Last week we had a spell of surprisingly cool weather, a reminder that autumn is coming and a hint of the joyful relief from biting insects, heat, and humidity that it will bring. That anything new and happy might come our way felt astonishingly welcome, and we were outside as much as we could be, weeding, cutting back faded blossoms, saving seeds, watering plants, drying herbs, breathing in the fresh air, sitting back, and listening. Trying to be open-hearted to what is true for us in the time of the pandemic and to discern the myriad invitations to deepen our gratitude.
It is the season when the garden is filled with such a buzzing and fluttering of guests that I expect to see it elevate and levitate, suspended by the force of all that energy and lift. Bumblebees, tiny insects, butterflies and birds all co-exist, pursuing their driven business, sharing nectar and spreading pollen; it’s a marvel to observe and hear.
Phillip started to build a small deck in the “dog park” that he’d fenced off earlier this summer, but the lumber supply chain has stalled, so he’s found other ways to create. The fence he tossed up rather quickly is just wire mesh attached to posts he dug in and anchored with concrete, so we’ve been talking about weaving in willow branches and wild grapevine to make it look a bit more charming. Possibly. That ought to take the rest of our quarantine months/lives to complete: it’s comforting to choose a project, though, and one we can do together outside, where possibilities always seem more nourishing and expansive. Building and decorating fences…
Outwardly, life goes on almost as it always has. Inwardly, we both feel more anxiety and tension. How could we not? I’ve been trying to notice and meet this anxiety more compassionately and consciously, because I don’t want it to overtake my responses to the gift I believe life is, always.
But I’ve felt a heaviness in my heart as I’ve witnessed people in my community and beyond make choices that have endangered all of our lives, causing losses that could so easily have been prevented. So, I’ve allowed the heaviness to live in my heart, where I’ve hoped I can comfort it, grant it peace, and let it go. It’s ongoing, of course; trying to live centered in awareness is a continual unfolding and unpacking.
Certainly, we’re all responding to tremendous stress, enduring great losses, and being asked to adapt to rapidly-evolving changes without knowing for how long or to what end beyond “survival” these stressors will prevail. The low-grade and deeper depressions and grief being identified are natural responses to living with such sudden and deep gaps in our normal/relative maintenance of peace, joy, and security, and our somewhat reliable knowledge of what’s ahead. And how we all ache for the solace and surprises of community.
Under the influence of deprivation and anxiety, our blood pressures, stress hormones, and heart rates increase, as do bad habits for quick self-soothing, while healthy practices and sound sleep decrease. All of these are normal responses we can manage and counter with gentle presence and attention.
But the selfishness, defiance, petulance, and anger that have been evidenced in our communities only deepen my sadness as we experience these crises together and apart. I had hoped that we would unite more positively and maturely to help one another through this time of profound trauma. It’s personal; almost all of my family and circle of friends work in education or healthcare. I feel anger towards the people endangering my loved ones, and I don’t want to haul around these added burdens of anger and blame as I navigate this ordeal. I feel like something’s placed us on a map at a point labeled, “You Are Here,” and every particle of my being is saying, “But we shouldn’t be; we should be waaaaay over there!” (Pointing to places where the virus is being managed by science, intellect, compassion, and cooperation. Places where racism is more authentically confronted. Places where healthcare and income are equitably provided.)
When I find myself in a frustrated snarl, “shoulding” on myself, and on people and situations out of my control, it’s usually best I sit and turn inward: What can I alter about my own choices and behaviors? What is true? What are the invitations from Love?
I’ve been tentatively walking the trail very early in the day: masked, hooded, and sprayed with repellent, so I can check-in with the Great Blue Herons, Sandhill Cranes, Canada Geese and other visitors. Their placidity and stillness comfort and inspire me. I sat with these friends as long as I could most mornings last week. The herons can perch and stare for hours, so I asked them to teach me more about compassion, forgiveness, and surrender. And about fences.
I sat with a heron friend and opened my heart towards the people who seem bent on perpetuating the virus. I considered that they are frightened, anxious, and angry, too, and are choosing behaviors from those feelings. For whatever reasons, they’re not motivated to learn more about the virus and practice the ways it can be mitigated by each of us. I can soften my anger toward them, rest in compassion, and pull my focus back further, to see we’re all living–and dying–from our own choices. Setting up fences; tearing them down. Inclusion, exclusion.
People who don’t wear masks and practice social distancing may endanger themselves, their loved ones, strangers, their children’s teachers, those providing them with care…and so that is what will happen; just as others choose to work in education, healthcare, and service industries, making them more precariously exposed to the virus. I can feel compassion for all of us. I can acknowledge sadness for some people’s ego-driven choices, and deep admiration for the selflessness of those in the path of the careless. How remarkable are those who know what they’re risking but still choose to offer their gifts and lives in the service of others. Courage comes from the root meaning “heart.” True acts of love often demand courage.
And so, people will die because they made selfishness, angry, and fearful choices, and others will die because they chose their actions motivated by courage, selflessness, and kindness. But we will all have to live with the consequences of these choices.
Small, tight fences around our hearts or no fences anywhere in sight: These are always our alternatives; what’s happening right now is always happening. We all make life-giving and death-bringing choices every day. Who and what will we include in our hearts, thoughts, and actions? Who and what will be excluded?
Whenever we’ve acted to gratify our egos at others’ expense, to deny our fears and project them outward, or to anger, criticize, and objectify others, we’ve at least momentarily put their joy and peace on life support and excluded them from the presence and power of our love. And isn’t loving each other into healing/wholeness the reason we’re here?
This is a crucial time for considering our capacity to love. If we choose to ignore practices that will protect the health and safety of ourselves and others, we’re saying, “Nothing and no one matters except for myself and my tribe.”
And, I guess, for me, that’s the learning edge for all of us. If we love at all, is it possible to place perimeters around the love we offer? Can I just love myself, my family, the people who think like me? Can I only love the earth for the ways I can exploit her? Doesn’t real love demand more? Doesn’t the quality of all the choices we make depend upon whether the consequences embrace life, the earth, and others inclusively?
We need to decide, sometimes moment by moment, what actions correspond to “love,” and what love looks like in the world. If it’s something we confine with our egos, deciding who and what will “benefit” from it, it would seem we’re on the wrong track.
Love has no boundaries; it either encompasses and unifies everything or nothing. The entire planet is made from the same starstuff; we breathe the same air other lifeforms have breathed for 2.5 billion years; we are more one than many. A great gift of this time is the chance to accept and live from this truth, to recognize and grow beyond whatever beliefs and practices seek to tame our love, to keep it small and self-serving. Now is the time to dismantle illusionary fences and to love wildly, love all.
Joy to your day; peace to your heart; hope in all you offer and receive.
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6 thoughts on “Fences”
I read this, Kitty, and I honestly thought, “You are a better woman than I.” Reading this morning about the sheriff in FL who ordered his deputies to not wear masks and allows no one entering his offices to do so, I was/am just at a loss. I know that everything you are saying is right, but when I read things like this, it sure does make it a challenge to feel much love towards some.
You’re right. We are all tired. I have not posted in a while because I think that all that will come out of me will be a whine. But I’ll get there. I appreciate your honesty – it’s a mirror for all of us who read what you write but are too tired or stretched too thin to write it ourselves. Thank you for all the wonderful images — for your continued love and compassion. I’m right there with you even if I don’t feel it at times. Love and light …
Oh, no, Jeanne; not better at all…like I wrote, I can become very angry and frustrated by these behaviors, but, because I’m also tired (like everyone), I know I can’t function if I get stuck in the anger. I almost tossed my phone across the room when I read about that sheriff. Underneath the anger, though, is sadness that people can care so little about others… But where are we if we don’t push to a better way of treating each other? We’re surrendering way too much energy to these prompts from media.
I also don’t think offering compassion means excusing rudeness, dangerous behavior, or–ever–lying to gain or keep power; it just means we engage with others from a standpoint of integrity and a willingness to be respectful and mature. But consequences have to follow choices/actions; for a society to thrive, everyone has to be held accountable, equally.
And good for you for noticing what you’re feeling! If more people could do that and share those feelings honestly, and we could listen empathically to each other…well, we wouldn’t be here now, and exhausted.
Thank you for visiting and for being authentic. I hope you can find the time to rest and restore your spirit. Be well and safe, my friend.
Thank you, Kitty. And I totally agree with it all. It really is one thing if you don’t care enough about yourself and are willing to risk your own life, but that you are so uncaring as to allow your (not your) behaviors to endanger so many others. Clearly, we are in a major transition. We are all struggling in one way or another, and some of us are going to stay and some of us are going to leave. There’s too much good and wonder on this Earth to want to leave, so I’m planning on sticking around. Pretty sure I’ll be in good company. 🙂
As for noting my feelings, I was introspective and “tuned in” as a child which evolved into a number of healing professions, some direct, some indirect. It’s why some of us find each other on the web, no doubt.
Kindred spirits! A gift of the internet. It’s led me to precious connections.
Yes, love of the Earth is keeping me entranced with life, too.
82 days and definitely counting! 😉 Stay well and safe.
What an amazing read! You have written pretty much everything I have been feeling and how I’m trying to come to terms with those feelings too. You have such empathy, and I love how you deal so constructively with your emotions. I simply loved all the photos here, all that glorious veg especially the basil and rainbow carrots, oh the insects too. It’s good that you are able to enjoy the trail again and commune with your animal friends. Everyone on the front line has my eternal respect, how I admire them all! Love and hugs to one and all, as always.xxx
Thank you, Snowbird; I so love your kindness and visits. I think our feelings are all being sorely challenged; some days I’m up for the learning and others, I take a long nap. 🙂
Those carrots are so sweet; we’re really enjoying them. The gardens have been good company this summer. Those little insects were sure enjoying the pollen in the squash blossom that day. I had a lot of fun watching them.
It’s great being back on the trail; gotta go early and I always have my mask.
I agree; the front line workers deserve our continued praise and support. I’m worried about all the teachers in our family and friends’ circles, as they face this new school year.
Love and hugs to all in your sweet circle of love! xoxoxo, K