Archive | July, 2016

My Neighbor

29 Jul


This morning as Maggie and I walked, we passed an Echinopsis Pachanoi bending under the weight of more than fifty yet-to-be-birthed, brilliant white flowers.  We’ve watched her begin to show signs of motherhood and each morning we wish her well in her waiting.  Maggie gives her a sniff for encouragement.

With one bloom or fifty, she beautifies the world and causes passersby to stop and sigh appreciatively.  But I worry a little about her future because, and don’t spread this around too much, the Echinopsis Pachanoi is from the Andes Mountains where for more than 3,000 years her ancestors have thrived, producing traditional medicines for humans and animals and offering themselves in ancient religious ceremonies.  They contribute beauty and practical service in their mountains.  They are valued.  Now, here in my neighborhood, she shares her gifts and makes our lives more amazing.

But, I fear for her because she is a transplanted “foreigner”.  She is not one of “us”.  She wasn’t “made in America”…not that much is anymore.  And given the wacky times in which we live, I’m concerned that one day she might be unceremoniously dug up, stuffed in a box and sent back to Bolivia or Peru.  She might even be under surveillance right now because she’s about to populate my street with beauty.

Some people say, with moral certainty,  that you just can’t trust foreigners.   Send all of them back to where they came from.  Round ’em up, boot ’em out, build a wall.  Poor Echinopsis Pachanoi.  All she wants to do is be herself where she’s planted and do what she does best…fill the world with something good.  My life just wouldn’t be the same without her contributions.

I hope we wake up out of our wackiness and welcome some wisdom.

Morning Walk

18 Jul



This morning a mockingbird sang to me

from the highest branch of

an oak tree on the far side of

the barbed wire fence.

Her song trebled and tumbled across the pasture;

rolling notes up and down the scale,

spilling out into the bright morning,

filling the air with joyful elegance.

I am happily reminded that joy is found in the song,

in the singing, in the unrestrained release of

soul and spirit given to the world freely.

May the song of my life bring joy and peace

to all who hear.

May I sing with hope born of trust,

nurtured in the mystery of living.

“Yes, computer. I understand.”

11 Jul


There was a day when you could go into a store for a pair of socks, pick out the ones you wanted, note the posted price, go to the cashier and pay for them…even if there was a discrepancy in the advertised price.

“Pardon me, sir.  The posted price for these socks was $2.00 but you’re charging me $4.00.”

“Oh”, the clerk would respond, “that is certainly our mistake.  Glad to let you have the socks for $2.00.  Sorry about that.”   It was called “good customer relations” or “commercial hospitality”.

Now, however, computers rule.  I made a sock run this afternoon at a local store, found the ones I wanted under a sign that read: “Buy one package, get a second for $1”.  Sounded fine to me.  Off to the cashier I go, present my new socks and reach for my faithful credit card.  I figure the total will be $15…$14 for the first package and $1 for the second.  “That will be $21”,  she said.  “I beg your pardon?  I think it’s $15, given the sign in the socks section.”  I explained in detail.  Then she explained in detail.

“Sir, I’m very sorry.  Even though the sign is as you report, the computer says I have to charge $21 for this purchase.”  “But you advertise them for $15”, I countered.  “I understand what you’re saying, sir, but I can’t argue with the computer.  It controls our prices.  I can’t change what the computer says.  It’s in charge of all pricing.”  Somebody pinch me and tell me I’m dreaming.

What have we come to?  I’m dealing relatively well with the insanity of politics right now.  My anxiety level is under control concerning global climate change, at least for the moment.  I’m even rather serene remembering that my dog peed on the living room carpet the other day, requiring a visit from  professional rug cleaners.  Now, though, this is it!  This may be the moment that sends me mumbling into the Sonoran Desert.  The computer rules!?  Really?

At home again, while removing my blood pressure cuff, I calmed myself by concluding that I have the last laugh on that computer.   I didn’t really need the stupid socks, anyway.

So there.


Essential Elements

2 Jul


This is not an easy time to be a human being on planet earth.

Some of us have canceled newspaper subscriptions and sworn off electronic news reporting.  It used to be said that “no news is good news” but that’s not true anymore.  Many would say that “all news is bad news”.  The earth and its inhabitants are suffering in alarming ways.  Under these circumstances we hold on tightly to philosophical or political ideas, defending them to the death…literally in some cases.  Religion for many has become an important anchor in the storm, but then we fight savagely about who is right and who is wrong…more often than not it’s the other person who is following the wrong dogmas and doctrines.  The average person on the street seems to feel disconnected, powerless to make much of a difference, and resigned to take one day at a time, hoping for the best.  In our worst moments discontent produces despair, despair leads to fear, fear to anger, and anger to violence.  One wonders how long humanity and the earth can stand the endless assault of fear and her children.

I don’t know anyone who has practical answers to the perilous problems that wake us in the morning and send us into the darkness at night.  I certainly don’t.  But perhaps instead of fretting over the problems, each of us might consider focusing on the possible, which is finding a meaningful balance in my own life and choosing to live each day in that balance.  To that end I offer three words that are engraved on the little pendant on my neck chain.  In these three words I find a measure of hope, not for solving world problems but for helping me hold onto my humanity while at the same time honoring yours.  The words are Serenity, Wisdom, and Courage.

Serenity is not easy to come by, but it’s possible when we are intentional.  Decisions made from a state of anxiety, choices born of fear, actions taken in knee-jerk reactions to hatred or prejudice only deepen the abyss.  On the other hand, decisions and choices and actions that are the products of thoughtful reflections of a calm mind, an intentionally quiet spirit, are much more likely to find common ground with my neighbor who seeks the same balance.  Serenity does not mean withdrawing.  It means finding the better way, a way that unravels the tangles of our turmoil.  So, seek Serenity…find a way to tap into that which is already available…use any method you can find to calm your mind and hear creative possibilities.   Serenity.

Wisdom is not knowledge.  One can know a great deal but have little wisdom.  Wisdom is most often the product of engagement and experience, the give and take of living, a synthesis of information and experience that produces insight.  It is accumulated, acquired through interaction, and it is much broader than one’s opinion or personal preference.  Wisdom takes the other person or culture into account, considers broadly, and then seeks congenial conversation toward a common solution.  Wisdom is not weak.  It is sorely missing in current cultural, political, and religious arenas.  Knowledge is useful only when it is tempered by wisdom, and wisdom is acquired when people are more concerned about drawing circles rather than lines in the sand.   Wisdom.

Courage is not bravado and bluster.  It does not hide behind weapons or words.  Courage is the ability to overcome fear or despair, an ability that is too often misrepresented by threat or intimidation.  There is no courage pill to swallow; rather it is developed over time when one risks, takes a chance, tries the unusual, dares.  It is fraught with uncertainty and few guarantees, and in some cases it requires great sacrifice.  But without courage based on wisdom that comes from the balance and stability of serenity, we will continue to isolate ourselves from each other while doing great harm to our home, the fragile planet that gives us all life.  Courage.

Serenity. Wisdom. Courage.  In my life and in your life, those essential ingredients just might make a lasting difference.