Memorial Day 2020
After we got out of bed this morning, Tom asked me what I wanted for breakfast. My thought was “what do you mean, it’s Memorial Day and that only means one thing for breakfast: warm potato salad.”
My family was never one to go to the cemetery on Memorial Day to put flowers on graves. We went at other times, but not often.We all love the history that can be found in a cemetery, and love to wander around and read headstones. We rarely ever took flowers, although I sometimes now put a yellow rose or two on my grandpa’s grave whenever I return home. I also like to place a hot wheels car there. He was a mechanic and car lover and he loved yellow roses. I think it is an excellent way to honor his memory.
But back to Memorial Day and potato salad for breakfast.
When I was growing up, my family along with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents loved to have summer picnics. There were many excuses that warranted a picnic: holidays, relatives who had moved away returning for a visit, celebrations of all kinds. Memorial Day was the first of the summer season. My mom was usually the organizer and chief cook. She knew everyone’s picnic favorite and would make sure all had their’s to salivate over. The main course tended to be hamburgers, maybe some hotdogs thrown on the grill for the kids. Grandma was a good one for bringing dessert, blackberry cobbler was one to make a show in the summer. Others would fill in with buns, fixing for the burgers, a salad or vegetable. But mom did the usuals. Potato salad was always a crowd favorite.
On the morning of the picnic mom would start the potato salad early. Everyone knows that the flavors need time to meld. Her’s was a simple version of the classic. Potatoes, eggs, pickles, onions. The dressing was mayo and mustard mixed together in just the right ratio to make the taste not too mayonnaisy, not too mustardy. The only other thing was salt. Just enough to take the edge off the potatoes. The potatoes were cooked to the perfect level of doneness. Too long and they mushed up and were more like mashed potatoes. Too short and they were a bit too crunchy. The secret was to cook them to the point that the dice held it’s shape through the mixing of the ingredients. She usually had the potatoes and eggs on the stove before anyone else was up. She tended to cook the potatoes whole, then dice them after. She would let them cool a bit before dicing them in the palm of her hand. They were still too hot to hold for long, at least for me. But you couldn’t let them get too cold or the other flavors wouldn’t melt into them. The eggs were diced in her palm as well; no hard-boiled egg halves simply set on top of the salad. We wanted that eggy goodness in every bite we took. They were still hot when diced as well so the yolks would be almost creamy to mix with the dressing. Dill pickles, a bit of diced onion, stir in the dressing, (leaving some to add later if the potatoes soaked up too much and the salad was too dry. Always err on the side of too dry at this stage so as not to risk it being too heavy with dressing in the end.) and a bit of salt. Stir it all together. As soon as it was done she would spoon me out a small bowl full. I was her taste tester. Did it have enough salt? Enough pickles and onion? How was the mayo/mustard ratio? I savored every bite. The potatoes, still warm would melt in my mouth. The flavors were mild at this point, but you could tell if everything was right or if something more was needed. I loved the warm potato salad for breakfast. It was comfort. She would then cover it and put it in the fridge.As it sat the flavors became stronger and coalesced so that by the time everyone else got to it, the salad was perfect.
When I lost my mom two years ago, I was devastated. She was the cornerstone of our family. She was the person I looked up to the most in life. I was so lost. Truth is, I am still pretty lost, but with time I have settled into a kind of existence without her. We had a relationship that was a lot like that potato salad. Nothing was too much or too little. She never tried to delve too deep into my life, but was always there for what I needed. She never judged me, but let me know what her expectations were. Our relationship simply got better the longer it sat. We talked once a week, on Sunday mornings. I made it home about once a year, she made it here about the same. It was comfort. It was always there.
On this Memorial Day I could think of no better way to honor my mother than to make potato salad. I put the potatoes and eggs on early. I put it all together. I found my thought turning to her and those mornings. I sat down with a warm bowl. By myself. I took my first bite. I could hear her say, “Does it need anything?”
No mom, it’s perfect.
“I’m excited and terrified.”
That was a text sent to me from the friend who is walking the Portuguese Camino with me next month.
She continued, “Only a month. Will my legs get there every day?”
I understand completely. I’m feeling the same way. Funny how we’ve been planning this trip for more than a few years, and the closer it gets the more unsure we are. At least I am. I was so sure I could do this when the thought of walking a Camino first popped into my head. In fact, my original thought was to walk the Camino Frances from St John Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, then continuing on to the end of the world at Finisterre. A trek of nearly 600 miles. As I began to talk about it, my friend Barbara decided to join me. We set a date far into the future, about five years, to give us time to get life in order enough to take that much time away from family and jobs. As our lives went up and down, right and left, sideways and straight, our date remained firm. September 2019. It was a focus. A beam of light projected from today toward that future date.
In the beginning the beam was so long that the the focus was fuzzy, like a spotlight that is pointed toward a cloudless sky. But now the circle of light is clear and defined. As the target gets closer and closer, the circle of light is becoming smaller and smaller. It will be no more than a pinpoint on September 18, the day we step onto the plane that will carry us eventually to the beginning of our walk.
Even though our timeframe never changed, the route we’ll walk has. Instead of taking six weeks away from our lives to do this, we decided we could only do three. We could’ve still decided to walk the Frances, either by starting in St John and finishing somewhere short of Santiago, or by beginning somewhere in the middle to make Santiago in the time we had, but in the end we decided on the Portugues route from Porto. The talk of crowds on the Frances and the rush of nightly bed races played a big part in our decision. We (or I) may someday make it back to do the Frances, but for now, this seems right.
So with that, for the past year and a half, we have been focusing on the Portuguese. From Porto there are a number of options, but the main two are the Coastal and the Central routes. We are tentatively going to do a combination of the two, starting out on the Coastal then coming into the Central at the border between Portugal and Spain. We should make it to Santiago with plenty of time to find our way to the end of the world. On the way, we may decide to take the Spiritual Variant, or not. We’ll see how we feel as we get closer to it. Everything is set in sand, not stone, at this point. Our days will vary in length between 18 and 30 kilometers (11 to 19 miles). Maybe longer as we march on. The terrain is a mix of boardwalks, hard surface roads, cobblestones, and forest trails. There are ups and downs. Some days will be hard, some will be easier. I expect there to be physical exhaustion and euphoric energy. My pack weighs in at about 17 pounds. Some days that seems heavy, some days light. At this point, it all seems like metaphor of life itself.
But am I ready? I don’t know the answer to that. Five years ago I was more than ready. A year and half ago I was fairly confident. Today I have a small niggling doubt creeping into my brain. I have read plenty of books, both guidebooks with maps and suggestions on how to prepare, and stories of others who have completed one or more Camino’s themselves. I have joined several Facebook groups for insight and fellowship. I have thought and rethought, packed and repacked my backpack. I am currently trying out my fifth pair of shoes. Most have seemed great until I walk over 10 miles, then not so much. I have wanted each pair to be the one, but sadly like boyfriends, you often have to try several before you find the one. And, you never know that they are the one until you go a certain distance with them. I have talked to some who have walked before me. Asked plenty of question, got several different answers. I’ve researched and shopped for the perfect gear. For a pack that only weighs 17 pounds, I seem to have spent plenty. I’ve walked miles and miles both with and without my pack. I’ve often tried to walk long distances two or three days in a row to get a feel for how my body reacts. I’ve tried hard to not fall into the judgement trap of “You’re not a real pilgrim unless you do (______).” Things like walk every step, carry your own pack the whole way, or stay only in municipal albergues with eighty other people snoring and farting their way through the night around you (or maybe with you). With all that, I feel as prepared as I’ll ever be. Any yet, I still feel significantly unprepared.
I don’t think I can replicate what life on the Camino will be like until I’m actually on the Camino. While I’m home there is no way to spend twenty consecutive days walking 10 to 20 miles each. I have a job. I have commitments. I have a husband who has no interest in walking even around the block. He supports my walking, but, it just isn’t his thing. We ride bikes together, he draws the line there. Walking such distances take hours. I have laundry to do. Meals to prepare, although my husband hasn’t seen too many of those lately.
So, with less than a month until we start, I’m just trying to relax about the whole thing. Find some joy and peace within myself. Calm down a bit. Breath deep and slow. I’ll do what more I can in the training department. I have a few more days I can walk. My feet seem fairly happy with this last pair of shoes. I’m sure I’ll pack and unpack a few more times. Add a few things, take away a few things. But that’s all the small stuff now, like my shampoo bar and toothbrush. Nothing too significant. I know anything I need I can buy along the way, after all Portugal and Spain are not 3rd world countries. They have shops and pharmacies and markets.
I’ll be fine. No matter what, And Barbara, so will you.
In September of this year, I will walk the Camino Portuguese. I have been planning this walk for a good five years now, ever since I was performing an ultrasound on an 80 year old woman who told me she was on her way to Spain to walk a section of the Camino de Santiago. Intrigued, I looked it up and found out that it is an ancient pilgrimage through Spain that spans five hundred miles from St Jean Pied de Port, France to the cathedral in Santiago, Spain, where the remains of Saint James are reportedly interred. This path is known as the Camino Frances. Christians have been making the pilgrimage for thousands of years for a variety of reasons, mostly faith based. But in recent years, a new kind of pilgrim has emerged, and the popularity of walking has increased dramatically. The reasons for walking now are as varied and plentiful as the universe allows. Everyone there is there for a reason, although to some, the reason is hidden even from themselves. Some may think the reason is one thing, only to have that change as they walk. Miles of walking and talking to yourself within your head has a way of untangling your mind and your heart.
My own reason for wanting to do this has changed and evolved over time. When the idea first came to me, it was more about the physical challenge. I have always envied and admired those who had the physical strength to do big things. Marathon runners, rock climbers, long distance bikers, people who have the ability to endure hours and days of moving their bodies to exhaustion have always captivated me. I have felt inadequate in their presence. But walking I could do. I love to walk. I love how my body feels when I walk. The challenge of walking twelve to fifteen miles or more a day for a sustained number of days felt like a goal I could accomplish. The idea of walking in a place where there are thousands of others all moving in the same direction, toward the same destination also fueled my desire to walk the Camino. I could walk anywhere, by myself, with whatever endpoint in mind and accomplish the physical feat I wanted. But the collective soul of the people on the Way grabbed me. That sense of belonging to something big. I’ve always loved the idea, belonging to something bigger than me. I love to be part of something, part of anything. There is comfort in knowing there are others around you, others in the same boat, moving in the same direction, grabbing at the same brass ring. There is collectiveness in the knowledge that you can reach up, back, forward, or down and find others who are reaching for you.
Over the past five years, the reason for my wanting to walk the Camino has evolved, and changes in my life have added reasons to the list as well. I still want to do it for physical challenge, and I have become much more aware of the benefits was walking, but a major change has been that my mother died, rather unexpectedly to me anyway. She was diagnosed with lung cancer, and passed away six months and three days after the date of diagnosis. While the fact that she had developed lung cancer should not have come as a surprise, (she had smoked for over fifty years) it did. It was a surprise because my mother was the strength of our family. She was the heart, the brain, the legs, the soul. She was the one who kept everything and everyone else together. She didn’t ask questions, she just dug in and provided answers. I never even fathomed that she would die before my dad. No one did. I never fathomed that she would leave us, my brother and I, to deal with taking care of him. I don’t think she ever did either. She was invincible. But leave she did. And now we are both several hundred miles away trying to deal with our grief and tackle the day to day world in which my dad barely exists. I video chat with him every day. His every day is exactly the same as the one before and exactly the same as the next one will be. He has no desire to do anything more than sleep. He gets up only to fix a meal, and returns to bed. It is exasperating to watch. It is no different than when my mother was alive. She implored him to do more. But he would not. He still will not. He is fine with his existence. He is happy with how much time he is able to spend in bed. He would love someone to pick up the duties of his life: preparing meals, doing dishes, washing clothes. But he is not dissatisfied with how he is living his life. It is me who is dissatisfied with how he is living his life. I took over my mother’s role of trying to prod him into doing and being something more. Just like her, I am getting no results.
After my mother died, I felt the Camino was going to be my best outlet for grief. Even though the actual date of the walk was still going to be a year and a half in the future, I knew that I had this future time already set aside. As it has turned out, a year and half is going to be about the perfect amount of time after her death in which to begin. In the six months between her diagnosis and death, I flew home to my parents between once and three times a month, staying for anywhere between five and seven days at a time. In between going home I worked at my job as much as I could. I am self-employed but work a job where is it necessary to show up every day. Luckily, I have a contract worker who works for me two days a week. I hired her when I knew that I wanted to walk the Camino in the anticipation that I would need several weeks off and needed someone who could fill in that time for me. She was at a point in her career that she needed some change and so we fit into each other’s needs perfectly. Because of her, I was able to work a schedule that allowed me to spend a lot time with my mom in those last few months. I could depend on her for whatever my needs were, even at the last minute. She would work a week for me then I would return and work a week for her. This was probably the first of my Camino Miracles (everyone who walks talks about how the Camino will provide). At the time of my mom’s death, I was exhausted. I also needed time to make sure my dad was going to be okay. He had little experience in taking care of himself. And, like I said before, he would rather sleep than anything else. Those first few months of his new life alone were hard. Hard on him, hard on me. There were things he was adamant about. He did not want to move closer to me or my brother. He understood that neither of us could move closer to him. We both have lives and families in our respective present locations. I did not feel that he was always safe in his environment by himself. I was afraid of what would happen to him. I could not have left the country for several weeks and been comfortable with being relatively out of touch. So we have spent the last year making progress, accommodations, and feeling out this new world, without his wife and my mom, in which we each live.
Now the time is right. My walk is about five months away. The person with whom I am walking was feeling that the Frances required too much time, and she was worried about the elevation with walking over the Pyrenees since she has been living at sea level now for several years. This may have been my second Camino Miracle. During my research of the Camino, I discovered that there are many routes that pilgrims used to get to Santiago, as they usually began from wherever they lived and joined others at certain points along the way. We could have just started the Frances at a point closer to Santiago, but the we decided that Camino Portuguese from Porto would better fit our needs. The shorter time frame, about three and half weeks compared to six to seven, works for me as well. I am more comfortable about leaving my dad and my job for this amount of time. We will walk the coastal route from Porto to Santiago, probably returning to the central route just before the Spanish border. We may take the Spiritual Variant and we may also walk to the end of the world at Finisterre and Muxia. We will make these decisions as we go.
What I know for sure is that I am ready to meet this challenge, both physically and emotionally. That doesn’t mean that I will not encounter obstacles. But I know that I have the strength to find ways to deal with the obstacles. If I don’t walk every step, carrying my backpack, that is okay. If I don’t deal with every last bit of grief I have over my mom’s death in those three weeks, I know I will at least make a start. I have not yet started to grieve. I have been putting it off until…until everyone and everything else is taken care of. There has been no space for grief. In this walk, I will find space. That is my first goal now, find the space within myself to begin to heal. All the rest will take care of itself… at least until I return.
I woke up this morning determined to do something. I wake up a lot mornings determined to do something. But on many of those days, as the hours pass and time slips away like a vapor cloud, my plans burn up like the sun burning off the fog.
So, I’ve decided to start a movement, if only with myself. #todayistheday….
I’ll keep a small book and every morning I will write a sentence of the one thing I want to accomplish that day.
This morning it was to go for a walk.
And I did. It would have been easy to not go. It was raining. I was tired. I had so many other things to do. I used to go for a walk on most days, but lately I have let the habit fall away. It is the one routine that I have been wanting to get back. It…
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How many of you don’t mind cooking meals but absolutely hate coming up with ideas of what to cook each day? If you are like me, this is the worst part of providing meals. My husband is no help in this area either. I ask “What sounds good for dinners this week?,” and his usual response is “I don’t care, whatever you want.” Not helpful.
I read an article recently that stated that most of us eat the same ten meals over and over. Thinking back to what we eat each day, I realized that is probably true. But, if I am sitting down to do my weekly meal planning, or walking through the grocery store trying to come up with what to have for dinner that night, I find myself at a total loss for ideas. Either I can’t think of anything at that moment, or nothing sounds good…
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What does paradise mean to you? Where would your paradise be? A few days ago a friend texted me on a particularly windy day that “the wind may catch me under the ears and move me to paradise.” I cautioned her to be careful; paradise is not always what it seems.
A few years ago I took a break during a rough time in my life. I went on a yoga retreat to a place in Mexico called Yelapa. The retreat was wonderful. We practiced yoga every morning and evening on an outside terrace that overlooked the small town and its beautiful bay. The sky was always a dramatic blue. As we lay on our backs during the ending Shavasana, large frigate birds circled overhead. The trees that rimmed one side of the terrace buzzed with the wildlife that lived within. The bougainvillea draped dramatically over the railing; it’s deep…
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Thoughts from my new website
On our wedding day my new husband and I opened a gift from his Canadian friends. Inside was a beautiful human figure made of stacked pieces of amethyst. The card indicated that the figure was called an Inukshuk. Having never encountered one before, I looked it up to see what it represented.
My research led me to understand that Inukshuks are from the Inuits. They were erected as guideposts to give direction to the nomadic tribes of the harsh Arctic region. The stone markers were massive, created with the cooperation of the entire group. Their presence made the way easier and safer for those who followed.
Each stone of the Inukshuk is separate. But each stone cannot work on its own. Each needs the support of the one above and below to function in entirety. This support is achieved through balance. Perfect balance makes the structure secure. Removing one stone…
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Take in a deep breath—breathe in the light, the growth, the beginnings, the warmth. Now let it out—let go of the darkness, the stagnation, the endings, the cold. Breathe in joy; breathe out sorrow. Breathe in content; breathe out regret. Breathe in strength; breathe out lethargy. Breathe in ingenuity; breathe out incompetence. Breathe in life.
For those of us in the Northern hemisphere of this great planet earth we are entering the season of origination. Trees are budding new leaves. Flowers are poking their heads out of the warm soil for a look around. Vibrant colors are filling our visual sphere every time we walk out the door. The sun is rising higher in the sky, radiating its rays more directly toward our souls, and shedding its light toward us for a longer time each day.
We can take from Spring all that we need to refill our essence. She is here to give. Like the showers she provides to sustain the new growth of flora, she also provides sunshine and light to nourish the souls of fauna. We are a part of that fauna. We can drink her in—with breath, and laughter, and joy.
I have never understood why we choose the New Year to make our resolutions. A time when we who live above the equator are shrouded in the depths of darkness. A time when we should be wrapping ourselves in the warmth of comforts, not expanding into the new and uncertain world of change. No wonder so many of us flounder in our resolve to keep our resolutions. Instead, let’s move those purposeful intentions to the Vernal Equinox when the earth itself has the energy we need and can support us in the quest. We will grow and bloom together with the bounty of fresh foods she will provide in the coming weeks and months. We are compelled to move more and get outside into nature as each day warms. Better nourishment, more activity, more outdoors time, more light, all act upon our psyche and result in better attitudes, less depression, more positive thoughts, better decisions, more happiness.
Come into Spring with me. Leave the cold and darkness behind. Plan your future while looking into the light. And breathe.
Life is all about contradictions.
One of the most surprising contradictions centers around my age now. Hot flashes are not just about the heat. I can go from a state of boiling from the inside out, to being colder than a snow ice cream head-freeze in a matter of seconds. When I ask other women who have been here before me, they all nod knowingly. We all bemoan the hot flashes. No one ever talks about the cold flashes. To me, the cold is just as disturbing. You would think it would be refreshing after the Saharan sultriness to cool down like an Alaskan glacier, but you would be wrong. Sure, there is that moment while transitioning through 98.6 degrees that you think to yourself, “Ah, this is the perfect temperature to be,” but that moment never lasts very long. And so I spend a great deal of time wishing to be cool when I’m hot and warm when I’m cold, and little time feeling perfect. On the other hand, I have a house that is warm in the winter, cool in the summer and always protecting me from the elements. I sleep in a comfortable bed; I have the means to bathe in clean water. I have had the opportunity to live to see this age and the prospect of many more years ahead. I am exceedingly fortunate.
Another of life’s contradictions that often has me baffled is the balance between being with my husband or friends and being alone. I just can’t seem to find a place of happy medium here. When I get overwhelmed by other’s bidding of my time, I dream of finding an hour, a day, a week, or more to be with and by myself. It usually doesn’t matter where I spend that time. But if the time becomes too long, I start to get edgy. A week to myself sounds lovely while submerged in duties and responsibilities. But, three days in and I’m missing the companionship and the feeling of being needed. Even on a smaller scale, taking an hour out of a day to call my own sometimes leaves me feeling like I’m dishonoring those around me. I feel guilty that I think I should deserve to have time to myself. The very fact that I have so many people in my life is one of those “everyone should have this problem” sorts of thing. I cherish my time with my husband; I cherish my time with my friends; I cherish my time with myself. I simply need to find the balance between the three. I know in my head that this is an internal problem. No one is making these demands on me; no one is responsible for my melodrama. I create this myself, within myself. I need to find the answer myself. And, I will; or, I won’t. Life will go on either way. Day after day, week after week, year after year. This life is good no matter how I slice it. I am extraordinarily lucky.
I also struggle with wanting to move and wanting to be lazy. I love that my body will carry me far. My feet are capable of miles and miles of forward momentum. I have huge aspirations of walking, of cycling, of dancing. I also have a gigantic desire to spend time curled in a chair, reading a book, or sitting with pen and paper, or computer and keyboard, and writing volumes of words. Sometimes even vegging out in front of the television or Facebook takes my fancy. So, given an hour or two of free time and I find myself battling between the yin and the yang of movement. Again, an “everyone should have this problem” kind of dilemma. What a luxury it is to be able to have an hour or two to choose what to do. There are so many people in this world who are entirely consumed by providing for themselves and their families, exhausted by simply staying alive. They have no choices to make; there is no other path. Their every minute is dictated by the circumstances that surround them and tries to extinguish them. I need to keep that in the forefront of my mind. I am emphatically grateful.
And then there is the struggle between desire and despair. I have a feeling of desperation when I think of the direction our country is moving in. When I hear the constant under-babble of hate that is permeating up through our finely laid carpet of rights and compassion, I cannot help wanting to abandon all hope. I know the floor was not solid to begin with, but there were fibers that we were starting to weave tightly enough that I thought it could hold the hatred in check. But life is a pendulum, and sometimes to move forward we have to move backward. We are at this crux for a reason; perhaps to light a fire under all those, including myself, who were getting too complacent and not contributing to the fight. Particularly those of us who have little to lose in the fight. We felt like we had won. We got cocky. The truth is, we all have something to lose in this battle, some a lot more than others. Some a tremendous amount more. And still others had never gained a lot in the first place, but maybe had a glimmer of hope that they would, someday. To give up now will result in decades of progress lost and millions of people fearful for their future. I am absolutely hopeful.
I have come to see life’s conflicts, struggles, and contradictions as gifts. They are given to us to help us realize what we have, and what we have to lose. I will gladly accept them all. I am decidedly joyous.
I don’t think Jesus would have voted for Trump.
Okay, so I’m no expert on Jesus, or on Christianity or any other religion for that matter. But, I know Him in theory, and I have never heard of Him being big on pussy grabbing, or hate speech, or building walls, or body shaming, or any of the other unkind things that have spewed from this campaign. So why, please tell me why, are those who claim to follow Jesus and His teachings supporting this kind of rhetoric? How can they wake up in the morning and look themselves in the mirror and feel good about what they have done?
From the very beginning of this election cycle, they have stood on the shoulders of Jesus, while simultaneously striking down everything for which He stood. They roared with self-righteousness when Trump spoke of people who were not of their same mind, or color, or religion, or sexual orientation. They laughed with him when he made fun of women who are not considered beautiful enough, or thin enough, or sexy enough. They cheered when he made remarks meant to inflame and denigrate other human beings. They wore t-shirts emblazoned with words that belittled an entire gender. They did all this while holding a bible firmly in one hand claiming they are the chosen ones out to save the rest of us.
Now the election is over, and I feel paralyzed. Winter is coming, and there are cold, hard days ahead. I have not wanted this winter to come more than any other I can remember. But, as always, it is now upon us. Our country is entering a winter as well. We are facing a time of no growth, death. A death of ideas, of rights, of kindness.
Whatever the reason any person had for voting for Trump, and there were many reasons, I’m sure, those people now have to take responsibility for him as a whole. He was there for all to see. He blazoned himself all over the airwaves. He bullied his way through the country. He vomited his hate, his racism, his sexism, his contempt for the disabled, his disdain for the poor or less fortunate. It was all there, in the open. He yelled lies and insults so loud and so often that they became part of the vernacular of the nation.
What will you tell the child who comes home complaining of being bullied? What will you say to your daughter when she cries for being grabbed, groped, or worse? Will you tell them that these are now the values of our nation? Will you say we all must live with them? We voted on it. Bullying and harassing won the day. What might you say when it turns out your child is the bully, the harasser? Will you feel pride because that is what it takes to make it to the top? Will you give praise? What will you say to the child who asks you why we are not kind to one another? How do we teach children to treat all human beings with dignity and respect when they see what is happening at the very apex of our country? Children are not stupid; they pay attention to more than we might think. They get the double standards.
In thinking of what our country now faces, I am reminded of the line from Martin Niemöller, “Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.” While I am not comparing Trump to Hitler, I do see similarities in the speech. In the ideas of a movement. In the bold calling for the oppression of those who one group of people feel are taking away their rights and privileges, their power. My thoughts keep turning to the people whom I admire for their intelligence, and civility, and kindness. People like Scott Simon, Scott Pelley, Jane Pauley, Mo Rocca, Steve Hartman, Charlie Rose, Lester Holt, Terry Tempest Williams, Michele Norris, Robin Roberts, Audie Cornish, Lulu Garcia Navarro, Ina Jaffe, Ari Shapiro, Lakshmi Sing. People who try to inform us while also showing us compassion in an increasingly noncompassionate world. These are the type of thinkers who are in jeopardy of being silenced, the fair-minded, the gentle, the compassionate, the passionate. In this winter, they may fall like leaves from a tree, raked, and piled, and forgotten under the snow, as they rot to become a part of the soil on which we stand. Without them around to inform us of the injustices, to educate us about the reality of what is happening, there is a greater risk to the already oppressed. What would my world sound like if I had to wake up on a Saturday morning hearing the voice of Sean Hannity instead of Scott Simon? What would the country be like if I did not have the choice?
I feel good that the list of people above includes a fair number of white males. That gives me hope that there are still plenty of white men who are not threatened by diversity. Still, I wish my list had more diversity. There should be more heterogeneity of the people who cross over onto the national scene. More people for children of all colors, faiths, religions, sexuality, and gender, to look up to and think, “that can be me.” There is room in this country for all of us. And we will only be great when we give everyone a place at the table. When will we learn that the way to create greatness is in giving all people an opportunity and hope? When will we understand that another’s success does not affect our own? Someone else’s happiness will not bring despair.
As I scroll through my Facebook page, I see images and postings complaining about the “crybaby liberals” whose candidate lost the election. I respond that, yes, I am crying. I cry every day. Not for the loss of an election, my candidates have lost many elections. After all, I live in Utah where on a state and local level my candidates nearly always lose, and I have never cried for them. But this time I am crying for what my country has lost, what my friends and family have lost, what I have lost, and even for what those who voted for Trump have lost. I am crying for how hard we have worked to give unalienable rights to all, and how far back those rights will be pushed before the coming of a new spring.
What we cannot forget is that the rotting leaves of winter also nourish and fertilize all that is to grow later. Trees that are barren now will flourish again in the spring–and spring cannot come without winter. We must weather this, even as we all know that winter is hard and some trees will not survive to flower and leaf again. We cannot give up hope that we will see the spring again.