Feather and Stone Journal Of A Cross Cultural Traveler

Slipping Back In Time

I consider myself a spiritual person.
I am touched by the beauty of nature
and the energy that passes
through stone
and air
and water.

Not long ago I wandered through an abandoned sugar plantation
seeing the beauty of this place of history.
Too soon I tuned into the energy of the place.
I froze.
I knew that I was standing deep in human tragedy.

I heard their songs,
I felt their tears,
I became one with the slaves.

Enslavement carries a violence all its own.
Lives stolen,
Bodies sold,
Families severed, forever
Human beings reduced to the desirability of their parts
Pushed beyond reason
Starved
Beaten
Whipped
Mutilated
It was cheaper to buy a fresh batch after working them to death.

Bound in shackles,
Moved by the crack of the whip,
As a slave you gave up your language,
You gave up tour culture,
And too often gave up your life.

Through mental and physical abuse
Slaves are forced to work,
freedoms restricted.
They are dehumanized,
treated as a commodity,
bought and sold as ‘property’.
“Slaves” are treated as sub-human chattels.

According to statistics produced by the National Council of Churches,
“Two hundred years after the British Empire abolished slavery
and 144 years after the Emancipation Proclamation
an estimated 27 million people around the world are living in slavery.”
Women in forced marriages.
Young girls sold as sex slaves.
Children in forced labor,
Sweatshop laborers and bonded workers

What empowers us to force people
to do that which we choose not to do ourselves?

“Who are we?
We are the descendants of slaves. …
We are the heirs of a past of rope, fire and murder.
I for one am not ashamed of this past.
My shame is for those who became so inhuman that they could inflict this torture upon us.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Who am I?
Probably the descendant of a slave owner
For that I am sorry.

So yes, I heard their songs,
I felt their tears,
And for a moment I became one with the slaves.

If feeling another persons pain
opens the path to reconciliation
then its time to shed the amnesia.

My spirituality is neither mute, marginal nor mild
It is Fire.
I am the guardian of the flame.
I am responsible for changing those parts of my life which promote oppression.

Charity?

Every time I hear the term “charity” it evokes a negative response in my gut. “Charity” is something we do from time to time, for any number of reasons but mostly it seems to unburden the conscience. It’s nicer than welfare and it doesn’t carry the baggage of ministry.

But charity is still about handing out stuff…our extra stuff, our extra money, to people that we decide need it. We leave things at collection points or drop checks in the mail but we rarely have personal contact with the recipient. When we complete the “drop” we feel like we have done something really good. But have we?

I remember one hot day in Tlamacazapa, Mexico. I was out gathering stories and photos to complete a grant application for a community project. While speaking with Marta she went into her house and returned with a heaping plate of watermelon.  I was hot and thirsty and the fruit, red and juicy but conventional wisdom said don’t eat it, you’ll get parasites.

…But then how do you refuse that which is offered in hospitality?

Marta’s smile was full of eager expectation. I am quite sure my smile was rather forced so we sat through some awkward moments while I contemplated a piece of fruit.   I nibbled it. I didn’t taste any parasites so finally I took a bite. Martha’s smile must have lit the world at that moment.

This was one of those pivotal moments in life when I saw the difference between charity and mutual sharing. Moving beyond charity is only possible when we dissolve our differences (our racism, classism, sexism, ageism) through hospitality where we openly and without reservation share laughter and tears, the human condition. What was important at that moment was not what I was doing to help this impoverished community but that I was actually in Mexico sharing a piece of water melon with one person.

When we don’t take time to step into the world of need then we continue to be neighbors living on islands in isolation. Without taking the opportunity to build a relationship our gift giving and check writing is really quite hollow.

When we open our lives and share with others in hospitality we strengthen the web of relationships that bring meaning to lives.

Breathing With Intention

This morning I began to ponder the expanding and contracting of the body and relating it to life. Life itself expands and contracts like some great creature breathing.

Breathing and living are inseparable – you can’t have one without the other yet the quality with which you breath will determine the quality of the life you live. Sometimes living can be an autonomic function that manages to keep going without thought or design. Other times, when I make a commitment to living, it seems as though life breathes with much more energy and the light shines brighter.

I have made many commitments over the years. Some are long term and some only for the short time but each one helps me move with purpose. Each morning when I wake up I can either make a commitment to breath or I can assume that I will breath. Of late I have been doing too much of the later. My body does what it needs to do to survive but that does not mean that it lives fully.

As I contemplate my future now that I have shed my job, I realize that there are basic facts that I can’t ignore.

My personal life is my political life.
My political life is my personal.
Where they intersect is my spiritual life.
They intertwine.
They are inseparable.
They are about compassion and conscience.

Thinking back to times I loved and laughed most were times when I was in and of nature, living as one in that balanced power. I worked, I played, I created, I cared and I loved. I was in balance.

I think my job right now is to breathe deeply and keep my heart open. I know not where next my path will lead.

The Web We Weave

House of Spirit
There is so much in the news now about the right to life for the unborn, and the right to die with dignity for the old born, that I find myself wondering, what happened to the right to live fully in between.

All the rhetoric begins to sound like worn out language clotting in our throats. The state of our personal health has been taken over by the politicians and metered out by licensed practitioners, without regard for personal choice and responsibility. Too often we jump, without a second thought into the Pandora’s box of commercial health care, which suppresses symptoms but does not heal the disease.

“Doctor, please work your magic for me. I trust you.”

Well, the fact of the matter is that the wheel of the seasons only turns one way. Our body is the house of our spirit and it is falling down around us. We haven’t done the required maintenance. Over time it will become too dilapidated to live in and it will be condemned to the temple of the pharmaceuticals.

“I have a headache.” “Have you seen the doctor?”

What ever happened to “Can I get you some water?” or “Here is a hug.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when modern medicine works miracles. There are times when fixing the temple opens doors allowing us to fully live our lives. But many times it becomes a crutch on the way to addiction. Pain, for example, inhibits the ability to live life fully. But there is a big difference between healing pain and stopping pain, between living fully and living until the next pill.

A Brief History Lesson
“[The witch persecutions] were an attack on forms of knowledge and healing that did not have the approval of the authorities. Midwives, herbalists, and traditional healers, many of whom were women, were considered suspect, and the practice of medicine became a specialized activity concentrated in the hands of male doctors.

Although the herbalists of that time were more empirical and ‘scientific’ than the doctors of the day (who were busy bleeding people according to their astrological signs), the doctors’ knowledge was considered official and valid, while the midwives’ and herbalists’ knowledge was seen as superstitious or outright traffic with the devil.” Starhawk

Fast Forward
This is now 2009 and there are many avenues to healing available before heading into allopathic oblivion, a place where we are taught to be sick, where we are taught to be dependent. Too often, those of us who don’t choose to enter the “system,” are endlessly nagged and chastised by loving friends and family, or worse, “the intervention” is planned. If we still balk, then we are assigned a “legal” guardian. And bingo, we have lost our right to live fully, in a way of our choosing, within the time we are allotted.

Every time we step into an automobile, we run the risk of being killed or seriously injured. Yet, despite the thousands of auto fatalities, the risk is accepted because of the benefits of automobile travel. Why are we not also supported in decisions of our own personal destiny?

While we endlessly continue to debate these issues, the wheel of the seasons continues to turn, our heads fill with cob webs, and often too late, we realize that life is like a summer’s day. We don’t fully appreciate it until the chill winds blow.

There are always choices in healing, but we tend to equate healing with our body and to ignore other aspects of our being. Too often, we end up with nicely redecorated temples, while the lives inside remain broken and the foundation of the temple remains weak.

Healing must be holistic. The path to healing is as important as the healing itself. What we do with the time we spend in our bodies is as important as the time we spend on maintenance and repairs. Few of us are good at keeping the delicate balance.

In the end, after all the debate, how we spend the time we have in our bodies is one of personal choice.

Celebrate The Life

Today is a day of both pain and peace,
waves of conflicting emotions.

We share laughter and tears as we exchange
moments of memories with family and friends.

We find grains of peace in knowing that Joanne is now free of pain.
Today we celebrate the life of Joanne Crowder.

In life Joanne was
a devoted daughter,
mother and loyal friend.

She was always ready
with an encouraging word.

She celebrated birds and flowers and butterflies.

Today we share our gratitude for the life
Joanne shared with each one of us,
…bright and shining, independent and humble;
smart, and kind, and fun, with her own special spark of adventure.

A part of her has passed away,
but much is carried within us everyday.

If parents are the foundation for the lives of their children
then Joanne must have been a very good parent.

Her legacy lives on in her children,
grandchildren and great grandchildren.

This is not a final tribute,
Every day we’ll celebrate Joanne’s life in some way,
just by the virtue of how she shaped our lives,

We are blest to have known her,
As a mother, a friend and a woman.

We can shed tears that she is gone
or we can smile because she has lived.

We can close our eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or we can open our eyes and see all she’s left.

Our hearts can be empty because we can’t see her
or we can be full of the love we shared.

We can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or we can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

We can remember her and only that she’s gone
or we can cherish her memory and let it live on.

We can cry and close our minds, be empty and turn our backs
or we can do what she’d want: smile, open our eyes, love and go on.

Transformation

Tonight I sit by the bedside of a spirit
trying valiantly to wiggle itself free of a body.
It’s a waiting game, a guessing game

I see a great spiral of energy swirling.
First dancing, then writhing.
First singing, then crying.

The spirit doesn’t shake itself free easily.
It takes tentative steps out
then retreats , then emerges again.
We wait, we watch, we hope, we pray.

The spiraling spirit is illusive.
I think it’s in the breath
The shoulders heave, then fall, then lay still
Will there be another?
Yes…this time.

So I wonder
Is the body clinging to the spirit?
Is the spirit clinging to the body?

I think all of us live in a place somewhere between health and illness,
periodically death creeps up,
taps on the shoulder,
reminds us of it’s existence.

There is no shelter from the great tide of time

I am brought back to reality
The body suddenly quiet.

I see a great butterfly emerge,
it twists and rises in it’s spiral dance.
She unfolds her wings and hovers
Her colors glimmer in the darkened room
First red, then orange
Next yellow, then green
And blue and purple and white.

With transformation complete, she soars, finally free.

Food for Thought

By Richard
For the religious moralist (in us all):

    There is no hell (in the sense of something that awaits us).
    Hell is what the ego makes of the present. ACIM

For the story teller (in us all):

    The notion of original sin is a misunderstanding of aboriginal innocence.
    It is the ego’s fearful interpretation of our so-called ‘condition.’

For the new age vendor (in us all):

    There is no selling in community; only sharing.
    Selling is the attempt to get someone else’s share,
    and so it is the denial of community.

For the leader (in us all):

    The good will is strengthened by respect, appreciation and gratitude.
    The good will is strained by expectation, disappointment and blame.
    The good will is strengthened by cooperation.
    The good will is strained by competition.
    The good will is strengthened wherever there is giving and receiving.
    The good will is strained wherever there is pushing and pulling.
    The good will is strengthened wherever there is sharing.
    The good will is strained wherever there is winning and losing.

For the true believer (in us all):

    Religious belief promotes bickering over what to fill the potholes on the spiritual path with.
    The problem is, there are no holes on the spiritual path.
    There are only holes in our perception.

I Have Learned

That it is not magic that erases blemishes of the past but love and trust forged in the heart.

That there is no shelter from the great tide of time

That one leaf is not better than another – only different

The the most import part of language is the silence between the words

In nature there is no model for ambition

Hatred is a poison that should be expelled from the body

That there is beauty to be found in the hard places in life.

Math Ogre

By Richard Salzman

I can be an ogre as a math tutor
insisting that the real lessons are
patience, and calculating
the need of the moment.

I resort too quickly to iff statements.
Iff you take care of yourself
does getting good grades have any value.
Iff you take care of real need
does having a lucrative job have any value.

Eat a nutritious snack.
Drink a fresh glass of water.
Rest awhile from your struggles.

Let go the Sputnik driven, ‘shock & awe’ agenda
of the educational matrix.
Remember, its labsolute valuel rests in the fact that
it’s there to serve you.

Don’t forget what you’ve taught me all these years,
enjoy life and be happy.
Factor everything in, and then cancel everything out
that is simply one, in disguise.

Don’t worry. You’ll get it.
You have a good work ethic.
You have sound study habits.
You have the initiative, drive and persistence
required to succeed (and remain happy).

Go slow. Read the question carefully.
Now! Dive in and exercise your faith.
You know how to swim.
The algorithm will come.
Remember to show your work.

Like all good math ogres,
I snuck a peak in the back of the book for you.
It has the answer to odd problems such as this.

Demonstrate:
Patience enough to experience the peace of creation.
Wonder enough to appreciate the beauty of creation.
Curiosity enough to enjoy the diversity of creation.
Humility enough to join the harmony of creation.
Joy enough to share the abundance of creation.

Excerpt from “Peace as a Seventh Language”

Memories: Past and Present

Broken pots,
Fragments of people
Crumbled castles
Are the memories of museums

Churning waves
Swirling breeze
Gorse and rhodedendrum in full blossom
Are today memories in my heart

Sun
Mist
Rain
Sun
In rapid succession

Soft moss
Jagged rocks
Shades of green
Round gray stones

Maker of music
Dreamer of dreams
Ireland flows on its own path.