Who Are We?

Lady Liberty in a window

Some ignorant, fearful idiot scrawled swastikas on the walls of an institute of higher learning today. This is yet another bit of proof that our time has come. Those of us who decided, as I did as a child in the 1970s, that the bad old days of the Holocaust were behind us and that if we lived in them, we would be on the right side of history now have our opportunity. We can walk our talk, or we can become the people who let people who did not look like them be slaughtered.
It’s happening right now. In Yemen. In Central and South America. In the United States, our President—and yes, he *is* your President if you live in this nation—is whipping up hatred and fear against people who have walked for weeks, their children in their arms, to escape death. They are no different than the Jews who were turned away from our shores in the thirties. I live in a neighborhood filled with people who don’t look like me, who come from Asia and the Americas. I hear other languages spoken around me daily. Trust me, it doesn’t hurt. The only reason my neighborhood is unpleasant is because we, collectively, don’t have enough money to live well. Many of my neighbors haven’t even got enough to live decently. They work, they do their best. They expose every day the lie that if we all just work hard enough we can all have the American Dream.
On my window sill is Lady Liberty. Her torch is turned outward to face the rising sun, and the neighborhood I live in. If the words written in her book, if her light does not shine on everyone, she means nothing. Today I asked her to shine a light on the pathetic people who came in secret to daub an image of fear, in blood red, on a school, a place where the light of learning is preserved and passed on. They terrorized people who are leading us forward, leaving the darkness behind and I asked Lady Liberty to help us find them, to give us a chance to talk back to them and show them what their actions have done, what this rising groundswell of hatred and bigotry is doing to the supposed Land of the Free. Let them explain to us in the clear light of day why they did what they did, and what they want out of it. Let them hold their heads up in the public square, if they can. Most of all, may they learn why what they did is wrong, and may we in the end be able to welcome them back into the community as productive citizens. May They become Us once again.
Underneath Lady Liberty is a gorse bush, with Robert Mueller’s picture laced within the thorns. It symbolizes us, protecting him. A gorse bush is a thorny plant, but gentle, for all that. It doesn’t grow here in America, in fact it’s an invasive plant. This is why it grows inside. I’m responsible for making sure that it doesn’t run wild, like the English Ivy, the Himalayan blackberry, the French and Scotch broom and the huge thistles that homesick Britons brought here. I’ve to it confined to a small pot in a closed room so I can enjoy it safely.
Gorse is a plant of an ancient Irish system of knowledge, an alphabet called ogam that is used to hang knowledge upon. Gorse in particular is the vowel “O”, the gorse bush, and the cormorant. This bird, in fact, connects it to Cerridwen’s “ugly” son, Morfran (Sea crow, or cormorant) Afgaddu (Utter Darkness). He was a great warrior, in the end, but bent, like the thorns of the gorse, to his mother’s will when she brewed the Awen for him. Like him, We The People are easygoing and generous, when we are at our best. We bend rather than prick when we can. We don’t sweat the small stuff. But when we feel we need to protect something, we are impenetrable, like the Gorse. Like Afgaddu’s army, who would follow him over a cliff, if that’s where he led.
This is why Mueller is in the gorse bush, and I offer this visualization for you, if you like. The Gorse encircles Mueller, protecting him while he does his work. We The People, each one a thorn, are gently preventing him from being disturbed, watching his back so he can concentrate on doing his job well. Every letter we write, every phone call, every time we stand in protest. Every vote we cast, every sign we make—small actions, true—are the way each of us stand, like the thorns of Gorse, between Mueller and our current President. Those actions are the way we get that ill-chosen man out of the highest office in the nation, and how we remain the American People, choosing strength and integrity instead of fear, violence and hatred. We are not the people who gather with torches, we’re the people who knock on doors. We’re not the people who screech in hatred at each other, we’re the ones who have reasoned discussions. We’re the ones who live and let live. We’re Jimmy Carter, not the Westboro Baptist Church. We can live up to our best impulses, or down to our worst.
The time to choose our path is now.

cropped-poppytrail.jpg

Llyn Tegid #writephoto

Inspired by Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt

Green river
AnyRiver, Planet Earth

I’m standing on the shores of Llyn Tegid, where Cerridwen brewed the Awen. I, too, did that task, with a pack of Druids I’d never met. One of them was sent down to Sussex, where I was Called, though I didn’t know it. On his shopping list was a Gwion, to stir her cauldron, and I, bumbling my way across England, Scotland, and Ireland, heard the summons and altered my trek to Wales. It was a picaresque journey, I was teased and scared, and ultimately invited in by Scathach, ferried over to Ireland, my supposed destination, to sing of Macha on the mound at Emain. A few precious minutes in the chamber at Brugh na Boinne, and a lovely session in Dublin. I busked the price of a couple of pints at Temple Bar and laid my head in the quietest hostel I’d ever stayed at.

Cerridwen made me prove my resolve. I found out why the Sail Rail fare was so cheap. Six hours on the train station floor at Holyhead, and there was no hostel to be had at Bath. I would have been better off staying on Anglesey. Eventually I found myself on the shore of the Lake. I hadn’t even known where I was going! A chill ripped through me as I realized what I’d gotten myself into. A weekend of beginning the brew and tending the Cauldron, then a year of full moons spent stirring. I knew I’d be returning to finish the brew when the ogam wreath Cerridwen had been offered washed ashore where I was camping.

In my mind is a Grove. In the apparent world it grows at the top of Mount Tamalpais in California. Over the year the circle of stones within it became a Well, spring-fed, in my mind. The stream that ran from it tumbled down the hill and I chose one day to follow it, to see where it led. It grew, fed by other freshets and I found myself on the path to the Lake. I came to the bridge that I’d crossed during that weekend of brewing in Wales. I climbed over the stile and found myself beside Llyn Tegid once more. The green, the rocks in the streambed, all led me back to that place where I can journey any time I wish, in my mind’s eye.

Liberty

You can’t have that word.
You don’t own this Lady.
A gift, from across the sea,
From an ally we should remember.
A shared history.
A reminder of who we are.

Out of many, we are one.
Drops of water make an ocean.
Thorns of gorse, individually, are easily pushed aside.
A bush full of them is impenetrable.

We are a nation of immigrants.
None of our ancestors had papers, when we came.
There were no quotas, no walls.
As we grew more prosperous, we forgot who we are.

The people, resourceful and strong enough to get here
Should be welcomed.
That is the only test of citizenship that should matter.
Our ancestors built a nation.
The ones who come now,
What will they build?

We need not fear what will come.
We need to look to this Lady and remember who we are.
The words written in that book she holds
Apply to everyone, or they mean nothing.

You took the swastika.
You cannot have Thor’s Hammer.
You cannot have the Runes of my ancestors.
Othala is a place we all belong
All creeds, all colors, all genders.

The Awen flows through me onto this page.
Cerridwen’s Cauldron tests our hearts and our minds,
Not our bodies, our lineages.

I place this Lady in the window,
A cheap souvenir, anyone can have one.
But her Light shines upon us all.

 

Inspired by the posts of Mrs. Whatsit

Are We Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution?

Gibbous Earth rising over moon
Earthrise, Apollo 8, Dec 24th, 1963

We stand on the edge of the abyss. Humanity is the scourge of the planet, some say. The Earth will be better off without us say others. We are causing our own extinction.

I think we’re the child, throwing toys out of the cradle, not caring what breaks as we rage at our own actions. We’re magnificent in our anger, our sorrow and our guilt are expressions of our deep goodness, the power we have yet to grow into. Our actions really do matter, and we have all the tools we need to save ourselves and become the planetary guardians we long to be.

We have already jumped out of the cradle. We are the only animals on this planet who have managed to climb out of the gravity well. Can you hear the voice of Neil Armstrong in your head? I can. Can you see the face of Earth, shining blue-green in space? I can. Our footprints are on the Moon. Our technology is flying through space. Our human images are blazoned on a golden tablet, the sounds of our voices etched on a disk. Whether other intelligent beings ever see any of these things or not is immaterial. We have managed to create a record of our existence that might remain beyond the death of our solar system.

Isn’t that achievement inspiring enough to rouse us to live up to our own magnificence? Isn’t it worth doing the hard work of cleaning up the scattered mess of our childhood? If we can figure out how to explore our solar system, can’t we learn how to live together in peace, to share the riches we have, to recognize what true wealth really is?

Money is for suckers. It causes more problems than it solves. It can be useful, but like LSD, it’s a quick fix, a glimpse of enlightenment, not the real deal. It’s dessert, not the main course. True wealth is food on the table, clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads. It’s being able to drink clean, clear water from the river that runs through our town and being able to look up at the stars above our heads. It’s having neighbors we trust, whose names we know, people we can count on when we’re in trouble, people we break bread with. It’s getting to a place where we see race, and want our children to grow up in a place where they live with people of many creeds, colors, genders. It’s a place where we feel impoverished when we don’t have all those different points of view to call upon when we have a problem to solve or we’re planning a party. It’s a place where our children play in the street and can go to any house in the neighborhood when they need help.

It’s a place where we don’t see children starving in Yemen or neighborhoods bombed out of existence. I’m heartsick at seeing the faces of people gunned down at a bar, soldiers lost in war, burned out cars in a forest ravaged by fire. I’m scared to turn the news on at night. Aren’t you?

What we pay attention to grows. So many good things are happening in this world. We can start on so many more any time we choose to give our time and energy to them. It feels good to be part of the solution, to give ourselves to life. It’s all around us.

Here are two of these good things:

Trees For Life: Saving the Caledonian Forest

Yes Magazine

Every workday morning I walk across town to catch the train. I walk through my quiet neighborhood and give thanks that I have a secure job, a house to come home to, a beautiful, loving partner. Peace begins with me, and I share it, silently, as I walk. I spend that walk thinking of what the world would look like if everyone had this peace. Magical thinking? You bet. I’ve done it for 18 years now. It doesn’t matter what you believe, it has an effect. It makes me look for and nurture the good around me. It makes me feel better, and the extra energy I have available to do the right thing, to not fall apart at the awful things the world around me shows me every. single. day. is in itself worth the energy expended. Since I believe that humanity can be better than we are I act like a member of my magnificent, flawed species. I walk to work instead of drive. I get enough exercise in that commute to feel good and have the strength to carry groceries, pick up trash, stand in front of City Hall. My polling place is on my way to the train, so voting is easy. Since I’m lucky enough to be able to vote easily I do it every single time. It goes on from there.

I’ll bet you do the right thing every day too. I’ll bet many of you don’t notice all the ways you are part of the solution instead of the problem. I also think, that if you took a moment or two to think about what you do, and let yourself feel good about it you’d be able to think of a few things you could add to that list, new habits you can begin to create.

I’d love to hear about them, and I’ll bet that I’m not the only one who will find them inspiring. Please! Comment! Feel free to share this post, or make one of your own and share it here. Let’s see what this might lead to!

Centenary

I know you’re angry.
So am I.
How could we not be?
Children ripped from their parents,
Concentration camps in Texas.
“I can’t breathe”
“I remember their laughter”
A child-man throwing ugly decrees from his high chair.

But from a high shelf in Europe come watercolor images a century on.
French families fleeing destruction.
Children starving in Yemen.
Corpses of trees standing witness as men follow orders into death.
As we follow our leaders.

They know who we need to hate.
In front of City Hall we are led in chants.
We know the story.
Our indignation gives us the right to hate.
We have worked so hard, but They stole our votes, our climate, our lives.
We will make them pay!
We will come here every night if necessary!
Bearing placards, twisted pictures of an uncrowned King.
A piñata we can beat to death
Until we get our hands on him.

Where is the line? When do We become Them?

Wind back time, another protest.
The First Peoples told us,
“Rise in peace, in prayer when you do this work”
I remember as I raise an electric candle.
I see a woman of amber gently closing the lion’s mouth
Pushing peacefully, inexorably,
In the direction where the muscles of hate have no choice but to obey.

Yes. I will witness.
Every night if necessary.
I will shine a light, but I will not hate.
I see the skeletal trees.
The skeletal children.
I see Armstrong’s footprints.
Earth rising above the lunar landscape.
The green children of Glen Affric.
Forests hiding trenches, life returning.

The bell is tolling, a century later.
Can we hear the words of Harry Patch?
Can we hear The Green Fields of France?
The ghosts gather round, asking “Have you ended war yet?”

Only a fool fights when the world is burning.
Peace begins with me.
The truth against the world.
Peace begins with all of us.

A woman in a white dress pushes a gaudy lion's mouth closed.
Strength, from the Morgan-Greer Tarot