April 5th, 2009

Bald Eagle

a place to rest -

Editorial | The Rural Life

Native Element

Published: April 4, 2009

The other morning, I watched a starling make a long curving descent over a field that was just coming up green. There was a breeze from the southwest, and as the starling turned into it the bird suddenly appeared to be floating. I felt like I was finally seeing the starling’s true shape, wings extended and still — not as I usually see it, wings folded and quarreling over the bird-feeder.

To see a bird in a soaring descent like that always sets me wondering. What does it feel like to have wings and to feel the air beneath you as substantial as the earth? The same thought occurs when a pair of Canada geese pass overhead. The word “flap” is of no more use in describing the flight of geese than it is in describing the swimming of penguins. Goose wings quiver in flight, deflecting only slightly, and if you watch closely, you can see the goose’s body moving up and down against the stiffness of the wings.

At moments like those, I imagine the hopeless outstretching of my own arms. I feel that same conscious unease about my legs when I see the horses standing asleep in the pasture. It’s as though I’m really detecting how little repose there is in the human body. Surely a red-tailed hawk is resting when it soars across the horizon on a thermal. There must be a sufficiency of rest even in the flight of a goose, or how else could it fly so steadily and so far?

There’s an insouciance about birds in their element that always feels to me like a comment on the human species. I see a vulture looking side to side as it slides by overhead, and it looks to me as though it’s artfully and intentionally ignoring the skill of its flight. I saw the same thing in the Chilean fjords a year ago. We sailed past dozens of black-browed albatross, and every one of them — serenely afloat — looked up at me from the waves with the self-confidence of an athlete, effortlessly drifting on the tide and wondering what element humans call their own.

oregon, willamette, 1 proxy falls

Reflecting -

Though I called it a meditation retreat yesterday, it is called an Inner Journey workshop, and we meditate and work to uncover some psychological realms, to unblock what may stand in the way of unfolding the true depths, expansiveness and wealth of our spiritual home.

I am today with these questions:

How do I block my essential, my authentic self?

How do I deal with my fear?

Yesterday, we were partnered and spent twenty minutes in a monologue answering the first question and then, the second while being witnessed by another, who then offered feedback.  I'm not sure I even remember my answers at this point but what I felt then and what I feel now is the movement that evolved from speaking as truthfully as I could in response to these questions.  Doors and windows open.  We are aired, vast, spacious.  

I am also with this tid-bit.  Love, dependence, and the merged state are learned as one.  They were one in the womb and as we emerged they were still one.  We don't feel "freed" by the cutting of the umbilical cord.  We were obviously dependent and it takes awhile to realize our nose, toes, feet, as our own.  The "terrible two's" are when we begin to assert our own will, our independence.   The journey continues as we balance independence and dependence daily, as we move through the navigation of our days.

May today be one of movement, space, air, joy, groundedness and will!!   Happy Spring Day!!

Book Cover

Ah, breath - change -

Joan is back on-line which is thrilling for me. I admire her greatly for living three months away from the web and I missed her daily. I really did. We wrote letters to each other and saw each other in person and I liked that, and I like having her here, too. She directs me to this today. http://kentnerburn.com/

I also love the short clip that shows Michelle Obama and Queen Elizabeth with their arms around each other It is hugging time, all around the world!!

Obama’s two unnoticed gifts

There are two little noticed aspects of Obama and his family that I think bode very well for America.

The first is Michelle. She has, from the outset, been adamant that family came first. She demanded it of Barack, and I think it was a sine qua non of her willingness to embark upon this shared political journey. I believe she will carry this commitment into the White House.

What this means is that we will have, for the first time in memory, a First Mother who has taken that role by choice. None can doubt her talents in other areas, and she will surely choose a social cause to champion, as all First Ladies do. But I truly believe that, shining through her involvement in whatever cause she may choose, will be her commitment to raising a healthy, well-grounded and well-rounded family without hiding them from public view.

You can already see it in the girls — they are not little smiling automatons or perfectly drilled political children. They are just kids, looking with wonder at the circumstances in which they find themselves, and sharing that wonder with us all. This is a reflection of strong and steady parenting: the children can be trusted to be themselves in a public setting without fear that the selves they show will be either ill-mannered or inappropriate. Like Barack, like Michelle, they are comfortable in their own skins. My guess is that the Obamas as a family will work their way into our cultural consciousness as an honest antidote to the juvenile abusiveness of laugh track TV families, and offer a model of civil behavior to us all.

At the heart of this, as it should be, will be the strong and powerful presence of Michelle. She will be almost a post-feminist figure, not balancing motherhood and a profession, but intertwining them in a way that shows the two of them to be complementary parts of a fully realized human being. If she can do this, she will advance the cause of feminism in a way that will be equally as significant as Barack’s contributions to advancing the cause of post-racial identity.

The second contribution is potentially equally as far reaching. With the arrival of Barack, we have the return of “cool” as a viable expression of personal identity. Between gangster aggression, television talk show screaming, and glowering athletes, we have become a culture that values “hot” in the McLuhanesque sense of the term. Especially in the African American youth culture, which serves as the vanguard for popular cultural forms and identities for almost all of American youth, the idea of a “cool” identity has fallen out of favor. In its place we have lionized a “hot” aggressiveness.

Barack appears to have the capability of changing this. All through the campaign, when attacked, he either embraced and then neutralized the attack, or calmly staked out his considered position and held to it without either aggression or rancor. He respected his opponents, laughed at his own shortcomings, and made civility a virtue. In short, he modeled a measured and worthy manhood.

If, through some bit of cosmic grace, we should have found at this moment in time a woman who can model a resolved and caring motherhood as well as professional excellence, and a man who can show that strength is in embracing rather than in posturing and confronting, we will be standing in a rare shaft of historical sunlight.

At least until shown otherwise, I choose to believe this is true. It will show an America that has come of age, not merely racially, but psychologically. The young country that has so attracted and confounded the rest of the world in its agitated struggling for an identity to match its sheer physical power, will finally be able to lead by example rather than by force.

I once wrote in Letters to My Son, “Strength based in force is a strength people fear; strength based in love is a strength people crave.” The Obamas raise the very real possibility that we will manifest a strength based in love. If this is the case, their presidency will reverberate far beyond the confines of political action and discourse. They will, in effect, redefine what it means to be an American. It is, to my mind, a redefinition that is long overdue.