We’re celebrating liberation at Passover.
We’re honoring the incredible Easter story of torment, death by crucifixion, and resurrection.
We are at peace.
Life in 5 lines or less© shares here Saturdays, in peace.
I learned a new word this week, walking through spring blossoms in our neighborhood: Heartprint.
It’s the name of a nearby day care center.
Have to admit, I’ve never thought of the compound as a word before.
But hearing the news that Nelson Mandela is back in hospital made my heart hurt.
I don’t want any pain for this man who has suffered so much for so many.
At 94, we expect most elders like Mandela to encounter health issues, yet we’ve become so accustomed to his strength that any trip to the emergency ward is cause for concern.
I was slightly amused that South African leaders would ask the world to pray for his recovery.
When would we have stopped praying for this modest leader, who has left his heartprint around the globe?
As a child, I was inspired by stories of his courage. Apartheid still gripped South Africa then, and my youth was filled with news of people being killed and tortured and imprisoned just because their skin color was different than mine.
I couldn’t imagine then — still can’t imagine — spending 27 years in prison, just for doing what’s right.
Nelson Mandela was a model for me and many of my generation, who were campaigning and protesting and writing for social justice.
Unlike Mandela, most of us were not arrested for it. I was never charged with treason for speaking against unjust laws and corruption. And I wouldn’t fear it, either, living in freedom in Canada and the United States.
Yet men like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi — both teaching non-violence in Africa — taught us that doing what is right is as necessary as breathing. I am forever grateful for their example.
I’m praying for Nelson Mandela, feeling his heartprint keenly today.
An East Coast friend says he can’t understand the appeal of California.
During the five years we lived there, he would always grumble, long-distance: “Why on earth would anyone want to live there?”
Then the recession hit and many lost jobs, and for awhile, it seemed he was on to something.
I never ran out of reasons to love the place.
Preoccupied by politics, my friend didn’t want to hear about the calla lilies blooming in January. He didn’t want to hear that they were so abundant in San Francisco, our city, that everyone called them weeds. I was enchanted …
For awhile, political scandals and huge financial losses seemed to confirm my friend’s suspicions about a falling state.
But California is still among the top 10 economies in the world, by any estimation. Its always volatile political climate has settled a little, to permit balanced budgets again, after sweeping cuts.
As a survivor of those slashbacks, I moved to work in another state, then another. I traveled more of California — especially the coast — after we relocated, than I could manage when we lived there.
California never loses its appeal, for me.
From its inland deserts to its spectacular coast, it’s always a beautiful place on the edge of America.
Walking this week in Crescent City, I was grateful to spot California lilacs at the start of spring.
Lilacs — in March!
There were surfers in the waves, and families building sand castles on the beach, and a few waders testing the water, with their dogs.
Ah … why would anyone not want to live here?
I’ve been celebrating the start of spring, so bad news hit like a shock.
A dear friend’s breast cancer has returned, and after many years of remission, appears to be spreading fast.
Most of us react with fear at such sudden news, and I could feel the sadness seeping in, as I worried about my friend battling this terrible disease yet again.
I was walking along a Southern Oregon beach, and sifting the news with a heavy heart — and, it seemed, heavy footsteps in the sand.
Yet every thought of my friend was celebratory. More than most, she teaches us all how to live.
We met while working together in San Francisco, and I turned to her most days for advice on dealing with bureaucracy. She smoothed the way for a befuddled newbie, and taught me how to laugh at some of the petty annoyances of office work. She eased my workload.
Soon, we became friends over a shared excitement about exploring the city, hunting for the best, cheap restaurants, best vintage stores, and the best views. She shared all she knew about her favorite city, and we plotted travels that we would take when/if our finances improved.
We also share a delight in martinis: One of my best memories of San Francisco is the night I lifted a martini with my friend, and our partners, to shout out a toast — to life! — in a noisy, downtown bar.
I was going to school full-time too then, so brought tales of exams + essays + internships to work, delighted to share my passion for a new career. My friend shared her passion for baseball.
Her excitement about the Giants taught me a lot about the energy of San Francisco, and its loyalty to sports teams. My friend traveled to Arizona every year for spring training, and would return with reports about the promise of this player or that. For someone with little to no interest in sports, I always found her enthusiasm infectious.
We promised to go to a game together.
But then the recession hit, and I had to relocate, and our plans to meet in another city didn’t happen. Whenever I returned to San Francisco, we would have lunch at our favorite Thai restaurant, a cheap and cheerful place, with abundant, good food.
(My friend’s enthusiasm for baseball is matched by her enthusiasm for eating. Owners of the Thai restaurant so appreciated her zeal for their cuisine that they donated a serene, private room for one of our office parties. We were surrounded by Buddhist sculptures and art, and dined in unaccustomed elegance.)
I was thinking about how well my friend lives, celebrating the Giants and her family and friends. She’s always pushing the rest of us, too engrossed in the minutiae of daily life, to get out and seize life, to explore and discover and celebrate. She always has some new discovery to share too.
Another San Francisco memory: I walked to work every day, rejoicing at my new career and my new city. One particularly soggy morning, a car pulled to the curb and a friendly voice urged me to abandon my umbrella and leap in.
My friend explained that she sometimes drove from the suburbs, when she stayed with her daughter, and she couldn’t wait to return to the city. We laughed at our good fortune in meeting unexpectedly in San Francisco’s famous fog.
In the years since I left, I’ve often thought about that morning because I couldn’t imagine meeting anyone with such joy so early, amid dismal weather.
Today, I’m recalling that moment, and I’m filled with gratitude for a friend who has taught me so much about savoring life.
To life!, my dear friend, to life!
We need wild places.
After the commotion of cities and the demands of everyday life, wildness beckons.
For me, the wild offers restoration and peacefulness.
My reaction is physiological: I feel my heartbeat slow, my breathing becomes deeper. It’s physical: I can climb higher, walk longer, and try a more difficult path.
I use all my senses to hold this wild place in cell memory for the return to the city.
I’m always more clear-headed in the wild. I can separate my anxieties from what is true; I can still my mind here, without effort.
To be in the wild is to celebrate our spirituality. No one can stand at the edge of the continent and not pause to thank a higher power for this beauty.
My gratitude is deep for this pine forest, these secluded beaches, and this rocky headland.
To be here is to be closer to God.
At Cape Sebastian, I am looking across the Pacific, and wondering, with all this gratitude for natural majesty, why do we all do so much to harm it?
I’m grateful for this Oregon coast, and for everyone who works to protect its wildness.
No matter how much I enjoy time away, I am happy to come home.
After a driving trip, there is one crest on Highway 5 that makes my heart beat faster.
One glimpse of Mt. McLoughlin, in all its white finery, never fails to astonish. On a sunny day, this lava cone can appear otherworldly, because it just pops from a heavily forested landscape.
I’m grateful for homecoming, and grateful for our Southern Oregon home.
I’m bouncing with optimism because it’s spring.
Maybe it’s the cherry blossoms filling our streets, or maybe it’s the passion of volunteers in our community, but I’m heartened by American optimism this season.
And if you caught the livestream of Michael Moore’s town hall meeting in New York last night, you might share my enthusiasm for the groundswell of support for better control of weapons of war in our neighborhoods.
One million Americans have signed petitions demanding tougher gun laws, in the wake of the shooting murders of 20 children, their teachers, principal and school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
That gives me hope.
Listening last night to Americans whose families have suffered gun violence also gave me hope, because they spoke about collective, positive action after tragedy, to prevent other families enduring such loss.
It gave me hope to hear them say, “Enough!”
I’m especially hopeful that more Americans will stand up to gun manufacturers and the NRA, after learning more about the lobbying efforts of mothers. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is pressuring Congress, and is urging all of us to contact our senators and representatives to speak up on better gun laws.
I’m more hopeful about Congress listening to real voters, after being dismayed last week when Senate Leader Harry Reid dropped an assault weapons ban from a pending gun control bill. This, despite polls showing a majority of Americans want assault weapons off our streets.
I’m more optimistic about full background checks and other restrictions being approved after learning that “landmark” gun control laws have passed in Colorado, a state that knows too well the pain from such violence.
Perhaps the most encouraging voice I heard last night was that of Lori Haas, yet another mother pained by gun violence. Her daughter, Emily, was shot twice in the head during the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and called 911 while others were being shot and killed.
Like the Newtown mothers, Haas was driven to take action. She became the Virginia organizer for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, to help reduce the spread of this contagion in American culture.
“It’s atrocious that we live in a culture that allows children to murder children,” Haas told the New York audience last night.
Moms slamming the NRA is a formidable sight.
“We know we’re on the moral side of this issue,” Haas said, citing statistics showing that violence against women by their partners, and suicides-by-gun, have decreased in states with tougher, new gun laws.
As someone who works in the mental health profession, I’m encouraged to hear so many, including Michael Moore, speak out about the need to restore mental health funding in this violence-plagued nation.
Just hearing Haas makes me more hopeful about protecting children, and curbing gun violence. I’m donating $20 today to help her in this critical work at csgv.org.
Her daughter, Emily, survived the Virginia Tech shooting and is now an elementary school teacher.
There’s something especially hopeful about knowing that.
Giving on Sunday is a weekly feature of living in gratitude.
It’s been 10 years since Michael Moore released Bowling for Columbine, and 14 years since the massacre at Columbine High School left 14 students and one teacher dead.
The year I covered Columbine as a journalist, there were so many more school shootings, that I crisscrossed the country logging the names of more and more dead children at rural schools, suburban schools, and big, urban campuses.
I will never forget the day I met then-NRA leader Charlton Heston, praising guns at a NRA conference, not far from Columbine High School, so soon after the killings.
There have been so many school murders in the past decade, the places where students and teachers were shot to death have become a symbol of gun violence: Newtown.
Please watch Bowling for Columbine for free tonight (see Moore’s website for details), and join the national conversation about how we can best protect all our children and our teachers.
Life in 5 lines or less© appears every Saturday, usually with joy and gratitude. Today, we’re grateful for every voice lifted to stop gun violence.
I gave my address to a nurse at the blood donor clinic last week, and she remarked, “That’s the prettiest street in the city!”
We’re blessed with mature trees that shade the neighborhood in summer — bigleaf maple and Oregon white oak about 60 feet high. They’re a haven for birds, so we always have scrub jays, cedar waxwings, juncoes, chickadees and other songbirds outside our door.
But this week, I discovered what the nurse meant about beauty.
The change in seasons has coaxed snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils in private gardens all over the city.
Our street seems to have the most showy cherry blossoms. Every street around our home is bursting with pink.
This is our first spring in Southern Oregon, and we’re ever-grateful for the people who planted all these trees. We spread our gratitude by thanking fellow walkers when we’re out and about.
Yesterday, we met an elder shuffling along the sidewalk and greeted him with gratitude for all the blossoms.
He seemed to appreciate our joke when we thanked him for blessing us with sunshine and warmer weather, but he was puzzled by our camera.
“Why so many pictures of the trees?” he asked, explaining that the cherry trees were planted here more than 25 years ago.
We were giddy about the blooms, so explained that we haven’t lived anywhere that had so many flowering trees in spring.
“I’ve always lived here,” he said, citing 70+ years. “My great-grandparents settled this area.”
There’s something about nature that brings out the best in people, and opens conversations among strangers.
We were discussing this joy on the walk home, crunching the acorns of last autumn under our feet. We’re especially grateful to welcome spring to Southern Oregon.
I wish you could see what I see is a regular series at living in gratitude. There’s just so much to share from the West Coast!
I often think about darkness and light in existential terms, wondering: Can we celebrate the good without fully knowing the bad?
Despair visited this week, without warning. I’m busy with post-graduate study and writing, and I had no reason to feel hopeless. I had encountered a setback, that was all.
I meditated on it.
People I love are suffering. Some are in mourning; others are enduring what is known as “anticipatory grief”. After sudden illness, long surgeries, and more, they fear loss and more suffering. For a few, doctors have warned that loss is imminent.
Others are unemployed. One is stung by the disappointment of yet another job interview with no outcome. Employers don’t bother anymore to even send a “no thanks” form email. It’s dispiriting.
Another loved one was just informed this week that he is to be “laid off” — our modern euphemism for termination. This, after he had his hours cut, and after his wife’s hours also had been reduced.
Still others are victims of Washington’s sequestration. Their “furloughs” appear to be happy Fridays off to outsiders; they’re actually 20% pay cuts.
I’ve been meditating on others’ losses and examining how we can be affected by existential despair.
I examined despair, tugging at my sleeve.
I walked for an hour amid spring blossoms and marveled at juncoes and chickadees along the path, and still could not shake it. My husband and I went to our favorite woods for a long hike, and paused to listen to a woodpecker drilling at the top of a near-dead tree. We missed the deer.
I wrote letters to send love to some; sent emails to others; and scheduled a Skype call with a family touched by loss. We’re here; I’m here; count on us.
My prayers are filled with hope and all the goodness I can send long-distance to friends and family who are touched by despair.
First day of spring and Persian new year
Despair hovered still, on the first day of spring. The new season opened with dark, threatening skies, then unexpected rain. When I emerged from a business meeting that restored my hope, a faint rainbow appeared through the dark clouds.
We dashed to capture it with our little camera, dodging a lumbering garbage truck to take the shot over a used car lot. We were quarreling, then laughing, in the rain.
An hour later, the rainbow had grown and grown, to arc over our entire city. We gave thanks for this universal sign of hope, on the first day of spring.
It was a great start to Norooz, the Persian new year — that always hopeful first day celebrated by my family. (Norooz = “new day.”)
I am grateful for knowing darkness, because it makes me ever so joyous in the light.