Saturday, June 30, 2018

Seagull Blessing

The Mystery within...
“Grandma, this was the most impressive walk I have ever been on.” Words spoken by my eleven-year-old grandson, Kason, as we returned to my car, tired, wet and muddy, but oh so impressed with our seagull blessing. It was my birthday. I had called my grandchildren to see if anyone wanted to walk to the beach with my yellow lab Oliver and me. Kason said yes to the invitation. 

Long before Kason was born, a Shepherd/Husky named Bear and I would walk across a vast field, then on a narrow bare earth path that wound down into a deep quiet valley with a meandering stream winding its way out into Lake Michigan. A frequent destination for Bear and me was to walk north from the valley’s opening to the remains of an old car that still lies on the beach, now mostly buried in the sand. In God Never Hurries I wrote: 

“This one odd piece of misplaced wreckage never appeared to be offensive litter. It is more an arti­fact, a relic of time. I wondered what it looked like when it was new and fully in service. Who rode in it? Who cared for it? How did it come to rest in such an unlikely place? Who pushed it over the bluff? How long will it take for all the rust to melt into new life? I felt a kinship with this old departing soul."

I told Kason about the old car on the beach and we both want­ed to go there. Now we did not walk through the valley but on a wide gravel path to a wooden stairway down to the beach. (I miss the old dirt path and quiet valley route.) Out on the beach, recent heavy rains brought down intermittent mud­slides from the high bluff, along with some tree debris we had to crawl over, making progress to the old car awkward and slow. As I started to climb over yet more branches, Kason asked, “Grandma, is it much farther?” Then I was startled by what I saw on the other side of the debris—a seagull in great distress. I climbed down and walked toward the flailing gull, looked into the bird’s gray terrified eyes, and spoke gently from my heart. The gull stopped flaying and let me pick her up. One wing tip was caught in multiple fishhooks and a sinker all tight­ly wound in fishing line around its mangled wing. From my heart I said, “We are going to help you.” How? I had no idea. I gently set the quieted bird down on the sand. Kason unwound some of the extended fishing line that was also attached to a downed branch while I looked in my backpack. Not much there except some cookies, two water bottles and a mosquito net that slips over my hat that I threw in my pack as a last minute afterthought. As I gently slipped the still quiet gull into the netting, I again said, “We are going to help you” and then rest­ed the bird in the crook of my left arm. The seagull looked content there and I relaxed some as we headed back down the beach. 

Now, I just walked in the water around the mud and downed tree debris. And where debris went too far into the water, I would have Kason crawl over first and then I’d hand off our bird to him so I could use all my extremities to get me up and over. In the hand off I would tell Kason, “Gentle, gentle.” And amazingly our bird stayed calm. As I walked back down the beach, with the gull nestled in my arm, I thought of how many people in our world are hooked, bound, terrified and need help. A soft grief filled me.

When we got closer to the wooden stairs and started encoun­tering others on the beach, I would ask, “By chance, might you have a pocket knife?” They would look puzzled and then I would nod to the seagull in the crook of my arm, who was now starting to feel like a part of me. Surprise lit their faces. I explained the bird’s plight. With sincere regret responses were, “Oh I’m so sorry, no I don’t have a knife.” At the base of the stairs I remembered I once counted there are ninety steps up to the top. So we started our slow climb back up. Just as we reached the top a young man with a backpack came bounding up the stairs and said, “I heard someone needs a knife.” My heart leapt for joy for I now knew there was a plan. And then two Asian men up top offered nail clippers to also aid in the freeing. So while I gently held the seagull, others sniped and cut away the hooks, line and sinker. Pictures were taken and gratitude expressed all around.

For the best chance of recovery I knew I had to walk back down those stairs to release the seagull in the water. Standing in the water’s edge I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings our bird brought, who I have since named, Spirit. For allowing me to feel a part of Spirit and Spirit a part of me—for the kindness of the people on the beach who sent the young man with the backpack and knife, and the teamwork that cut our bird free. And for knowing we are all in fact one, here to help one another be free. After I gently slipped off the net and lowered Spirit into the water, she hesitated as if wondering if she could now move freely. I lit up with joy when she started to paddle. And when she was about fifty feet out into the lake she turned and looked at us. I said, “You’re wel­come.” Then Kason, Oliver, and I headed back up the wooden stairs and path back to my car. 

We are, in fact, all one. We don’t have to look too far to find others needing to be free from discrimination, greed, and poverty. Be gentle. Think and act from your heart. Trust others will come and help you help. 

What if we all got to feel one with one another? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Repair Democracy and the Earth

The Mystery within...
Our democracy is broken because our electoral system is broken.  We no longer have a government of the people, for the people and by the people.  Until we get partisan money out of politics our democracy’s decline will continue to erode our freedoms and our ability to promote the common good for one another, our earth and all beings inhabiting it. 

In addition to getting partisan money out of politics, a condition to become a candidate for political office should be a requirement to provide a clear, concise, written statement on what the proposed candidate stands for and briefly state how his or her goals will serve us and our environment. These aspiring politicians’ written statements are to be free of attacks on their opponent’s character or ideology, and only state their positive agenda and why it is critical to the common good. 

In addition to getting candidates written messages to us voters, I suggest a six-week time limit for active campaigning.  A time limit on campaigning would necessitate clear, more concise thinking and presentations on the many serious issues facing our local, state and national governments.  Hopefully, more clear thinking and positive written documentation of candidates’ goals would curb some of the pre-election protracted bitterness we are all subjected to for many months on end—bitterness that does not inform us about the common good and easily infects us all.            

Since most media are also among the many who benefit from the seemingly endless barrage of negative adds paid for by special interest money, they would oppose limiting the length of time for active campaigning.  

But at least, we the people could start by demanding positive written goals from all political candidates and how each proposes to serve the common good so we can intelligently weigh critical decisions to be made in the voting both. Libraries and voting places could be required to have copies of all candidates mandated, clearly written, concise, positive only statements on how they propose to foster a government of the people, for the people and by the people.  And if a candidate really wanted to impress me, he or she could hang their qualifying positive statements on my door telling me how he or she plans to promote the common good for one another, our earth, and all beings inhabiting it.