I think I am writing today to purge my feelings so I beg your forgiveness ahead of time. We are one week away from the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and I find I am going through the classic stages of grief. At first I was stunned. I struggled to believe such a thing was happening. When a friend texted me that the protestors (as we called them then) were storming the capitol, I denied that such a thing was happening, or ever could happen. Then I sat through a series of days where images, like those of 9-11 were burned into my brain, interrupting my sleep, and invading the peace of my days as I struggled to place the events that unfolded into context. Then I grew angry, and I confess I am trying to process that anger now as I watch our leaders bargaining to see who will remain in power. The next stage is depression which I feel is very likely and I hope that stage doesn’t last long. Finally, acceptance. We are not there yet.
As I move through these days I have wished I could be like the birds who flutter cheerfully around the feeders on my deck, blissfully unaware of the turmoil we humans have inflicted upon ourselves. Watching them has been some solace for me. I have walked in the woods and watched the trees who teach me patience gently swaying in air currents far above my head. I have watched the sky clear and become the pale blue of winter, and the watery sun shining down offering its small cheerfulness and warmth. I have been in rebellion in my thoughts, sick of COVID isolation and dreaming of spending time anywhere but here.
And then, I go about my daily round. We are blessed to have animals which need us to care for them and so the hours of my day are arranged around feeding and caring for them in various ways. And as usual the animals are such good teachers. The dogs want fed, walked, brushed and petted. They wake us before dawn each day, joyful to have another day of loving. The cats are imperious dictators, demanding their share of attention and treats, and yet able to curl up peacefully on their mats confident that they will receive their evening meal after a nap. The chickens greet me each morning with soft chatter. They follow me around the coop and the run, hoping for a scatter of sunflower seeds. When I speak to each by name, each cocks a head and looks at me with an inquisitive eye. I watch their interaction in the flock which is much like how humans order their society. A couple are good friends, some really do not like each other, and the oldest limps around still in charge of the flock and getting the respect to which she is due. She is too old to hop on a roost any more yet no matter what the weather, she takes her place at the top of the ramp into the roosting area, ready to protect and defend her flock.
Tonight as I put my chickens to bed for the night, securely locking them in after I gathered a couple of warm brown eggs, I had a thought. I was thinking about how lucky these birds are to be a flock in a backyard where they are fed every day, cared for with love in a clean orderly coop, and locked in securely every night. Even though Buffy is too old to be productive, she is still a valuable member of the flock. Even though Buttercup is at the bottom of the pecking order, in the end she still has a place to roost and her share of food. What if human beings cared for each other like that? What if we could create a society in which each person is valued for the light in their soul, regardless of their place in the pecking order? What if we cared for everyone knowing that each has worth?
Our governor called the first round of vaccine distribution to those eighty years of age or older “Saving the Wisdom.” Think about that. These folks are the elders of our society, and they have a lot of wisdom to share. I am not that old, but I am as David Whyte called “on the threshold of the great disappearance.” What wisdom do I have to share? I certainly hope that I have shared some with my own children who occasionally call me and ask for advice. What wisdom do I have for these days of chaos into which we have entered? I would advise that we stop drawing dividing lines and focus on what brings us all together. Once again, E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. We are all Americans first. Let’s stop the labeling and name calling, and like a feathered flock, work together for the common good.
Last week I lost my dear Uncle David to COVID-19, as the nation rocked with the insurrection. In my grief at his passing, I thought of the loss of this good elder in my life. I thought of how he was slow to speak or give an opinion, thoughtfully considering all sides, a skill we have lost. But when he spoke it was wisdom. I thought of a wise teacher I once had who spoke of a circle of souls, elders, surrounding our planet, guiding it and keeping it safe. I like to think that is so. Our wise ones do not ever leave us, but if we remember their wisdom, it may guide us forward through these tough times.
I leave you with this poem I wrote while feeling sad and hopeful at the same time :
Saving the Wisdom Another wide smile lost, another voice silenced. And as darkness grows across the land another bright light fades out and passes into memory. Not lost, never lost behind the veil of death, but journeying on toward a greater work. Envision this: the souls of wise elders bound together to form a band of love around a world that looks like it is broken, encircling the planet to guide and save it. Below, we try to straddle the chasm of grief. Our aching hearts seeking connection found in beauty, laughter, memory and steady hearts which hold inner light. We hold the future by the grace of our actions, a tiny seed entrusted to us by these wise elder souls. What will grow in this ground so well-watered with our salt water tears? We place this seed of wisdom in this hallowed ground and hope that healing will one day take root.