready to go. And be gone.
She was more than her things. I know this. But I have had to push back that sense that I am removing my mother out of this house. I have had to remain rational while an emotional voice pleads,”Yes, but these aren’t yours, they are hers and they belong in her house.”
No. It’s been a year and a half. My father needs the space. Life is moving forward. Her clothes are just clothes. Whatever we have left of her is still here. Crammed closets won’t make her come back.
So. It’s time.
Her office is next. Oh and her purse which strangely enough still hasn’t been touched after all this time. A new pack of cigarettes is still in there, receipts from the days before she passed, this and that and I’m not sure what else because it’s a bit much to look too closely at.
Still, that’s next too. Because it’s time.
But while I sort and sift and laugh and remember and train an objective eye over all of it, I’m wearing something of hers. I found some of her slippers. Ugly purple, with little bows and faux wool lining… sure. But they are comfort and hers and for that small, ever-present feeling – I am grateful.
Every Martin Luther King Jr. Day I Google him. Why? Well, because I need some reminding. And considering the recent shootings in Tucson, Google has schooled me once again with the sort of MLK wisdom that we should all literally be plastering to our foreheads. I’ll let his words speak for themselves.
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”
“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Today simply marks a day when I send a little prayer out into the wind for tolerance and peace.
You know about tolerance right? It’s when you actually stop thinking you know better, for just a moment, and then listen to what someone very different from you has to say. Because isn’t making that choice not to listen and not to like that person and not to think of that person as your equal “too great a burden to bear”?
And as for peace, well I took this picture yesterday. You know me. Wildlife – birds in particular – always seem to bring me a little peace. So, here’s hoping.
Over the past few weeks, hate has revealed itself in our country once again. Thanks to prospective plans to build a new mosque near Ground Zero, a surprisingly large number of Americans have lashed out against this mosque and faith.
Regardless of how many years have passed since 9/11, the pain of such a shocking attack has yet to dissipate, as expected. That anger is absolutely understood and something most Americans are still working through.
However, for some, so much of that anger has justified itself as misdirected hate. With clear minds and steadfast allegiance, many have gathered their hate and directed it point blank at the Islamic faith.
Over this morning’s breakfast, I watched CNN report about a church in Gainsville, right in this sunny little state of mine not too far from here. In response to recent events, it seems their congregation has plans to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11.
My cereal spoon paused in mid-bite.
It all feels so outlandish, so something out of some insane movie, some “The Day After” , “1984”, “Lord of the Flies” film that shows what happens to humans when we don’t keep ourselves in check. Something that should scare some sense into us but nothing that is actually happening. Because, wow, it would be pretty out of hand if our rational, sane, educated, equality-loving country ever got to the point where they would aim a missile at a mosque.
We’re at that point.
And during their news story this morning, CNN shared a quick clip from this recently created PSA to encourage awareness about the Islamic faith. It’s good. You should watch it here.
But I will tell you right now that it breaks my heart that we even have to have something like this. That a group of people paid to make a commercial to say “We are like you. We don’t want to hurt you. We are ok. No really, we are.”
I’m out of my mind about this.
(And here’s where I take a quick left turn and go on a little sidebar rant… Come along and listen, why don’t you.)
Apart from the outrageous, somehow accepted, hateful behavior being promoted and encouraged by various politicians, churches and everyday Americans, do you know who I blame this on?
I blame whoever the hell can’t get their act together to build the United States a place to mourn 9/11. I wonder how out of hand this ever would have gotten if Ground Zero was no longer just a hole – but an appropriate memorial where we could go, pay our respects and glean some small ounce of closure, peace or healing. But there is nothing there. Just an angry, raw construction site too massive to fill. An empty, unproductive space with memories so horrendous, no one knows what we could put in in its place to do all of it any justice.
Angry side bar done. Filling the hole clearly isn’t happening anytime soon, that’s clear. But a missile is currently being pointed at a small building where a mosque might be built. THAT is something that we can fix.
Missiles, leers, burning Qurans, bigotry, hateful protests. We are as a nation, as human beings, better than this.
So back to that church in Gainsville. My friend Maria wrote an important post about that church and its plans to burn the Quran in a few days. If you are wondering what you can do to promote peace right now, read her post. And join her initiative aptly named #loveburnsbrighter.
We can never take for granted how far we have come to ensure equality for every citizen in our country. Thousands of people have suffered so that the rights of our people are upheld and preserved. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech has lived in our minds for decades. It has remained alive in our hearts, reminding us to work for a dream, to accomplish the impossible. And tomorrow, with the election of Barack Obama, we are so close to realizing Dr. King’s dream.
But we can’t assume we have accomplished his dream entirely. We can’t assume equality comes simply with the election of an African American president, because it hasn’t. But we’re getting so close. And as we watch President-Elect Obama be sworn in tomorrow, there can be no doubt in our minds that the impossible can happen. Now, we have every reason to believe that Dr. King’s dream may soon be entirely realized.
I think it is all of our responsibilities to watch this speech, read this speech, and experience this speech before tomorrow’s inauguration. Amoungst everything that it represents, every one of us should understand the significance of this new presidency and the effect it will have on our hopes for equality in our country.
“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
It happened. Obama was elected president last night. How could I possibly express how extraordinarily proud of my country I am right now. It is a new chapter in our history and a moment I will never forget.
But I gotta tell ya. I am completely overwhelmed and utterly exhausted by it all. Its as if my emotional mainframe has been entirely blown out. There is so much to process about what this all means for us. In fact, as soon as I start thinking about all of it, I get choked up and totally distracted. So I stop myself and stay on task. Life must go on here – off to drop of T. at school, off to wal-mart for a new trash can, off to get flu shots…
Still, I can’t resist saying a few things today. Just a few thoughts. And then I will be on my way, to regroup and be back refreshed to post on another day.
First of all, I am struggling to really truly understand the depth of what it means to have finally elected an African American president. As we watched Obama’s speech last night and Congressman Lewisthis morning, my husband said he never thought he would see the day. I thought about it and said I had thought I would see such a day. Then I wondered why I have been so optimistic about that possibility. Well, I think its because I have seen another impossibility happen before.
On February 11, 1990, I happened to be in Johannesburg visting friends (I lived and went to high school in Swaziland at the time). Do you know what happened that day in history? Nelson Mandela was released from prison. I will never forget the sound of that entire city raised up in celebration. During my years living in its neighboring country, the impossible happened for South Africa: Apartheid was abolished, Nelson Mandela was freed and he became president. While I certainly can’t really compare the politics and complexities of the United States and South Africa, I can compare the utter joy of that day. And since then, I have believed anything is possible.
Another fleeting thought in my mind right now is how much repair this country needs. This election tore us all apart. While I listened to the radio this morning, it was as if the DJs thought Obama being elected was a sign of the end of days. There are grumblings about socialism and terrorism and baby killing. While ridiculous, I feel its a sign of fear and misunderstanding about Obama’s potential for leadership. We need to figure out a way to reconnect again and, even if Obama was not your choice, find the strength to bring ourselves back together immediately.
The realist in me won’t let me forget another very important point either. Why is it so damn important that do we bring ourselves together right now? No doubt about it, we have a hell of a lot of work to do to fix our problems. While Obama will be president, it is up to ALL of us to take responsibility and put our country back together again. Lets stop pointing fingers (Bush, Obama, McCain, Karl Rove, Cheney, either Clinton) – enough already, lets get focused and fix ourselves.
And one more thing. Bans on gay marriage passed in California, Florida and Arizona. Discrimination lives on. This is a wake-up call for all of us that nothing can be fixed over night – even a night as amazing as last night. We need to keep working and pushing forward to assure equal rights for every American. It’s only a mandate in our constitution after all…
Its been one heck of a week. I have been a littlestressed out recently. I need some peace, some recentering, something zen-like, some way to quiet my mind.
So this afternoon, while my youngest son naps and my older son watches his favorite show on TIVO, I am taking the opporitunity to reconnect with a certain beverage that is guarenteed to relax me during the tensest of moments. No, not vodka. I am simply having a cup of tea.
I spent many years living abroad and you know what? Everywhere – but here – drinks tea regularly. It is what people do. Familes and friends take a moment in their day, they stop, they gather, they brew some tea, they sit while their hands are warmed by their mugs, they let the steam rise up to their faces, they drink, they reconnect and they relax.
In Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia… throughout the day, they drink tea. In the very simple act of sitting and putting a warm, healthy liquid into their body, they offer their minds, bodies and souls relief and repose.
“Let’s have a cuppa…” What an excellent idea. Tell me again, why don’t I do this more often?
And coffee is just not the same thing. Sure, its great to meet someone over coffee. But coffee hardly makes you truly stop in that moment. It fans the flames in your enigine… and off you go. Tea tempers the engine. It brings peace and comfort. It infuses the soul and replenishes our essence.
Should I go on about the health benefits? Should I talk further about all the anti-oxidants and proven good stuff in tea such as… (lemme get this right)… phytonutrients?
Um. Wha…? Nevermind.
Just take my word for it, there’s good stuff in it. Not that this is any surprise. While drinking a cup, I feel healthy, righted somehow, recentered.
Hopefully, you are considering having a cup for yourself. Just in that very act of having tea, you will actually be making time for yourself. Shocking, I know. What a notion. The world can stop for the moment it takes to drink one simple cup of tea.
Be well, find replenishment, and enjoy.
*** And how fitting. This peaceful tea sipping interlude marks my 100th post. Cheers! ***