The fact that we’ve been living in a kind of bubble the past year was apparent to me the other day. The isolation of Co-vid and a broken bone has given me the privacy that comes with being alone. Of course we need people (or as my mother used to say, “Without people, we get funny in the head”). But after a little time has gone by I find myself focusing more easily and I am able to see something “more” or “deeper” in my quiet surroundings. So there are some pluses to all that has happened.
The other day I was at the Dawson County Cemetery adding some flowers to my folks’ graves. It was a perfect Spring day — beautiful blue sky with fluffy clouds, little to no wind, and the temperature was just right. As I looked around I noticed the gravestones, many with names of people I have known; many already decorated with flowers; cars coming and going and people visiting quietly in family groups as they fixed flowers and walked around just looking at the graves. It was a small town Memorial Day weekend. And I wished everyone had this opportunity and every moment could have this kind of perfection.
The cemetery was beautiful and green. Visiting a cemetery is a quiet moment of remembrance. Death has a way of stripping back the layers we put on as the years go by. When facing the memorials to long dead family and friends there is no pretending. These days of people traveling the world, living in faraway places is the way it is. Humanity has always been on the move to “another place”. Sociologists say the migration of people today is greater than anytime in human history. That is pretty staggering — war, famine, disease, poverty — all contribute to the search for something better. Children have to try their wings and push themselves away from the “tie that binds”. And I get all that.
But on that day, there was a sense of returning to the soil from which we come; of remembering at our most basic level who we are. The funeral service reminds us “from dust you are and to dust you shall return.” And it is not a bad thought. At the end of life we all become part of the common soil of which the earth is made and we are blended with all the colors and creeds of humanity in a peaceful finality that is common to all.
Even with the activity around me the day was so quiet. It was as if we were all in suspended remembrance. I am a firm believer that everyone needs to return on occasion to where your family came from. Even with dysfunctional relationships, going home can be healing, looking at people with more honesty. People change; there is strength and courage rising from those stones with those familiar names.
Lately I have been reading a lot of history. I am overwhelmed by the bravery of the people of Britain at the time of the blitz and the people of France during occupation by the Nazis, the quiet courage today of people under great stress like Belarus. I have read about the changing mores of American society and the long road to a better understanding of how we are to live together in peace. And the courage of those who fight for democratic government today, for the right to free elections and voting. And the people who walk to the podium in the face of great personal danger and speak about the things that matter like equal justice for all and an end to violence and hatred. And the people who carved a life from a difficult land and people of color and indigenous peoples who have endured centuries of punishing treatment from people with no soul. But these people are rising and are demanding their right to equal and just treatment under the law.
Sitting in the quietness aof a cemetery all those things take on new importance. Life is very short and the purpose of our lives is to live with integrity and in peace and prepare this earth for the next generation that it may be better for them.
The major religions of human kind are Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. These three came out of the Middle East, have one God, and Abraham is basic to the history of each one. The other two are Buddhism and Hinduism which come out of the subcontinent of India. Buddhism is not recognized as much in India but has moved on to be major in Southeast Asia and Japan and actually a great deal of Western Society.
Gandhi, one of the leaders of independence in India (1930, 40s), was a follower of the Hindu philosophy known as “satyagraha”. The term describes a major movement in the area of conflict resolution. It is not aimed at just a one time action, but rather a complete cultural transformation including political, social, and economic transformation. The uniqueness of this way is the primary importance of morality over power politics and rejects the western tradition of the ends justifying the means. Purity of ends is an essential ingredient. Another term in this philosophy important to the Hindu culture as well as the Jain (another major religion in India) is Ahimsa, a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.
Much of what Dr. Martin Luther King studied was the Gandhian way of disobedience. Gandhi gained much of what he learned from Christianity. If you “google” the terms you will find many different directions to go in understanding and living this philosophy.
What always amazed me was the concept that self-suffering is part of the mind-set of ahimsa. When civil rights marchers were training for sit-ins and bus boycotts and other acts of civil disobedience they were told “you do not strike back.” And the pictures are many of people attacked by dogs, facing fire hoses, being beaten and jailed. No wonder the powers in these places — be it British colonialism in India or white supremacy in Selma, Alabama, were fearful. When fear no longer holds control over people and their lives, much of the control of the powerful is negated. Much of this thinking is tied into the voter suppression actions in our country recently.
It is interesting to see how people settle on various ways of dealing with social and cultural issues. Not long ago I mentioned Ayn Rand (author) and her philosophy of capitalism and individualism. The idea is that the end justifies the means and every person has to “look out for number one”. No one way holds all the answers to how we are to live in this world, but the philosophy that allows for kindness, an end to violence and conflict is worth thinking about.
We see the conflict between Israel and Palestine; China and Burma between the ruling elite and a minority ethnic group, the Taliban and Afghanis; within our society between people of color and whites and within and between political parties between liberals and conservatives. Polarization is moving into culture wars. Our society will come to a standstill if we cannot resolve our differences peacefully and learn how to compromise rather than hold to stubbornness and arrogance, violence and hatred.
(Father Richard Rohr) Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.
Birds are singing up a storm today! And I am the recepient of food!! Always wonderful at any time. My neighbor Marge brought over a small meat loaf, 3 deviled eggs and a potato to bake. Now that was a meal fit for a king/queen. I have lost about 7 pounds since I started on eating differently. My Type 2 diabetes was getting worse until I told myself -- "Avis. you can do this!" So things have been going pretty well overall. I have gotten my sugars down to a doable number and I can tell I am eating less.
Once before I tried this and it was hard work and I "fell off the wagon" in a manner of speaking. But this time I seem to have a better mental attitude!!
Friend just stopped by and we had a nice chat about refrigerators. Her just stopped so she and husband are refrigerator-shopping today. That isn't easy when you are in a small town with a limited market. The big suppliers find it isn't worth their while to see things out here.
This business of being tied down with my knee really is a patience builder. Thank goodness for things like underground sprinkler systems! Couldn't pull horses around right now.
Been spending the day sitting at my kitchen table facing the picture window. Front door is open to let in fresh air. When I can’t be out and about this is the next best thing. I always have odds and ends around to work on. Pictures today from Snapfish. I take the ones I really like and make note cards out of them to give to friends. Usually flowers, prairie, badlands, something that speaks to me. So those arrived and I have them sorted to give as thank yous for the friends who have taken such good care of me these past weeks.
On April 5th, the day after Easter I was out for a walk, caught my toe in a crack in the sidewalk and down I went. Broke my kneecap. When I spoke to the orthopedic surgeon she said, “Well, if you were younger I would probably do surgery. You would have more years of stress on it, but since you are older. . .” I tuned her out right there! Ok, I get it! I am old. So I have had 4 weeks of keeping my knee stiff, no pressure. X-rays show it is healing so two more weeks of being housebound and then more freedom!
I moaned that after 18 months of rehab from hip replacement and Co-vid quarantine and now knee rehab I am getting to be like a hermit. In the Middle Ages there was a saint Julian who was the abbess of Norwich in England. She was an anchoress which meant she was shut into a small cottage and stayed there praying and writing. It was said she had visions. While I would not doubt her visions, if I stay cooped up much longer I will start to see things as well!! Patience, patience!!
I did limp around outside a little today and still holding on to things I did pretty well. Always a tendency to push it when you get close to the end.
The prairies are so dry this year. We had no fall rains, no snow and now no Spring rains. A cousin in South Dakota has sold his cattle because he doesn’t have feed for them — grass. He sold them further away in the hopes of getting a better price in places where people have moisture and grass to feed. Worrisome times.
The State Legislature has ended their session. It was a tough year for a lot of important issues that relate to people and their welfare. Voting rights is a big one. I know that is the same all over. I am not sure what people think they are protecting themselves from — just protection from Democrats, maybe? Of course what I see is that people are afraid they are losing their culture — white, guns, Christian conservative. The liberals have been demonized to the point I don’t know how to even use the term anymore when I describe myself.
Been looking at the green and growing stuff around the house. I have lots of perennials. I think last winter was really hard on them. The weather would warm up and then freeze. My rose bushes are really not doing anything and usually my Winnipeg Parks red rose is the first of the bloomers. The bushes look a little sad as well. Last year I lost several things to blight. My remaining lilac bush looks pretty good so I am hoping that is a keeper.
River is way down. Some of the pipes that draw from the river are now exposed because the water level is so low and just a couple of years ago there was flooding when the ice went out. This year — nothing.
One of the things I enjoy doing is poking around in musty, dusty old records. The local museum gave me some things to work on while I was laid up. When all you can do is sit that is the time for sifting through old papers and letters. One box came from a lady who came to Glendive with her parents in 1881 when the railroad was built. Hers is a wonderful story of dedication to the community in many different ways. One story she related in these files was when she was married to a rancher. Indians were still wandering off the reservation from time to time. One incident she told was how her husband and all the cowhands assured her that if the Indians broke into the house rather than see her kidnapped they would shoot her! My first thought was, “Doesn’t she get anything to say in this matter?” I would have said, “Let’s hope that doesn’t happen but don’t get in too big a hurry to shoot me.”
Another woman with strong ties to the Democratic Party had a pass in her papers to Fort Peck Dam when Franklin Roosevelt traveled to Montana to see the dam. That allowed her to get close to the president. A real piece of history.