The Why, the What, and the Wait

Column 35 Published in the September 20, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

I was sweeping out the garage when our kitty, Gypsy, meowed something unintelligible in Cat, waking me from my absent-minded reverie. “Come on, little one,” I told her. “I want to show you something.” Suddenly and randomly inspired to visit the fort Iris and I are building, I dropped the broom and walked straight into the woods.

All of my spiritual study lately has me much more in tune with what many religions call the “Holy Spirit,” even though a few of the more rigorous practices believe I shouldn’t yet have access to it, not having taking their prescribed steps towards salvation. In all my earthiness, I’ve often interpreted “spirit” over the years as simple intuition, and now, with a bit more awareness in the mix, heeding its call has taken on almost a game-like quality.

Dropping most everything to do what feels Loving and True takes tremendous fortitude, of which I usually have very little. But I’m becoming more trusting, curious, and playful. And, surprise, the Universe is responding. So, when something told me to go for a walk in the woods with my cat – a definite first – I listened.

Halfway to the fort, amidst rotting twigs and wet moss, was a still-blind baby squirrel chirping weakly and fumbling about. My cat and I walked right to it, and a second before she could pounce I cupped it in my hands protectively and looked skyward for the nest. Waiting quietly for many minutes, I half-hoped the parent squirrel would return and start scolding me. But somehow I knew I was supposed to find this little one.

The baby was defensive and scared, but with only soft claws and two tiny bottom teeth just barely breaking through its gums, it couldn’t yet scratch or bite. It was flea- and mite-covered, which I would later read means the mother has been gone for days. It likely bumbled its way out of the nest in response to hunger. Talk about fortitude and a blind leap of faith – rather than lay curled up, growing colder and starving next to its siblings, out it went into a world it couldn’t even fathom. I checked back many times over the next few days hoping to find others from the invisible nest but never did.

My own little one and I set about taking care of it as best we could. She quickly named it Herbie, and I shortly thereafter deduced it was female. Warming it, slowly rehydrating it and painstakingly de-lousing it, we bathed it gently with soft cloths trying to simulate a mother’s tongue, which even cleans away their urine and waste after each feeding while they’re this little. We bought a bag of pet infant formula on our next trip to town and started feeding it slowly. Eventually, little Herbie would grasp the medicine dropper with both tiny paws and drink desperately before losing her latch. One morning, she had an eye open. That afternoon, the other one opened as well. The cuteness factor multiplied exponentially, but we purposely didn’t spend a lot of time with her. She needed low stimulation, lots of rest and nourishing warmth. We were not growing a pet, and we knew it.

That Sunday afternoon, my Uncle John died.

As soon as we could, we took the trip down the quick gravel road to be with my mom. Thinking about his wife and two teenagers brought me to tears many times, but as You do, I did my best to explain to a three-year old what had happened and that her grandma and great-grandparents might be quiet and sad.

“Why?” slipped into my mind inadvertently several times, and in her little voice, Iris wondered it as well. Uncle John had been retired not even two years. His children were in huge transitional phases in life, his wife as steady and their faith as solid as ever. He was kind and good and worked hard for what he loved. It was hard not to suffer over the Why?

Byron Katie teaches that the only possible answer to “Why?” is “Because.”

I understand this intellectually and do my best to practice it, but then I forget and find myself demanding to know WHY from my three-year old about some perceived grievance, some mess she made, some instructions she didn’t follow. I demand to know Why of my man, my partner about some past decision that still hurts my heart. Is it my irrational need to blame? My unfounded belief that I deserve a different or better reality? My ego’s need to subtly attack or feel “special?”

Asking why about death is especially painful. It keeps you there, focused on death. Separated from life. From love.

Truly, the only answer to Why is Because. Yes, I can always point to the events leading up to a specific circumstance as the cause, even getting scientific if need be, but still, that doesn’t explain Why. Ultimately, things are the way they are because They Just Are. It is what it is. I am what I am. You are what you are. Reality doesn’t cause my suffering. It’s my wanting reality to be other than what it is that causes suffering.

A Course in Miracles teaches that the only proper question in all of humanity or at least the only one that will have more than one answer is “What is it for?” All other questions come from our ego’s unquenchable need for more and its thinly veiled attraction to fear.

But, what is it for?

In many cases, we won’t know the true answer until years pass, lifetimes even.

We spent until late afternoon with our grandparents, sharing stories and tears, apple pie and mostly quiet, together-time gently talking about things that mattered not.

When we came home, after far too many hours for an infant of any species, I found the baby squirrel cold and barely moving. While still damp from the morning cloth bath we awkwardly administered, she must have crawled out of our hastily assembled nest and fallen asleep from a full belly on the bare cardboard. I did what mothers do and took her to my bare skin.

I went to sleep that night with a tiny rodent on my chest.

She pawed and nuzzled weakly from time to time, but when I woke hours later, she was dead. I don’t know if I smothered her in trying to get her warm, or if she’d gotten pneumonia from fluid in her lungs – our initial feedings were less than graceful – or if the guestimate mixture of rehydration liquid and pet formula had seized her digestive system. Who knows?

But I wept. I had tried and I had hoped to do something that felt Loving and True. And it felt like I failed.

Of course the emotion wasn’t just for Herbie the squirrel. I wept for Grandpa Dale and Grandma Grace, losing a son at an age when life isn’t getting any easier. I wept for my mom, losing a sibling she had grown so close to in the last few years. I wept for cousins Brandon and Brianna, who would face so many new adventures and challenges without one of their two most important people in all of life. And oh, I wept for Kay, just into the slow-down and be-together-time with her husband of 26 years. It all felt so fiercely sad.

What is it for?

What is it for?

Maybe we won’t know for ages, maybe until our last breaths.

But the squirrel’s death, I knew what that was for as soon as Iris woke up. I told her that Herbie had died in the night. She was quiet and solemn; a few dramatic tears forced their way up, as if it were expected of her.

And then she said softly, looking at the squirrel she held in her small hands, “Grandma’s brother died.”

“That’s right, honey,” I whispered into her hair.

And when the Why didn’t come for either of us, I held on to her and I held on to the “Because” that was whispering itself in my head. I held on to the last images I have of my uncle, smiling as he worked on a driftwood lamp with his family hovered ‘round.

I held on to that love, that truth and togetherness, and knew that That is what it is all for. Lessons come hard in this life of suffering, but when I put the Why? away and ask What is it for?, the answer is always given. Even if we have to wait.

“Don’t write about politics or religion,” they said

Column 34 Published in the September 6th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Weeks come and go like the passing of a summer’s breeze. Tucked away in the happy hermitage of my Angle home, it’s challenging at times to remember what, if any, value the words I string together hold for anyone else.

Inspiration is everywhere, as a wise Warroad Pioneer editor once told me, and yet the questions remain in my ego’s mind: who cares? What is it all for? What does it matter what lessons any of us suffer through, what demons we wrestle on the quest for Truth?

Is everyone else on this same quest, I wonder. Are we born knowing Truth and then slowly forget as we are brutally “civilized” in whatever fashion our cultures dictate? Or are we born wicked and sinful – our inheritance – as the Bible’s Old Testament suggests?

I lean towards the former, of course. Any belief that fosters love over fear easily gets my vote.

If there is one truth I have come to accept over the past many years of searching and studying, it is that no one group of people or set of beliefs holds a monopoly on the Truth. Regardless of how fervently any religion defends their righteousness or for how many hundreds of years they have been doing so, it doesn’t change the fact that all of us have access to the Truth, to salvation, to the love of the divine. The opposite belief is the root of all wars, both individual and global. It has led to suffering and strife across all groups of people around the entire globe. And therefore, it cannot be Truth.

Only love can point to Truth.

I recognize this is not a popular belief to hold in the Midwest’s Bible Belt, nor here at The Angle where our only spiritual center is a happy little non-denominational, Bible-believing church. Many of us have been raised to believe that only our religion holds the key to salvation, and we can all point to our strict interpretations of certain passages from the religious books as “proof.”

Yet it is this imperialism that fosters intolerance, discrimination and outright violence – as it has done for centuries. Certainly Jesus didn’t teach exclusivity. His way was “the way” of forgiveness, “the truth” of inclusive love and “the life” of compassion.

I wonder if Jesus would have taught tolerance of intolerance…for that has been one of my hardest lessons: holding space and compassion for all those who fervently believe the rest of us are going to Hell in a hand basket because we don’t subscribe to their beliefs.

Certainly there is beauty and truth to behold in all faiths. And that is my pursuit now – learning all. I am fortunate in that the pace of life at The Angle allows me to both look for my life and for the Truth that all life holds.

I am also fortunate here at The Angle, because a small group of Bible-believing women put up with my “otherness” in their usually cozy Bible study. Yep, I am studying the Bible. We’ll read the whole darn thing in one short year and I’m on week 3.

At the same time, I’m studying A Course in Miracles, the principles of Buddhism and the wisdom of the ancient Toltecs, all interspersed with factual readings in contemporary science. I have not studied Aboriginal Spirituality, Islam or Hinduism in any depth, but those will be next on the great list.

My soul’s hope is that I will accept Truth in all its different forms and come to know peace. My ego’s hope is that I’ll open my eyes and the eyes of others to move beyond our limiting beliefs in order that our judgement of others will cease.

Peace most obviously cannot be ours while we judge others. A Course in Miracles teaches that the last judgement is actually “a final healing rather than a meting out of punishment.”

I like to picture all of us waiting beyond the veil of judgement, watching with love as the last one of us opens his eyes to a judgement he made of some other person or some situation or some poor inanimate object. When the false thoughts of that last judgement fall into nothingness, we will all finally see together the Truth of our beautiful reality and how it has had its loving arms wrapped around us this whole time whether we felt them or not.

Regardless of where we put our faith, we must believe that all things work together for good. And in fact, every single major religion and spirituality teaches this tenant. If we believe the opposite, fear will win. Peace will never be ours. And as such, until all of the world’s religions make peace with each other and work together for good, the world will never know peace. Another simple truth.

And so…here at The Angle, this tiny little forgotten pocket, there wrestles one child of God with all of the great questions of our time in search of Truth.

The truth in the fragile dust-covered wild flower blossom along our gravel roads. The truth in the wily smile of a three-year old when she answers common sense with perfectly wonderful nonsense. The truth in a commitment to a man, a family, sobriety, and this community. The truth in a metaphysical quest for open-hearted learning about forgiveness, inclusive love and compassion.

Come along for the ride. It’s sure to involve politics too.

The Giving Tree

Column 33 Published in the August 16, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

So…he asked me to keep him out of my column. And for the most part, I will honor that request. But some of the things he says and some of the things he does are just too darn funny or so utterly remarkable that I simply must remark.

If only so that the joy they bring remains. And the lessons they impart catch.

My ex and I recommitted five months ago, to each other and to being sober.

We are clear-headed, communicating, co-parenting and doing so with a whole lot of laughter and compassion. It feels amazing. Miraculous. Like another honeymoon phase all over again.

Though we both know sobriety isn’t a magic pill for relationship smooth sailing, it sure has been a booster shot towards that end.

Once, many years ago, he told me that I would never fit in here at The Angle. At the time, I took it as the worst possible insult. I so desperately wanted to be welcomed and to know this life and these people. I threw myself into whatever community cause fell into my lap. It felt right and good, and I had no qualms giving hundreds and hundreds of hours c. I tried to convince myself all the while that it was an altruistic gift, even while my ego was constantly craving praise and validation.

His words seemed a brutal prediction, but I can see now that he wasn’t judging; he was protecting. He recognized my thin skin and soft heart as completely exposed in the fearless way I’ve laid it all out there in my writing, in my giving, in my asking for nothing in return. He knows the way of it here so much better than I ever will.

“Anyone who gets involved here will get burned,” he whispered into my hair as I wept in his arms.

Words like a wasp sting have plagued me for a week – words that implied I steal from the miniscule Angle Days’ budget, that I believe everyone here is a drunk, and that I don’t have this community’s best interests at heart. I gave these untruthful words unwarranted power and they robbed me of my workday smile, took the joy out of an event I cherish and cast a wearying spell that left me planning my escape from The Angle.

But don’t get your hopes up yet, Wasp.

Wrapped in his loving arms once more, I feel a bravado akin to what it took to move here. Just as I have always done, I will say what’s in my heart in the only way I know how – through words on a page. I don’t do confrontation – it only makes me cry. I don’t do gossip – it feels wrong on all fronts. But I do write. And I write with love and full-frontal honesty. I am a woman who has found a bit of her voice, and just like in politics, that scares the bejesus out of those who cling to the old ways and fear change. The first thing change-haters do to women who speak up is attempt to tear them down in any way they can.

But bee stings fade. The pain dissipates. And love returns. Even for those who are not so fond of me.

I love The Angle. I love the people of The Angle. And I don’t do love by sitting down and fading into the background. I’m not afraid to point out patterns that aren’t healthy about something that I love. I’m not afraid to write about unpopular topics that are nonetheless important to who we are as humans and spiritual beings.

Even though I’ve only been here going on five years, I have something to say about this place. But more than anything, a writer simply wants to start a conversation. Please, if you have a response to anything I’ve written, just come talk to me. Or write anonymously to me. Don’t say cruel, baseless things that are bound to get back to me in twisted, worse-off words than how they started.

It’s instances like this that turn the word “small” of our small town into a bad word. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

But it doesn’t have to be like that here. We all have a completely equal opportunity to stand up and get involved. Criticizing those who do is part of our national vernacular, but can’t The Angle be different? Can’t this beautiful and amazing lifestyle prove itself above the mudslinging of everywhere else? I believe it can.

On each trip to and from town, I watch for two specific great white pines and a lone cedar that are marked with large red X’s. One such trip in the future, I will see them no more. They are healthy, beautiful trees older than me by a century, I’d wager, and the thought of their senseless loss gets me emotional. I don’t want to know the ridiculous reason they suddenly need to be cut down. I don’t want to feel the urge to fight a losing battle for them, even though I already do. They are part of this Angle community just like I am and just like everyone and everything else.

I stopped my truck and trailer on one trip home, wrapped my arms around one of the trees and held it, just like my man had held me when The Angle cut me down. I hid my face when people drove by, but yep, that was me, out there on the road hugging a great white pine, my arms not even reaching half-way around. If you had stopped, you’d have seen tears rolling down my face because life and people can be so cruel at times.

And then I moved on.

The tree has given all she had to give as a whole, tall sentry. And now she’ll be cut down, moved along and will give some more in some other form.

And so will I.

All about Angle Days

Column 32 Published in the August 2, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Angle Days is this coming weekend – August 5-6. Our crew has opted to put what little event budget we have to work in different ways this year, instead of into direct advertising…so, can you guess what I want to talk about in this column?

Thirty years ago, someone had the idea for the chili cook-off and the blueberry dessert challenge, and those two competitions are still the cornerstone of our little festival. The public gets to taste the chili and pick the winner. The variety never disappoints, even when some years there are only four cooks and other years there are 18.

It’s The Angle; you just never know what’s going to happen, and no matter what does, it all works out.

A small panel of blueberry discerning judges get to decide who used this local “blue gold” best in a sweet treat.  Then, of course, we all get to eat them.

In the four years since renaming it Angle Days (it used to be the Blueberry Festival), we’ve added many different events that represent a little piece of what The Angle is all about.

There’s a Fun Run – which is more like a trail walk. The High Noon Shoot Out is a clay pigeon tournament. The Golf Cart Race & Obstacle Course has been popular with all ages and is a highlight to both participate in and watch. The Trash-to-Treasure competition is themed “garden art” this year; it represents the resourcefulness and ingenuity it takes to live at The Angle.

The Edge Riders snowmobile club will put on their annual fish fry, and the Girl Scouts will host the Sunday morning community breakfast. Angle Outpost does the Walleyeball (volleyball) Tournament and Anglewood Builders sponsors the Casting Competition. So many local businesses and the area resorts donate prizes and participate as best they can on what is usually a busy turnover day.

Linda Knight donated another gorgeous quilt this year for the raffle; it’s made with Minnesota Commemorative Cloth and at Linda’s request, the funds raised go specifically towards keeping all of the fun competitions either Free or at a very low cost of entry. For example, it used to be $30 to enter the chili competition and now it’s only $10.  (Thanks, Mom. Your generosity has always been something I aspire to live up to.)

Speaking of family, my dad’s band – The Knightlighters – will provide the live music. They’ve donated their musical gift in the past, but we’re actually legit enough now that we can give all the members gas money to get here. I’m excited to be joining them on keyboard for the first time on mainland turf. The home-made dance floor that was donated by several individuals a few years back will be set-up and ready.

We’re planning our gourmet lemonade flavors, painting a photo-board cut-out, mapping out where the vendors will set-up, and trying an Angle Flea Market for the first time this year. Fireworks are planned; they just need a ride from Fargo to Warroad, where Chris Ford has volunteered to bring them across the lake. The dunk tank will be back – thank you Warroad Chamber of Commerce! Hammerschlägen is on the docket if the right volunteer steps-up in time. And I’m sure there are more fun tidbits I’m forgetting.

It’s a small-town affair (wait, we’re not even a township), and it takes a little bit from a lot of people to make it happen. But, it sure is a good time, and it feels great to show people The Angle.

Of course, I’m still dreaming about making that fishing tournament I keep talking about happen someday, and a pontoon parade, and water races of some sort. And wondering how to get the islanders more involved….

Good thing there’s always next year.

If you want to check out the schedule of events for Angle Days, visit www.facebook.com/MinnesotaAngleDays.  You can also email nwangledays@gmail.com if you have questions, want to sell your wares or have ideas or feedback.  I’d love to hear from you and hope to see you at the ‘big’ event.

 

Walk a mile in their shoes

Column 31 Published in the July 19, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

We zip around our little community here at The Angle on all types of wheels: strollers, bikes, golf carts and go-carts, three-wheelers and quads, Rangers and other branded ATVs. Our children ride on laps and learn to steer early. They are safe yet unrestrained, and are able to enjoy this unique way of life in many of the same ways adults do.

Once, when I admonished my 3-year old that she at least needed to be sitting down while we were moving, she looked back at me, her hair wild and wind-blown, her face alight with adrenalin and the summer sun, and said quite plainly to me, “But Mom, I just want to be free.”

Freedom is certainly something we take for granted in this little corner of the country.

It occurred to me while out boating on our Independence Day, July 4th, that despite where we live – with our backs to an international border – we are still relatively free to move in all directions.  I have felt very little “patriotic” pride of late, and yet there I was enjoying the sensation of feeling “American”.

For those of us who choose and/or were born into this way of life, being able to travel unimpinged, crossing international boundaries regularly and often daily or twice-daily for long stretches at a time, this freedom is hugely important.

What would happen to this freedom, if we as a country began treating (based on the actions of a few) whole nations of people, especially our next-door neighbors, like thugs, criminals or terrorists?

My daughter got to continue feeling the wind in her face that day, even though the parenting books collecting dust in my Kindle dictate that I should have enforced my “sit down” command, if only for consistencies’ sake.

But sometimes, …ok, a lot of the time…I just let her Be.

I let her Be, because I want her to have that and know it and live it as a Right. I want her to internalize what it is to feel absolute freedom of movement, of choice, of sensation, of joy and life. Yes, even at three. Her plea “I just want to be free” wasn’t manipulative or even whiny for once. It came from the seat of her soul, where all she knows is freedom.

I’ve written before that The Angle is a microcosm for the rest of the world. But that’s not true really at all. We don’t have much for variety in religion. We don’t have much for variety in culture. We don’t have much for variety in much of anything, except for maybe insects that bite or suck our blood.

Sure, yeah, we’re all beautiful, unique snowflakes, blah, blah, blah. But except for a brave few, we all look and talk about the same, follow similar political beliefs, and subscribe to the same old unquestioned self-righteousness.

The restaurants here all serve basically the same kind of frozen-then-fried American fat-food.  The resorts all bring in the same sort of sells-well stuff year after year after year. The work-force all makes our living by supporting tourism or supporting the community members who support tourism. And yes, in its own way, The Angle is a beautifully oiled little mechanism that runs well even when kinks are put in the cog, accidentally or otherwise.

But…Sameness.

After forty years of eating Manna, even God’s chosen people began to complain about the lack of variety.

Let me clarify that I’m not complaining about the Sameness.  I’m complaining about the lack-of-acceptance of Other. I would hope that I’m one more small headlamp shining a ray of light on a darkness inherent in every community, big or small.

Our transgender community member still has a tough time of it up here, but at least she’s having to “act” less and less. She chose this tiny, wayward community years and years ago because here she feels safe. And shouldn’t she have the right to feel safe, just like every other human being? (I wonder if men in general have any idea how often we as women fear for our safety. If they really knew, maybe they’d curtail the lewd stares and the rude catcalls disguised as compliments.)

Freedom aside, shouldn’t everyone have the basic right of safety?

And shouldn’t we all feel safe when we have the rare interaction with law enforcement?

Yes, all lives matter, but I think what this un-listened-to group of people is trying to say, and sometimes imperfectly, is that “hey, we’re people too and our lives matter TOO. We’re getting killed or receiving harsher sentences for causes that others don’t really have to worry about.”  The Black Lives Matter movement is yet another headlamp shining a light on a darkness that we’ve ignored for too long.

Our little community of freedom fighters, as I’ve labeled us before in this column, certainly hasn’t had to walk a mile in their shoes. We haven’t fought for anyone else’s freedom but our own, and someday that selfishness will come at a price. We have lived with white-privilege for a long time in this neck of the woods. Just ask our Native American and First Nations people.

It takes no small amount of courage to live true to who you are, to ask for your rights and your freedom in the face of fear and aggression.

This is my public apology for still calling you “Davie,” Nicole. You’ve told me your name is Nicole Annie and I will honor that from this day forward.

This is my public apology to everyone of color for letting those racist comments slide for fear of confrontation. I will honor us all as a people by remaining silent no longer.

We live on the outskirts of society here at The Angle and we feel different, special. For that and many other reasons, I expect better of us. We can start setting a better example for everyone in our community, for everyone who travels here, and for all the children who hang their heads out the window just to feel the wind and sky and freedom of this beautiful life.

The Task at Hand

 

Column 31 Published in the July 5,2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Well hello there, July. Welcome, and we’ll take you, biting black flies and all.

June, the moody mistress that she was, blessed us with an abundance of variety. Steady? No, not she. She took us from whipping winds and bone chilling wet to sweltering heat that sat heavy and dense like a used towel left to dry in a heap.

A recent June day, I remarked to no one in particular in my otherwise unoccupied vehicle, “You know it’s a Windy day when there are miniature white caps on the standing water in the farmers’ fields.”

I love the long drive into town passing the many fields in their different states of dress and undress. The neighboring farmers are the buffer as we move from our densely wooded community to the progressively more open and populated, albeit still sparsely, outskirts of these rural towns. The hearts of their downtown areas and the bustle of their local commerce is a welcome change to the remote day-to-day life that is The Angle’s.

Our tourism economy here at The Angle gives the impression of busy-ness everywhere you look, and indeed we are a hard-working community. But there’s also a hint of loneliness that hangs in the air just as it does on the busiest city streets.

Peculiar to our species, no doubt, we are seeking. We are aching. Wondering. We get so consumed with taking care of our own egoic pursuits that we often fail to make the heart connections that are so vital to our growth, our happiness.

The tabloid of my life at The Angle: the off and on relationship, the ragged, yet wholehearted endeavors to find my place in our misfit community, the craving and searching for soulful, authentic connections, it all continually points me back to learning about love, forgiveness and God.

A Course in Miracles continues to be an almost daily guide for me. It has reminded me yet again that ANYTHING, if it’s not Love, is fear. If a thought doesn’t bring joy, then it is riding on fear, however deeply hidden. Stress equals fear equals illusion equals false, no matter how fiercely I believe in it. If a thought brings anything other than an abiding joy, it is not of God, not of reality. What a bonanza that knowledge is! I write it again and again solely so that I may continue to learn it. We’ve created all these illusions ourselves, and I can finally see that breaking down the fear-based illusions is my life’s work.

There is a certain peace that has settled in now that I no longer have to strive to learn unconditional love. It seemed such an impossible task even mere months ago. I would fail and fail again at every test, judging this, fearing that.

In fact, “unconditional love” is redundant. If it’s not unconditional, it’s not Love. Fear can create love-like feelings, but it takes only a careful look and I’ll see the cracks in the foundation.

Love is our true nature, and we’ll return to it regardless of our earthly wanderings, our raging Get and Keep egos, our ramshackle life stories created largely on fear.

Recognizing what fear has built in my life is my task now. Perhaps that is why my journey led me here, back to Minnesota, to The Angle, so that I may lead a simpler life closer to family and closer to the land.

It would seem there are less trappings here and that living more wholesomely would be a boon. Oh, but Egos are tricky beasts. They will latch on to anything, wrap their fear tentacles around it and create stress under the guise of achievement. Mine has built the illusion of “so much to do” that at times, I can barely breathe.

I was a steady drinker for two decades of my life because my ego had run rampant. Escaping felt like part of surviving, but in fact it only slowed my recognition. I see now that addictions are so prevalent in our culture because we are so mind-identified. Alcoholism has a nasty social stigma, for sure, but if I’ve learned anything over the past many years, it’s that addiction is addiction is addiction.

Guilt seems like a noble cloak to wear in the aftermath of addiction, but it’s not. Guilt comes from fear.

There are many who would argue to the death that what they fear is indeed real. Fear seems real to us because we believe in it and we believe in it because we created it.

I don’t want a life lived in defense of what I’m afraid of. I want a life broken open to Love. Raw and real. Graceful in it’s slow reveal, like the pregnant fields on my drive to town. Like the beauty in my three-year-old’s sly smile as she learns new and better hide-and-seek spots. Like the subdued glory of the pink and white lady slippers that pepper the ditches along our rural highways for just these few shorts weeks this time of year.

I want to see it all. Especially my fears. Bring it on, July.

 

 

(Alas, my lady slipper photo was too blurry. The above photo was pulled from Flickr via the MSFT bank of online photos using the Common Creative content licensing. I don’t know the person’s name to give them credit, unfortunately. So beautiful.)

Peace is Imminent

Column 29 Published in the June 21, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

 

This past winter, I had an irksome conversation with a relatively new visitor to The Angle. He was a guest of one of the larger resorts and has only been coming here for a year or two. Clearly, he doesn’t quite “get” this way of life and was joking about the naivety of our trusting nature and how he had “lucked out” as a result.

I can’t recall the exact situation that he was recounting or how the conversation came about even, but I do remember my reaction to something he said about “lifting.”  Aghast, I looked at him in disbelief and said quite vehemently, “Angle people don’t steal!”

“Well, I’m not from The Angle,” he countered, quickly.

That stunned me into silence, but the disdain must have soured my face because he said no more and left.

His words have stayed with me for months.

The proclamation that he’s “not from The Angle” was justification enough in his mind for whatever quasi-wrongdoing he was up to.

Sure, he spends a tidy sum to vacation here, and perhaps that left him feeling entitled to something we have that he does not. Or perhaps he’s a simple, sorry sought, an emotional vandal wherever he goes. Or maybe he’s aching to capture what The Angle is about in the only bully way he knows how.

Or more likely than not, he’s a lost child of the divine and lives a life run by the ego as most of us do.

I’ve come to believe that we have something to learn from everyone we encounter. In Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, one passage stands clear in my memory: “What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job?”

Slowing down and patiently waiting to receive the lesson can be the true test in today’s immediate gratification society.

Along that vein, my patience is being sorely tested by the reactions of family, friends and neighbors about the latest senseless mass shooting.  Instead of responding with love and sympathy, the fearful ones are gearing up to defend their right to bear military-style assault rifles. These are not weapons of self-defense or hunting; automatic weapons, like the Sigsauer MCX assault rifle used by Omar Mateen in Orlando, are designed solely for the mass slaughter of human beings.

I’m going to write those words one more time and then I pray I’ll never have to write them again: “assault rifles are designed solely for the mass slaughter of human beings.”

It’s disgusting, isn’t it?

Barring a zombie apocalypse, I don’t understand why any responsible gun-owner would insist that these be readily available to whomever wants them in our society.

And so, I wait patiently for the lesson, trying my best not to judge and giving love to those who live in fear.

The Beatles, the Bible, A Course in Miracles and a multitude of others all teach that love is all there is, that love is The Answer. Always.

To my family members, who are so certain the government is coming for your guns and equate assault rifles with freedom…I love you. I really do. I hope you will soon know that your fear is unfounded, that your fear is senseless, that in fact, your fear is in your mind, born of nothing.  Love is the only answer to fear.

To my neighbors at The Angle and in Warroad, who didn’t lower their flags after the POTUS ordered all flags at federal buildings and ships at sea to fly at half-staff…I love you. Even though you’ve lowered them before when federal flags were lowered, at the recent deaths of a supreme court justice or a former first lady, for example, I will assume you simply didn’t get the memo this time. I’d rather not believe you’re trying to make a statement about the lifestyles of the youth who were killed while dancing in a nightclub. Love is the only answer to fear.

To the bully Angle visitor whose face I don’t even remember but who thinks it’s okay to steal while here because you’re not from here…I love you. Please come back and let me show you the real Angle, beyond your big-box resort and the bars where you get your drunk on. You’ll grow to love this place as we all do. And then you’ll be a steward, not a vandal. Love is the only answer to fear.

Fear does not make us stronger or braver. Fear does not protect us from enemies. Fear builds walls between countries. Fear bans people of specific religions. Fear keeps you trying to control all minorities because you most fear becoming one yourself.  Fear makes you loathe people who are simply trying to get a foothold on life: refugees, immigrants, minorities of all sorts, shapes, colors, disabilities, preferences, and women (though we are the majority in world population and college education now). Ha!

You fear our presence because at the root of it all you fear the power of love.

FEAR.

Snap out of it. Go hug your pet. Go look in the mirror right now and tell your eyes “I CHOOSE LOVE.” We live in a beautiful world. Our lives are brilliant. We, as a people, are the most amazing, perfect creatures.

I’m so bored of the fear-mongering I could scream. Wake up, people! Wake up, Kellie!

And we all will, in good time. Peace is imminent.

Live with it.

Now.