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While wandering the streets of Savannah, my attention was caught by a shop window filled with strings of paper stars.I went inside. There were many beautiful things, including a cozy corner with a few books and toys. I spent about an hour there and chose two books, one which I wanted to read & send to Jasmine & Nova and one which I wanted to read and send to Kaden. As dark fell, Adam joined me in my meandering and we found a noodle place which looked fun and bright. I had had some moments of feeling melancholy, which I often do when I am face to face with the heartlessness of unchecked capitalism — people on the streets whose needs are clearly not being met next to shops selling goods only the richest can afford. As we sat to eat, a little girl at the table next to ours caught my eye and held it. I smiled and said hello and soon we were friends. I asked her if one of the books I bought was any good, if she thought my granddaughter might like it. Her mama read it to her and soon we were all chatting— Adam & I and a Mama & Daddy & their two daughters. During our conversation we found out that we all used to live in Colorado. When the Mama said her youngest daughter’s name, Nova, and I said, “my granddaughter’s name is Nova and my other granddaughter is Jasmine,” and then the Mama said, “My name is Jasmine!” It all seemed too much magic. I’m so grateful for whatever magic sat us next to Jasmine, Nova, Promise, & Chris for a yummy, noodle dinner tonight. As they were leaving, 4 year old Nova said, “I want to give you a hug.” Adam says I still look like I’m about to cry. What a world. #BeautyInTheWorld #JustBreathe #JoyDetective #Gratitude #Wonderment

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January 2nd, 2019 - 11:20 - at anchor - Beaufort River, South Carolina.  Today we are creating a sailing resume to submit to the boat insurance company and studying to take our Captain’s License exams.  Also, I am making a list of the things that are important to me, but not urgent, like yoga & meditation, learning two new delicious, whole food, plant based recipes each week, ukulele & guitar practice, and art, creative photography, and writing including mailing postcards to loved ones who are rarely online like my grandmother and the youngest members of my family.  These are things that can get neglected when I am over-focused on the feeling that we need to hurry up and get a captains license and get somewhere where our boat can start earning money through charters. I never thought I would feel more time scarcity living on a sailboat than I did living a more conventional life.  Oh, the things I didn’t know!  What might your “Important, but Not Urgent” list look like?  Wherever you are today, may you be well, may you feel deeply loved, and may you experience joy, peace, and wonder.

Damselfly Superhero

In a dream I was a damselfly superhero.

Damselflies and dragonflies are indicator species.  They are very sensitive to pollution.  If they disappear it is an early indicator that the ecosystem is becoming too polluted.

Perhaps I am coming to see my own sensitiveness, my low tolerance for toxic situations, in a more positive light. 

Can one be highly sensitive and heroic at the same time? 

My subconscious seems to think so. 

During these long dreamy nights of winter solstice, what have you been dreaming?  What is your internal winters’ work?

photo: a dragonfly who visited our boat as we motored through The Dismal Swamp

 

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the suffering of which we spare ourselves the sight

I woke up this morning with my head on a pillow, in a sleeping bag, in a v-berth of a sailboat, tied up at a free town dock in a small coastal town in North Carolina, next to a man who likes to start the day by planting gentle kisses on my forehead.  

I have been feeling pretty down lately, worrying a lot, not sure of the goodness of my choices of how and where to live my life, so I decided to do something that often helps me feel better, which is to think about the things that I’m grateful for.  This morning those things included, a warm bed, access to healthy, nourishing food and clean water, a life partner who truly cares about my well being and the well being of everyone he meets, and my freedom of movement, including my passport.  

When I spend time thinking of the things I’m grateful for, I often end up wishing that all humans could have these things.  I am hyper aware of the fact that I am simply lucky to have these things.  I did not earn them.  I have not worked harder in my life or been more honest or ethical or kind or generous than so many people who do not have these basic things - shelter, nourishment, nurturing, and freedom to go almost wherever I want to go.  

A loved one called me this morning and he sounded really down.  It took him a long time to tell me why.  He had heard the news of a 7 year old girl who had died in ICE / CBP custody.  He is a dad of two beautiful daughters.  He was in terrible pain imagining the pain that the father of this girl must be feeling.  He was in terrible pain over the fact that his country was responsible for the death of this child.  He was angry and hurting to know that this is happening.  He could imagine himself in that father’s shoes.  and it hurt.  

My advice to my loved one was to feel that pain and anger, to feel it and also remain present in his own place and time.  To acknowledge the pain and anger and use it to make change.  He pushed back, saying there wasn’t anything he could do - that child is already dead.  It’s true that we cannot now help this child, but we can help others just like her. The lie we are encouraged to believe is that we can’t do anything about this, but we CAN change this situation.  It won’t be easy and it won’t be fast, but together we can change this.  If we each do what we can, with what we have, right where we are, we can change things.  

What can I do, right where I am, from a sailboat, as one critic put it, “just floating through life”?  I can raise awareness.  I can listen and learn and share what I learn.

Today, when I hung up the phone after that painful conversation, I read several articles about the death of that one little girl - the steps CBP took to try to save her life, the discussion of the causes and who might be at fault, the calls for an investigation into the conditions in ICE/CBP facilities, and more.  And I am re-listening to the  Border Trilogy of podcasts by Radiolab.  It is very difficult material that I think everyone who has ANY opinion on the subject of immigration should listen to (links to all three episodes below).  

The reason I am listening to those episodes again is because they look deeply at the policies that have been put into place to push people who want to cross the border away from cities and into the desert. Policies that stem from political strategies that affect real peoples’ lives. Politics that decide if people will live or die, who will have the chance to live and die in what places, who has the freedom to move across borders and who doesn’t.

We should not be less sensitive to the wrongs of this world, though it might spare us some pain. We should not look away or wash our hands of the responsibility of engaging in political conversations.  Instead we should feel the pain and let it guide our choices at the polling place and at the cash register.  Breathe in the pain, hold it, feel it, transform it, and breathe out what we want to feel instead.  Transform our pain into loving action.  Let it guide our choices about how we treat each other in our day to day lives, but also as a matter of policy.  If a news story hurts you, if you feel pain at the way others are being treated by your government, tell your elected officials and if they don’t listen, replace them, run against them, even if you don’t win, you’ll change the conversation. Make some noise. Rest when you need to, but don’t give up.

It takes courage to feel. It takes courage to speak up. Have courage dear friends.  Have courage enough to love each other well.  Notice each others’ courage, too.  

Today, I am also grateful for a kindred spirit who acknowledged my courage and who until yesterday, was a stranger to me.  She saw the letter that I wrote, about leaving a course I had been taking because of sexist and racist behavior by the instructor, and she reached out to me.  Yesterday we got to meet each other in person and get to know each other a little.  She is the director of a non-profit here in Pamlico County, North Carolina called The Hope Clinic which provides free medical services to local residents who might otherwise get none.  She is literally a life saver.  She has a tattoo that seems relevant to this post which she graciously allowed me to photograph.  I’m truly grateful to know you, Sheri.  Thank you for reaching out.  (Mary Ford, you might be happy to know that one of the beautiful safety pins you gifted me is now being worn by Sheri.)

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Speaking up.

I have submitted the following letter to customer service at World Wide Marine Training, LLC (https://www.worldwidemarinetraining.com) in the hopes that it will be forwarded to Captain Pease and considered by his employers. I have submitted it to the letters section of TownDock.net the online news hub of the Town of Oriental, North Carolina, because World Wide Marine Training has a link to TownDock.net on their “About Us” webpage, which was part of how I decided to attend this particular course. I have also submitted a copy of this letter to the U.S. Coast Guard course approval email address, since World Wide Marine Training proudly advertises that their courses are U.S. Coast Guard approved.


December 6th, 2018


Captain Ross Pease

World Wide Marine Training, LLC

22532 HWY 55 East

Oriental, NC 28571

Dear Captain Ross Pease,


I am writing to let you know why I left your OUPV Captain’s License class even though I believed you when you said that you were sincerely sorry for having offended me. I want you to know that I don’t think you are a bad person, even though your behavior in class was indeed racist and sexist. I believe that racist and sexist behavior often stems from ignorance about what damage those behaviors do to others and to our society and that once we know better we can begin to do better. After our early morning meeting on the 4th day of the 7 day course, I could see that you were really trying to do better and I do appreciate that it wasn’t easy for you, however the tone of the class had already been set and your understanding of what needed to change was quite obviously incomplete. I could see that I had a choice: 1) I could spend the remainder of the class letting you know when your words were inappropriate, potentially getting into some kind of debate with you each time. 2) I could let the offenses pass unchallenged. or 3) I could leave. Since it goes against my moral compass to let racist or sexist comments go unchallenged and since challenging them and debating you about them comes with such a huge emotional price tag and is such a distraction from learning, which is what I paid to come to your course to do, I chose to leave.

I am not writing to you because I want to “beat you up”. Far from it. I am writing to you because I want you to understand that the choice to leave wasn’t about what you believe or how you conduct yourself outside the classroom. It was about the level of professionalism within the classroom and your seeming lack of understanding that you, the instructor, have a responsibility to all of your students to set the tone within the classroom to best support their ability to learn, just as you have a responsibility as a Captain of a boat, to bring all of your passengers safely to shore.

You, Donna, and Lucy all suggested to me that maybe I shouldn’t be so sensitive, that I should just let some things go. My question to all of you is this: What happens if you ignore a small leak through the hull on your boat? And then another small leak? And another? How long should you ignore the leaks before you take action to fix them? Each time you make a derogatory remark about a group of people or an individual person or a business in your community while wearing the hat of an instructor, you damage the integrity of the educational experience. Each time I ignore a racist or sexist or ageist or other derogatory comment made by a person in a position of power, I damage my own moral integrity.

Whether you take this feedback to heart to improve the experience of your future students and your relationship with them is entirely up to you. I offer it for the sake of those future students and for our collective future. I’m thinking of students who might not have the luxury of the choice to leave or stay in your class. I’m thinking of what it would be like to be a shy young, black or hispanic person or a person of the Muslim faith, male or female, in your classroom.

Here is my best advice:

  • If you would not say what you are about to say in any and all company, don’t say it.

  • If you feel you have to say to any member of the classroom, “close your ears,” don’t say whatever you were about to say.

  • If you find yourself saying, “I’m not supposed to say this,” don’t say whatever you were about to say.

  • If you find yourself generalizing about any group of people, stop. Apologize. You are teaching individuals and the only thing you know about them is that they paid to be in your classroom to learn a very specific subject. You don’t know their religion or their beliefs about anything. You don’t know if learning is hard or easy for them. You only know that they paid to be in your class. Don’t generalize about people. Just don’t. We are not paying to hear your opinions about any other person or group of people.

  • If you find yourself saying, “Now this isn’t racist, ….” Whatever you are about to say probably IS racist. “Towel-head” is a racial epithet. So is “tar-baby.” You should never say them, let alone in a classroom setting. But especially you should never say them in a classroom setting. A person in a position of power has a special responsibility to conduct themselves ethically. As a teacher, you are a person in a position of power, just as when you are Captaining a boat.

  • It is absolutely possible to teach everything you are expected to teach in your course without referring to anyone’s genitals or using any racist or sexist terms. You are not teaching human anatomy or sex education.

  • You are also not teaching political science or philosophy or comparative religion or relationship counseling. It is absolutely possible to teach a Captain’s license course without mentioning anyone’s religion or political party and without mentioning your own political preferences or whether you prefer the company of younger or older women.

  • It is not the responsibility of your students to tell you when you are out of line. You are solely responsible for the tone of your classroom. Students look to you to see what will be acceptable in the classroom. On the first day of class, you said derogatory things about millennials (as well as numerous other groups of people). On day five, one of your students was saying similar things within the classroom. You set the tone of the class by using smutty language on Day 1, “Dawn, close your ears,” then looking at all the guys in class, “When in doubt, whip it out.” So those guys then knew it would be ok with you for them to talk that way, so even after you had apologized to me and Adam for that sort of thing, they were still egging you on to tell them raunchy jokes. That is what I mean by “the tone had already been set”.


Captain Pease, You seem like a generally intelligent, thoughtful human being to me. I think you can do so much better, if you want to. The question here is, do you want to? Do you truly want any student, of any background to be able to thrive within your classroom at World Wide Marine Training? If not, please make sure that you give a disclaimer to the students who you would not like to teach, so they don’t waste their time, money, or energy coming to your class.


Seven days ago, I was so excited to start my OUPV Captain’s License Course. I was really looking forward to meeting the instructor and fellow students. I had sailed to the town of Oriental, secured a slip for my boat at a local marina, and rented a car to get back and forth from the marina to the school. I showed up for class the first morning excited and ready to learn. By the end of the first day I was so disappointed, tired, and angry at what I had experienced in your classroom after hearing your derogatory comments about millennials, liberals, people of Middle Eastern descent, environmentalists, former students and employers of yours and people who go to The Bean, and after having had you tell me to “close my ears” while you said something inappropriate to the rest of the class. Please don’t let this be the experience of other women, minorities, or anyone who doesn’t share your political views. Please, now that you know better, do better.

Sincerely and with all best wishes for your future success,

~ Dawn Dexter

* former 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatcher & Communications Training Officer (18 years) * Owner and Captain of Sailing Vessel Deep Peace (2 years) * yoga and meditation teacher (12 years) * somebody’s daughter, mother, niece, sister, wife, auntie, and grandmother * Human Being *

First, Do No Harm

First, Do No Harm.  First, Do No Harm.  First, Do No Harm.  

This is what emergency response personnel have drilled into their heads, at least in the place where I learned to be a “first, first responder” aka a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher.  

I hung up my invisible super hero cape years ago, but “first, do no harm” is still a guiding principle in my day to day life.  

Like so many of my friends and family and so many people Adam & I have met in our travels, knowing that it is impossible to have zero impact, we try to find ways to live our lives that have as much positive and as little negative impact on our fellow sentient beings and the ecosystems that are our life support systems as possible.  

Reading news stories this morning which featured small, barefoot children being tear gassed by the U.S. Border Patrol and untold acres of rainforest habitat being wiped out by a desire for cheap palm oil to put in nutritionally questionable snack foods was devastating to me.  

It seems that the Border Patrol could, with a little bit of creativity and ingenuity, “protect” our borders without tear gassing small children.  There is no part of me that fears those children or their parents.  They only want what we all want - safe communities to live and work in.  Freedom to live.  Freedom to move.  

And it seems to me that every corporation, as part of it’s charter agreement, should have to agree to first, do no harm.  The race to the bottom for corporate profit and cheap goods is doing so much harm.  

So many of us live our personal lives trying to do no harm and to do as much good as we can, where we are, with what we have.  Our governments and the corporations that touch every aspect of human life today need to be doing the same.  

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I am she as you are she and you are me and we are all together

Yes, I am taking liberties with a sacred and profane Beatles song and yes, I want us to experience this truth.

May all sentient beings be deeply joy-filled, highly aware of the interconnectedness of all things.

May we all be motivated by our love for each other and the stunningly beautiful ecosystems we are a part of.

May our Us, our We, grow to include all of existence and may we forget how to Other each other.

May all humans experience the exquisite goodness of quiet mornings or evenings in places with clean air, clean water, nourishing food, & comforting shelter.

May we heal the divides in our communities and our one large Earth community and take care of each other, lift each other up.

May we grow into a new kind of social contract, one that leaves no one starving or homeless or poisoned or locked up.

May we learn true restorative justice and may we live it until it is the norm.

May our discussions be fiercely loving and our inventions be tools for healing ourselves, each other, and our planet's life support systems.

May each and every one of us know deep love, deep joy, and deep peace, and may we step forward, with courage, from there.

photos: my granddaughter at Connected Lakes State Park, Grand Junction, Colorado, summer 2018

haunted house?

Adam & I wondered what happened to this house that is at the end of one of the points of land that hug Manhasset Bay near Port Washington, New York. All of the windows are broken - you can see it if you zoom in. All of the other houses in the area look very expensive and well maintained.

These photos were taken about 15 minutes after we dropped the mooring bridle and started our passage from Manhasset Bay to Lewes, Delaware, about 14:00 EDT (GMT -4), 2018. Oct 29

BIG Boat - Disney Magic

a clip from our NYC to Delaware passage - the gargantuan boat named Disney Magic passing us as we sail down the channel at a cool 10 knots with just mizzen & genoa flying on a starboard tack beam reach — that ebb tide current gave us quite a speed boost!
October 29th, 2018 18:24 EDT (GMT -4)

#Sailing #SVDeepPeace #NorthAtlanticSailing #SailboatLife #BoatLife #DisneyMagic #BFB

in the worst of times, create the coming best of times

I am rereading Rebecca Solnit's book, "Hope in the Dark; Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities". She reminds us of Dickens' words, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." and wryly comments, "It usually is." Our time, today, is no exception. Amazingly powerful movements are forming all around the world to address every issue. Good people are doing good things simply because their hearts tell them they must. At the very same time rallies are being held with cruel laughter at the expense of the most vulnerable as their glue. Real human beings are being harmed by ugly government and corporate policies. Ecosystems are being destroyed while other ecosystems are being restored. Human beings and animals are being crushed by the indifference of the global "free" market, exploitation, and resource extraction. And every moment of every day, human beings are standing up for each other, for animals, and for the ecosystems they love, for no reason other than because they love.

Rebecca Solnit reminds us that the future is always uncertain, always dark. It is our loving action that lights our way forward into a future we want to inhabit.

Mr. Rogers reminds us to look for the helpers. Ellie and I met so many, many helpers at the Texas / Mexico border. We met so many helpers and so many of our fellow human beings who had enough faith in our system of government that they risked their very lives and the lives or their children to come here and ask for our help.

Look around. Find the other helpers. Find ways to help. Sometimes it's just a smile and a kind word. Sometimes it is time that we have to give. Sometimes its money. We can usually help, even in some small way. The small things add up.

We are all powerful healers and the way we heal each other is through love. Sometimes it is just a listening ear and a hug that starts the healing. Sometimes we have to just listen to our own hearts. If your heart is hurting over some wrong in our world, even a small action can help. And those small actions can lead to larger ones. Hope inspires action. Action feeds hope.

Alone, we can feel helpless. Together, we are powerful. Let's be the helpers. Let's help each other. Let's let our love show.

Please vote for people who care about other people this election. Please show up for each other. Please.

I love you, fellow humans. I love you so much. None of you (us) is as bad as your (our) worst moment. None of you (us) is as good as your (our) best moment. Together let’s make our best moments the majority of our moments, shall we?

This is the worst of times. This is the best of times. It's true, isn't it?

I'm signing off of the internet for today. Please be good to each other. Please be kind to yourselves and to your loved ones and to strangers. It matters. It matters so much.

photos: seen in Newport, Rhode Island, October 9th & 10th, 2018

Silver linings + phone drowning.

Hello all you lovelies, My phone slipped out of my pocket and overboard as I stood on the bowsprit attempting to pick up a mooring stick yesterday in Onset Harbor. Since my phone was in neither a floating nor waterproof case, it went to a watery death (along with my debit card which, thankfully, was the only thing I had in my phone wallet case). I do feel rather badly about the pollution I added to the ocean.

If you need to reach me, please call or message Adam. For now, I am relatively incommunicado.

I am not entirely convinced that “things happen for a reason", but I do like to look for silver linings.

Silver lining to as yet nonfunctional auto helm: I am getting better and better at hand steering in varying conditions.

Silver lining to gummed up dinghy engine: quieter over-water commutes to land + upper body and core exercise.

Silver lining to sheered pin in the anchor winch (called a windlass for a reason that is unknown to me): I learned how to pull up the anchor using a spare line and an alternative winch.

Silver lining to me without my trusty phone: I immediately got out my big camera, which I had been woefully neglecting, and spent a day wandering around on land shooting only in manual mode. And this morning, with no internet at my fingertips, I immediately edited those photos so I could upload them to a gallery on our website as soon as I got to the library and the lovely library wifi.

Right now, I sit typing while listening to some preteen boys argue about the intricacies of a video game in the Newport, Rhode Island Public Library which is one of the nicest libraries I have met in my travels. Their conversation makes me smile. The librarian cheerfully shushing them makes me smile even bigger.

Here is the gallery of the photos I took the day before yesterday in Onset as we walked to the grocery store, as well as a few shots of the surroundings just before we headed out for Newport.   

 

what I learned in Texas.

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I took this photo 5 days ago. Who do you see in this photograph?

I see a human being, a child, and an asylum seeker.

This child and one of her parents fled extreme violence in their home country, maybe Honduras, maybe El Salvador, maybe Guatemala. They risked their lives on the journey to the U.S. border. Upon arrival at the U.S. border, their legal path to asylum was blocked. She may have spent days or weeks living on a bridge, waiting her turn to enter into the legal port of entry and request asylum. Or her parent, desperate to get her to a safe place, may have crossed the border at a place other than an official port of entry, what ICE would call crossing the border illegally. Whether she entered at a legal port of entry or not, once on U.S. soil, she and her parent where put into a detention center. There her shoelaces and belt were taken away, she slept in 56 degree air conditioning, was not given access to a shower or a toothbrush, and she may have been awakened often throughout the night for no reason except cruelty by the guards. Once her parent passed their "credible fear" interview and was fitted with a tracking device attached to their ankle, maybe after 4 days, maybe a month, this child and her parent were dropped off at the McAllen bus station with nothing but the clothes on their backs, minus shoelaces and belts. No money. No phone. No food. Just an envelope of paperwork in English. This child and her parent along with a busload of other parents and children were then greeted by volunteers, taken to a Humanitarian Respite Center nearby, given a phone to call a friend or relative to try to arrange a bus ticket to somewhere in the U.S. where they will await an asylum hearing. The volunteers do all they can with whatever donations are available each day. They offer showers, donated clothes, toothbrushes, meals, and a night of sleep on a gym mat, next to other asylum seekers. The next day or sometimes the same day, they go back to the bus station to board busses to various places in the U.S. This child and her parent face 2 or 3 days on Greyhound with 3 to 5 connections, depending on the kindness of strangers to help them find the right bus.

This is one human being, one human child. Thousands of human children are being put through this horror by the U.S. Government in the name of keeping us safe. We do not need to torture children to keep ourselves safe. We do not need to be cruel. The current border policies are cruel and unnecessary.

So what can you do? How can you help this child or another just like her?

1. Flip the Congress (US citizens)

* Vote and register others to do the same

2. Volunteer to assist asylum seekers, immigrants, refugees

* Consider local opportunities with IRC or other groups - do some research

* Consider a trip to a border town

3. Donate to others who are making a difference

* Woodson Martin's fundraiser would be a great start: http://bit.ly/cash4envelopes

* Tucker’s Kitchen for Asylum Seekers http://bit.ly/TuckerKitchen

* Brownsville Asylum Seeker Wishlist: http://bit.ly/helpbrownsville

* Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center: http://bit.ly/CCHRC

* Respite Center Amazon Wishlist: http://bit.ly/CCHRCWL

4. Learn Spanish (you are going to need it eventually anyway)

dancing toward la frontera

Ellie & I are leaving for Texas this morning.  Since we ended up being able to leave two days before we planned, we are taking a kind of meandering route, visiting a few friends along the way.  We are going to almost the southernmost point in Texas via Moab, Utah, Kayenta, Arizona, the Gila National Forest, El Paso, Texas, and Marfa, Texas.  Linked below is a great article (from June 2018) about the city of McAllen where we will be volunteering for a couple of weeks at Sacred Heart Church's Humanitarian Respite Center.  McAllen sits on the northern banks of the Rio Grande River about 70 miles west of the Gulf of Mexico, south, even, of Corpus Christie. (Also, McAllen has an award winning library housed in a former Walmart!)

Adam is flying back to Boston to get our boat ready to go back in the water later this month.  I'll join him there in early October and then we will begin the sail south with the goal of being in the Caribbean by early December.

We are sending all of our love and best imaginary protective force fields to our friends in North Carolina and anyone in the path of Hurricane Florence. Be well, amigos y amigas. Te amamos.

https://www.texastribune.org/2018/07/05/mcallen-texas-immigration-isnt-problem-its-way-life/

 “Be a lighthouse, not a tugboat.”

I’ve been giving this saying some thought.  A lighthouse shows the way in a storm.  A tugboat tows boats who cannot get where they need to go under their own power.  At first I didn’t like this saying at all because I think of tugboats as really good helper boats.  I actually like them better than lighthouses.  But don’t get me wrong, I know real life lighthouses have saved countless lives.  I don’t know how many lives tugboats have saved.

But, of course, the saying isn’t about literal tugboats and lighthouses.  I just like to explore metaphors from all angles.  I also get the point of the saying— don’t try to drag people over to your way of thinking— instead, just cheerfully keep doing it.  (and if they ignore you and end up on the rocks, oh well..?)

Is my conversational style more lighthouse or tugboat?  Do I love having conversations with tugboat styles?  I dunno.  I’m comparing and contrasting Liz Gilbert’s, “Big Magic” to Steven Pinker’s, “Enlightenment Now.”  Lighthouse vs Tugboat?  More like, Fresh Ripe Mangos to Cold, Black Coffee.

Does the “Big Magic” love us back?  Or is the Universe indifferent to us?  What if the latter is true, but if we go about our lives “as if” the former were true, we are happier and more loving and more effective?  I don’t know the answer.  What I do know is that I absolutely adore listening to Liz’s book and Pinker’s book so far feels like a long lecture, even when I agree with him.  His book is about 5 times longer and it’s about very different things, but they both present a way of looking at the world.  So far, I prefer Liz’s.  But in the interest of challenging my own confirmation bias bubble, I will keep listening to Pinker’s book to the end.  Then I might start over and go back to write down all the things I want to argue with him about.

Wherever you are today, whatever you are doing, may you be well, may you be happy, and may you experience deep joy, deep love, and deep peace.

 

photo:  approach to Boothbay Harbor from Gulf of Maine, taken from sailboat Deep Peace, June 2017

photo:  approach to Boothbay Harbor from Gulf of Maine, taken from sailboat Deep Peace, June 2017

Nondenominational Yardwork

So there I was just minding my own business, listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, on my headset and digging up baby tumbleweeds from the front yard of our project house on a sunny Sunday morning when some men came walking down the sidewalk with a grocery cart full of groceries.  Hamburger patties were the most visible of said groceries.  We cheerfully hello'd one another and they explained that they were from a local church who puts on a meal in the park down the street each Sunday, as a service to the community.  They asked if I would like any groceries or if I wanted to join in the community meal in the park.  I said thank you, but that I'd just eaten my oatmeal breakfast and that I am a strict vegan.  They insisted that they had something for me and as it seemed more conversation was imminent, I tried to pause my audiobook.  I pressed the wrong button on my headset and woke up Siri and couldn't figure out how to shut her up so, wanting to hear what the men were saying, I just pulled the earbuds out of my ears and let them hang.  

For the next half hour we stood there at the front gate, talking about Jesus, and life, the Universe, and everything.  I said I'd be glad to take the aging brussel sprouts and blueberries off of their hands, figuring I was probably just rescuing those items from the local landfill.  I asked them which church they were from and if they had a good relationship with the local grocery stores who had donated most of the groceries.  They talked about how their church was all about service, more walk and less talk.  One of them quoted a lot of scripture and told how Jesus had changed his life.  I shared how I had been to lots of different churches as a child and had been a very earnest seeker of the deeper truths.  How I had waited and prayed and listened and waited some more for God to speak to me and tell me which of all those churches who all said their way was THE way was the right one and how when God never spoke to me in the way I had been led to expect, I kept searching, taking comparative religion classes and reading all about any and all religions and cults and ways of connecting with the "Big Magic" or "Universe" that I could find.  I told them how I admired their dedication to service and the community, to walking their talk.  I mentioned the quote I had recently been reminded of about the way to truly love our community which is to love the individual members of the community.  When one of them said that service was what really made their church special, I quoted Rabindranath Tagore, a Hindu, who said, "I slept and dreamt that life was joy.  I awoke and saw that life was service.  I acted and behold, service was joy."  My point was that service is wonderful and that many religious traditions share this idea and that deeper clues to how best to live this human life can be gleaned from noticing the things the religious traditions all share.  

When one of the men said that he thought that churches go wrong by saying their way is THE way, I shared what I have long thought to be the case-- that when someone, anyone, gets a taste of the divine, an undeniable, indescribable connection to what some of us call God, that we mistake the circumstances surrounding us or the path we took to get there as THE way to get there, rather than viewing it simply as the way *we* got there and this is how dogmas and religions and religious wars are born.  We know that the experience we had was beyond real and SO good that we want to share it and we mistakenly think that our way is necessarily everyone's way.

When it seemed our conversation had run it's course and they were ready to move on (the hamburger patties were defrosting there in the sun), one of the men, the one who had done most of the talking and had quoted a lot of scripture, asked if he could say a prayer for me.  "Sure," I said, I don't like to turn down good wishes of any kind.  He put his hand on my shoulder (after asking permission and making sure I wouldn't think that was "too weird") and said a prayer that God would make himself more known to me, whether in my dreams or various other ways, and help me to know Jesus.  

When he was done with his prayer he asked me if that was ok, if it wasn't too weird and I said, "No, not at all," after all I have been to many churches in my lifetime and studied many religions and many spiritual paths, "But your prayer leads me to believe you may have misunderstood me when I said that I have been a deeply earnest seeker.  I already have a strong connection to what you call God and I call the unknowable, unnameable, everything...  for lack of a better word, "Big Magic."  And I said that I would like to offer a prayer, for all of us.  And he said, "OK" and that he had not wanted to belittle my beliefs. 

I told him I took no offense and I offered a prayer that all of us with varied and many beliefs, Muslims and Buddhists and Christians and agnostics and yogis, etc, would learn to listen to one another and honor each other's experiences and interpretations of "God", really learn from each other, find our common ground, and lift each other up rather than fight over who has the one true way to God.  

We said goodbye and they went on down the sidewalk with their grocery cart full of groceries and I went inside the house where Adam had been trying to continue to mind his own business all that time.  I told Adam I thought I might have just converted a Christian to my way of seeing and he said he didn't think that sentiment was very nice.  And that's when I noticed my phone, it showed that I had been on the phone with my good friend, Jeannie Lindsay for about 29 minutes.  I figured I'd accidentally dialed her, but she didn't seem to still be there so I hung up.  The phone rang immediately and it was Jeannie.  She had been listening the whole time.  We laughed and laughed.  She said at the very start she was listening to find out if she was going to have to call 9-1-1 for me, but once she realized I was fine she just kept listening because she was interested.  I asked her about her take-away from the conversation and she said that Sarah Silverman would be proud of me.  Which means now I'm going to have to go watch more of Sarah Silverman's latest work.  

Please chime in if you have anything to add to this or if you see a need for editing, my dear Jeannie.  

Upon deeper reflection, I have to admit that my ego was feeling pretty good about this whole thing, particularly after I found out that I'd had an audience of exactly one agnostic/atheist(?) the whole time.  But that doesn't mean any part of what I said was disingenuous.  There is almost no chance that I will ever be converted to Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Hinduism or really any religion at this point in my life, but that doesn't mean I can't see value in them.  The man who did the majority of the talking to me about Jesus, the man who said a prayer for me, told me that he had been an unrepentant drug dealer for a good portion of his life and that Jesus had saved him and reformed him and that he had seen Jesus help abused women and heal people's back aches.  I shared with him that I had seen yoga and meditation and other somatic quieting practices help young, addicted, domestic violence perpetrators and convicted child molesters.  I think the common theme in these two ways of doing service is the idea that we can change, that we can be forgiven, that we can find a way to belong, even if only to ourselves or our congregations.  I think there is valuable wisdom in so many traditions and lenses through which we interpret the world.  The danger lies in thinking that our way is the only way and treating those who see things differently as less than or worse, evil.  

So, that's my Sunday morning yard work story.  How was your Sunday?  

 

 

Sacred laughter?

Can we be irreverent about the sacred? What is sacred to you? What are you irreverent about? I ask these questions because I've noticed lately that I seem to lose my sense of humor when someone or something or some place that I love is attacked. I become like a mama bear... not known for their wit, just their ferocity. Fierceness has it's uses, I'm not necessarily opposed to ferocity. But irreverence has it's own merits. What is the purpose of the jester at court? To show truth to the king or queen.... without getting his head chopped off. Do you use your fierce wit to illuminate deeper truths? Or just to poke the sleeping giant? Ah, my metaphors are so mixed up right now. I'm logging off. With a smile and a wish for all of us.... that we stand up for what is sacred to us with the most effective mix of wit and ferocity and prayer and action and art and science and motion and stillness and silence and ruckus... and love. May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you have plenty of belly laughs. And may your tears flow when they need to. <3 <3 <3

 

photo: April 11th, 2018, 9:49 am, Thompson Creek Road, 11 minutes shy of exactly 47 years on Earth for this body-mind-spirit-being.

 

the road from Gateway to Castle Valley

This is how it works.  One of us is itchy for some new views and says something like, "Where do you think that road goes?  Do you think we can make it through to ______?"  On this particular day, we got to Gateway, Colorado and said, "Let's see how far we can go on John Brown Canyon Rd.  Let's see if we can make it all the way through to Castle Valley."  It turns out, we could.  Here is one of the views we viewed.  

John Brown Canyon Road April 1 2018

How to be alive

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She says, “ow-ie,” when she feels sad and “happy” when she feels happy.  She says, “walk?” and brings everyone their shoes many times a day.  She lets out shrieks of exuberance as she catapults herself across the yard.  She falls down, sometimes hard, and gets back up, brushes herself off, leaving bits of grass and bark still clinging, and tries again, hundreds of times.  She has not mastered jumping, but practices all the motions of it, her feet not yet leaving the ground.  Each time her face crinkles up with delight.  I ache to be present as a witness the first time she becomes airborne under her own power.  After becoming utterly soaked sliding down and trying to climb back up the wet slide in the steadily falling rain, she screams in protest when it’s time to go home.  Her fury at the injustice of it all endears her to me even more and even though it is impossible to love her more than I already do, my love for her grows bigger and deeper moment by moment.

Furiously, joyfully, painfully, wildly alive, she teaches me how to Be.

  #LivingFrugallyOnSurprise #GrandParenting #WhenYourHeartLivesOutsideYourBody

 

Re-usables & Millennials

Adam at lunch today with my bamboo To-Go Ware fork, his titanium REI spork, our yummy Chipotle Sofritas bowls (mine is vegan, his is veggie), and our respective water bottles.  

It's no secret that Adam & I go to Chipotle a LOT or that we spend a lot of time in coffee shops.  And it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows us that we try to avoid single-use plastic and other forms of waste and pollution.  Recently we met a lovely human being named Kora who works at Chipotle and is in her first year of college studying environmental science and sustainability.  She was asking us if she could clear our empty bowls off of our table when she stopped and said, "Are those...  Do you guys bring your own forks?"  And she was so happy to see it that she gave us a coupon for free chips and guac.  We talked about waste and how we like Chipotle compared to some other chains because 1) We love the food and we love that there are vegan options which is a good thing for the environment because plant based foods are produced with so many fewer resources than animal products and 2) We love that they are conscious of the waste involved in fast food and the bowls are compostable, the napkins are from 100% recycled content, the cups are paper, not plastic or styrofoam, and they don't automatically hand everyone a lid and straw.

Kora is hyper aware of the food waste that still is happening in the restaurant industry in general and she is brainstorming ways to mitigate it.  She is really excited to learn ways to live sustainably and joyfully on our shared planet.  It is such a joy to talk to young people like Kora.  Ever since we met her, we make sure, for sure, that we have our re-usable utensils with us when we head for Chipotle.  We don't want to disappoint her if we arrive without them.  The "peer" pressure keeps us honest.  (We can be honorary millennials, right?)  Today we are at Chipotle again, but Kora isn't at work today.  As we were getting ready to pay, a young man who was running the cash register spotted my bamboo fork and said, "That is so cool.  Where did you get that?"  He has decided to go 100% re-usable.  He says that the only drawback is that you end up toting around a lot of stuff.  But bamboo is super light.  So is titanium.  The three of us think that bamboo probably require less human toil and less damage to the environment than titanium to produce, but we don't know for sure.  

Yesterday I was at Trailhead Coffee in Grand Junction, using their wifi, drinking green tea, and filling out a job application.  I ended up talking with the 22 year old barista.  He has two degrees, one in Sociology.  And he has a lot of really great ideas about how to make our world, even just this small community a much more equitable place.  

Lots of days we spend time at Copeka Coffee in Grand Junction.  The 20 somethings who work there are all really interesting people to have a conversation with.  They have great ideas about what our society should be like.  

I wrote this post just to say, I am so inspired and encouraged by all the millennials who are working in coffee shops and at Chipotles and various other jobs around the country.  I wish I could tell each of their stories in greater detail.  And I think we should be listening to them.  And I think we should stop burdening them with student loan debt and worries about the future of our planet.  

What if we made a Kickstarter campaign to pay off the student loan debt of one student at a time, instead of waiting for our government to do something?  While, simultaneously, (yes, of course!) working to create a better system that doesn't put them into debt in the first place.  Who would you nominate to be our first recipient?  

#Millennials #Vegan #WFPB #ReUsables #Chipotle #CopekaCoffee #GrandJunctionColorado #TrailheadCoffee #Kickstarter #TuitionFree #StudentLoanForgiveness