Greetings! Taking a small break from writing. Lot’s to think about these days. Peace to you. Two videos for you!
Enjoy Wendell Barry’s reading of The Peace of Wild Things.
Deep Peace of the Running Wave to You
Greetings! Taking a small break from writing. Lot’s to think about these days. Peace to you. Two videos for you!
Enjoy Wendell Barry’s reading of The Peace of Wild Things.
Deep Peace of the Running Wave to You
In a few weeks my family is going to Ireland. The “homeland”. The place of my ancestors.
Decades ago I was quietly nudged into the world of genealogy. My parents passed on and I became the keeper of the stories, pictures and documents that made up the branches of our family tree.
My tree is obviously unique because of the people in it. Except, as Robert Louis Stevenson points out,
“Each has his own tree of ancestors,
but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal.”
As Sagan’s beings of star-dust, we all of us go back to the same place. In the beginning.
We share DNA that goes back a long, long ways. Our “pre- human” ancestors looked very similar. Relatively small groups of individuals on the edge of survival gave way to the massive population of the planet.
A few weeks ago we went to Pittsburgh to visit our son. While there we stopped by a very old, very beautiful cemetery, to see the graves of my husband’s ancestors who came over from Wales.
There is meaning for me in the grave stones of my ancestors. Some are simple, some ornate. Some have Revolutionary War markers, some are uncared for and unreadable. Many are simply missing and all that remains is green grass on the lawn of a fenced in area that was once full of grave stones and memorials. Many plots have generations of family side by side. Some say “Mother” or “Father”, others have the name carved into the granite. There are carved willow branches on some, hands clasped on others. A few inform the world that might stop by to look, that this person was “beloved”. This person mattered very much to others.
And, as in the case of John and Anna Moore Evans, they are at rest far from their parents and siblings. Far from the place on earth that welcomed them into the world and provided them a home and food and a place to grow.
The stories of my family’s ancestors are the stories of us all. The names and places are different, but the triumphs and struggles, the courage and weakness, the joys and sorrows are the same. Many choices led these people to board ships crossing the Atlantic, leaving nearly everything behind. Some carried Bibles, some carried pots and pans. Some paid for passage, some were indentured for ten years upon arrival. Some where running away, while some were running to something. Some fought in the Revolutionary and Civil wars, some did not. Some succeed and some failed. There are documented records and stories of some, and memories passed on only as stories for others.
My “Irish” ancestors were “sent” to Ireland from Scotland to shore up the Protestant cause. They fought in battles and grew and wove flax. Some had titles and estates, others owned nothing free and clear. A few had a formal education. All were educated by life.
Conflict, fear, possession and control seem to be things that are ageless. I know my ancestors, and my husband’s, faced discrimination and persecution when they arrived here. They were “outsiders.” Immigrants. Some were the wrong religion in a country founded on religious freedom. Few had the financial means to live well upon arrival. Many had lost loved ones on the boat crossing the Atlantic. A few had sponsors, while others were “owned” as indentured servants for awhile. Some where killed by Native Americans, others by disease or disaster. Some were ministers, one was believed to have been a witch in the small town called Salem. A couple were pirates.
There were those who led the way to the future. My ancestors built horse buggies that gave way to cars. Another worked with glass and those roots are now found in the Pittsburgh Glass Company. There are buildings with their names still on them, and banks that still safe guard the working person’s money. Paper bags and rolling garage doors were the innovative visions for some. Believers in the importance of higher education, colleges and universities list their names as Founders. Steam boats that ferried people and goods up and down the Ohio River came from the creative minds of others.
So, we are going to Ireland to walk on the ground our ancestors knew so well. We will look at the same views of the ocean and hills that they saw every day. Hopefully we will know gratitude in our hearts for those who came before us, allowing us to return and wonder at their decision to leave Ireland behind.
And I hope too, to remember our common ancestor,that binds us always together:
If you’re interested in some of my family’s stories, here is the link to my other blog. (I haven’t added anything in a while.) It is a combination of stories from my family, my husband’s family and my brother in law’s family. Under the “categories” tab on the right you can read about my family, Beggs. A Cup of Tea
There is a lot to read This Week
I remember being so excited in elementary school when it was my turn to erase the blackboard at the end of the day. Making all the learning and thinking disappear, almost without a trace. It was rhythmic and calming pushing the felted eraser across the board. Or up and down. Or in big circular swirls. Words and numbers, assignments, messages and mistakes blurred into little specks of powdery chalk. Maybe what was there would be remembered. But maybe not. It was important at the time of writing it on the board. If the teacher used colored chalk it was really important. Or maybe even something to be anticipated with excitement! Whatever was written there was erased at the end of the day and the slate was left clean for a new day and new things.
At the end of the day I often find myself sitting quietly going through everything that my brain held onto during the day. Kind of like looking at that school day filled blackboard. There is much I can easily dismiss, erase. Some of what was written there is a little harder to completely erase. I have to go through those things by steps, gradually sifting through the layers till it can be blown away with by a thought. Some things seem to have been written there with non-erasable chalk. These things can almost be completely erased, but not quite. Just enough shadow writing remains that I can always read exactly what is there.
In the process of my daily attempt to sort through things I have been hanging on to, I feel as if I am becoming lighter, less bogged down. I sort, compartmentalize and throw out millions of little things. Like the process of erasing a school blackboard the background becomes mostly clean, uncluttered, receptive, fresh.
As this happens I make room for the thoughts, feelings, ideas, “things” that do seem important for me to write down and look at again free of the clutter of daily hording of unneeded and unwanted information and emotions.
Gratitude. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Courage. Resolve……
In Buddhism the most important of these are referred to as the Four Radiant Abodes. These are human qualities that, upon reflection, are sublimely simple. Universal expressions of a heart that is open to the world and all living things. We know them as:
LOVE COMPASSION JOY PEACE
I see these qualities daily in the faces and expressions of young children. We feel it in the embrace of a loved one. We see it in the eyes of others. Something lights up when we are in the presence of someone who is filled with these qualities. These qualities shine outward from the heart. We see, experience how these things can transform others. And when we are touched by them we are transformed too.
These are a few of the things that are permanently written on my blackboard. But, sometimes, during the day they get written over. Lost. Hidden. Sometimes maybe even forgotten about. I erase the blackboard each day to bring them back into my consciousness in a more prominent light. Hoping not to write over them so much the following day. Because that does happen when frustration or anger surfaces. When disappointment or tiredness takes hold. When there is stress or worry. When things in life make me feel rushed and I become frayed around the edges. When I feel let down or uncared for. Lots of things get written on my blackboard, pushing other things to the background.
In their shadow purpose, love, compassion, joy and peace can cause me to form a lot of attachments to people and things. So equanimity is there along side them in counterbalance. To let some things go. To let the thoughts and emotions pass over me and not so much through me. Caution ever the reminder, equanimity can lead to excessive detachment, so it is held into balance by love, compassion, joy and peace.
With the blackboard erased and the mind at rest we are peaceful and our hearts are open. In this space of equanimity we meet others in peace and we are filled with love. When this love meets others in pain and suffering it transforms into compassion. When this love meets happiness it becomes joy. Equanimity and love, compassion, joy and peace in balance. We become transformed into our highest state of being.
At the end of the day I try to take the time to erase my blackboard and find renewal. The I feel as if I have come home to the dwelling place where I can rest, residing in the abode of immeasurable love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity.
There is no faith, religion, culture, class or race that owns these qualities. They are in each one of us as human beings. We all carry within us the seeds of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. It is however, up to us to nurture and tend them with understanding, patience, tolerance, acceptance, humility, acceptance, respect…..supporting and caring for their growth.
On my blackboard, the slate of my being, never to be fully erased, are the life driving qualities of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. They are the pillars of the place where I dwell in my heart. Sometimes, the goings on of daily life write over them, obscuring them, dimming their clarity, but they remain the foundation of my human-ness. As I take time to let go of unwanted, unneeded clutter caused by longing, desire, uncertainty, anger, fear, jealousy……so many things, erasing them away, I come face to face with what is the true foundation of who I want to be, who I can be, who I am.
I strive to do this every day. It is a goal. Always a learning process. Always humbling and grounding.
At my mother’s memorial service my brother spoke from the heart about our mom: “She was a complicated person.” That she was. She had strengths. And she had flaws. She had triumphs and her share of mistakes and regrets. My relationship with my mom was shaky sometimes. We had some ups and some downs. As she was, as I was, I loved her. I know she gave me the foundation to be a good mother and good person.
When I was little she bought me a cotton candy machine. She made me fairy wings out of aluminum foil. To go with the green fairy shoes she sewed for me. Complete with bells. On the pointy, curled up toes. She read to me from thick chapter books every night. I sipped a cup of hot chocolate as her words ignited my imagination. My eyes would begin to droop. And, then, I would drift into sleep with dreams.
We were mother and daughter. Sometimes she yelled at me and sometimes I yelled at her. There were times when I felt like she didn’t understand me. There were times when I just couldn’t see her point of view or understand her. There were times when she comforted me when I was sick or when I stumbled through various teenage dramas. She forgot things that were important to me and reminded me of things I didn’t remember. She gave my husband and I a kitten when we were married. She made slip covers and curtains. She sat on the floor and sanded wooden pegs covering the nails. It was a jumble of good times and, well, not so good times.
Sometimes she was the perfect mom and I was the perfect child. Sometimes we both let each other down.
She was, my mom.
I didn’t get to have my mom by my side as I raised my children. I couldn’t ask her questions or seek advice from her. I couldn’t call her when my kids were sick to ask her to come help. I couldn’t call her at all.
Today is Mother’s Day.
A couple of years ago I got a FB message from someone asking me if I was Marjorie’s daughter. His name was Dave. He was a little older than me and went on to tell me how he remembered playing Barbies with me! And then he told how my mother had helped him and his mom when he was little. My mom paid for summer camp for him and gave his mom a job taking care of me. He remembered learning how to swim from my siblings. And feeling as if he was part of the family. He said he has never forgotten her kindness.
I still remember his mom vividly. Josephine. I loved her. I’ve never forgotten her kindness and patience. I still drive by her house and imagine her walking out of the door.
Our moms and other people’s moms. Mothers. “Moms” who aren’t actual moms, but nurturing women. Women who are role models and mentors. Adoptive moms, and foster moms. Moms who have miscarried or had stillbirths. Moms who have had abortions. Gay moms, queer moms. Single moms. Widowed moms. Teen moms. Incarcerated moms. Moms who are aunts and god parents. Moms who are perfect and moms who are imperfect.
Many of us don’t know the history behind Mother’s Day, we only know the Hallmark version. The idea of Mother’s Day in the US began in 1872 when Julia Ward Howe suggested it be a day to honor and work for peace. Read her famous “proclamation” here:
Mothers uniting in love to make a positive change in the world.
Here in the US, and around the world, mothers struggle. They struggle to provide for their children. They watch their children die of starvation, disease, war. They dream of having shoes for their child, or clean water, or a meal, or for them to have a chance to go to school. Mothers everywhere dream of seeing their children healthy and thriving, having a job, being safe. Knowing it is only a dream, they hope and pray that their child will have what they cannot give them.
Last year on Mother’s Day I challenged people to donate to causes that support mothers. I put it out there again this year. You can make a donation to Planned Parenthood, to your local woman’s shelter, to programs that educate about domestic violence. Or you can check out the links below and donate or just educate yourself. Lots of topics.
This year I donated to Brooklyn Bail Fund.
If you choose to donate, and care to share, I would love to know who you are helping.
Behind every great woman is another one Heifer International, Empowering women
National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Helping expectant mothers
Rape of a girl or woman is never ok Women do not ask for it, deserve it. It is not ok for women to be shamed or shunned becasue they were raped. It is not ok to punish a woman for being raped.
women are equal to men yet the world often disagrees
**Don’t forget to check out This Week
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”
“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
― Loren Eiseley
It’s a big wide world with lots going on. Billions of people all over this pale blue dot wake up to a life of ease or suffering, joy or sorrow. There’s a million things “right” in the world. And a million things “wrong”.
Despair and hope dwell and linger in everyone’s life. Some days we try to close the door against despair. Other days we open the door to hope.
In this story the wise man walking along the beach knows what a huge act of hope and faith he is undertaking tossing star fish, one at a time, back into the ocean in the hopes of offering each one a chance at life. Something inside of him was incredibly strong, calling on him, to act for the benefit of one starfish each time.
“It made a difference for that one.”
Isn’t that all any of us can do at any one time? Lift each other up one by one. To reach out again and again and to just try our best.
I cannot, even in my dreams, believe I can make much difference in this world. But I do know when I go to work and hug a child, it matters. I know when my husband and I hold each other in joy or sorrow, it matters. I know that my children knowing they have a home to “come home” to matters. I know that when I look someone in the eye and call them on a racist or misogynist comment or joke, that it matters. My taking action, one action at a time, matters.
And I know, like the man on the beach, that each star fish is worth the effort and hope just like I know each person is worth, and deserving of, the same kind of effort and hope.
One by one, even against the odds. It is about what we are called to do. This showing up, this reaching out to lift others up, this hope that is born in the light of love, and hope, and patience that glows in each one of us.
Again, from Loren Eisley:
“Looking so, across the centuries and the millennia, toward the animal men of the past, one can see a faint light, like a patch of sunlight moving over the dark shadows on a forest floor. It shifts and widens, it winks out, it comes again, but it persists. It is the human spirit, the human soul, however transient, however faulty men may claim it to be. In its coming man had no part. It merely came, that curious light, and man, the animal, sought to be something that no animal had been before. Cruel he might be, vengeful he might be, but there had entered into his nature a curious wistful gentleness and courage. It seemed to have little to do with survival, for such men died over and over. They did not value life compared to what they saw in themselves — that strange inner light which has come from no man knows where, and which was not made by us. It has followed us all the way from the age of ice, from the dark borders of the ancient forest into which our footprints vanish… Man may grow until he towers to the skies, but without this light he is nothing, and his place is nothing. Even as we try to deny the light, we know that it has made us, and what we are without it remains meaningless.
Let that Light that is in you guide you. Show up. Bend down and toss the starfish back into the ocean in an act of love and kindness. Simply because for that one star fish it made a difference.
Like those star fish the wise man believed worthy, so is each human being.
*Readings This Week
*NEW!! Little Works in Progress
This blog is called Songs The Sunrise Sings because I often wake up before or as the sun rises. I find a great comfort and sense of peace in watching the dawn of a new day: of hearing the sleeping world wake up. I spend several minutes in stillness, just listening. Even in winter, with doors and windows closed, the sounds of songs and greetings for the new morning can be heard.
I take the time to center myself for the new day. Some days I feel tired, or perhaps unwell, and it is difficult to find this centering. I am too attached to my body and my worries or fears. Other days it is as if a song flows from my heart and with great ease I send out love and wishes for all beings to be safe, healthy, free from fear and worry, happy and at ease.
“Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…..
humans, animals, even birds….
they all need happiness.”
~Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong,
International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
I have such strong, passionate thoughts and feelings about this. Yesterday a news reporter coined what may be a new word, “othering”. As in when we begin to refer to people we do not agree with, dislike, mistrust, fear and or doubt. We think about them as, or refer to them as, the “others”.
Grandmother Tsering says “NO” to “othering”. She teaches us, perhaps reminds us, that ALL need our love, our prayers, our effort to help ensure their happiness. Not wishing them punishment, incarceration, revenge, harm, to be invisible, to be irrelevant or insignificant, not calling for them to be oppressed or repressed. But, for each one to have and experience happiness. She calls for us, as we wake up in the morning, to send our prayers and wishes for happiness to all. And that is a tall order when we live in a world that is so full of fear and greed, misinformation, arrogance. A world where bombs become a solution, violence a means to an end, incarceration as solution rather than education and rehabilitation, where one religion strives to reign over others. In a world that judges by clothing, gender, sex, race, age, mistakes, status and beliefs. A world where we take and take and take.
…we, they, all deserve, and need, happiness….
I have my own routine at night and in the morning. I follow a set of words and change who I am directing the thoughts towards. First to myself, then to someone I love deeply, then to someone who plays a significant role in my life as mentor or such. Next I think of someone who is an “acquaintance”, then to someone who is a challenging presence in my life. At the end, the prayer/ thoughts go out to ALL people and living things. ALL. Known, unknown, feared or revered. It’s just what I do. It grounds me. It reminds me of what I hold dear and value.
I know something like this isn’t for everyone. This isn’t something I have always done. I had to be ready to embrace this, to work at it, to allow it to become part of who I am. It wasn’t always possible for me to do this. But…it has changed me. So I offer it forward in hopes that more thoughts and prayers for the happiness and well being of all sentient beings can be put out there in a world where there is so much suffering and pain.
Readings This Week
“Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…humans, animals, even birds– they all need hap
Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…humans, animals, even birds– they all need happiness.
I feel differently when I am outside. I think differently. I see differently. I hear differently. I smell things differently. I feel the air around me differently.
I change. I slow down. Calm down. I shed wants and unknown fears.
Our part of NYS was in a pretty bad drought last year. There was briefly talk of having to truck water in to our community.
About 20 minutes from my home is a narrow, 215 foot waterfall. Not tall by some standards, but still beautiful. During the drought, the water stopped. The waterfall had become just a cliff. The thundering water was silenced. The mist vanished.
This spring we have had rain. And rain. We are now in a flood warning. Our lake is high, yards and homes are flooded.
Easter morning we walked the gentle trail to our waterfall, Taughannock Falls. The water was flowing.
The mist purified and baptized me in a way no organized dogma could. The thunder of the raging water muffled noises in my head of worry, fear, doubt. I could smell the scent of the earth, damp, decaying and, also, alive. I focused on the force and power of the milky water launching off the side of rock cliff that was too old to comprehend. Somewhere in those rocks and cliffs are fossils of life from ancient sea beds.
The Waterfall at Lu-Shan
Sunlight streams on river stones.
From high above, the river steadily plunges–
three thousand feet of sparkling water–
the milky way pouring down from heaven.
Surely our little waterfall is a tiny bit of the milky way pouring down from heaven. Heaven reaching down towards Earth. A reminder of things inter-connected. A reminder to seek beauty and tread lightly. A reminder to look up in wonder and awe at the stars in the universe. A reminder to look all around this biosphere called Earth with humility and and respect, gentleness and stewardship. A reminder to live in moderation and care, balance and understanding. A reminder to pause in gratitude and appreciation for our Mother Earth and all the life she supports.