hopeful

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I head out into a very grey, cold morning. At the start, I’m feeling kind of alert and crisp and on. I make myself go a different way, just to mix things up.

Patches of dark on the pavement make me nervous. I mince along carefully, stopping and testing a few times to see if it’s ice or what. Because it’s all over the place. Never quite convinced, I spend the entire run mincing.

Everything’s quiet. Hardly any traffic. I watch another pair of runners leave me in the dust. That’s okay.

Up a long boulevard with bigger houses, silence. I see a man ahead, also in the road, walking in my direction. I skirt huge piles of icy leaves.

As I near the man, I begin to hear him. He looks at me angrily, daring me, and keeps on walking and talking loudly to the air.

I turn the corner.

Head down another silent street. Notice the smashed, frozen pumpkins. The bicycles sitting forlornly out in the cold. The rake left in the yard amongst the unraked leaves. Various yard decorations, straggling campaign signs, and lawn chairs sit forgotten and sad in this cold.

The flurries pick up, and gently sting my face.

Car comes along, and I swing up onto the sidewalk. A man approaches on a bicycle and makes no room and no comment. I move out of his way.

I notice I am slow this morning. I check my pace, and sure enough, even for me, I am slow.

That’s pretty slow.

I decide to be okay today with being slow. Part of it, I realize, is because of my very careful steps, wary of ice and the many obstructions along my path.

It’s also this world I am traversing, strange and frozen this morning. It feels lost and hostile.

In this moment, I am a reluctant traveler. Still, I am out there, making my way.

I pass a person walking, all bundled up, face hidden underneath a hat and scarf. I smile and raise my hand in a gesture of hello.

For just a moment, I see their eyes. They silently raise their hand in recognition.

I take a breath, noticing it, and head for home.

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make it about peace

veru11_11_18a100 years ago today World War I ended with the signing of an armistice agreement ceasing hostilities.

Although the numbers are imprecise, over 16 million people died and about 23 million were wounded in the conflict.

Stop and think about that. It is unimaginable, isn’t it? But it really happened. And no one wanted it to ever happen again.

So, November 11 was remembered after that as Armistice Day.

The original objective in singling the day out was to reflect and to focus on peace.

In signing the 1919 proclamation, President Woodrow Wilson noted that “… the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.” 

Armistice Day became a legal holiday in the United States in 1938. The Congressional Act described it as a “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

And yet, as we all know, World War II happened, with over 60 million killed – staggering numbers and truly incomprehensible devastation.

veru11_11_18bIn 1954, in the United States, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day.  In that proclamation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called upon citizens to remember the sacrifices of those who fought, and he urged, “let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.

And yet, war has become pervasive.

After numerous conflicts, even now, the United States is at war in seven countries, continually creating more veterans. The nation maintains about 800 military bases in more than 70 countries, and secured a mind-boggling $717 billion defense budget for 2019. Worse, we must question the very purposes in the military actions taking place.

If we truly wish to honor veterans on Veterans Day, we should be talking about peace. By focusing on peace, we do the highest and best we can to honor those who have served and seen firsthand the horrors of war.

Veterans for Peace observes, however, that Veterans Day has evolved into something different, noting, “Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war.”

The group seeks to Reclaim Armistice Day in order to keep the focus on the pursuit of peace. It’s a worthy goal.

We must seek peace among nations and within our nation. We need to stop accepting, normalizing, funding, and promoting ever-increasing militarism and militarization.

We must seek peace for our veterans, too.

We lose about 20 veterans a day to suicide. That’s 20 people a day who served in our military forces suffering and choosing to end their lives.

Then, there’s all the veterans who suffer with injuries, disabilities, PTSD, substance abuse, homelessness, and poverty.

If we are to really honor veterans, we should make it a goal to stop creating more of them, and we should look to better support them in their struggles in the aftermath of their service. 

Let’s make it about peace.

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chilly run

veru11_10_18cI admit it. I really kind of had to fight with myself today to get outside and run. But, hey, it was so worth it!

At issue was the temperature. It was below freezing.

Even though I fully expect to run through at least most of the winter with lower temperatures than this, I looked at the temp this morning and was just. not. feeling. it.

I put my running gear on anyway. Laced up.

Then, I proceeded to mill around my place, finding a variety of tasks to facilitate my procrastination.

I eventually noticed it, bucked up, and headed out.

Even though we had quite a snow yesterday, the sidewalks and streets were clear. Yay! 

My gear was just right, and I didn’t even go through that awful frozen-at-the-start phase. I felt pretty good.

First thing I noticed was a snow fort. Haven’t seen one of those in years, and it was awesome to see that some kids were inspired by the snow to build one yesterday. Totally cool.

As I passed the snow fort and headed along, a man approached me rather deliberately. He wanted to know how to find the soup kitchen.

Made me thoughtful about other folks’ struggles, especially in this cold season.

Even though the sidewalks seemed clear, I studied the pavement as I trotted along, checking for ice or slippery patches where the leaves were still piled up. I broke my shoulder a couple of years ago, and really don’t want to repeat that experience!

For all my resistance, the weather actually felt good. It went from cloudy to flurries to sunshine and back to cloudy while I ran. The cold made me keep on at a decent clip. It was invigorating.

I was having so much fun that I spontaneously broke out into song. Funny part was that it was my count I was singing. One thousand one, one thousand two, etc. up and down and all around the scale. Go figure.

Four miles down and I headed for home, feeling awesome.

Chilly? Bah!

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snow magic

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I get up in the dark, head down the hall, get the coffee going – no lights. The beloved cat winds across my ankles, purring loudly. Everything is dark, quiet. We head back to sit in bed, sip coffee, think, dream.

I snuggle in the covers. The cat nestles against me.

Everything is warm. Quiet. Soft.

Something’s different. I feel it.

It’s the hush.

I can feel the cocoon about my space, the soft muffle surrounding me.

I sip my coffee, savoring this hush, wondering.

My eyes take in the darkness all around me. Nothing here has changed. But, this hush. 

I slowly grow more and more conscious. 

Then, suddenly knowing, I get up and walk to the window. Pull the blind aside and look out.

Snow.

veru11_10_18bLots and lots of fluffy, still falling snow. The tree branches are laden with it. The glow of the porch light shows the air filled, filled with flakes.

It is a magical scene. Like a fairy tale. 

I turn around and gently pluck the cat off the bed because I know, just know, he wants to see this.

Heads together, we peer out the window, eyes wide with curiosity.

We are both quiet, just watching the falling snow, feeling safe and happy in the hush.

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kindnesses

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World Kindness Day is coming up on Tuesday, November 13. While this is a day bringing focus to various initiatives around the world, it can also be a day to give focus in one’s personal life.

Hopefully, we all try to bring kindness into the world each day. There are so many little and painless ways to do that. And generally, whatever small kindness we bring delivers back to us. I know that those times when I have found a way to be helpful to someone, whether a stranger or a loved one, it makes me happy.

During a rambling conversation with a new acquaintance on this topic, it was interesting to see how readily certain moments of kindness stood out in memory – some going back years.

I could see how meaningful it had been for my acquaintance to help a woman stranded in the cold with her three children a few years ago. They were locked out of their car, late at night, far from home, and with little money. He got them warmed up in his own vehicle while he gained access for them to their own car. He smiled but shivered when he remembered how long it took him to warm himself up after finally returning home. It was, however, a night that remained happily in his memory with all the details.

These kinds of memories also included those times we were on the receiving end of another’s goodness.

Like the time some years ago when I was stuck on a roadside in the middle of nowhere. I had pulled off the side of a lonely country road to get a picture. When I hopped back in my car, I discovered that one of my tires had conveniently found a niche in the turf that held my vehicle trapped. I pushed and pushed and worked the problem to no avail.

Just as I was getting ready to start walking, a pickup truck came along, and then another one. The two knew each other. They got out, and with many smiles and much friendly laughter, pushed and pulled my car out of its predicament.

What a beautiful memory that is for me. It was a wonderful kindness in the moment, but it is a gift that keeps on giving. It brings a smile to my face even now.

Of course, many kindnesses are much simpler: a thoughtful word or a smile, or a simple gesture. There are so many opportunities every day for these small but essential expressions of our care for each other. And the impact of such kindnesses may be bigger than we know.

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It’s also fun to be intentional about it, figuring out ways to bring a moment of kindness very deliberately, perhaps randomly, into the world. 

I remember when I discovered my first painted rock on a trail in Florida (the lady bug in the photo). I had no idea why it was there, but it presented a happy little surprise that changed my day.

Maybe it’s knitting hats for those in need of warmth, or donating to a food pantry, or using some elbow grease on a local project. Who knows?

It’s something I am thinking about today: noticing the spontaneous opportunities for kindness that present themselves, and the ways I use my personal gifts in deliberate fashion to brighten someone else’s day. 

Be kind! You know it’s a beautiful thing. 🙂

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circles

veru11_8_18bI made my first penny rug about 2006. This was a piece of black wool felt cut into a circle, maybe 8 inches in diameter. On to it, I blanket-stitched smaller circles in a variety of colors, in a circle. The blanket-stitching was purposely very visible in black thread atop the bright colors.

This penny rug was the first of many, many penny rugs I made. They are called rugs, but they are usually decorative table mats or wallhangings. Each one was entirely hand-cut and hand-stitched, all by my own design. They were all very colorful, and often created in a family of colors – say, blues or browns.

I was inspired to make the first penny rug after a trip to Indiana, during which I toured a historic home. It contained many original furnishings. Among them was an actual small floor rug, created penny-style, very faded and worn. I had never seen one before, and I have never seen another quite like it. I could not get it out of my mind.

I came home and did a little research, discovering that penny rugs were a Civil War era phenomenon. Old wool clothing and blankets were repurposed to create the rugs. The penny part came in supposedly as pennies were sometimes inserted to weight the rug. I’m not buying that part of the story. If you’re repurposing your old wool clothing, you’re pinching those pennies, too. Besides, wool lays down all by itself just fine.

A more likely explanation is that pennies could have been used to trace the smallest circles.

I’m not sure I buy any of the explanations I’ve read. No matter. For whatever reason, I became driven to make these things (and still struggle with the urge, complicated now by my vegan views!)

veru11_8_18aThrough the years, as I labored over these creations, I’ve given much thought to their design and materials. It’s all very simple stuff, really. Mostly solid colors and circles. Mostly carefully chosen, repurposed textiles. That’s pretty much what you’re working with most of the time.

But the more I worked on these things, the more symbolic they became to me. In later years, I titled them. I gave much thought to what the circles represented, how they related to each other, and the space around them. I carefully considered textures, stitches, colors, and the repurposed history of the textiles.

In the end, it became obvious to me that they comprised a metaphor for individuals and communities, a subject very dear to me. Each circle was like a person, and there it was fixed in place in a community of other circles – a panoply of colors that worked whether they were randomly placed or carefully selected by tone. Together, they all danced.

And then within the array of circles, that original circle was overlaid by two or three other, smaller circles, a small unit of its own, a tribe or a family, if you will, within the larger community – creating its own history.

I suppose it seems silly to imbue this much meaning onto my lowly craft, but, it is, in fact, there when I look at, or make one of my creations. There are always deeper significant nuances to each particular work, as well.

The very lone circle itself – it is both finite and infinite, isn’t it? Like each of us.

Posted in art, connection, creativity, inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

vote up a storm

veru11_6_18Go ahead, America, vote up a storm today. Let’s see how the dust settles.

Will most voters support politics of fear and authoritarianism? Will they rubber stamp politics of exclusion, lies, militarization?

Or will they vote to move toward politics of human respect and freedom? Will they show a congregate push towards love, justice, peace?

What is the real fabric of which we are made today?

Today’s voting is not a fix to our national problems and we may not have perfect choices, but it is nevertheless an important step in righting the ship. 

All hands on deck.

Vote! 🙂

And for those who, with consideration, don’t, I understand and respect the choice not to vote. Remember that choice, too, is a political act that will play into today’s outcome.

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