Posted in justice, Peace & Justice, Terri Stewart

Sabbath and Syria

by Terri Stewart (Beguine Again)

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”
~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Trevor Hudson, in his book A Mile in My Shoes, describes living daily life as living daily pilgrimage into the suffering of others. Life as a daily pilgrimage includes:

  • Being present,
  • Listening, and
  • Noticing

I was thinking of this as I was pondering the great tragedy that is taking place in Syria. Bodies are washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean of little children and families fleeing. It is simply horrifying. An excellent explanation of what is happening is here.

About 6 years ago, when I first started working at the juvenile detention center, I was playing cards with some boys in the detention center. As we played games, the boys were sharing their stories. One of the boys happened to be from Syria. He left Syria and moved to the states after seeing his parents murdered in front of him. He came here to live with his auntie. He could barely read or write. He was in detention for violent behavior. Imagine that. He had anger issues. I thought it was horrifying then. It seems it just keeps on getting worse.

Trevor Hudson would have us travel into the suffering as a pilgrim, not as a voyeur or as a consumer, but as a sacred journey. Being present to pain. Listening to their stories without imposing outside values. And noticing. Noticing who they are. Sometimes that is the most sacred gift of all. I think on that day years ago, for that young man from Syria, that is what he longed for. Simply to be noticed.

Maybe this Sabbath day we can take a moment and be present to those who suffer near us. Take a pilgrimage with them–a sacred journey into the heart.

Shalom,

terri

pilgrimage of the heart

Posted in animals/animal welfare/interspecies connections, Corina L. Ravenscraft, General Interest, vegan/vegetarian

Willful Ignorance and some Food For Thought…

Image borrowed from Zappa.com
Image borrowed from Zappa.com

“The more you can escape from how horrible things really are, the less it’s going to bother you…and then, the worse things get.”
Frank Zappa

Rational Wiki defines “Willful Ignorance” (bolding is mine) as: “…the state and practice of ignoring any sensory input that appears to contradict one’s inner model of reality. At heart, it is almost certainly driven by confirmation bias….Readers should be aware that willful ignorance is a mechanism that actually protects the brain from becoming unable to function in situations that it just can’t handle. An individual can never accept its whole own reality being meaningless or making no sense, as that would make it impossible to act towards any goal. Forcing an individual into such a state has psychologically been found to be comparable to the death of the higher developed parts of the brain from an outside perspective.”

Image borrowed from thedailysheeple.com
Image borrowed from thedailysheeple.com

I admit it. Life is a lot easier when I choose to ignore the things which make me unhappy or uncomfortable. I’m not particularly proud of it, but I admit that I do it. I think we all tend to do this to some extent. It’s a self defense mechanism which allows us to feel better about ourselves, our behavior, our actions (or in-actions). The problem is when we spend so much time in willful ignorance that others suffer, whether they’re other people, animals or plants.

Reality can be a cold bitch. Humans can be unimaginably cruel and so many times, we’re willing to look the other way. Why? Perhaps we feel helpless to do anything about the situation. Maybe we’re afraid of being ridiculed, ostracized for doing something differently. It takes tremendous courage to be the only one to stand up and say, “No. I will not do this because it is wrong.” It takes conviction and strength of heart. And sometimes, it takes a willingness to suffer, yourself, in order to make a point.

Image borrowed from quoteswave.com
Image borrowed from quoteswave.com

The compassionate soul cannot abide injustice and suffering in the world – it wants to help – in any way it can. As a compassionate soul, I have to consider certain things about my lifestyle and how it affects others. In recent years, my diet has come under my personal scrutiny because of revelations about where some of my food comes from; specifically, factory farming. It finally penetrated the veil of willful ignorance I had built so that I could continue to eat what I wanted when I wanted and not have to feel bad about it.

Am I a Vegan? No, but I’m trying to be a more compassionate consumer. I used to have bacon every week. Now it’s once a month or less. I used to eat eggs and chicken several times a week. Now I eat eggs maybe once a month and chicken once a week. I’ve almost completely stopped eating red meat. I’m also in the process of working on dairy. The thing is, you have to be able to live with your conscience and find what works for you. At the same time, I understand that not everyone shares my view. I’m not out to convert or guilt trip anyone. But I do wish that more people would take a long, hard look at how their actions possibly contribute to unnecessary suffering.

Image borrowed from Pinterest.com
Image borrowed from Pinterest.com

The video below IS safe for work. It doesn’t show the blood, or violence, in factory farming, but it does show us how we, as consumers, are manipulated into embracing willful ignorance. It’s a very thought-provoking 7 minutes. I hope you’ll watch it and let me know what you think. It’s okay to be upset or disturbed by what the presenter says. Believe me when I tell you that there are many, many other videos with far more upsetting and disturbing visuals/themes regarding factory farming. You can Google the phrase and see for yourself. Or not. Be warned: once you see it, you can’t “un-see” it. That’s how it works. It’s definitely “Food for thought”.

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fdragonkatet (Dragon’s Dreams) ~  Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

Posted in Culture/History, Fiction, First Peoples, Joseph Hesch, story

Sweet Grass

Sweetgrass HillsSweetgrass Hills in Montana from Red Rock Coulee
Source: Wikipedia

“His father’s father was Métis, you know…rode with Riel in 1869 and his father fought with Dumont at Duck Lake and Batoche in ’85,” Sheriff Hank Reynolds said as he pulled the glasses off his nose after reading the arrest report on his desk.

“That may be so, Sheriff, but it doesn’t give Liberté Beaubois license to ride into Montana, hunt protected buffalo and take a couple of shots at my head, does it?” asked Reynolds’ new deputy, Linus Philkin.

Reynolds wiped a few drops of coffee off his graying mustache and walked back to the holding cell, where he stared at a buckskin-clad man sleeping on the floor, face to the wall, on a mattress he’d pulled off the cot.

The sheriff rubbed his hand across his bald spot and recalled wind blowing through his hair in the long-ago when he, Liberté and some Piegan boys from over Milk River way would ride hell-bent for election chasing buffalo that would wander onto his father’s place. It was in those days before the Somme, before Liberté came home with a Victoria Cross and Croix de guerre in exchange for his childhood, an eye and, some said, his mind.

“I’ll take care of this,” Reynolds said, and loaded Liberté into his Ford pickup truck and Liberté’s horse with his into the trailer behind it. They drove from Chester up to his old man’s place outside Whitlash, where they mounted and pointed their ponies north, all the while howling like twelve-year-olds, chasing memories through the Sweet Grass back into Alberta.

A true mash-up of prompts went into this little story. First was Lillie McFerrin’s word of the week, Freedom. Then I decided it worked with Canadian writer Sarah Salecky’s daily prompt, which was “His father’s father was Métis.” I can never let a chance to write a North American historical piece go by. Then, as luck would have it, the first Story-A-Day May prompt was Going Home. And there you have it.

– Joe Hesch 
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Posted in Christianity, General Interest, Spiritual Practice, Video

GET SERVICE, a message about compassion and understanding …


Courtesy of the Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, AR via friends Laurel D. and Brian B. Thank you!

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the forty-day Lenten season which honors Christ’s contemplative forty-days in the desert. Whether or not you are Christian or even religious, this is a good time of year to step back,  take a breath and prepare for your personal spring and renewal.

Posted in Corina L. Ravenscraft, General Interest, Mental Health

National Shut-In Visitation Day

February is such a long, dreary month, don’t you think? It has grey skies and brown landscapes, cold and wet outside, seemingly endless. Many folks are getting “Spring Fever” already, so tired of being cooped up inside with nothing to do.

Image borrowed from http://www.aclutteredmind.org/the-blogging-blahs/
Image borrowed from http://www.aclutteredmind.org/the-blogging-blahs/

I was looking for a way to make a post for February that didn’t have anything to do with Valentine’s Day. It seems like when the middle of January hits, it becomes the Hallmark season for hearts and candy and flowers, etc. I have nothing against Love, per se, I just wish it weren’t so commercialized, is all.

Image borrowed from http://www.treehugger.com/culture/be-my-anti-valentine.html
Image borrowed from http://www.treehugger.com/culture/be-my-anti-valentine.html

Anyway, I did some digging, and I discovered that there is a holiday in February that probably not many people know about: February 11th is “National Shut-In Visitation Day”. 🙂 I rather like that, because it shows the true spirit of “love” when people can take the time out of their busy lives to spend an hour or two with someone who never or hardly ever gets to go outside and enjoy so many of the things that a lot of us take for granted.

Image borrowed from http://weighing-success.blogspot.com/2013/02/february-11-national-shut-in-visitation.html
Image borrowed from http://weighing-success.blogspot.com/2013/02/february-11-national-shut-in-visitation.html

What if you couldn’t just go outside and take a walk when you wanted? Or what if you couldn’t just jump in your car and drive to the store when you needed? For thousands of people, this is the case. They may be bound to a wheel-chair. They may be in a nursing home or place where they are not allowed to just “get up and go”. They may be elderly, or sick, or blind, too young, too old, or a hundred other things that make them a “shut-in”.

The true spirit of LOVE, in my mind, is the one that connects ALL of us. It’s the one that reaches out with compassion to say, “I’m here. I care.” Even when…no, make that especially when…it’s to a stranger. So perhaps if you have an hour or so to spare, you could visit a nursing home, a children’s hospital, or someone you may even know personally who isn’t able to get out and enjoy life the way you do. Your visit might very well be the only bright spot in their day! 🙂 Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bring some happiness and cheer, some sunshine to someone who would really appreciate it? I guarantee you that if you do, you will BOTH be much better for it!

And maybe next year when February rolls around again, you’ll remember how nice it was to celebrate “National Shut-In Visitation Day”. Or heck, who says you have to wait until February? 😉

© 2014, essay, Corina Ravenscraft, illustration, Ursula Vernon All rights reserved

Editor’s note: This was supposed to post on February 11, which is National Shut-in Visitation Day. We apologize for the delay. It was the editor’s bad, not the writer’s.  

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

Posted in Joseph Hesch, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry

Cold Comfort

In one hand, the ruddy-faced,
ragged wanderer wraps a coffee cup
and his smoke. The other he keeps
in the pocket of his third-hand Mets jacket.
Whether he’s grasping something within
or just trying to keep it warm
is a mystery. Chances are 4-to-1
no cash shares those five fingers’ berth.

Joyous, the drifter throws smiles
like sunbeams right into the faces
of the straight-life, shivering souls with whom
he coasts these stark morning streets.
Their eyes are up too, but they focus
past the runny-nosed no one shuffling nearby,
seeing instead only the faces in the
steamed-up coffee-shop window.

The same familiar, frowning reflections
as yesterday’s.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem and photograph, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Finding Sacred Space in Mandala

I love the idea of Mandalas. Mandala means sacred circle in Sanskrit. The idea of sacred circles permeates the spiritual underpinnings of many traditions. The circle of Native American tradition where a sacred circle is danced, not to be broken. The circles of trinity in Christian tradition. The Mandala of Hindi and Buddhist tradition. The circular labyrinth that dates back up to 25,000 years. Walking a circle, dancing a circle, drumming a circle, drawing a circle, even singing a circle … “make the circle wide, make it wider still” … creates a moment of sacred space meeting the co-creative spirit of human and transcendence.

That is beauty.

Lately, I have been thinking about mandalas more than normal because I am co-organizing a mandala workshop called, “Finding Your Spiritual Identity with heART: A Mandala Workshop.” Julia Weaver, a mandala practitioner, will be coming to town and doing two workshops for me- one with the girls in detention (how awesome is that?!) and one for the people of Seattle.  I love that she is being so flexible in offering her gifts and talents.

That is also beauty.

So today, to create our sacred space, I’d like to do a mandala meditation. I am using one of my own images and some meditation ideas that I have found at jeweledlotus.com.

Take a moment and center yourself. Imagine a circle of protection, love, compassion, and mercy surrounding you. Let your gaze rest softly on the computer screen. Rest your feet comfortably on the ground if possible. Simply become as comfortable in your own spot as you can become. As Julia says (and which I will quote in the video!),

“As you gaze at a mandala,
breathe slowly, and relax your eyes.
See with your heart and listen for guidance.
Gently open to your own luminous Divinity.”

Shalom and Amen,

Terri

(c) 2014, post, Terri Stewart

terri

REV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Guest Writer, memoir

Some Thoughts on Adoption

Editorial Note: In April 2013, John Nooney wrote a series on his adoption. We think his message is an important one and he agreed to cut the 12,000 word feature down to 1,000 words to accommodate the needs of this site, a frankly heroic effort and something for which we are most appreciative. After reading this post, you may wish to read the longer piece on John’s blog HERE and we encourage you to do so. The details are interesting and thought-provoking.

hands-together-871294932977UgO“Have you found your birth-mother?” is, more often than not, the first thing people ask me when I mention I am an adopted child.

Think about that.

When you share information about yourself, it is the first response that matters most; the first reply has the biggest emotional impact.

So, if the first response to news of adoption is wanting to know if you’ve found your birth-mother (often stated as Real Mother), one begins to feel they need to seek her out.

People ask this particular question, breathless with excited anticipation of an affirmative answer — they’re wanting a feel good story, with a big, bold headline: “Adopted Child Reunited With Real Mother!”

The question ends up making me feel as if the asker somehow views my adoptive parents (the people I think of as my only parents) as being inferior to Real Parents. It’s like they imagine I was kidnapped from my Real Mother, raised by people pretending to be my parents, and that I need to be rescued and returned to The Real Parents.

It’s insane.

And, it’s hurtful.

I’ve not spent much time thinking about my birth-parents. Sure, I’m curious what they look like, what their story is, and, more importantly, what their medical history is, so I know what to watch for. Other than that, I have little interest in them. Not for bad reasons — I don’t hate them for giving me up for adoption. I think my birth-mother made the best choice she knew how to make at the time. When people want to know if I’ve sought her out, I begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Am I supposed to find her? Is there supposed to be a yearning for my Real Mother’s loving arms?

They say mothers have an unbreakable bond with the child they carried in their womb, that they’d do anything to protect that child. Am I, as the child in the womb, supposed to have that same unbreakable bond?

I don’t feel that bond.

I thought of searching, but when I began to think about the consequences of finding my birth-mother, I lost interest. What if she was married to a billionaire? Would I then hate my middle-class roots? What if she turned out to be a meth-addicted prostitute? How would I feel then? Knowledge can be dangerous. I was scared of what I might find — and what I might or might not feel.

I’ve spent many helpful hours in therapy over the years, though I’ve left several therapists because they’ve tried to convince me that my issues started by being abandoned by my birth-mother; that even though I was newborn, I was able to sense her abandoning of me, and its impact is at the root of many of my issues.

One thing I have absolutely no doubt about: I do not feel that my birth mother abandoned me.

We don’t know what communication passes between mother and fetus —  though we often surmise. Perhaps because giving up a child is such a gut-wrenching decision for a mother, the trauma she feels imprints itself on her unborn child, and, perhaps, leaves some children with a sense of an emotional abandonment

Maybe there is a reverse that is also true: maybe a mother can tell her unborn child that it is being given up for the best reasons, that the decision she is making is one made out of an unimaginable love — a love that wants her child to have a home better than the one she can provide. And, maybe, communicating that love can leave an adopted child feeling that it hasn’t been abandoned, but that it is a child, being given as a gift — a great gift.

Sentimental claptrap? Maybe.

Our society runs on the belief of individuality. We take pride that we’re all different, that everyone’s story is not the same. Yet, we’ll try to claim that every adopted child should feel abandoned? It makes no sense. We are either all different, with different stories, or we’re not.

Growing up, my mother told me a story:
“There was a man and a woman who loved each other very much. They wanted to have a family, but, unfortunately they couldn’t have kids. One day, they got a phone call — there was a young woman who was having a baby, but, she was young, and was struggling to make ends meet. She wanted her baby to have a better home than she was able to give him. She knew that the man and woman would give her baby a loving home. So, the man and woman got on a plane, and, when they came home, they had the young girl’s baby with them. They were very happy to have him, and they loved him very much. There are many kids in this world who live in homes where they aren’t loved or wanted,” my mom would say, “and adopted children are special: they’re wanted very much.”

Mom would ask if I knew who the man and woman were, and I’d say “you and dad”.  It was a story I liked to told, and would often ask to hear it.  I especially liked the ending: they were happy to have him; they loved him.
Adoption gives birth to thoughts and feelings across the emotional spectrum: from feelings of profound love, to feelings of despair and abandonment. Mixed in with those feelings, at least for me, is a sense of loyalty to the people who adopted me, who opened their hearts and home to me. Along with that sense of loyalty goes a sense of obligation: to believe that adoption is ok, that it’s a wonderful, loving thing. I grew up in an environment that felt loving, so it was something I never questioned.

I’m adopted, but it doesn’t change the fact that my family is as much a family as anyone else’s family.  We’ve managed to look past the wounds and the scars that all families accumulate over the years. I like to think that in spite of all the pain and hurt, that when we look at each other, we see the love, see the strength of a love that’s been tested and that still holds us together.

This is my telling of one person’s adoption: mine. I am in no way trying to say that my words apply to all adopted children. My opinions on adoption may be different than yours — and, that’s ok. Adoption, just like any other family issue, is unique to each individual and each family. Please do not interpret my words as a generalization of the experiences of all adopted children. This is my tale, my story, my thoughts.  

– John Nooney

(c) 2013, feature article, John Nooney, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Vera Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net

unnamed-3JOHN NOONEY (Johnbalaya) ~ lives in Aurora, Colorado with his partner of thirteen years, his ninety-year-old mother and their three dogs.
Posted in folk tale, General Interest, Naomi Baltuck, Photography/Photographer, story, Story Telling, Photo Story

The Most Noble Story

There was once a widow who had three sons, Alberto, Eduardo, an Ernesto. She had spent a lifetime trying to teach them the meaning of charity and compassion.

The day came when she knew she was dying, and would no longer be there to guide them.  She called her sons to her bedside.

“My sons, the only thing of value I have to leave you is my diamond ring. It was given to me by my mother, who had it from her mother, whose mother handed it down to her. It cannot be divided and it must not be sold, for one day, it shall go to one of your daughters.  Now I must decide which of you is most worthy of this treasure. Go, my sons, and do good in the world.  Come back in one week’s time and tell me your stories. The one who has performed the most noble deed shall inherit the diamond.”

By the time the three young men gathered again at her bedside, their poor mother was near death.

She said to her firstborn, “Alberto, tell me your story.”
“Well, Mother,” said the eldest, “after much thought, I gave half of everything I owned to the poor.”
“My son,” said the old woman, “no one can tell you that you haven’t performed a good deed. But it is not a noble deed, for have I not taught you that it is everyone’s responsibility to care for the needy?”


She said to her secondborn son, “Eduardo, tell me your story.”
He said, “Mama, I was passing the river when I saw a small child swept away in the current. I can hardly swim, but I jumped into the water and pulled the child out to safety.  It was only by the grace of God that I didn’t drown myself.”


“My son, you too have performed a good deed, but not a noble deed. Have I not taught you that everyone should be willing to lay down his life for that of a helpless child?”


The old woman said to her youngest son, “Eduardo, come tell me your story.”
Ernesto hesitated before taking her hand. “Mamacito,” he confessed, “I haven’t much to tell. As you know, I’ve no earthly goods, and I cannot swim a stroke. But I’ll tell you something that happened to me this week. Very early one morning I was walking in the mountains.

I came upon a man sleeping at the edge of a cliff. If he were to stir in his sleep, he would surely fall to his death on the rocks below. I determined to prevent this tragedy. I crept over, so as not to startle him awake. Then I saw that it was my bitter enemy, Juan Miguel. At first, I thought to leave him there, for the last time we met, Juan Miguel threatened to kill me if he ever got the chance. But deep down I knew what I had to do.
“As I put my arms around him, Juan awoke and I could see the fear in his eyes as he recognized me.
“’Don’t be afraid,’ I told him. I quickly rolled him away from the precipice to safety, and helped him to his feet. When Juan Miguel came toward me, I was sure he meant to kill me. But then he threw open his arms to embrace me.
“Juan said, ‘Last night darkness fell before I could get home. Rather than chance a misstep in the dark, I decided to spend the night where I was. I had no idea I was so close to the cliff edge. You saved my life, Ernesto, and after I treated you so poorly!’
“To make a long story short, Mamacita, Juan and I are no longer enemies, but have sworn to be friends forever.”

The old woman shed tears of joy. “My son, I have taught you well. That was truly a noble deed, and you are a noble man, for you risked your life to save a man sworn to kill you. With one act of kindness, you have transformed hatred into love and made the world a better place.” With her dying breath she told her sons, “The diamond shall go to Ernesto, but you must all remember that with each noble deed you perform, you shall add to the treasure that awaits you in Heaven.”


All three sons married and had children of their own. They, like their mother, taught their children the meaning of charity and compassion. When the time came, Ernesto left his mother’s diamond to one of his daughters.

But Alberto and Eduardo left their children a gem worth as much as any diamond, for their children held in their hearts their grandmother’s precious legacy, the story of the most noble story.

All photos copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

The Most Noble Story is from Apples From Heaven, copyright 1995 Naomi Baltuck, and retold from a folk tale of Mexico.

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in General Interest

Little Papal Bling, but enough dazzle to grab our attention …

“Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points.?” Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (1936), Argentinian, 266th Pope of the Catholic Church

Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Walking the Sacred Path with President Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

This post is complementary to a post created at http://beguineagain.com/. I encourage you to read this and then read that post.

Today is the wrap-up in our recent series about President Nelson Mandela. As I was pondering how to close out the thoughts and hearts of our community, I remember that President Mandela was a deeply spiritual man who relied on the African theology of Ubuntu to carry the day. Ubuntu, which I have written about before, is the idea that “I am because we are.” It is deeply rooted in Africa with not only Mandela but Desmond Tutu subscribing to Ubuntu as core beliefs. Ubuntu is described below by Mandela himself.

“A traveler through our country would stop at a village, and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but Ubuntu has various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to improve?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx0qGJCm-qU#t=28

Knowing that this deeply spiritual man connected so strongly to a traditional spirituality, I have decided to combine the traditions of President Mandela and the gleanings of the Bardo Group with the ancient prayer practice of Midday Prayer. I am relying on the ancient rhythm but substituting readings from our authors and from President Mandela.

The general pattern of Midday Prayer is opening, hymn, psalm, Gloria, reading, prayers of the people, Lord’s prayer, collect, conclusion. This will be an adaptation of this ancient pattern. Someday we can discuss the prayer pattern and its ancient roots that extend beyond Christianity into Judaism and earlier.

Take a moment, light a candle, slow down and begin again with President Nelson Mandela leading the way.

A Midday Meditation in the Tradition of Ancient Mystics

Honoring Nelson Mandela

Help us as we pause at this point in the day to find safety and refuge, peace and mercy.

Glory to all that ties us together and brings our hearts into the center so we may listen. As it was in the beginning, it will be now, and will be forever more. Amen.

Hymn, excerpted from John Antsie

As the West winds blew their fury
the earth let out a cry;
as if to deny the awful truth,
it was more than just a sigh.
As if one life had greater value
than all of this; all of the love
that a world full of great lives
could bear; bear to contemplate
the loss of a legend, but
whose wisdom will be immortal …

Psalm, excerpted from Charles W. Martin

once
or twice
in a lifetime
an ancient returns
showing
the way
not
as a prophet
or
god-like figure
but as
a man
or
a woman
willing to expend
all their life forces
to open
the minds
of all those
willing
to listen

Glory to all that ties us together and brings our hearts into the center so we may listen. As it was in the beginning, it will be now, and will be forever more. Amen.

Reading: Inspired by Jamie Dedes, by President Nelson Mandela, Speech on World Civilisation, November 2000

The world had become much smaller, as I realised when racing on jumbo jets that I had never seen before, and talked every day on amazing new international telephones. I had to acquaint myself with this new phenomenon of globalisation, that enabled money and capital to flow instantly across the globe, and made the economies of the world startlingly more interdependent.

The effects and consequences of globalisation had to be internalised by many other South Africans, as well. South Africa became isolated from the international community during the apartheid years, and now saw how closely interconnected countries and economies had become. We welcome the process of globalisation. It is inescapable and irreversible. We can no more ignore it, as I said before, that we can reject the idea of winter by refusing to wear warm clothes. It can carry with it not only investment and transfer of expertise, but also knowledge and understanding of other people and cultures.

But if globalisation is to create real peace and stability across the world, it must be a process benefiting all. It must not allow the most economically and politically powerful countries to dominate and submerge the countries of the weaker and peripheral regions. It should not be allowed to drain the wealth of smaller countries towards the smaller ones, or to increase the inequality between richer and poorer regions.

Please take a moment for silent reflection.

Meditation: Inspired by Jamie Dedes, by President Nelson Mandela, Africa Standing Tall Against Poverty, 2 July 2005 [edited]

Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times – times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation.

We live in a world where knowledge and information have made enormous strides, yet millions of children are not in school.

We live in a world where the Aids pandemic threatens the very fabric of our lives. Yet we spend more money on weapons than on ensuring treatment and support for the millions infected by HIV.

It is a world of great promise and hope. It is also a world of despair, disease and hunger.

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.

While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.

Please take a moment for silent reflection.

Have mercy on our souls.

Group prayer

Holiness, wholeness, perfectedness
The Name of the path of healing is sacred
Let the cosmos be filled with mercy and kindness!
Let the cosmos be filled with acts of justice and love!
Let it be so, here, on earth, and everywhere in the cosmos.
Let our needs be fulfilled with love so that it
Staves off temptation allowing an end to injustice and poverty.
The cosmos of love and mercy has power to move hearts and make it so.
Forever. And ever.
So it shall be.
Amen and amen.

Intercessory prayer for the poor and concluding collect

We lift up all who live below the poverty line – knowing that we do not succeed if they do not succeed. Each one is a unique and precious beloved person in the human family.

We know that good things can go to them if we work towards justice, love, and mercy to provide for the needs of one another in loving kindness and in political will. Let us seek help so that we may help the less fortunate who experience the apartheid of poverty.

This is an abundant world if we would act with mercy and justice for all. Sharing our resources in an equitable manner worthy of the label, loving kindness. While we ask for strength for the impoverished, we ask for the hearts of the comfortable to be shattered with love for neighbors both known and unknown so that we may truly live in an Ubuntu world, erasing the line between the haves and have-nots and transforming the cosmos into Sacred Wholeness.

Peace I give to you, peace I leave with you.

Shalom and Amen.

~Terri

(c) 2013, post, Terri Stewart

(c) 2013, photo, Ted Eytan, CC AT-SA 2.0, http://www.flickr.com/photos/22526649@N03/11235545336/

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

What’s in a Name? Finding Sacred Space in Identity

Christening  (c) 2009, Paula Bailey CC 2.0
Christening

A little secret: I am preaching on Sunday. So today’s inspiration is gleaned from random thoughts about what I have been studying. And I have been studying names. In the Gospel of Matthew, the story of Jesus’ beginning has an angel telling Joseph the name for this baby:  Jesus. Jesus is the English form of Yeshua which is a form of Joshua. Yep. Joshua. Where have we heard that before? Joshua is the name of the guy in Hebrew scripture who takes the people into the promised land. How is that for being saddled with a name? Joshua also means, arguably, “God saves.” Additionally, Matthew references the Book of Isaiah and the name Immanuel, “God with us.”

And I think being saddled with a name like Terri is a problem! Well, I don’t really think it is a problem, but in second grade, I had problems. My reading teacher put masking tape on each reading book so she could write our names onto our book. I don’t know why, perhaps because I was as boisterous then as I am now, but she put “Terrible Terri” onto my second grade reader. I was distraught. But, being ever so bashful, I said, “no, you need to change this.” And then it became Terrific Terri. Just goes to show that advocacy has always been in my personality. But I was hurt that a teacher would label me as Terrible.

Naming, labeling, creates expectations that can hinder us or help us in our journey. I think the name “Terrible Terri” is a hindrance! But the name “God Saves”… well, it could go either way. You either live up to that name or you become completely overwhelmed. Or maybe even both! It can be both an inspiration and an absolutely terrifying expectation. I wonder if Jesus ever worried about getting it wrong? For example, he was out in the country, and this woman runs up to him asking for him to heal her daughter and he says, “I did not come for your kind…you’re like the dogs underfoot at the dinner table!” Ouch. I hope he at least winced at that one. He did not live up to the expectation, at that moment, of being the perfect picture of saving grace. But he grew into it as he changed his mind. (Matt 15:21-28) and included the very ordinary mother and her daughter in his ministry. That’s kind of inspiring, isn’t it? A picture of someone willing to listen, hear, and change. We don’t get much of that in our daily life. Witness: CNN, MSNBC, FOX. Maybe that is one place where “God saves.” When we engage in a relationship, listen to each other, hear what is said, and change for the better. That might be new growth. That might be creating sacred space. Can I get an Amen?

My son, Colin, is transgender. His original name was Caitlyn. Caitlyn means “pure.” Pure is quite a lot to live up to. When Colin came out, he chose his name. He chose Colin for two primary reasons-he likes the name and it was close enough to Caitlyn that it would be easier for people to make the transition. Colin has several options in its meaning, but since Caitlyn is of Irish origin, we decided to continue with the Irish origin (much to the Scottish family’s dismay!). Irish-ly speaking, Colin means “peaceful dove.” Hmm. I don’t think Colin is quite the peaceful dove, but maybe he will live into it. In fact, upon reflection, I think he has lived into it in many ways. He may not be a quiet, peaceful dove. But he does advocate for right relationship between people and has zero tolerance for bullying. Can you exuberantly advocate for peacefulness? I think so.

We finally took Colin in to get his name changed legally. The judge looked at the paperwork “Caitlyn” to “Colin,” looked at me, asked me if all the signatures were valid and if this was something “she” wanted. I answered, “My son desires to change his name to Colin.” The judge blinked. Looked back down at his paperwork and then decreed it so. Then Colin got 100 pats on the back as he left court. And not one negative word was said. He was beaming from ear to ear. This was his naming ceremony. The moment in time where he stepped into who he really was. It was important. There is something sacred in claiming yourself and knowing your own identity, your own story. There is also something very difficult in the process. And, it is ultimately a very loving act. Can you love yourself enough to know your name? Not the name slapped onto your second grade reader, but the name you choose? Is your name Inspiration? Compassion? Love? Challenge? Maybe your name is a complex amalgam of inspirational-compassion-that-challenges-while-whispering. (Well, I would not whisper, but you take my meaning?!)

What name do you claim? What name do you want to jettison? What name has claimed you?

Shalom and Amen!

~Terri

(c) 2013, post, Terri Stewart

(c) 2009, photo, Paula Bailey, cc licensed 2.0, http://www.flickr.com/photos/32625013@N00/4195762309/

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.beguineagain.com ,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in Guest Writer, Poems/Poetry

Children’s Hospital Waiting Room

file0001166466273From this side of this window-

through this glass looking

down seventeen stories –

the world is a odd place.

.

The smell of rain

has become a distant memory.

Taxi cabs – thick bugs.

People- so much seed

scattered on a hard path.

.

Who would have thought

a tiny swish rising

through a stethoscope

could so change everything.

.

Here we are a congregation

Of the suspended –

Inhabitants of a sanitized purgatory –

A communion of those who wait.

.

Here the priests and prophets

wear blue scrubs

and white paper masks.

.

Why, I ask, is it that your tiny heart,

no larger than your tiny hand,

should refuse to grow?

What providence has brought us here?

What karma? There is no answer

.

so we wait.

We wait for our names to be called.

We wait.

– Bill Cook

© 2011, poem, Bill Cook, All rights reserved
Photo courtesy of morgueFile

Re-blogged with the permission of Bill Cook, Poetry Matters. Bill is an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, serving a wonderfully diverse congregation.

  • His church: St. Paul UMC, Willingboro NJ.
  • BA. English Lit., Rutger’s, the State University, New Brunswick NJ.
  • M Div. New Brunswick Theological Seminary New Brunswick NJ.
  • D Min. Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC.
Posted in Peace & Justice, Poems/Poetry, Poets Against War Week

The Evolution Shall Be Blogged: Our “Poets Against War” Wrap-up and Collection

White Doves at Blue Mosque
White Doves at Blue Mosque

There are people for whom poetry exists almost exclusively as an aid to social change – not as some sort of didacticism – but as a discussion, a wake up call, a way of approaching some truth, finding some meaning, encouraging resolution. Most of the folks who participated in this Bardo community event aren’t among them. They are as likely to write about the beautiful flowers that have just popped on their orchid as they are to write a poem calling for change, peace and justice. But it does happen and quite often:  a horrific war photo, a news report of an injustice, a homeless person outside the grocery, a friend in pain that can be traced to some social issues, and the words start to flow. There’s the urge to respond, to do something . . .

As I make my way around the blogosphere, I am touched to see how many people blog for causes – “worthy” causes as my mom would say – and I know that “worthy” is in the eye of the reader. War is big. For those bloggers who are pacifists, this medium offers one means of passive resistance. Perhaps passivism is the strongest form of resistance and poetry the conscience of the collective soul.

I can’t help but think that the peace and justice so many of us seek is rooted in transforming values. Hence, it is more evolutionary than revolutionary. It is perhaps so gradual but pervasive that it is more evident in our blogosphere than it is in the sensationalism of mainstream media. Perhaps it is more evident in the heart-born prose and poems of simple folk like you and me with nary a pundit or politician among us. Maybe it’s a bottom-up thing, more likely to be blogged than broadcast, rising from homespun poetry – outsider literary art – sometimes rudimentary and awkward, but always quiet and true and slow like a secret whispered from one person to the next. Maybe it is something stewing even as we write, read, and encourage one another. It could be there is some bone and muscle in what we do. Individually we have miniscule “audiences.” Collectively we speak to enormous and geographically diverse populations. Or perhaps it just that poetic fancy has caught my spirit tonight and all is dream …I hope not.  Poem  on … And thank you for your participation.

So let some impact from my words echo resonance and 
lend impulse to the bright looming dawn
Dennis Brutus (1924 – 2009), South African Poet/Activist

– © 2013 Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day)

Featured Poem #1:

No mother’s arms shall cradle you
Nor gentle voice shall ease your heart
Nor call to you, through smoke and gun
Though you are lost, war-torn apart

Your mother’s eyes are filled with fear
They shall not weep, not shed a tear
For you, might one day come to gloat
And slice your blade across her throat

You devilled child of generation
Lost, forgotten by a nation.
Eyes of stone that cannot feel
Go crazed beneath a general’s heel

You play with guns, the Russian grades
In school of steel and AKA’s
And fall where shot, unfriended lie
On burning ground, but none shall cry

To moisten fire of barren earth
Or plant a stick to mark your birth

When tiny body finds its grave
Bones are bleached and none can save
Your soul, that cries to scorching sky ~
Where is my home, why did I die?

– © 2013 Niamh Clune (On the Plum Tree)

Featured Poem #2

Each one came, soldier, marine, airman, frogwalking quietly as if wrapped from within
the cocoon of his own world.War’s sad energy like a gray
heavy mist lay upon the shoulders of each,
reality spiking their dull black piercing shadows.Each man sat at the table abandoned.
“Just a word”?
“Coffee please”.“May we write yet?”
And then he stood.
A large and heavy presence, poorly balanced.He shouted …
“Don’t you see them?
There, in the corners … one in each corner.”“How dare they come here?
I ought-a know,
I was with the CIA.”Then he sat down defeated again.
He seemed to relax until another
Stream of madness crept out of his throat.“I will NOT be giving you a sample today!
There will be no writing samples.
THEY … are here for that reason you know, to collect them.”And I thought to myself,
Does the madness hide the pain?
Or perhaps this pain drives one mad.2008 © Liz Rice-Sosne (noh where)

Poets Against War Poetry Collection

These are listed in the order that I received them. Please visit one another: read, comment, encourage. I think I’ve captured all the links, but if I missed someone, I’m sorry. Please just put the link in again in the comments below and I will add it here. Thank you! J.D.

I Consider Myself by Renee Espriu, Turtle Flight, My Muse & Angels

Peace, always by Blaga Todorova, Between the Shadows and the Soul

the magic wand by Sharmishtha Basu, Sharmishtha Basu’s poetries

War by Reena Presad, Butterflies of Time

Wake up by Reena Presad, Butteflies of Time

Peace Embrace by Rev. Terri Stewar, CloakedMonk

The Irony of War by Victoria C. Slotto, Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts

Peace and War and Pieces of Human Beings on the Ground, Amy Barlow Liberato, Sharp Little Pencil

peace would be radical by Jamie Dedes, The Poet by Day, the journey in poem

Let’s merge our voices by Nadira Fromkannur, Dreaming Through the Night

Poems for Peace by Liz Rice-Stone, noh where

Think by John Anstie, My Poetry Library

In the Name of Love, A Poem to All World Leaders by T. J. Therien, Liars, Hypocrites & The Development of Human Emotions

Unite for Peace by Sue Dreamwalker, Dreamwalker’s Sanctuary

The Last Horseman Is the One Who Counts by Corina L. Ravenscraft, Dragon’s Dreams

Price Check by Corina L. Ravenscraft, Dragon’s Dreams

again by Charles W. Martin, Reading Between the Minds

Twenty Nine by John Anstie, My Poetry Library

conjugating wars by Liliana Negoi, Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru

For the kindness of reblogging the original announcement of this event, thanks to Reena Prasad, Renee EspirituTerri Stewart, George-b, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, Nadira Fromkannur, and John Anstie. (Please let me know if I left you out. J.D.)

And in closing, here is John Anstie’s re-articulation of our mission:

“. . . at its core is a spiritual aspiration for the moral (and perhaps literary) high ground – and that is not, in any shape or form, intended to be an arrogant position – it is, above all, the fact that it is the mission of ‘Into The Bardo’ to present a pan-religious, non-partisan, de-polarised, maybe even universal picture of humanity and the challenges we face . . .” John Anstie (My Poetry Library and 42)

Posted in Mortality, Peace & Justice, teacher

“THE TRUE WARRIOR”-The one who sacrifices himself for the good of others!!!!!!

Thanks to WhiteCrow for sharing the wisdom of Sitting Bull. J.D.

whitecrow12013's Blog

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Posted in Essay, Michael Watson, Nature

The Crow

A few weeks ago we posted a Facebook video about a raven asking people for aid. The raven had encountered a porcupine and had quills embedded in its face. A couple of weeks later, we returned from our time in Maine to discover a severely injured a crow (close cousin to the Raven) in our back yard. Neighbors informed us the crow had slowly, with great intent, worked its way from the woods to our yard.

Beach Roses, MaineThe crow appeared to have a broken wing and was having difficulty standing. Upon closer inspection we discovered its foot was caught in a vine. The crow allowed me to release the trapped foot which appeared to help a little. We then offer the bird food and water, which it mostly ignored; it seemed to welcome a little gentle stroking. We then made phone calls. A former bird rehabilitator suggested we provide a box for shelter for the night as rain threatened. We then waited to hear from the crow specialist.

Yesterday morning the crow was still in our yard. Jennie took a neighbor’s advice and offered it some hard-boiled egg. The crow ate a very small portion. It seemed to be in pain so we talked over next steps, carefully weighing our options. Then the rehibilitator called; he could not make it to our house till evening, but suggested we place the crow in a cat carrier to keep it safe until he arrived. I carefully lifted the bird into the carrier and the crow fell on its side. We removed the bird briefly and placed some rags in the base of the carrier to offer some cushioning. When we returned the very large crow to the carrier we realized the bird, given the broken wing, was too large for it. We also realized the bird was not likely to survive, and after consulting the crow specialist, decided to take it to a vet to be put down.

I lifted it once more and placed it in a large recycling tub. As I was about to put the tub in the car, the crow looked me squarely in the eye, squawked loudly three times, and died. My strong impression was that the crow was expressing appreciation for our efforts, and probably chastising us a little for causing it pain. Anthropomorphizing? One had to be there.

We carefully buried the crow, performing ceremony for it. We had seen no other crows since our return, a strange absence given their frequenting of our yard and woods, and the presence of an injured member of the flock. We wondered whether the visiting crow had been ostracized by the flock. During the burial and ceremony I heard a solitary squawk from far away.

We were left with great sadness that we had, in our efforts to aid, caused the crow suffering, yet gratitude the crow had come to us. Today the sadness lingers. We are reminded of Crow’s large spirit, great intelligence and keen intent. We wish this crow a speedy and safe journey into the spirit world.

Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Creative Nonfiction, Priscilla Galasso, Story Telling, Photo Story

“Jerry,” Faulkner and the Laundromat

0014the work of Priscilla Galasso  

“The Bardo” is a place of transition, perhaps akin to Purgatory. It is common ground and a sacred space of sorts. It’s intriguing to think of the Laundromat as a place like that  . . .

David Attenborough makes a point in The Life of Mammals video about “Social Climbers” – monkeys. He says that you can tell how large a monkey’s social group is by the size of his brain. Baboons live in large, complex social structures and have the largest brains of all the monkeys. Surviving and thriving in a social environment means that you have to be able to assess situations and make an array of decisions – how to make allies and with whom, how and when and whom to fight, how to secure a mate and improve your chances of passing on your genes. Navigating social life is even more brain-bending if you’re human, I think. More subtleties are involved. Here’s a case in point: the laundromat.

When Jim and I were first married, I did laundry at the laundromat. I hated going there, for several reasons. First of all, I was pregnant. The smells nauseated me; the physical demands of standing to fold and hoisting large loads of clothes around exhausted me. It was a depressing place to be physically, but perhaps even more uncomfortable was the social aspect. You never know what strangers you might encounter. I have had some rather pleasant days at the laundromat. I met a psychic, once, who was very interesting. She could tell I was skeptical and not receptive, but she kept on talking to me nevertheless. Gradually, I relaxed and figured out how to respect her and appreciate her and communicate that to her. We parted with a hug and wished each other well. Mostly, I get a pleasant experience if I can do my laundry in silence and read a few short stories at the same time. What I often find is that the laundromat is a place to observe human suffering, my own and others’.

I happened to have selected a book of short stories by William Faulkner as my laundry companion. I grabbed it off of Steve’s stack figuring that short stories would fit nicely into those periods of time between cycles, and I wouldn’t mind being interrupted or distracted as much as I would if I were trying to tackle “heavier” reading. What I didn’t think about was that these stories of post-Civil War race relations would be cast for me on a backdrop of the urban reality of this century…and that the same awkward tensions would result. I felt like some of his characters, eavesdropping in the kitchen, when people in the laundromat would chatter on their cell phones to friends and social agents. Outwardly, I guess I was trying to be invisible. I couldn’t help picking up snatches of their lives and wondering about their stories. For example, Jerry and his family…

I’ve seen Jerry twice now. Yesterday, I recognized him as I approached the laundromat. He was wearing a diaper under sweatpants, shoes, and no shirt. He was hitting his head repeatedly and grunting. Or maybe it was more like moaning. The woman he was with may have been his mother. She was in a wheelchair with an artificial leg that looked like a sandbag. He was with another woman as well, perhaps his sister. She was the one doing the laundry. I remembered them from a month ago. They came with about seven large, black garbage bags full of clothes. They took a social services shuttle bus to get there; I knew this from hearing the mother make cell phone calls about being picked up. This woman had the sweetest, kindest voice you would ever hope to hear. Her voice was full of compassion and pain; it was lilting and rich and Southern. I would cast her as a black Mammy in one of Faulkner’s stories. Her manners were impeccable. If she had to pass around me, she excused herself, and I felt like apologizing profusely for being in the way. Her daughter (?), the other woman, spoke almost unintelligibly as she did the laundry and corralled Jerry. Even the woman in the wheelchair told her, “I can’t understand what you’re saying.” Jerry likes to wander. They don’t want him to wander out to the street and get hit by a car. They don’t want him to bother the other people in the building. Their voices called out periodically, “Jerry. Jerry, come over here.” “Jerry, honey. Stop! Jerry, come here.”

When Jerry wanders near me, I don’t know what to do. I keep my head down and my eyes in my book. Would I frighten him if I made eye contact? Would he frighten me? Another gentleman was there. He helped bring Jerry back inside when he wandered out. The mother thanked him, “You’re so sweet. Thank you, sir.” They exchanged names. He told her that he has a grandson who was hit by a car at age seven; the grandson is now twenty-five and has brain damage. “Oh, so you know. You understand,” she sighed. I learned that Jerry is thirty-two years old.

In the other corner of the room, there was a mother with a five-year old daughter, London. She looked about five, anyway. London had a pacifier. I heard her mother yelling at her. “London! Get up offa that floor! Sit your butt down here!” Her voice was sharp and angry. London began to cry. There is not much to interest a five-year-old in the laundromat. She hadn’t brought any toys or books to occupy her.

The mother talked on her cell phone while London played with the lid of the laundry hamper. I made eye contact with the child as we went about our business. She silently bent her wrist toward me, while sucking her pacifier. “Oh, did you hurt yourself?” I asked. “London! Get out of the way!” her mother said.

In the Faulkner story, Master Saucier Weddell is trying to get back to Mississippi from Virginia. He is the defeated. He and his traveling companion, his former slave who is very attached to him and his family, find themselves in Tennessee at a farmhouse. These victors are extremely suspicious. They think Mr. Weddell is a Negro. Actually, he’s Cherokee and French. The story is short, but intense. The traveler and the farmer’s younger son end up being killed in an ambush by the farmer and his Union soldier son, Vatch. The last two sentences read, “He watched the rifle elongate and then rise and diminish slowly and become a round spot against the white shape of Vatch’s face like a period on a page. Crouching, the Negro’s eyes rushed wild and steady and red, like those of a cornered animal.”

I finished my laundry in silence. I waved my fingers and mouthed “goodbye” to London who had been banished to the corner. Her mother didn’t see me.

At home, the late afternoon sun shines down on the quilt on my bed. Steve isn’t home, and it’s very quiet. I feel like crying. My brain is not big enough to figure out why.

– Pricilla Galasso

© 2013, story/creative nonfiction and photographs, Pricilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ is a contributor to Into the Bardo. She started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

“My courage is in the affirmation of my part in co-creation”, she wrote in her first published poem, composed on her thirtieth birthday and submitted alongside her seven-year-old daughter’s poem to Cricket magazine. Her spiritual evolution began in an Episcopal environment and changed in pivotal moments: as a teenager, her twenty-year-old sister died next to her in a car crash and, decades later, Priscilla’s husband and the father of her four children died of coronary artery disease and diabetes in his sleep at the age of forty-seven  Awakening to mindfulness and reconsidering established thought patterns continues to be an important part of her life work.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Posted in Essay, Jamie Dedes

Goddess Mothers and True Heroes

“All you need is a sense that there is no such thing as ‘no’ and everything is possible.” Moira Kelly

This shining face, this sweet spirit with reason to be bitter and yet he is not. He is a hero and pure inspiration. When our own Naomi Baltuck posted this video on Facebook, I was as touched as anyone would be. I had to wonder though about his mom. What kind of hero is she, I thought, remembering the heroes of my childhood: Josephine Baker and my spiritual mother, Pearl Buck. Each of these women grew their families in unique – and extraordinarily unselfish – ways.

“All my life, I have maintained that the people of the world can learn to live together in peace if they are not brought up in prejudice.”  Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Josephine_Baker_1950Josephine Baker was born in America but became a French citizen. She was a dancer, singer, actress and civil-rights activist.  As a child living in St. Louis, Missouri, she suffered from discrimination, abandonment, and poverty.  As an adult she had one miscarriage. She adopted twelve children, two girls and ten boys. They were from diverse races and cultures because, in addition to caring for them, she wanted to show that people can get along despite their different backgrounds. In the early ’80s two of her sons went into business together. They started Chez Josephine, which is on Theatre Row (42nd Street) in Manhattan. They dedicated the restaurant to their adoptive mom’s memory and decorated it with her memorabilia.

“. . .  the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Pearl Buck (1892-1973)

220px-Pearl_Buck_(Nobel)Pearl Buck was an American novelist, writer, humanitarian and the first woman to be awarded the Noble Prize in Literature (1938).  She grew up in China and spent most of her life there until 1934. She had a deep affection for and knowledge of the countries of the East, not just China. She suffered through the Nanking Incident when the National Revolutionary Army captured Nanking (now Nanjing) in 1927.  Many Westerners were killed, their homes destroyed, and their property stolen.  Her only biological child, Carol, had phenylketonuria (PKU), which causes mental retardation and seizures.  She adopted seven children. At a time when mixed-race children were considered unadoptable, Pearl Buck founded Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. Welcome House has placed some five thousand children since it was established 1949.

“The greatest act of kindness changes generations. Wherever there is the greatest evil, the greatest good can be achieved.” Moira Kelly (b. 1964)

emmanuel-kellyThis brings us to a contemporary hero: the mother of Emanuel Kelly, the young man in the video. Moira Kelly is an Australian humanitarian whose work has garnered her many awards and acknowledgements.  When she was eight years old, after seeing a movie about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (now Kolkata), Moira committed herself to working with disadvantaged children.  She is the legal guardian of twins from Bangladesh, Trisha and Krishna. They are surgically separated but originally cranially conjoined twins.  Moira Kelly also adopted the Iraqi-born Emmanuel and his brother Ahmet, both born with underdeveloped limbs. Among her efforts is Children First Foundation, formed to provide transportation and healthcare for children with urgent needs in developing countries.

These women are mothers in the best senses of that word. Their ideals are real and they stand by them. They have saved children from abandonment and loneliness, from poverty and hopelessness and, in some cases, from early death. They are goddess mothers and true heroes.

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Video uploaded to YouTube by DrReaps
Photographs of Josephine Baker and Pearl Buck are in the U.S. Public Domain.
I don’t know the origin or copyright of the photograph of Moira Kelly and her sons. If it is yours, let me know and I’ll credit you or take it down as you wish.

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Posted in General Interest, Peace & Justice, Photography/Photographer

Stolen Childhoods

If Steve McCurry’s name doesn’t ring a bell, think of the iconic photograph “Afghan Girl” that appeared in National Geographic. He is a world-renowned photographer with a compassionate lense. In this series from his blog (be sure to link through to see it all and to follow him, worthwhile), he shares photographs of working children from around the world. Perhaps when we are tempted to complain about our lives and our fate, we just shouldn’t. This will move all of us. The question is, what will it move us to do? What are prayers and metta practice if they don’t have feet? Jamie

Posted in Spiritual Practice, story, Terri Stewart

What are you witness to?

tracy-arm-fjord-copy

What are you witness to? What story have you seen? Where has grace moved in your life?

I’ve just returned from vacation. There were so many stories told if I just slowed down and listened or watched. There was the mother holding a young child’s hands as he ran along the pool’s edge; the young man from Indonesia who works day after day with no days off; the staff who rush to the port side of the boat so they can see where we are going or have been, their only contact with a new world from a distance or from behind a camera.

Grace moved in my heart at every encounter with the people and with the striking depth of beauty that we encountered in the natural beauty of Alaska and the surrounding area. Grace moved in my heart when I was able to experience living through the eyes of compassion in this rarefied environment. Love, beauty, and grace coalescing in my rib cage.

I wrote a series of haiku witnessing to the stark beauty in the Tracy Arm Fjord that I offer here along with a photo from that day.  These haiku were primarily inspired by the waters while we were entering into the Tracy Arm Fjord, which were quite different from the waters once we were sitting still.  The arrival waters were deeper, grayer, more choppy and more mysterious.

The photo is from a moment of stillness in waters littered with small icebergs. Click on the photo to see an expanded view. To browse through the unedited photos, you can go to my flickr site.

glacier fed wind

whips across cresting waters

reflecting sun’s glory

frenzied wind

stirring waters to white peaks

be still my soul

shrouded grey waters

revealing iceberg tips

depths hidden

– Terri Stewart

© 2013, essay, haiku, and photograph, Terri Stewart, all rights reserved

Terri StewartTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday Chaplain, Senior Content Editor, and Site Co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk,  and  www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.