Witness The Generosity [on Merely A Thought Monday]

You know the ritual is over when the sacrifice is made. Sometimes the sacrifice is literal, an offering of thanks to the greater powers. A life given for life received. It’s the elemental story cycle with gratitude as the final act.

Sometimes the sacrifice is unconscious and, therefore…unconscious. Unseen. Not felt.

In the weeks before the holiday, the delivery trucks were ubiquitous, zipping this way and that. The deliverers-of-packages worked overtime to ensure all good things arrived on time. We tracked the good people hauling our packages to remote destinations, a luxury of the modern world. As I stroll down my street this week I see, post-holiday, the garbage collectors are working overtime, mechanical arms groaning and methodical, clearing the mountain of debris, boxes, empty bottles (I contributed my share), wrapping paper and remnants of our ritual. Our offering of thanks to the greater powers leaves a mighty litter trail.

The day after Christmas, at the mouth of the lot where we park to hike our trail, the discarded trees were already stacking up. Kerri speculated that the people who enjoyed the trees must certainly be going on travels. Why else would they discard their trees so fast? “Or,” she speculated, “maybe they’ve had them up since the first of November. Maybe they are ready to move on.”

The sacrifice is too easy. It’s piled on the curb. It’s hauled away.

Despite how this reads, it is more meditation than criticism. This holiday season was one of my favorite precisely because we could take nothing for granted. 2020 was brutal for us as it was for many. With our patterns blown to bits, with our security nowhere to be found, our community fragmenting, with no easy choices, we were – and are – conscious of every single step. We are grateful for every moment of heat in the house, for every kindness that has come our way, for every small kindness we’ve been able to offer. We imbue our meals with a deep thankfulness that we did not a scant one year ago.

Why is it that gratitude is so easy when everything else is hard – and why is gratitude merely lip-service when everything is easy? It is, I suspect, why our congress can’t move to help a struggling populace; they have it too easy to identify with the people they represent. We are too easily taken to the curb, to readily swept away.

It has been my role in this lifetime to walk the margins and look inward at the mechanics of my community. To see. It’s the role of the artist to see the patterns, the shapes and colors of their culture and reflect them back, to make conscious what is too easily ignored. To bring the heart, the eye and the mind to the ugly as well as the beautiful.

By the backdoor of our house are bags we’re filling with crackers and peanut butter, socks and sweatshirts. The bags are for the army of people appearing on our streets with signs that read “Homeless” or “Hungry.” It’s not that I am a fan of hard times, I am not, but I’m grateful for what these times are evoking in me – in us. It’s waking us up, helping us reach to others rather than push them away. It’s moving us to see and wildly appreciate our simple abundance.

In the early days of this new year, with the glitter all but swept up, the champagne bottles hauled away, I am moved to tears at the acts of generosity I’m experiencing and also seeing pop up all around me. The holiday is over, the sacrifices made, but the generosity-of-spirit continues. It’s rising in hard times. It’s there. It’s everywhere, if you care to see it.

read Kerri’s blog post about DISCARDS

Ask A Simple Question [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Here’s a very sexy beginning to a blog post: this morning I read that sales of durable goods in these United States are up .06%. Stoves. Washing machines. Dryers. It is a dubious statistic. The week before our wedding, our washing machine AND dryer died. The nice salesman at the appliance store, an older man, began his sales pitch with reminiscence. “I remember when we actually made good products built to last. Now we make crap built to fall apart.” The next 45 minutes was a lesson in what’s built to break in 5 years or less. He steered us away from more appliances than he tried to sell. It was eye opening.

“Durable” goods, these days, are built to be less than durable. They are built to be replaced. They are built to be thrown away. They are built to produce nice looking economic statistics. [note: Kerri and I have and still cook on a stove that is at least 40 years old. It looks like hell but works like a dream. It was built in the era before planned obsolescence was considered a consumer best-buy]. The seedy dark side of our consumer culture is 1) the mountains of refuse we leave behind and 2) how rarely we turn and look at the consequences of our consumption.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch , one of five garbage patches gyrating around our oceans, is at least twice the size of Texas and growing. When I was in graduate school I took a class about my city and the environment. Like me, none of my classmates knew what happened to our trash. None of us knew our watershed. None of us knew how our trash impacted our water.  We take our refuse to the curb. It goes away. Magic!

Where does it go? The latest National Geographic Magazine (12.2019) has an eye-opening article on our addiction to plastics and the pollution/environmental devastation it creates. One of the chief denials of the modern era is that humans are somehow separate from the environment in which we exist. We can do whatever we want to do to “it” and “it” will have no impact on “us” at all. According to the story, we are above it all. And, as is true of all denial tales, we either wake up and reorient or we hold fast to our delusion and drown as the unsinkable ship goes down.

Speaking into steadfast denial often requires a new, courageous, and unlikely voice. Enter Pattie Gonia, an environmental advocate drag queen. A modern berdache.  A powerful presence, an artist, standing in the trash, wearing the trash, asking (and answering) a very simple question: what do we have to lose?

 

 

Watch this short documentary to learn more about EVERYTHING TO LOSE and PATTIE GONIA:

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERYTHING TO LOSE

 

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Appreciate The Garbage [on Merely A Thought Monday]

your past copyWe saw this phrase on a Baptist church signboard en route to the Des Plaines river trail: your past should not dictate your future.

I read somewhere that we spend the first half of our life stuffing a bag full of garbage and the second half of our life unpacking and sorting through it. If it is true that we must make mistakes in order to learn, then much of what we judge as garbage must also be the necessary ingredient for growth. Context is everything.

When we first met, Kerri introduced me to a song by Rascal Flatts called Bless The Broken Road. Our conversation was a shared soul searching about all things we’d done in the past and labeled as ‘mistakes’. These ‘mistakes’ set off chains of events that led to the really good things in our lives. One of them led to our meeting. “You have to listen to this song,” she said. God bless the broken road.

Forgiveness seems hard to extend to others but almost impossible to extend to ourselves. Mistakes. Garbage. Broken roads. Who really knows where a path leads? Who really knows the impact of any decision or choice? It is easy to look back on a choice and criticize it because it is also easy to forget the pressures-of-the-moment and future-blindness that factor into our choices. Hindsight is not as clear as advertised.

When we were young Roger told me that he didn’t want to have any regrets when he looked back on his life. At the time I agreed. Now, I know that a life void of regret is a life lived on a too narrow spectrum, a protected life. A life free of risk. And, that life, inevitably comes with one single but whopping regret: it wasn’t really lived.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PAST DICTATES

 

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