Tuesday, February 23, 2016

No Surprise

When I was little life was... challenging. Part of the coping mechanism I developed was to simply agree, internally, that things were fine, when in many instances maybe they weren't so fine. It's a brilliant thing, the mind, and it can help you believe things that with time and distance look completely different.

This morning I watched a video about baby chicks and how they are treated before they are sent to 'fattening farms' to become the poultry we consume. It was awful, frightening, and if I'm being honest with myself, no surprise. I've always known there was no way the grocery stores could be lined with cases upon cases of fresh meat, all different kinds, always full, without there being some perversion in the process. Any one of us who's ever grown a tomato plant or watched a puppy grow to full size knows that the accelerated pace with which we source our food is a bastardization of the natural process.

I closed my eyes for a moment during the video and suddenly, inexplicably, I was there.

I crouched near the wrought iron fence of the schoolyard, tucked behind some apparatus, hoping no one would see me. I lowered my head and covered my eyes in the hopes that my inability to see others would make me invisible. What was I afraid of? I couldn't tell you. I imagined all the other children as monsters, drooling, ready to eat me! I was in the second of three elementary schools I would eventually attend. The mind wanders and invents.

It was a brisk day and the air smelled of Chicago cold. I just wanted to be invisible until the day was over so I could go home and be warm. I wanted to cry so badly, but third grade is too old to cry so I just shivered and waited for the bell to ring. I did that day after day, for quite some time, until the snow took my spot. And then, forced into the open, I had to face my new reality.

Surprisingly, no one ate me. In fact, one of the friends made in that school yard remains a dear friend to this day. He reminds me of home, of comfort, and the world for me is better with him in it, even if we don't see one another often. He was then, and is moreso now, too damn tall to crouch behind a jungle gym so had I never ventured into the schoolyard I'd never have met him, or any of the others I eventually came to call friends, if only for a time.

I can't quite explain why these two things seem connected for me, but if I had to guess I'd say life crouched in the corner wasn't much of a life, and life after I stood up and walked into the fray has been better, if still frightening. I don't think I can keep hiding behind the truth about where my food comes from. I think I need to stand up. I may not be able to change all my ways (Vegan bacon? No.) but I can't keep my head tucked in, eyes pinched shut.

As I am reminded again and again, life is better standing up.

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Valentine

My valentine at land and sea
A-wade so far and deep with me
On brightest days of grand surprise
And dark of sorrows shared and spent
The spright against my fragile wise
My true companion e'er the road has bent
Afield among the blues and greens 
At sky and earth
For all the treasure
What to me is worth
I press to you like birthday wishes
I hope, I pray
Not lost in pine
Truth be always
You are mine

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ashes, Ashes, We All Should Calm Down

Why do you think so many people are focused on war? Even in the simplest interactions we seem to use the language of fight and suffering.

Our politicians are fighting for us.

Our citizens are fighting against the abuses of our politicians.

Our efforts to lose weight are reflected upon as battles

We ludicrously discuss our journeys through the norms of life - jobs, relationships, community engagement - as though we are discovering new lands with the same measures of peril as Cortes and Columbus.

Children are treated like the spoils of war - the school that wins them is the better, no matter how lost the child.

In many cases we attach to faith, ideology, culture, or other apparatus claiming it as ‘shield’, ‘weapon’, our ‘warrior’ in the battle against….

Against what, exactly? What the heck are we all so conflict-ready for?

I ask as I wane and wilt away from fight the older I get. I realize that for a long time I arrived at every circumstance braced and brazen. Now, I think I must have seemed like a crazed cat screeching and scrambling from one room to the next, with nary a provocation. I look to the older among us and wonder, why is it that almost to a one, they all slow down, calm down, take pause before reply. Is it the onset of stupor or the wisdom of age?

Why should we all be angry at a performance that says ‘choose love’ and ‘this life matters’, as if it is an assault on love and life? It’s quite the opposite, isn’t it? I believe our battle-readiness has warped even our near sight.

I should think we might all wonder what has made us believe that in every endeavor we must fight, rather than work hard, and we might fight against that instigator, who most deserves the truth of that word. The rest that would come after might be so nice for us all.