Autumn has always been my favorite season, yet over the years, it’s become a time of sorrow as well. Both my parents died in November, on the same day, though twelve years apart. Six years have passed since my husband died on Halloween eve. I still experience autumn as an enticing time of change, with warm chinook winds blowing toward new horizons, but I am increasingly aware of my own horizon drawing in. Perhaps because I qualified for Medicare on November first. Perhaps because the recent election results left me grieving for so many vulnerable populations. As much as anything, I grieve for the earth and all that inhabits it, animal, mineral, and vegetable. Whatever the reason, I feel more strongly than ever that both we who grieve and we who rejoice must choose something precious to protect.
I say “something”, because there are so many, many causes in dire need of protecting, yet if we flail about trying to do a bit here and a little there, we dilute our energy and strength. That’s not to say that what we do must be on the grand scale; we don’t all have the gifts required to sway opinions and move national and international programs forward. However, all of us have something we love passionately enough to protect, and that’s where our energy and our love must be directed now, every single day.
Discovering The Layers Of Love
We all have many loves, of course: family and friends, our own community, our larger loyalties to state and country and the world itself. Among those many loves, most of us can identify something that calls us out of complacency, even out of fear, commanding our attention and our service. If you already know where your heart lies, go out and do everything you know how to do, and be willing to add new skills to your tool kit. If you aren’t so sure, set aside time to ponder and meditate and listen for that deep heartfelt call. What can you bring to the world to promote peace, compassion, healing, justice, hope?
My heart weeps for the natural world, for the greed that drives environmental pillage and destruction, for blindness that sees value only in human use, for short sighted policies that prefer quick gratification over sustainability. I grieve for everyone on the gender spectrum who does not fit rigid rules of what’s acceptable. I grieve for refugees who are not made welcome, despite the fact that all of us but Native Americans come from refugee families. I grieve the ways we invaders have stripped this country’s original inhabitants of everything they had, breaking every treaty and promise with total impunity. I also grieve so deeply for educational systems that have left so many people behind, untrained in critical thinking skills, confused about the differences between reality and reality tv, swayed by hateful rhetoric, frightened, worried, and angry.
Balancing Hope And Heartbreak
To many of us, it has felt so hopeful and exciting to watch the world changing, to watch acceptance of differences grow, to watch new generations become more concerned with economic injustice and environmental destruction than the rapidly shifting social mores. I have been fascinated to be drawn into unknown territory when my first born announced that she is now a woman, and has been all along, but lacked the skills and abilities to make that transformation until this summer. I was amazed and grateful and intrigued again when my daughter-in-law patiently explained to me that instead of not very subtly wondering when my younger son would “wake up to his responsibilities” I might consider that he is an exceptional father, a highly talented coach, and a brilliant musician and that she herself is willing and eager to work full time as a teacher. On every front, changes offer us an opportunity to change ourselves as well, to learn, to grow, to strengthen and develop.
Knowing that changing ourselves can also be uncomfortable and even terrifying, I can find some compassion for those whose fear drives them to act in ways I find both horrifying and incomprehensible. I don’t understand how anyone can feel such blanket hatred for so many people and ideas and situations I find joyful and hopeful, but I do understand that this is so. Finding common ground is going to take a long time and a lot of work, yet it is the work before us. Still, I am in no hurry to let go of my grief, to push it aside and pretend it doesn’t flavor every breath of every day. It does and will and always has. The core of that grief is my inability to have pat answers for such complex questions: How can we be so different and still be the same people? How can we communicate cleanly and clearly with each other? How can we respect each other despite those differences?
I can’t yet answer those questions, but I can feed the hungry in my immediate circle. In my house, the soup pot is nearly always on the stove, and my fridge holds tall jars of this quintessential comfort food. Today, I’m dropping a few salty tears in the pot as I blend South American white beans with Tuscan Black kale and Asian Turban garlic. I’m also planting garlic into the sandy loam of my garden berms, where it will grow all through the cold, dark winter to come. As I cook and as I plant and as I eat and feed others, I will be offering intentions for courage and strength, for peace and good will, for neighborliness, for hope and healing. In my vocabulary, hope is not a word of weakness but of encouragement and endurance, of vision and inspiration. So, I continue to hope, to love, and to act with all my being to protect what I hold most dear. And that includes you.
World Of Love Soup
2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons minced rosemary
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large bunch kale, chopped (stems included)
2 cups cooked white beans
1 cup refried beans OR mashed beans
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup stemmed parsley
In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon oil, 1/3 of the garlic, half the rosemary, and a pinch of salt, set aside. In a soup pot, heat remaining oil with onion, remaining garlic, rosemary, salt and the onion over medium high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Add celery and kale, cover pan and let sweat until slightly wilted. Add water to cover, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add beans, stir in mashed or refried beans and return to a simmer. Season to taste with paprika and salt and serve, garnished with parsley and a swirl of the reserved garlic oil. Serves 4.
wonderful thoughts. thanks for sharing. you are a force for good ann. thank you
How eloquent! This so called “whitelash” is about a segment of our country that has felt repressed, ignored and belittled. If ever there was a time in this country for people to reach out and find a common ground, this is it. Hopefully your words will help!
Sure hope so. Common ground is the precious starting place and sometimes we find it in very unexpected ways, so staying open is super helpful.
Thanks for this post. So thoughtfully written with so much that we can all relate to. In a world of sound bites it is refreshing to have some depth for a change.
Thank you Ann, it is good to know that we do not grieve alone.
I’m not sure what I want to do first – hug you, or sit at your table and have a bowl of soup. Well, of course, the answer is both (the binary-breaker, the false dichotomy destroyer.) And speaking of false dichotomies, it’s great that you recognize gender as “spectral” rather than polar/binary. I suspect that very much about our lives would be more easily understood, more easily accepted when we recognize the infinite gray zone between the black and white. Thank you, Ann.
Yeah, that gray scale is very, very helpful! Thanks for your kindness, and hugs are always (well, usually) welcome!
This was so comforting to me. Thank you so much for elequently describing all the thoughts in my own head. I’m so confused, scared, and sad right now. Thanks so much for doing what you do.
Sitting with sorrow is a healing tradition, but our culture does not do sorrow or grief very well, so it takes practice. It also helps to find like minded people to share grief and hope with. Let’s all keep our eyes and hearts open and seek each other out.
Thanks for a thought-provoking and poignant blog.
Thank you for your thoughtful message and the many others I’ve quietly read over the last 5 years. Warm regards from Sammamish.