on the Pere Marquette trail

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veru10_14_18aPere Marquette Rail Trail made for a lonely sojourn in the cooler temperatures this weekend. Lonely was just fine with me, allowing me to soak in the solace of nature and all the autumn beauty. It was a peaceful and soul-warming place to be, far from the endless stream of stress in which we all seem to be caught up lately.

The trail is a long one (30 miles), and I only did a short portion of it, but it was just the fix I needed.

Leaves and pine needles scattered themselves along the trail. Water burbled along underneath an old railroad span. I tucked my hands down in my jacket pockets with the chill.

Geese flew overhead, calling out enroute. They are like old friends to me.

Another sound captured my attention on the part of the trail close to town – the brisk clop-clop of a horse pulling an Amish buggy mixing it up with traffic along the side of a nearby roadway. I noticed with interest that seeing something like that through vegan eyes evokes a feeling that is a far cry from the quaint charm it might have evoked at one time.

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So, too, the calves in their little individual sheds that I saw on my way to the trail.

There was a time when I would feel a simple delight in such scenes. No more. I am too conscious now of the suffering inherent in our use of animals. The animals themselves, though, do inspire with their individual beauty and selves.

My trail excursion came after a thoughtful visit to a small church. A mere handful of people came together there, along with two small dogs that had the run of the place. It was the closest picture of community I’ve come across in quite a while. 

For all our memberships and ‘involvement’ in things, we’re increasingly isolated by divisive rhetoric, fear, and the stamp of our personal value in terms of purchase or production – in this world where our very selves are commodified. Churches are not exempt from the phenomena, all too often both generating and exacerbating them.

Happily, this little glimpse into a functional community revealed none of that.

This was just a few people wanting to do good in this world, in the simplest of ways – together.

It was a nice picture to carry with me onto the trail. The peace and beauty of the place, coupled with that picture, translated into a hopeful feeling.

People – wanting to do good in this world, in the simplest of ways. Together.

Kinda sounds like a plan, you know?

autumn kicks in

veru10_12_18a-e1539349051631.jpgWhile Hurricane Michael was devastating the Panhandle, up here in Michigan, Mother Nature was quietly taking the autumn season up a notch.

Temperatures dropped, skies got grey, and winds blustered. Time for jackets and hats and gloves.

I love it. This is my favorite season, and one I have missed for several years. I am so happy to be soaking it in.

Also soaking it in, a delightful dog. As I walked her, she clearly reveled in all the windy activity.  I couldn’t help but laugh as she excitedly attempted to chase down the falling and skittering leaves. The cool air just made her smile.

Those bi-colored eyes of hers searched the world around her with curiosity and joy.  I just love the way she looked high up into the trees and the sky.

Yep, a perfect fall day as far as I’m concerned. Blustery, fresh, beautiful, and a playful Husky with whom to share it.

stand in compassion

When we are not standing in compassion, we are standing in shadow. And sadly, I see a lot of darkness around me at the moment.

So many of our problems can be traced back to matters of compassion, whether personal or collective. When compassion goes missing, problems arise or fester. And in compassion, we find solutions and solace.

Gary Zukav reminds us, “Love liberates. Fear imprisons.”

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If we allow ourselves to feel our compassion, it changes how we live – because compassion is not a passive thing. It acts. It is interactive. It always occurs in relation.

The lack of compassion constitutes an action as well, sometimes expressing as a failure to act. All too often, of late, it also translates to adult bullying, hostility, and cruelty.

If we allow ourselves to feel our compassion, it compels us to change the things we can, not simply to wait for the powers that be to solve things for us. They’re not planning on solving them anyway.

When one person acts with compassion, it is powerful. When many act with compassion, it changes the world.

Compassion does not simply look on as injustice is carried out, as children sit in tents without their parents, as bombs rain down, as voices are silenced, as poverty exists, as harsh words demean and distort. It does not quietly make room for suffering.

We make a choice to be compassionate – to honor the best of ourselves.

This is a time to be radical in our compassion, to fully feel it, and to be fueled by it.

mirage

veru10_6_18I’d like to think we’re better than this. I’d like to think that we have finer minds and loftier purposes inhabiting ‘leadership’ positions.

I’d like to think our representation is actually representing us, the best and highest values in ‘we, the people’ – not the carefully nurtured fear caricatures taking space from better selves.

Today, as the bizarre Supreme Court wrangling plays out, it appears that there is no longer any attempt being made at even a pretense of worthy leadership or representation.

I’d like to think it’s not a mirage – the entity that all these years of my life touted freedom and democracy and justice and equality, standing for what’s right.

“With liberty and justice for all….” I learned those words as a little one, and have seen so many who put their lives on the line for that idea.

Now, these many years later, I sadly see too much. And not enough.

I am ashamed. I am ashamed because in some way I, we, must be part in the malfeasance. Maybe it’s tax dollars. Maybe it’s those places of yielding to norm and conformity. Maybe it’s a vote. Maybe it’s choosing where there are no real choices.  Whatever form it takes, I am connected even in disagreement.

I am also, I remind myself, connected to the goodness in it. Even if it is increasingly muffled, shouted down, voted over, arrested, denied, ignored, shamed – there is goodness in it. I’ll stand by that. I’ll search that out.

Because I cannot stand by the cruelty of war, of imprisoned, kidnapped children, of institutionalized racism, inequality, injustice, division, discrimination, surveillance, regulation, and suppression – all always coming back to the godless goals of money and power.

We can do better than this. There is better within us. The system strives to make us less of who and what we really are – feeling, caring, compassionate, creatively and uniquely inspired humans. Let’s be more of that.

Despite our screen-driven lives, we are meant to look into eyes, notice gestures and postures, see the feelings there and recognize them in ourselves. Let’s honor that. Let’s make that the code, the test to which we put ‘leadership’ and ourselves.

Life is a mystery, but of one thing I am sure. I was not put here to underwrite a petty agenda of hate, cruelty, divisiveness, pain, or wealth at someone else’s expense and suffering. No, the mission is love, respect, peace. And I am on it.