The Thread of Kindness: Post-Election 2016

I want my voice to catch the thread of kindness in everything I say, with everyone I talk to.  Even when I’m angry, when I need to be angry and voice my rage, I want to tie that thread of kindness securely around my finger to remind myself that I’m talking to another human being whether I like their actions or opinions or not.  I want kindness to cradle that anger, and to cradle me for being courageous and speaking my truth.

Looming in my mind now, post-election 2016, is my anger at the ignorance, arrogance, hatefulness (take your pick) of Trump and his Trumpeteers for playing to the fears and bigotry of way too many Americans, for playing their fascist drums of nationalism and provincialism and being rewarded for it.  That’s the real kicker, I think. That the bullies are being rewarded. They have taken “ugly American” to a new level. It’s not only the elite Americans who have garnered the scorn of people around the globe as they ate too much, talked too loud, held themselves above, apart from the mores and civil expectations of other cultures. (They called us “Norte Americanos” when I was in Nicaragua in the 80s to distinguish us from “Sudamericanos.”)  It’s not just the US military who has tromped with a cavalier sense of entitlement on the rights and lives of too many countries to even name.  Now “it,” this ugly American persona, this ugly Norte Americano persona, fills the screens of TVs and computers, here and abroad: President Elect Trump and his chosen ones—the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth!  I am embarrassed at how we must look to the rest of the world.  I am sad that so many people (some that I know and love) voted for Trump, or didn’t vote against him, either choice a vote for tyranny in my mind.

I read the Dalai Lama quote that I wrote with permanent marker on my fridge years ago: “Be kind whenever possible; it is always possible.”  Is it?  I’m not so sure these days.  I don’t feel kind toward the white supremacists, the rise of the KKK.  I don’t feel kind toward Donald Trump.  I try to see him as that little boy that his grandmother surely loved, but I can’t find that Trump.  I try to see him as someone who loves his family, but his narcissism takes up too much of the frame.  If he were in a secure facility, where he could do no harm, I think I would feel kindness toward him, or if he came to my door, hungry and cold, I know I would feed him soup and wrap a blanket around his shoulders, but how do I find that thread of kindness in my heart and mind for the reality of who he is and what he espouses, given the power that he now holds?

And I’m angry because I’m feeling discomfited.  I have been expending energy quite comfortably in my own pursuit of happiness, self-realization, meaningfulness. Now, with the climate change naysayers and the nuclear weapons proponents dismissing scientific facts and rattling their sabers, the state of the nation, the state of the world, the state of this good earth may need my voice, my boots on the ground—my energy—to resist this madness, this blatant mockery of truth and justice.  I want to be done with carrying signs and marching in the streets!  I want to be done with civil disobedience and the risk of jail!  I want my life of doing unto others as I would have them do unto me to be enough!  I want my love and compassion, the threads of my kindness, interwoven with the billions of other threads of kindness around the world, to be enough. To stitch together a safety net of common decency and civility; a safety net of enough. And I’m afraid that’s a pipe dream that I’ve held onto way too long.  Trump’s ascension has pulled that dream wrong side out and left the raw truth of fascism bleeding on my parade.

And while I’m writing this, I am bombarded with images in my mind of the Black Lives Matter movement that has grown out of recent police brutality toward blacks.  People have been aware that racism still thrives in the US despite the Civil Rights Act—anyone who knows the cold hard facts of our criminal justice system, and our incarceration, employment, and education disparity, knows that racism continues to eat at the soul of our nation.  But it took the killings of Brown, Rice, Garner, etc., etc., etc., to fuel the fight against racism with renewed vigor and momentum. That’s what I’m feeling with the election of Trump and his inner circle.  I’ve known that the US as superpower, warmonger, corporate-powered usurper of “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” has been the reality of our country for decades, but it took Trump’s rise to the throne (and Pence’s, for God’s sake! What a scary duo!) to shake the foundations of my complacency, my pipe dream, my belief that kindness  is enough.  It has peeled back the layers of red, white, and blue and left us with the tattered threads of our dirty underwear on full display.  Old Glory, indeed! The façade has been shattered.

Where do I fit in to all of this?  How do I catch and hold firmly to the thread of kindness in a world that seems to be so out of kilter, and skewed toward meanness, wrong-headedness, fear?  And will kindness make any difference in the big scheme of things?  I truly believe that it always makes a difference in interactions with people on a day-to-day basis, and in my own empowerment as a human being trying to do the right thing: to be kindness, to be love.  And I visualize waves of that kindness and love growing exponentially from my heart and soul to the very darkest core of madness that seems to be rampant right now. But how will it translate into sanity?  How will it translate into peace on earth goodwill to all?  Can I continue “walking peace” in these woods, and actually be a force for change in the world?  Can I sing my songs of peace and love and touch the wounded spirit of this earth?  Will my thread of kindness be strong enough, long enough, to make any damn difference at all?  I have more questions than answers.  I hold tightly to the Bible verse: “Perfect love casteth out fear.”  I wind the thread of kindness around and around my finger to remind myself of who I am.

 

Glenda Breeden for The Poplar Grove Muse

 

 

 

I Am From

the-wentz-family

I Am From

Solid men who told their daughters if they were feeling smart and strong they were on the right track.

I Am From

Broken women who broke each other with mistrust and sly smiles.

I Am From

Loving men who cooked, cleaned, wiped their babies’ butts, cuddled and soothed.

I Am From

Smart, funny women who could stretch a dollar, make ends meet, sew clothes out of feedsacks. Spent hot summers putting up enough food to last the winter. Went without and made do.

I Am From

Men who loved their mother and protected her from their father. Naively thought all women were like her and put them on pedestals they didn’t deserve.

I Am From

A mother who wasn’t mothered. Who was betrayed and left with a black hole inside her. A hole my dad, nor me, nor my brother could fill with light.

I Am From

Alcohol. Secrets. Spin doctors. Guessing. Shifting ground. Arbitrarily changed rules. Don’t ask.

I Am From

Great Aunts who were movie stars in waiting. Who scared me with their croaky voices and dark eyes magnified by thick lenses. Who loved wrestling and cowboys. Who listened in on party lines and called other people nosy.

I Am From

Women whose hands wrung the necks of chickens. Soothed a fevered brow. Made pie crust that melted in your mouth. Whose fingers flew around a tatting shuttle making lace as delicate as dandelion fuzz.

I Am From

Morel hunters. Fishermen. Craftsmen. Readers. Sports players and sports fans. Pipe smokers.

I Am From

Women who were told to snap out of it by their mothers. Who were told to take a pill by their male doctors. Who were told to buck, up, move on, get over it. Who were told by magazine articles to do it all and be happy about. Don’t let them see you sweat because that would be unfeminine.

I Am From

Men who were judged by their strength, not their tenderness. Men who were judged by how much money they made, not how much time was spent with their families.

I Am From

All of this and more. A brew that cooked up a complicated me.
mother-and-dad-2
 

Rebekah Spivey for the Poplar Grove Muse

 

 

 

An Old Woman’s Random Memories: A Free-verse Poem

cafe-and-gardens-067-2

I remember snow banks tunneled into forts against the Great Winter Enemy:the boy next door.

I remember being lifted up to be shown the empty crib, a quietness where the baby used to be.

I remember my grandmother’s aproned lap, soft home of fairy tales and stories read aloud.

I remember riding in the truck on the milk route with my uncle, the empty bottles rattling against each other and their wire cages, chattering about the homes they had just left, telling those stories to be held for their new adventures in the next homes where they would be delivered.

I remember taking sandwiches to white-helmeted men standing watch for the raging forest fires that were choking up our skies as we held our breath and crossed our fingers that they would pass us by.

I remember crouching under our desks at school, hands over our heads, practicing for the Evil Day when the Red Menace would Bomb us to Oblivion. We, even in our youth, couldn’t understand how those desks would protect us.

I remember getting the first polio shots, a newly made vaccine, lined up in the school corridor with others waiting nervously for our turn to be stuck and recalling stories of those we knew who had been struck and crippled, and yet we were still a bit afraid of that needle in our arms.

I remember when I learned that my 7th grade classmate had hung himself in his bedroom, I remember when I learned that my friend’s father had hung himself in the barn, and I remember when I learned that my mother-in-law had shot herself in her car, and I remember when my student shot himself with a rifle, and I remember when a dear friend jumped off the top of the Atwater Parking garage, and how I mourned them each and all in the agony of my distress and not-understanding.

I remember running naked from the car in the crisp air of the western desert night to plunge into the steaming hot spring and to float, body warm, face cold, looking at the bits of glistening stars in the black sky.

I remember making a story of high-power towers being aliens moving slowly across our North American continent, at a pace we could not see with our human eyes, but knowing that sometime, sometime, the Wire Aliens would be our Masters.

I remember falling down the dark opening at the inn in Dailekh after two long days of trekking, and wondering if I were dead.

I remember the young Polish musician on the train to Łodz urging me to run away with him and join his circus.

Too many more memories for my 74 years…the rest will have to wait for the next poem, and the poem after that, and the poems that follow those.

Bev Hartford

 

Turtle Day

turtleI ran over a turtle one day not long ago. There was a speed bump in the road and a little brown mound right behind it that I caught a glimpse of too late. The second I ran over it, knew it was a box turtle. I stopped, heart racing, and ran back to find it flipped over, splayed, limp and motionless. If it’d been a cartoon turtle, its eyes would have been X’s and its little tongue would’ve been sticking out, but no, it was more horrible than that. I stooped to pick it up, sick with remorse, and placed it gently on the grass nearby—on the side of the road in the direction I think it had been going. I was sure it would not be walking anywhere again but might instead be food for the neighborhood crows. Oh dear turtle, forgive my carelessness, and driving too fast. Please forgive me!

Soon after, as I sat down shakily to work at my desk, my belief in horoscopes was affirmed. A brief on-target sentence came up on my newsfeed and inspired me to capture this:

May I learn all the ways in which I do not really see what is in front of me. All the ways I rush through you, past you, over you. May I learn to pause in your presence. May I learn that witnessing you is witnessing myself. The more I do one, the more I can do another. –Chani Nicholas

I carried the sinking feeling of destructive power, failed witness- heavy in my heart and plodded on with the various tasks of the day: a string of soul sucking e-mails, a nice piece of chocolate, a letter of gratitude from an old friend in the mailbox, a worried call from my mother. Hours later, I walked with the dogs back to the bloody spot on the road. We traipsed over to the grassy area where I’d left the lifeless body of the turtle earlier and couldn’t find it. I looked all around the area, my dogs nosing too. No bloody trail, or indentation in the grass. Could the crows have made quick work of the little turtle? Could a child have picked it up and taken it home to see if it could be nursed back to life?

Maybe the universe was letting me off the hook. Maybe, as in the famous Lillian Hellmann story about the partially butchered snapper that left a determined bloody trail from the author’s kitchen butcher block back to the nearby pond, Box Turtles are similarly indestructible, with the survival mojo of millennia in their DNA. Maybe this witness of death and potential resurrection was an invitation to witness the many little deaths and revivals of a single day. Soul on deck, the buzzer is always ready to blare.  Life wants us to live, but it wants us to take our time too.

If my little near-dead boxie did indeed get plucked up into a tree to become food for the crows, then there is a prayer for that. Thank you for your life and making me pause, for taking me to a resting place between movement and stillness as I write these words, uncomfortable as they are…for helping me notice how I rush unawares, my killing powers, for reminding me that even tough shells can be broken…mine and yours. Forgive our bad timing (yours and mine), and stay safe in your home, wherever that might be now.

Beth Lodge-Rigal