Last June, I marked 65 years of life on this planet, which means that I was not here for either of the “World Wars,” but was certainly sentient and rational during the troubling times in decades that have followed and, like others, cannot remember a period quite so precariously anxious, fearful, dangerous, or maddening.
I can feel my energy riding waves others have set in motion, and swirling in whirlpools that threaten the stability and balance necessary to meet each day’s demands. I ask myself, repeatedly, as I have so often asked others,”How is it with your spirit?” What am I feeling, how am I responding, and how can I maintain a defined inner space for peace, openness, continued growth, and, yes, joy?
How can we be most useful in a time of such turmoil and restriction? What can we do to restore greater peace? How can we do anything to help to save the earth when we’re more isolated than we’ve ever been? Why even dream of “best possibles” when–let’s face it–hope seems the refuge of fools?
The answer, I think, is in our informed and conscious choices.
One place to start is to faithfully tend our bodies and spirits, and to widen that care to others, including, always, the Earth.
I am mindful and ever-grateful that rare and precious humans, under traumatic and unacceptable deprivation and duress, have achieved enlightenment. For example, I honor the famous example of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist whose parents, sibling, and wife were murdered as the family endured years in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz.
Frankl survived the holocaust and later wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, outlining his profoundly-derived wisdom from that time: we best counter life’s darkness and suffering through acts of love, in choosing purposeful work, in navigating struggle with a courageous heart, and in consciously activating our individual power and agency to choose our own attitude and response to life’s challenges.
Every person and experience we encounter invites us to respond by creating yet another layer of light or darkness on the potential gift and artwork that is our “lifetime.”
Rather than wish the suffering Frankl endured upon all of us also seeking enlightenment, I believe we can evolve and, with deep gratitude, learn from his wisdom by sharing it, practicing it, and preventing such suffering in our own time. We don’t have to repeat holocausts of misery and hatred. We can deepen and grow in our consciousness, and practice the power each of us has to choose our attitude and response, and choose the necessary actions that must follow, as Frankl and others have taught us.
So it is, during this time of uniquely global and individual suffering, that we can look to our choices to tend our physical and spiritual comfort and health, and to explore ways to assuage the comfort and health of all living things.
My part of the world is heading into colder temperatures, and, because of lost wages and jobs, families are faced with energy and food bills they cannot pay. Our state energy company, like others, is not charging people whose payments are in arrears during the Covid-19 pandemic, but we, as co-dependent and co-creative communities, both local and global, can help further by creatively managing and sharing resources to mitigate hunger and exposure to extreme temperatures, and to help people find and remain in safe shelters. These are always issues of importance in our sadly selfish world, but when pandemic and climate shifts rage, they become unrelenting and pervasive.
At Full Moon Cottage, our fairly simple needs are adequately met, although we are still in lockdown and need to care for our integrated health with as much, or more, attention than ever. We’ve brought the houseplants indoors, put the gardens to bed, care for our eight 4-leggeds as wisely and lovingly as we can, and are looking into methods for further naturalizing the land we tend and planting native plants for for the health of insects, pollinators, and the wildlife with whom we share space. We feed our migrating and native birds and try to provide plants, shrubs, and trees for their shelter and propagation.
None of this will reverse or prevent further climatic shifts, but all of us have a say in the ways we adapt. We can choose to do nothing or something, and educate ourselves about ways to help, however small.
I admit there are days when I watch or read too much “news,” expose myself to too much anger and sadness on social media, or ignore my own healthy practices, and so quickly is my spirit stripped of hope that I almost miss its descent. Suddenly, the elevator doors open and I’m in the dark basement, hearing the doors close behind me.
There is a proper and acceptable time for encountering my own and the world’s darkness and I’m fairly certain it isn’t “always/every moment/constantly,” which is what it feels like we’re pushing against these days and why we increasingly hear people describe themselves as exhausted.
But I can choose differently. I’m limiting the time I spend with media updates designed to elicit mood swings; I’m renewing commitment to my physical care; and I’m tending my energy with the loving-kindness I try to offer others. And, every day, I’m using precious given hours to connect with others in ways still possible, people I love and strangers who need food, clothing, shelter, my prayers, and my feisty letter-writing or phone calling on their behalf. Focusing on others is the clearest way out of chaos. And I think ready laughter, uncorked often, is integral to maintaining our health. Happily there is no shortage of opportunities to laugh.
And so, my friends, I ask that we all choose consciously and wisely, giving ourselves the grace of good self-care: the peace of a nap, the comfort of a good book, a walk in the brisk autumn air, creative playtimes, and dreams of all the “best possibles” we can work towards today. And when we feel our balance restored, let us call or write a friend, express gratitude to our healthcare providers, teachers, and other essential workers, ask for and offer forgiveness wherever it is needed, locate and donate to a charity, bring warm clothing and food to locations that provide them to those in need, drive a person in need of assistance to the polls, plan a garden, feed the birds, surprise ourselves and the world with kindness, and so choose to repair the world and lay down layers of light now, in every possible moment, because we can.
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Julie Zickefoose writes a wonderful blog about her interactions with nature. Here is her recipe for a small batch of “Zick Dough” for feeding the birds who visit her yard. At the blogsite is also a recipe for a much larger batch. Let me know if you try it out!
Melt in the microwave and stir together:
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup lard
In a large mixing bowl, combine
2 cups chick starter (from a feed store, pet supply site, Wal-Mart, etc.)
2 cups quick oats
1 cup yellow cornmeal and
1 cup flour
Add melted lard/peanut butter mixture to the combined dry ingredients and mix well.