How God Remembers That Which is Least

Posted Friday, January 22nd, 2016 @ 10:01 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Quotes, Spirit

Yesterday I walked home from dropping my daughter at school, and I passed by a wounded mourning dove on the sidewalk. It was camouflaged and nearly undetectable. In a matter of seconds my eye saw it, my heart said, Oh! Poor creature, and my legs kept walking. I thought — actually, I felt a physical pressure in my torso — the prompt of compassion to move it off the sidewalk, and this was immediately chased away by the thought, Remember, avian flu, don’t want to get something like that.

I kept walking, but a debate occurred between my mind and that felt part of me. I hesitate to call it my heart, because it filled my torso. It was an interesting experience, since another part of me was detached enough to witness the event. This is what unfolded:

Feet are walking.

Head: Keep going. It could have disease.

Heart: You can wash your hands as soon as you get home. It’s vulnerable. At least move it off the sidewalk.

Head: It’s probably going to die.

Feet keep walking.

Heart: Just move it! Even if it dies, let it be somewhere safer.

Head: No, it’s silly. It’s just a bird. Not a big deal. Besides, I’m several houses past it.

Heart: Go back. Go back, pick it up, and put it under a bush.

Feet move more slowly.

Head: You’re kidding, right? Feet, keep walking. It’s no big deal.

Feet continue to move, even more slowly.

Heart: You must go back. Turn around, walk back, and move the bird. It’s a living creature.

Feet stop.

Head: Really?

Heart: Really.

My body turned around, my feet walked half a block back to the bird. I leaned down and gently cupped my hands around it. I lifted the bird and saw that it was dead. Its eyes remained open, but there was not even the slightest movement of a feather. I tucked it under a bush. I wasn’t thinking. The act itself felt like a prayer. I took out my phone and snapped a picture. It was just a bird, but it had been living and now it wasn’t. It seemed right to memorialize it in a photo. Then I stood up and began walking home.

Peace coursed through my body. It was an act of compassion, however small.

Heart: Thank you.

Head: Okay, just be sure to wash your hands really well when you get home.

Today, a scripture from my childhood came to mind, Luke 12:6: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”

We are God’s eyes. We are called to remember. That is how God moves in the world.

mourning dove

Step by Step

Posted Friday, January 22nd, 2016 @ 9:06 am by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Humanities, Quotes, Social Science

We need to remember that an appreciation for challenge, and a belief that we can find a way to change, learn and grow, can’t itself be fixed in place. Instead, we all struggle with fear and discouragement at times. Sometimes we run toward new experiences. Sometimes we have to find a way to learn something we really did not want to learn. Sometimes, some part of us is always on the floor, sobbing: “I can’t. I’m bad at this. I’ll never get it.”

So how do you raise a child with a growth mind-set, along with a nice healthy appreciation for where it came from and the will to keep it strong? By applying the encouraging messages of the growth mind-set to yourself. I’ll borrow, out of context, another phrase from Dr. Dweck: “The point isn’t to get it all right away. The point is to grow your understanding step by step. What can you try next?”

-K.J. Dell’antonia, ‘Nice Try!’ is Not Enough

Posted Monday, January 18th, 2016 @ 1:16 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Quotes, Spirit

My mother was puzzling over this poem by Hafiz. Like much poetry, the best way to access the meaning is to sidle up to it and look at it from the corner of one’s eye.

The Salmon Run

I wonder how God ever gets any work done
when he could just be gazing at Himself
in awe all day? What discipline he shows.

I am talking about a real problem that will
challenge you someday, though you may
know nothing about that yet:

splendor taking over the place and rising
from your body like a sunrise–gods sitting
on a hill needing to bask in you. For it is true,
we help sustain existence.

All types of fishermen, merchants and seekers
will gather around you when you reach your goal.

They will be wanting to cast their nets into
the brilliant salmon run you become,

leaping into the sky, offering to take any near
along.

-Hafiz

First impressions: The fact this universe exists at all is marvelous. That life exists in all its forms — how can we not just sit around gazing in awe? It is a Mystery that anything is at all. We are part of it now in this form, we are gods sitting on a hill basking in it. We will also die, after which we become splendor taking over the place. We return to earth, participate in sustaining life. We are the fisherman, merchants and seekers casting our nets into life. The earth sustains us. And, if we are lucky enough to wake up — to realize we are one with everything — we can enjoy the Mystery all the more. There is no need to fear.

The Incident on the Bus

Posted Saturday, January 16th, 2016 @ 2:54 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Journal, Social Science
reflection

Reflections of Long Ago

I am not a fan of public transportation. In most places I have lived, it is an inefficient means of getting around. For instance, if I had to commute from my home to Mountain View (25 miles away), a one-way trip would take two and a half hours via light rail and bus. Public transportation also poses other challenges. One memory came up today.

One winter evening when I was 21 and my brother was 13, I took him to a play at a local theater. I lived downtown without a car. I probably cooked him dinner beforehand. After 5 p.m., the buses ran only once every hour; they lined up along a major intersection downtown. We boarded our bus and moved toward a seat in the back. I selected a seat that faced toward the front of the bus and sat by the window; my brother was next to me.

Behind me, perpendicular to my seat, sat a bunch of young men. Directly behind me, a man sat with his elbow jutting over the edge of my seat, preventing me from sitting back. I tried a nonverbal approach at first by simply pushing myself back, hoping he would get the hint and move his arm. He resisted; his arm didn’t budge. I pushed slightly again, and the elbow shoved back. The guys were talking among themselves. I turned around and politely said, “Would you move your arm, please, so I can sit?”

He replied, “NO. And if you ask me again, bitch, I’ll hit you.” I turned around, fuming. I could have decided to move us to a different seat. I decided instead to assert myself. What followed occurred so quickly.

I pushed back, and he didn’t move. I turned back and said, “Really, please –” BAM! He backhanded me in the face and my glasses flew off. I gasped and grabbed my glasses from my lap. I was stunned, and reality felt like slow-motion. I told my brother to get up and move. The other men taunted him, asking if he was going to protect his girlfriend. The buses were about to depart.

My heart pounded, my arms and legs shook. I strode to the front of the bus and told the driver what happened. Behind me, I heard murmurs of discontent and complaint. I was holding up the bus. The driver said, “I can’t do anything about that.” He called the dispatcher, who arrived a moment later and said, “I can call the police if you want. Nothing else to do.” I could feel the annoyance from other passengers on the bus. I declined to pursue that option.

T and I sat right behind the driver, perpendicular to him. I was very scared, shocked, and outraged. I felt helpless and alone. I fought tears, not wanting to weep in public. I was flooded with shame. I stared at nothing, shaking, my mind reeling. A couple blocks onward I glanced toward the back of the bus. The man who’d hit me saw, rose, and walked to the front. He stood in front of me and said, “You want to start something, bitch? Huh?” At this point I was frozen in terror. I stared straight ahead and didn’t respond. He turned around and went back to his seat. We got off at the next stop, several stops early, and trudged the rest of the way through snow and slush to the theater.

All this time, my brother hadn’t spoken. Neither had I. We arrived at the theater, I put on the happy big sister persona (or tried to) and said, “Let’s forget that and enjoy the play.” I spent the rest of the evening feeling removed from the experience. I have no memory of the play, or of how we got home.

Do demographics matter? It was 1984. I was an angry 20-something white woman who identified as lesbian. My attacker was an angry late teen/early 20s black man probably part of a gang. Of course he hit and threatened me. I was only a woman, an uppity white woman. I wasn’t even a woman; I was a bitch. I felt completely unsupported in the situation. Lonely. I had asserted myself, was attacked for it, and NOBODY helped me. I appealed to authority; they didn’t care. Not only did no one help, people complained about being delayed. I was responsible for my brother’s safety. I felt utterly powerless. I felt waves of shame, fear, anger, and sorrow.

For years after that, I never sat further back than the middle of the bus. I avoided eye contact with black men. And to this day, my brother and I have never discussed it.

Spring

Posted Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 @ 11:48 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Quotes
wyoming sky

Wyoming Sky

A quote, shared by my mother in a comment (thank you, Mom!), for those in the deep of winter. Go outside. Even in winter. Mother is waiting to embrace you.

I said in my heart, “I am sick of four walls and a
ceiling.
I have need of the sky.
I have business with the grass.
I will up and get me away where the hawk is wheeling,
Lone and high,
And the slow clouds go by.
I will get me away to the waters that glass
The clouds as they pass,
To the waters that lie
Like the heart of a maiden aware of a doom drawing
nigh
And dumb for sorcery of impending joy.
I will get me away to the woods.

–Richard Hovey, excerpt from Spring

Depression Explained

Posted Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 @ 11:34 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Science, Spirit

Depression isn’t just feeling sad. There is an insidious pull, a lethargy of soul, that infuses one’s life. I’ve had depression since my teens. Talk therapy has helped enormously. Medication has certainly improved the quality of my life. Lately, however, I have noticed a certain flatness of my spirit. I’m writing this post to force myself to break through the caul of apathy. I have been working out, and that helps a bit. I’ve been coping by reading, but reading is a form of ingestion and thus passive. The other part of my being, the creator, is the part that depression has sedated.

This video gives a brief overview of one theory of the biological basis for it.

Link is here.

Posted Saturday, January 2nd, 2016 @ 2:01 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Nature, Quotes

“On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death…Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony.”

John Muir (1838 – 1914)

Got the Time?

Posted Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 @ 6:07 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Buddhism, Journal, Quotes

Where is time’s home?

Where does time live in all its cosmic mystery of millions of years and billions of sunrises? Were does it reside? Where is it, shall we say, most comfortable?

The answer, I think, is within us. That’s because we are the unfolding place for time. We are saturated with time. Right now, as you read these words, it’s rolling out from you. It’s filling space with your awareness of this one precious present moment. That, after all, is all the time we ever know. The past is a memory and the future an idea. But this moment, this breath, this deep sigh of relief or exhaustion, of care or concern — that, really, is all there is to time. The rest is nothing but words on a page or equations on a blackboard.

-Adam Frank, NPR

Avoidance

Posted Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 @ 4:49 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Humanities, Journal, Recreation

Here is my self-talk: “I’m done. I’m done with so many books on my shelves that I’ve owned for decades and not read yet. Done with books I’ve read once and have no intention of reading again.”

I’ve purged two grocery bags of books from my shelves. I engage in a little dance with the books that remain, telling myself that some of them I will probably use sometime (they number in hundreds). It’s an interesting experience to look at a book and decide whether it departs, and why.

Books represent security to me — the idea that if I read enough, learn enough, I can control life. I can create safety. The idea that I don’t know enough, and that words and ideas will impart wisdom. I’m not judging myself for having spent the money on the books. They will find their homes. Yet it is time — Life is telling me — to interrupt this impulse and learn to BE with whatever arises that makes me uncomfortable.

Sometimes I tell myself I need to purchase a book because I cannot borrow it from the public library even via interlibrary loan (I like to read somewhat uncommon titles). At the root of this story, however, is again, the reflexive movement toward the familiar role of student. I delay action and avoid discomfort by returning to a role I know so intimately.

When I moved from Syracuse to Austin, I owned a personal library of 800 books. I couldn’t afford to move them all. I culled them severely and shipped only the books that generated the strongest connection within me, about 100. Over the years I’ve had the space and means to accrue more books. I want to engage with life differently. I own 1,311 books. It’s time to unburden myself.

Nobody Knows, But…

Posted Saturday, October 17th, 2015 @ 12:31 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Spirit

Love this. I have always loved Patty Griffin.

Link is this.