(For Kim on her Fiftieth Birthday)
Half century seems nigh unto eternity
to the young
but to others
fifty is the new twenty one.
Her daily grind was littered
with death and disappointment
but still on the weekends
a young girl
wild and free
on her loving pony
over back woods trails
in the memories
of a chronically ill mother
as she looked on
to her daughter’s bliss.
In the midst
of all the pain and suffering,
of the mother,
of the daughter,
of the world;
contained the hope
of enjoying the world
God had made
especially for her.
This weekend, my wife will celebrate a major birthday. I had planned on various things to help celebrate the day. After the past few weeks, some celebratory rejoicing really seems to be needed. Every week seems to have included the death of at least one friend or colleague. Each week has been met with news of a friend starting chemo or another moving into hospice.
Both my wife and my youngest daughter suffer from chronic illnesses and, as is often the case, plans have needed to be altered. Having been brought up in the context of American masculinity enabled by a busy and demanding work schedule and compounded by my personal family history, I’ve powered through keeping a calm exterior.
Likewise, on the national political front, I’ve restrained my commentary. The divisiveness and nastiness online is something I do not want to take part in. Instead, I’ve focused on my poetry, hoping it could be an antidote to some of the broken politics we’re seeing. My wife has posted pretty pictures of animals with the phrases Choose Love or Wage Peace.
How do we choose love and wage peace in these turbulent times? I’ve tracked the course of typhoons Lionrock and Namtheun as they hit Japan. I believe that Lionrock passed far enough to the north to avoid issues for my eldest daughter in Japan, but Namtheun is passing to the south and may bring her flooding at the around the same time as Hurricane Hermine hits parts of the United States.
I also thought of her when a band that I follow on Facebook posted their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There?” The tune caught my attention. Where had I heard it before? It finally dawned on me. It was in the movie Free Willy which I watched with my older daughters when they were younger. I believe my eldest skated one of her figure skating routines to it.
Like the River Jordan
And I will then say to thee
You are my friend
Free Willy came out the year my second daughter was born and I watched it repeatedly with my daughters. It had the tagline, “A 12 year old street kid. A 3 ton orca whale. A friendship you could never imagine. An adventure you'll never forget.” The storyline description is “When a boy learns that a beloved killer whale is to be killed by the aquarium owners, the boy risks everything to free the whale.”
Yesterday, my middle daughter posted one of her latest paintings. She used a knitted canvas made out of yarn my late mother had left. It is beautiful, on many levels.
While my wife and daughter were at the hospital, I contacted various people letting them know what was going on. I sent a long description to the school my daughter attends and while my wife was sitting in the emergency room, she received this message:
“I just wanted to remind you to get a medical note for [your daughters]’s absences. We have a strict attendance policy at the high school and I don’t want [your daughter] to have any attendance issues.”
It must be difficult to work in a job where you encounter great suffering and you are obliged to not show compassion or sympathy, but instead to make sure that policies that are ineffective at best, send the wrong message, and limit opportunities to show compassion are properly followed. It must be difficult to work in a job that precludes choosing love and waging peace.
Our priest stopped by the hospital to visit with my wife and daughter. For those brought up in churches where priests only visit to administer last rights, let me assure you that the latest bout was not life threatening and everyone is on the mend. We go to a church where priests visit the sick regularly, a church where priests, and members of the church actively choose love and wage peace.
When I cancelled the event to celebrate my wife’s birthday last night, we received many kind words. One friend even stopped by to drop off flowers that she and her husband and gotten my wife for her birthday.
It is early I the morning now, a time when I get up to read, study, pray, and write. My wife and daughter are both sleeping quietly and for part of my morning routine today, I am contemplating what it means to look for compassion around us, to see the beauty of God’s creation on a dark rainy day, and how to practice choosing love and waging peace in a culture that discourages it.
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, the full corn rabbit. In the Episcopal church, it is the feast day of David Pendleton Oakerhater, a Cheyenne Native American who became an artist and Episcopal Deacon. I read his description in Wikipedia and stop to think about forced assimilation and cultural genocide. I ponder how can we best listen to and honor various ideas from other cultures without practicing harmful cultural appropriation.
At starting point, for me, seems to be recognizing and naming where ideas come from, and learning as much as possible about them. Today, I started off with “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit”, like I do on the first of many months, thinking back to the old childhood idea of saying that phrase at the beginning of the month to bring good luck. Each month, I try to find some way to tie it into some of my current thoughts, and perhaps because I had been reading about Oakerhater my mind went to the Native American names for the full moons of each month. I combined that to come up with the Full Corn Rabbit.
The Full Corn Moon, sometimes called the Barley Moon is a Harvest Moon. It makes me think of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon.
Yet the Harvest Moon is still a couple weeks away. Today, it is rainy, and there will be a new moon tonight.
This weekend, we will celebrate Kim’s big birthday, assuming that everyone is well enough to celebrate. Fiona has been having another cycle sickness.
I regularly find articles online that have been recommended by friends, open them up, quickly scan them, and if they are interesting, I leave the window open, figuring I’ll come back to them when I have more time. Then, every so often, I go and see which one remain open and still seem interesting. I sometimes group them together.
Here are some of the links from mid August.
A Facebook friend asked if people considered posts on Facebook to be public or private. Much of the discussions centered around privacy settings and individual ways of approaching Facebook. Much of my online activity, however, has been focused on advocacy, and I my immediate that was of Facebook, and other social media as a Public Sphere, al a, Habermas. Here are a couple links I came across, worth further reflection:
A few articles related to mental health caught my attention. It seems as if we don’t think often enough about mental health as it relates to disasters, both natural and man-made, and if we do, we don’t have sufficient resources.
A different article was looking for health research on Pokemon Go. The article is primarily focused on physical health, but I’m particularly interested in the mental health aspects.
Pokémon Go, go, go, gone?
I’m particularly interested in the social constructs that shape our lives, and these two articles particularly caught my attention.
Standing Rock and Dakota Access
The politics of climate change meets social constructs. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in terms of Native Americas and history; Wounded Knee Massacre, Little Big Horn, Standing Rock.
The Journey – Politics
This fits into a bigger area of thought for me, the intersection of politics and religion.
They have an event planned for 9/12, that I’m trying to decide how involved I’ll be with it.
At the other end of the spectrum is
They have an event coming up in Hartford on September 1st.
The Journey – Other
Other articles related to faith, religion, and my own spiritual journey include:
This led me to thoughts about the “Estates of the realm”, and especially the relationship between the fourth estate and the first estate. How does this relate to my own journey?
General – Other
Other stuff that has caught my attention includes
The CLMooc Community
EpiPen’s 500 Percent Price Hike Leaves Patients Scrambling
I’ve already touched on this in some other posts and I expect this will keep popping up for a while.
National park signs in Michigan now sport poetry
A pretty cool idea.
That’s some of what I’ve been reading online this August.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
Robert Burns, “To A Louse”
I’ve always loved this quote and it came to mind this week a couple different times. One was when a person wrote what they perceived as some of my strengths in a way different from how I tend to think of myself. It has given me a lot to think about which I expect I’ll write more about later.
The other time was when I read articles about how Facebook perceives us, particularly our political leanings, as part of its advertising. If you are on Facebook, you can see some of this by going to facebook.com/ads/preferences. In particularly, look at “Livestyle and culture”. This is where your political interests are reflected. It is also where your religious interests are reflected. It is not always particularly accurate.
Many of my friends reported that Facebook lists them as “Very Liberal”. Yeah. I’m listed the same way too. However, that is towards the very bottom. For politics, Facebook lists me as being interested in Florida Democratic Party, Massachusetts Democratic Party, Conservative Party of Canada, Working Family Party, Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, Liberal Party of Canada, Ontario New Democratic Party, Liberal Party of Australia, Australian Labor Party, and Labor Party (Ireland), among others. It also lists Socialism and nonpartisanism. It isn’t a bad representation of my interests. I would like to see more on politics from non-English countries, but since I don’t read other languages very well, it isn’t too surprising they don’t show up on my interests list.
For religion, I find it very interesting what Facebook lists. I strongly identify as Episcopalian, yet when I look at what Facebook thinks I’m interested in, I get Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of North America, and American Jewish culture before I get any Christian beliefs. The first Christian belief I get is United Church of Christ, or Congregationalists, which is how I grew up, and I find that many Congregationalists reflect my political views. This is followed Christianity, and then About General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. This isn’t an area of Episcopalianism that does not seem to me to be as high on my interests as Facebook thinks, but perhaps all of this is helpful in thinking about ecumenical and inter-faith issues, as well as my relationship to Religious organizations.
Continuing on, I get African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Religion, Calvinism, Churches of Christ, Celtic Christianity, and Norse mythology.
Then, there are the other topics that get mixed in. It is an odd mix of cremation, books, singing, community issues, web conferencing, Scratch (Programming Language), culture, cemetery, arts and music, happiness, and road.
There are other tabs as well, and they have similar interesting suggestions. At the top of the travel section is Fleadh Cheoil. Clark Art Institute, Provincetown, MA, Amtrak, and Falcon Ridge Folk Music Festival. Interestingly, these showed up under travel, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival showed up under news and entertainment.
For people, I get Nicholas Kristof, Barbara Brown Taylor, Bob Menendez, Sherrod Brown, and Cory Booker.
There are other tabs, like Education, which include Elgin Community College, Stanford University School of Medicine, UC Davis, Barry University, Sweet Briar College, College of Wooster, and Wesleyan University.
I am wondering how much I can change this (without clicking on the “I’m not interested” buttons). For example, poetry and various poets doesn’t seem to come up.