Flowers! Just because….

The sun peeked out today for the first time in about a week. Cold, gray, snowy, icy, cloudy, foggy Wisconsin tends to get me down. Getting up in the dark, working through a sunless day, and then going home in the dark seems to pull all the shape out of life. And the news is even more depressing. So, I’m injecting some color and light into things with this post. Enjoy!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose

I love this theme! The mission of getting stuff out of the garbage system and back into useful circulation is part of the vision of Scholar & Poet Books, our home business. We don’t sell just used books but lots of other things we’ve picked up at estate sales and other places along the way. Valuing these castaways goes along with having an endless curiosity and a passion for treading lightly on the planet. You might say that we look at these things as artifacts, the world as a huge museum. 

But for clever, I have to defer to my daughter. She and her husband are proud nerds and bibliophiles. She decided to make some of the flowers for their wedding decor and bouquets out of the pages of well-used books that had lost their covers. 

paper rose

The overall effect was perfect, and perfectly suited to them. 

Remember: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Re-purpose, Refuse! (for more great information about reducing waste, see The Story of Stuff Project).

Repurpose

Mindful in a New Administration

I have been struggling, like so many others, with the changes in the Administration of this country. I have listened and read and watched and felt and thought until the tears stream down my face. Finally, yesterday, I decided to write a response. Here’s what came out: 

Angry rich man impoverishing my country,
Diminishing the things I value,
Raping the planet, denying the change,
Stripping the endowed,
Demeaning the love you cannot attract,
Twisted in hate and fear and rage,
Puckered and discolored,
Bitter and sour as a kumquat,
Greedy as a black hole,
Blaming, shaming,
Raving, enslaving,
Cursing and worsening –
Can compassion arise in my soul
for you?
Or will I begin to identify with my own anger, my own fear,
seek my own protection,
build a wall around my heart
and regress to reptilian reflexes?
You are a bell of mindfulness.
I might thank you one day.

My partner, Steve, suggested that I take this exercise in identifying the emotions I feel when I read the news and form a gatha. I had to look that up; I discovered that it is a kind of prayer or vow that can bring a simple task, like brushing your teeth, into mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hahn provides this example: “Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth, I vow to speak purely and lovingly. When my mouth is fragrant with right speech, a flower blooms in the garden of my heart.” Steve then remembered reading The Fifth Precept which talks about consumption in the context of the Eightfold Path of right views, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.  I found this statement of it:

“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.”

The gatha I developed for myself to say when I turn on my computer goes like this: “I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing mindful consumption of media and news.” I don’t have a television, but if I did, I’d turn to this reminder before I used it.

The point is that the news and social media can play a major role in our cultural awareness.  I want to keep that role in a reasonable perspective as much as I can, and I want to keep this Administration in a reasonable perspective. I’m not sure exactly what that is. It’s too early to tell how much it will affect my decisions and actions in a concrete way. What it has done is connect me with the emotions and choices of people I care about; whether or not I share those feelings and decisions, I am hearing a lot about them. This Administration does give us the opportunity to examine our values and explore how to take action in response. I want to engage in mature and positive activities as much as possible such as dialogue, education, and community-building. I see blogging as one way to do this, although it is “virtual” and not “actual”. One thing I am doing in the “actual” world is starting rehearsal with a “communiversity” chorus in my new home town. I start tomorrow night, after a meeting at the Town Hall.
Thank you for being my online community. I appreciate your visits!
Namaste, and Peace!
– scillagrace

A humble smile

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Nature of Grace

This is the challenge of a lifetime. Grace is my middle name – for reals! I have been striving to live gracefully ever since my parents explained to me what that name means, hence the blog motto above. I find subtle differences in the nuance of the definition now that I’m learning Buddhism and leaving the Christian world view that I was raised with in my background.

There is something of elegance, but not a worldly elegance. 

warm-rose

There is an element of casual generosity, an unearned favor and abundance.

lilacs

The Buddhist perspective lends the flavor of ego-less-ness to it; it is beauty without attachment, as ephemeral as frost.

now 2

To live a life of grace is to open yourself mindfully each moment to being in the flow of the kindness of the Universe, in a way. To walk in harmony with my surroundings – people, places, things – and to be a living benediction is my aspiration. It sounds pretty lofty and ethereal, like a cloud, and I don’t claim to be doing the metaphor justice. But I might as well aim high in my practice. 

graceful-cloud

 
Graceful

Practicing Freedom of Choice

This article is featured in the January edition of The Be Zine, which you can read HERE.

TO The States, or any one of them, or any city of The States, Resist much, obey little;
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved;

Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty. – Walt Whitman

James Hepworth and Gregory McNamee chose these italicized words from Whitman’s writing for the title of a book they put together on writer and radical environmental activist Ed Abbey. I think of Ed in the desert wilderness of Utah’s Canyonlands. He is choosing to explore without roads, without a vehicle, without expensive equipment. He is on foot. He has matches, a knife, and boots. He drinks from the river. He walks in the cool of the night. He gathers sticks and makes a fire. He cooks a fish from the river. He is free. He is central to his existence, no other. I met some of his friends at the Wilderness 50 Conference in Albuquerque in 2014. They were a spirited bunch and passionate about the value of wild places, places without systems, where humans are visitors only and do not dominate the landscape. These wilderness advocates represent a resistance movement that truly inspires me.

the myth of nothing

The freedom to choose how you will act is basic autonomy. To relinquish that choice is enslavement. However, exercising that choice need not be violent or ego-driven. I believe it is possible to act freely while maintaining a posture of love and openness. I admire the practice of Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk who engages in political activism in a peaceful and mindful manner. The first step to acting in freedom is awareness. Being aware of the present moment includes being aware of the suffering inherent in a situation, of the emotions that all parties bring to bear. It also includes being aware of the values you wish to embody. The Eight-Fold Path describes values to consider: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.  Determining to walk this path while resisting temptation and influence in other directions is indeed a form of activism.  

I am wary of the pressures that systems in this country employ to urge compliance.  I don’t want to see my freedom of choice reduced to “paper or plastic?”, as George Carlin suggests.  At the same time, I recognize that freedom requires responsibility. If I make my choices, I must abide by the consequences. Again, I think of Ed in the wilderness, happily accepting the dangers along with the adventure, feeling completely alive. There is risk involved in living in freedom and an opportunity to respond in community to the outcomes of those risks. That I will be wise enough to respond with compassion and not restriction is my hope. I cannot say that I practiced that as a parent raising four children, though!  I do know the urge to stifle the free exploration of a youngster. I am not convinced that it is the best practice for the spirit of either parent or child.

May we all have the courage to resist enslavement, the compassion to encourage freedom, the awareness to recognize the choices before us, and the will to act in love.  

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ambience (or Ambiance)

This week’s challenge reminds me of that old joke, “Why are there no restaurants on the moon?”

“No atmosphere.”

So, what’s my ambience? or ambiance? (seems there are two acceptable spellings). It’s Wisconsin. It’s January. The light is distant, southerly, and often behind clouds.arboretum in winter

The air is dry, sharp, and very cold (even in my living room!).  frosty-window

The mood is stark and immediate, like survival, but it brings a certain excitement to the senses. We are alert, light on our feet. 

driveway

There’s a certain pride in the folks who are out and about in this weather. febThey are hardy and happy, eager and resilient.

There’s something in the silence of snow – in the wide, white spaces – that brings out a solitude from which we derive a certain strength.

Welcome to Winter Wisconsin. I find it refreshing. snowy emergence

Ambience