There is an odd, but precious, stillness to this morning.
No lawn mower or chainsaw or hunting rifle.
No voices of campers across the pond.
No dogs barking. No cars passing. No planes overhead.
No trucks out on the highway even.
No sound at all really.
Except for me sipping tea on the front porch,
and the purr of the Whetstone cascading through the falls,
and the honey bees buzzing in the arugula flowers,
and the snake rustling through the leaves ahead of my step on the stone path to the shower,
and the birds in the cherry tree and the red maple and the pine.
The art of the day trip.
1388 feet to sea level.
Steeper, in every way, on the way back.
18 years ago, I sold my childhood pony to a wonderful family in Connecticut–in order to buy my next horse (I was quickly outgrowing her–even prayed her legs would grow.)
It was probably the first “adult decision” I had to make, and it was a hard one.
I made a list of all the things I wanted my mom to tell her new owners. The most important being that if for any reason they were to need to find her a new home, I wanted the first option to buy her back.
Well 18 years later my pony has come back to me.
It’s a fairytale ending.
I am grateful and my heart is full.
I didn’t grow up politically-minded, not like my young sons who a decade ago acted like I was offering a trip to Disney when I said:
“Obama and Clinton will be in NH next week.”
On the morning of the rally in Unity, I only had to wake them once. You’d think it was Christmas, but with longs lines and heat and lots of speeches, and they were just as into it.
They’ve grown up just next door, in Vermont, and I give our small state credit for maturing me toward citizenship.
Chicken BBQs with Bernie.
Rallies with my neighbors.
And it’s not that I wasn’t exposed to politics growing up. The nightly news flooded our living room with scenes of Vietnam. My parents regularly argued about the Irish question. My grandfather was the President of the Union League–the oldest Republican organization in his southern NJ county. My grandmother wept in front of the black and white on the day Nixon resigned.
I never understood my lack of interest in all things political, and always felt lesser for it, but it wasn’t until last summer, at the pond, at the age of 52, that a lifelong activist from the city suggested a new frame:
“Maybe you couldn’t relate to the voices around you until you moved to Vermont.”
Maybe she was right.
Politics had always seemed too sport-like for me–lots of us and them and ugliness; and yet, Social Studies had always been my favorite subject. I actually bought my sixth-grade text book at the end of the school year because I couldn’t bear to part with it; while my Junior High field trip to the United Nations was my version of Christmas.
As a kid, I ran Muscular Dystrophy carnivals in my backyard and picked up trash around the neighborhood with the kids in my club.
We moved a lot because my dad was in school and then in the Army, and I frequently befriended those who others excluded, not out of pity, but out of kindness and something more–interest: my neighbor who went to the special school, my classmates whose parents didn’t speak English, the elderly at every occasion.
At home, I was regularly sent to my room from the dinner table for speaking out against injustice (aka. talking back.)
As I came into adolescence, however, I begin to lose my bearings. We moved back to Cape May County, and I remember cringing in my Catholic high school as my Social Studies classmates mocked the President. I don’t think it mattered much to me who he was, except that he seemed gentle and kind, as did the quirky English teacher who they regularly harassed.
Later, when I backpacked through Europe during college, I remember being challenged, particularly by the Irish, for my lack of awareness of how my country was engaging abroad.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, feeling both foolish and criminal, not to mention entitled and clueless.
“Bleeding Heart,” a lifelong friend said after we’d graduated. He’d said it with affection–about his two favorite people–“his kindred souls,” he called us–but I could tell that he hadn’t meant it as a compliment.
Later I would come to realize that he was a Republican while we would become Democrats.
“La La land,” my father said, as I began expressing my emerging political views.
But those were the good ole days. Because now what I’m called or referred to or accused of by GOP-voting friends is so hostile and reviled and “other,” that I’m struck and hurt and confused (while my liberal friends dish it right back out to the GOP.)
For instance, this week it’s history that I want to destroy. This, from friends who didn’t even like history in school, while I went on to teach it, as does my husband.
Before that, I’d been assigned the absence of patriotism. This while raising sons steeped in the understanding of democracy. No television. No game boys. Lots of reading. Lots of conversation. Lots of field trips.
Before that, I was accused of not living in reality.
Is television reality?
I guess so, because look who is President.
I must be in La La Land because I thought that if nothing else my fellow Americans held some truths to be self-evident, beyond partisanship.
Have you seen it?
In its entirety?
It was such a disgrace and such an alarm that for the first time, I’ve left my civil-tongue behind:
I can’t recall ever using this term before, but after watching 45’s speech, this is clearly what wanted expression.
He is playing us–ALL of us.
Because he can.
Because he’s smart.
Because he doesn’t care.
And most of all, because he’s threatened.
“Be kind, Kelly,” a GOP-voting friend says as I use the word “fuck” all over his steady stream about statues.
I reply with a quote from Marianne Williamson:
Love is always the answer, but sometimes love says NO.
Not NO to my friend for whom I allow differences and continued affection, but NO to this President and NO to my friend’s distraction from what is staring us in the face.
WE must wake the fuck up, and come shoulder to shoulder (with those we have demonized)–for democracy, for decency, for humanity, for the planet, for the future.
The older I get, the more I enjoy road trips, and the longer they take, which is my own doing–meandering back roads, seeking shade, instead of speed, and not only because I prefer the old car with the manual transition–which lost its air condition earlier this month (but I don’t mind the mountain air on my face)–but also because I prefer the solitude of back roads–the absence of movement, except for mine, the chance to slow or stop, when my attention alights—on an old barn, a field of wildflowers, a stand of trees; and this afternoon on my serpentine ride home from Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health–two young boys, about 9 years old, on the outskirts of a small town, dressed in matching soccer uniforms.
As I approached, the one with the ball under his arm, looked up from beneath a mass of dark curls and stuck out his thumb.
I smiled and slowed and waived, remembering the pleasure of wondering where my thumb might take me one day, and how soon someone might take me, seriously, and something else–the delight of coaxing a friend outside the box of rules.
After college, a classmate and I hitchhiked through Ireland despite the warnings of lorry drivers and the middle aged bachelor and the two business men who picked us up so that no harm would befall us.
Back in the states, I picked up hitchhikers myself for a bit–once an entire family, at the foot of the drawbridge, standing in a pouring rain. They crowded into my backseat, dripping, paper grocery bags in their arms.
There’s plenty of room for thought on a long drive under the shade of trees…
I got to thinking that I might like to open a store or suggest someone open a store, and it could be called–Paper and Ink–and it could be a place to slow down, to pour a cup of tea, to buy a sheet of stationery and sit at a long table, and write a letter, and send it to someone far away or around the corner.
Just now, a song from my childhood comes to mind…
Traveled by many, remembered by few
Lookin’ for something that I can believe in
Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life
Something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open, right now it seems to be more than enough
To just be here today…
I gave up my book and my health to the month of August, to my sister’s wedding, to my roots rising up from the sea and arriving in the mountains, en masse, consuming me, until I’d forgotten why I’d left home, who I ever was without them, and where I’d been heading.
It’s been more than 3 weeks since they’ve retreated, and still I am combing bits and pieces out of my hair, like seaweed, after a late August swim.
I loved it as a kid. Not to eat. Never. To lift up from where it had been drying in the sun and the sand and press between finger and thumb.
Too wet and it would squish.
Too dry and it would crumble.
Just right and it would, POP!
What seaweed remains on me has long gone brittle
or is so mushy as to be unworthy of an attempt at popping.
I could complain about the weather, beautiful from the depths of my feverish days on the couch, and now that I’m standing again, dark and dreary and so cold.
But there’s Houston. And friends with cancer. And the White House. So what does my weather matter.
Still, it’s Tuesday, the last Tuesday before school steals summer, so there are cookies at the Farm Stand up the road.
In a shore town, teeming with strangers, I walk toward the beach at sunrise, surprised to find that whether–silver-haired, riding rental bikes; or fit and 40 squeezing in a run; or young and tatooed, spitting on the curb outside an apartment building–each, in the hush before the day begins, offers me: Good Morning.
On The Pulse Of Morning
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
It says come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
The River sang and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.
They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers–desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot …
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours–your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply