I am not my job.
I am not my net worth.
I am not a test score.
I am not my address.
You are not your sex.
You are not your faith.
You are not your skin.
You are not your purchasing power.
I am not my age.
I am not a brand.
I am not a tax bracket.
We are not labor.
We are not the market.
We are not assets.
Don’t check all the boxes that apply.
The deer in the forest does not ask its worth.
I am original. Whole. Unique. Kindred.
I am not looking for your price tag.
I am not looking for your label or your part number.
I am looking at you.
I am tired. Tired of all the struggles. Tired of the ongoing injustices, the continually expanding crop of manufactured crises and suffering, the harsh and divisive language that tweets from the top and reverberates through our beleaguered lives.
Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of the launch of the ongoing attempted coup in Venezuela. There will be actions around the US to oppose this coup and the US’s hand in it, but media will likely ignore those in favor of Richard Branson’s pro-coup concert and photos of the “aid” the US is sending.
Then there’s Haiti, part of the rippling damage of the Venezuela situation and the malignant sanctions and interference of the US.
Tilt your head a little and look in the direction of Yemen, if you can bear it. And yet, the US government cannot quite bring itself to divorce from the suffering it helps deliver there.
Or, perhaps, turn your gaze close to home, and notice children separated from their parents — a reality that continues.
Maybe the thing you notice is the water you can’t quite trust, or the food laced with pesticides or hormones or antibiotics.
Or how about the national emergency of a national emergency – basically, another kind of attempted coup.
It’s hard to focus, isn’t it? So many crises and more all the time.
There are so many crises for which our tax dollars and lives get put on the line – and for what good reason? As far as I can tell, to line somebody’s pockets. That’s really about it. Don’t waste your breath with the word “humanitarian,” it’s not actually part of this equation.
But it all just carries on, as the average citizen is forced to deal with their own personal reality of securing their small share of the piece of the pie they’ve been allowed to access.
We continue our various sleepwalking grinds. We dutifully pay our taxes. We subject ourselves to more and more personal intrusion and regulation. We silently allow ourselves to be pawns, to pick sides, to be less than ourselves.
I was startled lately to meet a gentle person. Everything about them was gentle – gentle language, gentle gestures, gentle thought, gentleness in the direct, caring gaze. It stood out immediately and alarmingly, because it made me realize how accustomed I am to the flat, harsh behavior our society and its members have adopted – the somnambulist demeanor.
What if we could all awaken from our sleepwalking, notice what’s really going on, and become our real, gentle selves? I believe that’s really who we are — buried underneath the heavy capitalist labels we carry. Those genuine, compassionate selves – the creative, caring, nurturing ones – are struggling for air.
Rather than tolerate the many and terrible injustices, could we not awaken and assert our real, gentle selves? Could we not shirk off the various definitions we have been assigned, and determine to simply be our real, gentle selves?
It would transform our world. It would be radical. It would save us.
Walks with my canine friends at the shelter continue. There is always a need.
Most of my furry buddies are pretty excited to get out into the snow, delighted to snuffle their noses a bit in the white stuff. They want to chase things down into the bushes, and explore the tracks of those who’ve gone before them. There are actually quite a few birds flitting around in the trees and brush, teasing the dogs with their chirps.
Some of the residents are so incredibly loving and anxious for affection — they are more interested in cuddling or petting than walking. A few are so bruised from their personal histories that they are petrified with fear. It breaks my heart on both ends of the spectrum.
They wear the ghosts of their histories. Just like people, they are each interesting and individual and feeling. I am glad they have a safe, warm, and caring place to be right now, but I am sad for the path that led to their arrival there.
I come away from my shelter walks with a smile, but always feeling blue, too.
a journey within a journey
snakes a path
each with their own story
making new stories
the slow arduous ascent
through the hills
the frenzied rocking passage of night
some sleep through the dream
the rhythmic loping along the plains
paced by antelope
and small towns
with mysteries of their own
meals come and go
the clock moves from hands to neonesque dots
while these two fall in love
that one fights their tears
this one silently observes everyone around them,
a wheeled assembly of windowed boxes
faces peering out
watching the moon and the stars
or bent asleep over a book
while the brute engine yanks them along through their lives
they live it out
moving always moving
sometimes noticing the heaving lurches of power
but mostly just quietly jostled, unaware,
acquiescent of the ticket they hold
it’s just a ticket, after all
Contrary to the simplistic assertions of the calendar, February is, in fact, the longest month of the year. Ask any Michigander.
The cold, the snow, and the dearth of sunshine conspire to thwart our typical notion of time. Where once life carried on with abandon, now the terrain is silent, stark, and foreboding. The snow is piled up into formidable mountains under heavy, grey skies. The short days of winter are long and wearying.
Rarely does the sun emerge from behind those walls of gray clouds to beckon us to venture forth. It’s cold. Really cold. All the time.
Precious few dare a walk or run. It’s a lonely endeavor. Still, for some of us, there’s an instinct that compels us get out, to move one’s limbs, to feel the whole arc of our selves.
Sidewalks are generally a thing of the past, of course. Where folks made the effort and actually did clear their sidewalks, those turn out to be the most treacherous stretches for walking anyway – they have turned into unmaintainable ice sheets.
As a result, one walks or runs in the road, and at their peril. The roads themselves leave little space for a pedestrian. The snow and the ice encroach on the traveled portion of the pavement, forcing one to be wary and nimble, always prepared to negotiate oncoming traffic. It’s a sketchy endeavor.
It’s actually not strange to be forced to stop now and then just to figure out how to get from one point to another, like across a street. There may be such an amalgamation of dicey ice and snow mountains and traffic that it demands to be puzzled out in advance. Sometimes, the best course of action is actually to turn around and go back.
Nevertheless, those of us committed to walking or running persist. It remains, always, uplifting to get out into the air, if frigid. To see the trees, to hear the birds and be amazed by them. To spy the squirrels, still about their business somehow. To observe the dark river push its way through the stark landscape, sometimes carrying icy chunks. To feel the freedom of movement in space. To simply allow one’s mind to relax and expand beyond the confines of indoors.
I admit to feeling restricted to walking. The roadways are just too unpredictable and hazardous for me to feel safe running. And I am anxious to run. I need to run. I have considered an indoor track, but I yearn for the outdoor one. It’s how I feel whole.
Regardless of my petty needs, the reality is that February just carries on. And on, and on, and on.
I know, however, how these long, bleak days finally transform, making the wait somehow worth it. The little clues begin to show themselves before spring arrives and revives all of the life of this strange, harsh, sleeping world. Then, the long month of February becomes a fleeting illusion, a dream half-forgotten on waking.
It won’t be long. The calendar is proof of that.
I was happy to see a recent video in which Mic. the Vegan interviewed Dr. Dean Ornish.
Mic. the Vegan always offers fun and informative presentations on all things vegan. His forte is delving into actual research to substantiate what we know about the vegan lifestyle. Be sure and check out his channel here.
I’ve appreciated Dr. Ornish since way back when he first published Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. Everything in there made sense to me then, back in 1990, and it still does.
Ornish has a new book, Undo It, written with his wife, Anne. The idea is that most chronic diseases can be reversed through simple lifestyle changes.
In Mic.’s interview, Ornish boiled the themes of the book down to a handful of maxims:
Eating well translates to a plant-based diet. Ornish encourages vegan – the book includes recipes, too. Moving more means exercise. Stressing less involves things like meditation and yoga. Loving more means healthy, loving relationships in our lives, including connectedness with friends and community.
Sounds simple enough, eh?
Mic. quizzed Ornish about a variety of topics. One that they spent some time on was the prevalence of depression and loneliness, and the impact on health – hence, the “Love more” part of the mix – which Ornish singled out as a high priority. In fact, in 1998 he wrote an entire book on that subject alone: Love & Survival.
Needless to say, Ornish’s latest book is on my reading list. It would be great to see us all take Ornish’s four simple maxims to heart: Eat well, move more, stress less, love more. If we did that, we would all be a lot healthier.
Not only that, adhering to those maxims as a culture has the potential to change the world and our collective future in very positive ways – from protecting our endangered planet to improving the very structure of our society.
Works for me. It’s simple steps each one of us can do to take care of ourselves and each other. Let’s “be the change we wish to see.”
I view blogging as a practice. Kind of like meditation.
Blogging involves a discipline. It helps me show up. It is a conduit to my creative self – which goes way beyond writing.
It’s just the very tip of that self that blogging accesses. Blogging sort of sits at the outer entrance to my creative self, but it helps keep the door open.
It keeps fear of the page at bay.
I noticed in my drawing class the formidable fear of the page that pretty much everyone in the room experienced.
The teacher told us what to do and started a timer. We all just sat there and stared.
We eventually learned that the point of the timer was to force us past that fear of the page – to make us jump fearlessly onto it.
I experience this with creative projects of my own inspiration as well. I get a vision. I get excited. I can’t wait to bring it to fruition.
But then I notice that I am resisting it. I don’t have time to work on it. I don’t have the perfect supplies. I’m not, you know, in the right mood for that. I can’t find my scissors. I don’t know how.
Ha. That is one thing blogging teaches you. Mood, time, supplies, coffee, whatever, the point is to do it. Recognize the resistance and tackle it front on. Just make yourself go, dammit.
The longer you practice, you eventually learn that the creative self does inevitably show up when thus called forth – albeit some days better than others.
Even better, such a practice helps you to become more aware of the existence of that creative self and its awesome depths – as well as your capacity to access it and allow it.
And the more of that self that shows up, the better.
So, for today, just practicing. 🙂