Category Archives: Community

Sunday Collection: about love

It having been Valentine’s Day this week, I thought a small collection of links relating to love in some of her many guises would be good.

If you don’t know Jan Richardson’s work, you are really blessed, because you have such wonderful discovery ahead of you. Jan is an artist, writer and poet. Her husband died after not many years of marriage and when her grief was new, she wrote a Valentine’s Blessing for the Brokenhearted. None of us in middle years and later will have reached this age without loss, and Jan’s poem is indeed a blessing. Click here to read it.

We sometimes forget to love ourselves in our hurry to love others or to change the world. As Hecatedemeter says in her post On the Importance of Self-Care, “self-care” is an annoying phrase, but it is important. She talks specifically in the context of activism in the new world of Trump, but no matter where we live we all have external struggles to which we must give attention. And we must “fill the well” by giving attention and care to ourselves as well. By which neither she nor I mean only the occasional bubble bath. As she says,

it will be vitally important not to lose track of what brings you joy

Click here to read her post.

Christine Valters Paintner is always interesting, and this week she’s written a love song to the body. Here’s an excerpt:

The dreams of my body are about breathing so deeply that every cell expands and shimmers; they are about resting into a generous multiplicity of sabbath moments each day, of swimming through warm and buoyant water, walking through a thick grove of trees, feeling wind across my skin, experiencing the fire of my passions kindling within. My body is dreaming of space for all of these and for the yet unknown dreams, the ones that pulse deep within me and with time and space will emerge in their own beauty and power. Our bodies long to be in intimacy with the world around us.

To read the whole thing (including a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver) click here.

And to end, what would Valentine’s week be without a classic love song. Take it away Joan…

 

Lighting the dark

Imagine you are living many, many hundreds of years ago, relying on the land around to sustain you, not buying out of season food air-freighted in from far countries. Winter’s grip still holds you firmly, you and your tribal family worry there will not be enough to eat to see you through the season, that the new crops will not come in time.

But today in the North is Imbolc, a Celtic celebration of the growing light, one of the great cross-quarter days of the year. Both Pagans and Christians celebrate the Goddess Brigid/Saint Bridget, bringer of poetry, healing and the fire of smithcraft. Perhaps, all those hundreds of years ago, you would be gathered close around a fire at the centre of your roundhouse with other elders, swapping stories of the past and the future, or walking out to observe the subtle quickening of the land, its expectant energy.

In these times today, a friend of mine said “it’s our art that will get us through”. And I think that’s true. Our arts, and our crafts and our storytelling will be the light.

Imbolc blessings to you all.

Sunday Collection – Marching

First up, I’ve had many responses here and elsewhere about working through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way. So let’s do it! I need to work out the format and will plan to start in about four weeks, to free up the decks a little. More soon, but here follows today’s post.

So this was the week. The Presidential inauguration. Then yesterday, amazing scenes from around the world of marching, marching, marching. As Gloria Steinhem said in Washington “This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of democracy like I’ve never seen in my very long life.” You can watch her speech here, it’s well worth it.

I’ve gathered together today a few related links from around the internet.

Women marching: not the first time.

We’re all familiar with pictures of the Suffragette marches in the UK and US in the early part of last century. But what about Pretoria, Iceland, Argentina and others, and what did they achieve? This Guardian article has the information.

Power, not force

I recently “met” Patricia Cherry online. She’s a life coach specialising in Ageing with Vitality, and she writes well here about the difference between power and force. Here’s a snippet: “Somehow for me, the power of the marches say it all. They are like a warm ray of sunshine bathing a cold landscape of fear and panic.”

The beginning of the end… of right-wing conservatism?

Someone on Facebook linked to this article by Peter Leyden. He talks about a transition to a new economy and a new civilization. He has some interesting thoughts on what is happening, not that it’s the beginning of a new conservatism, but that it’s the death throes of the old order. Here’s a quote:

Trump is a symptom of something much bigger and more fundamental going on in the world. So are the people behind Brexit in Great Britain. They are not driving the change, they are reacting to the change. They are not showing the way forward, they are making desperate attempts to cling to the past, a past that is gone forever.

Needing a Goddess

I’m so pleased Amy Palko is writing on her blog again. If you don’t know Amy, she describes herself wonderfully on Pinterest as “Digital Priestess : Goddess Guide : Soul Writer : Selkie”. (She’s not old enough to be a Crone but she has all the raw material.) Last Friday she did a Goddess guidance reading and here she describes the “Goddess we need right now”. She is Gyhldeptis – Goddess of Harmonic Agreement (who I’ve never heard of). And to be honest, when I read about harmonic agreement it sounded a little wishy washy, but not so! Here’s a sample of what Gyhldeptis may be saying to us:

Yes, I hear your pain, I see the chaos, I know the harm – potential and realised – that is present in this moment. And the way forward is going to be through unification, through communication, through collaboration. These threats to the wellbeing of all of us, but especially to the most vulnerable within these inherently patriarchal self-serving systems of global governance, economy, business, media, religion etc. are not about to go away if we turn our backs on them and pretend they don’t exist. You need to address the problem. You need to do that together. You need to co-ordinate action that will make a positive difference.

Great Souls

And finally, some words from Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I don’t know when she wrote them but they apply now more than ever, and I’m going to quote them in full, because we need them:

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

What is “creative”?

When I shared my last blog post about some amazing creative Hollywood nonagenarians, my friend and collaborator Lynne commented asking what counts as “creative”.

For me, it’s a really wide definition, but more on that in a minute.

Many Pilgrim’s Moon readers are wonderfully creative in the classic sense: artists, poets, crafters, dancers, writers, cooks, gardeners. I would name some of you here but I don’t want to leave anyone out!

But… what of those who build businesses, who parent or grandparent amazing kids, who keep a warm, welcoming home, who are fierce friends? Maybe you can throw together an outfit in an unusual way, or maybe you’re that quiet work colleague everyone underestimates until you move to a new job and everything falls apart.

There are creative teachers and rote teachers. There are medical staff who minister to the whole human, and there are those who think of the human body as a machine with parts that need fixing. There are public servants and politicians who go against the grain of our cynicism, and there are the others.

Can you learn to be creative?

Can you learn to be creative? My answer to that is no. You are already innately creative, we all are, it is the expression of it and our self-confidence that are the variables.

The better question is: how can you learn to express your creative gifts?

Learning together?

Getting older is a strange animal, don’t you think? Often we feel more confident, but there are sticking points. Having the confidence to live more creatively can be one of them.

One book I’ve found very helpful so far is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Many of you will be familiar with it (it’s the Morning Pages” book). It follows a 12-week format and I have to confess I’ve never finished the full twelve weeks.

I have the germ of an idea: would any readers be interested in getting together to work through The Artist’s Way?

I’m not sure how it would work yet. Maybe like a reading group, getting together here on Pilgrim’s Moon every week for twelve weeks to discuss the previous week’s reading and actions. Maybe another online format.

What do you think? If you’d be interested, let me know in the comments, or via the contact form.

It might just be an interesting thing to do together…

You want it darker

I felt a blast of irrational fury towards Leonard Cohen on Friday when I heard that he had died. Christ, Leonard, did you have to go and die on us in such a week? When so many Americans chose the candidate who promotes hatred and fear? When the Klan announced a victory parade for Trump and the hate crimes began? When those of us in the UK who voted for humanity last June are getting flashbacks to the trauma of the referendum result to add to our sense of horror for the US?

Leonard, I loved you my entire life, but this was bloody bad timing mate: how to cope with the grief of this loss as well?

Of course I rallied, and I said my tender goodbyes to the great poet.

What next?

So there’s the question of how to go on from here in this screwed up world. What the hell to do next.

I was privileged to be invited to join the “secret” Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, now 3,500,000 strong and climbing. A group of both women and men, a space where people could share their stories and write of their admiration for Hillary Clinton without fear of vilification and attack. It includes many thoughtful Republicans voting the Democrat ticket for the first time in their lives.

That group has been inspirational, a leaping wild river of a timeline as hope turned gradually to disbelief and grief that long election night. And the stories keep pouring in, of hope and ideas for the future, of fractured families, of people being assaulted and others jumping in to protect them, of both hate and reconciliation. People are organising, they are not giving up.

On not being a good girl

There are a lot of ideas floating around for moving on. But a friend of mine said:

Be a good girl. Be nice. Mind your manners. Stay quiet. Do as you’re told. Speak when you are spoken to. Gotta say… all the “let’s move on” and “work together” chatter sounds a lot like this old shit.

I agree, this is a time for grief and for rage. For me, it’s reawakened all those post-Brexit feelings of fear (despite my white privilege) and unreality. Of discovering that the country I’ve lived in for over sixty years is not what I thought it was. It’s underlined this dark tide of racism, misogyny and homophobia that’s sweeping not only the US but the UK and most of Europe. Marine Le Pen, the French far right leader was one of the first politicians to congratulate Trump. Nigel Farage is in New York with him as I type this. (I can’t reflect on Farage and his smug grin for long without being in danger of an aneurysm.)  If you want to know who someone is, look at their allies.

Working together?

And yet… clearly we do have to work together. And to understand what’s happening and talk about it with those with whom we disagree. There’s a difference between people whose political views are different from ours and the haters. I will not engage with haters. Being a thoughtful Conservative here in the UK is not an oxymoron, any more than being a thoughtful Republican is in the US (heaven knows we need more of both).

In fact one of the things that’s shocked me most this year is how a few people I know and love and whose political views are liberal or left-wing have gone out of their way to taunt and insult right-wingers on social media. Trolling is trolling regardless of who does it. One thing I would love to see in the weeks ahead is for people on social media to stop calling each other stupid. It doesn’t help anyone. We go high.

I’m also not sure that white liberal guilt and hand-wringing does much good either. Yes we need to recognise that those of us in this category can be arrogant and inward-looking, that minorities of all stripes have been experiencing this hate for longer than we have. We need to understand that we don’t see life in the same way as the majority of people on the planet, and that we are considered effete and out of touch by people whose jobs in manufacturing have disappeared and who are living in poverty.

In a stroke of good timing, while writing this I got an email from a good friend forwarding a satirical piece about liberals fleeing the US for Canada. I particularly enjoyed this extract:

“A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions,” an Alberta border patrolman said. “I found one carload without a single bottle of Perrier water, or any gemelli with shrimp and arugula. All they had was a nice little Napa Valley cabernet and some kale chips.

But if you’re a white liberal suffering from guilt, let’s quit with the hand-wringing, enjoy the Napa and do what we can to build bridges.

Next steps

As an older woman who remembers the excitement of the feminist movement in the 1970s, I wanted desperately to see Hillary Clinton elected as the first woman President of the United States. Not only for the symbolism although that would have brought me such joy, but because I believed she was a great person for the job. How that woman has remained standing after everything that’s been thrown at her over the past decades is extraordinary. (Of course our two female Prime Ministers so far here in the UK have been extraordinarily divisive, so this isn’t to say that women are automatically the best for the job.)

So what I would love to see is a resurgence of the energy of those early days of feminism, converted into a world-wide progressive movement for everyone who is being beaten down by this new fascist threat around the world.

I’m going to be thinking hard over the next couple of weeks about what I can specifically do, and would love to hear ideas from you in the comments.

Meanwhile…

Adam Cohen posted this on Facebook today:

My sister and I just buried my father in Montreal. With only immediate family and a few lifelong friends present, he was lowered into the ground in an unadorned pine box, next to his mother and father. Exactly as he’d asked. As I write this I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work. There’s so much I wish I could thank him for, just one last time. I’d thank him for the comfort he always provided, for the wisdom he dispensed, for the marathon conversations, for his dazzling wit and humor. I’d thank him for giving me, and teaching me to love Montreal and Greece. And I’d thank him for music; first for his music which seduced me as a boy, then for his encouragement of my own music, and finally for the privilege of being able to make music with him. Thank you for your kind messages, for the outpouring of sympathy and for your love of my father.

Goodbye Leonard, I love you, and thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark times at midsummer

 

Fabric texture of the Gay rainbow flag

I’ve lived over sixty years and I can’t recall ever feeling as depressed and hopeless as I have felt and still feel this week.

Orlando

First, the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine people having a fun night out in a gay nightclub, gone. As a bi woman, this hate crime with its terrible toll struck at my very heart. Like so many of my queer siblings, I learned at first hand the difference between the huge compassion and sadness and fellowship we as humans feel in the wake of a terror attack and what we feel when the attack is on our own community, no matter if it is thousands of miles away.

It isn’t that a queer life matters more to me – I struggled for days with that possibility. It’s that like so many other communities we know fear. Orlando may have been peripherally a terror attack, but it was primarily about hate against part of who I am. That’s why it’s personal. This post says it better.

Political extremism

Focusing back over the ocean to the UK, we are in the middle of a vicious, ugly fight over our membership of the European Union. We the people vote to stay or go in a referendum on 23 June. The rhetoric from the side who want us to leave the EU has centred around causing fear about immigration, fear of the “foreigner”. (In a very similar way that Trump is stoking those same flames in the US.)

Two things happened in the UK on Thursday:

The leader of one of our extreme right wing parties, UKIP, unveiled a campaign poster which has been likened to Nazi propaganda from the 1930s. I won’t dignify it with a link, but it shows a long line of desperate refugees – the implication is that they are coming to Britain to take over our jobs and our homes and our health services – under the heading “Breaking Point”. Hatred.

Then later on Thursday the politics of fear gained a victim in Jo Cox, Labour MP in Birstall, West Yorkshire, who was shot and stabbed in the street by a white British male who refused to confirm his name in court, identifying himself instead as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Jo’s killer is almost certainly mentally ill, and must not be demonised, but how have we created a climate in the UK where this attack was, as many have said, only a matter of time? Hatred.

Our planet

Almost as a footnote to these events, I noted on Friday a report from scientists saying that dealing with climate change is more desperately urgent than anyone had thought. It is an emergency now. As I write this, there are dangerous heatwaves across parts of the US and continental Europe.

Picking ourselves up

Is depression and hopelessness the right response to this past week? No of course not, but sometimes it’s terribly difficult to get up and keep fighting (as Jo Cox’s husband said so eloquently) for an end to hatred. But I will. We all will.

It’s Father’s Day today and Facebook is full of loving tributes to my friends’ fathers. My own Dad has been dead for decades. He was a cameraman during World War II, recording the war for future generations. He spent time in Beirut. He told me often of the beauty he found in the voice of the Muezzin, calling Muslims to prayer. He spoke of his time in Italy, talking to ordinary brave people who had no truck with Mussolini and his fascists.

My Dad was a tolerant, loving, hard-working and loyal husband and father. He was a patriot in the best sense of loving his country, not excluding others. He saw and catalogued the cost of war. He would have welcomed immigrants and refugees. He never expressed himself with hatred.

The only thing I could think of to write on my Pilgrim’s Moon Facebook page immediately after Orlando was (in part) this:

I’m struck always by the sheer viciousness of the comments sections in news reports, on Facebook and Youtube. I think these small moments of ugliness collectively contribute to a world in which events such as this latest atrocity are commonplace.
Perhaps one thing we can do is resolve not to express our own prejudices and hatred (and make no mistake we all have them) in small things: our observations of others, our social media posts, our reactions to situations.
It’s so easy to feel smug when we make intelligent little quips about those stupid people who have different political or social views to ours (those of us who are liberals seem particularly prone to this)…

I still think this is right. We bear responsibility for our words. It must be possible to fight hatred without hatred. It must be possible to be fierce in our beliefs without being contemptuous.

 

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