Saturday, March 14, 2015

Treasuring the Earth

Affirmations:  I treasure our planet Earth and recognize my responsibility to care for it.

Carolyn Tobin was the presenter at A Place for Women to Gather for the program titled, Sacred Time but the topic on which she spoke was broader and deeper than that of time.  I didn't think that was possible but I was wrong and I was immediately enamored with her subject.  She was there to speak about saving the human race, saving the universe and saving ourselves.  I'm ready!  Tell me there's a way to help in this most important work and I shall do my part, although I was very doubtful about what I, one little lady living in the comfort of North Carolina could possibly do that would help save man-kind or woman-kind.  Once again, I was being challenged to rise up and exert whatever power I did have to make a difference in this frightening world of ours.  Is this my Lenten mission?  This same topic of making a difference in the world had appeared numerous times over the last few weeks, actually over the last couple of years.  I am being led to "do more" or at least to "do something."  What was Carolyn offering me that would enable me, no, empower me to heal the world?

This woman was a student of Thomas Berry and she had recently published a book about their conversations, Recovering a Sense of the Sacred.   What philosophy was being promoted?  Is it an approach in which I can be active?  Is it an approach in which I can believe and adopt? Actually, it was even more than that; it was a life lesson for making a shift in my life with the added effect of changing the world.  She and Thomas are calling us to reconnect with the earth, to reconnect with nature.  I was being asked to embrace my roots.  I was being directed to fully embrace our universe by taking the time to appreciate its gifts and to protect them and to reach out and share this approach with anyone and everyone within my life's circle.  So, here I am sharing this philosophy, maybe even better described as a theology, with all the people who read these missives.

Once again my lesson is coming to me in many different forms.  The first was Carolyn's lecture, then I read her delightful, insightful book and within the same week, I had the opportunity to visit the Conservatory in Washington, DC and marvel at the variety of plants our earth provides.  The Conservatory takes you from the early 1800s when plants were first being collected until today and also from the mountain foliage to that of the jungle and tropical.  The first plant we saw when we walked into the greenhouse was a cacao tree.  It took my breath away.  There were these huge yellow pods just hanging off the side of the tree.  They were ready to be harvested and turned into cacao butter and chocolate.  Each turn took us to another miracle: banana trees, fruit trees, ferns and cacti, lovely succulents and gorgeous orchids, every kind of tree and plant imaginable.  I was more aware of the gifts in front of us because of the lecture I had recently attended.

I'm not much of a gardener.  I'm not even too good at houseplants.  I have had gardens over the years, mostly vegetables but I'm a city girl raised on a very busy highway with about eight square feet of lawn in front of our house and a small strip of dirt in the back for the dog to relieve himself.  We never grew anything.  We tried planting watermelon seeds one spring but other than a massive vine, we didn't get any fruit.  As an adult, as the care of the inside of our homes became more demanding, I spent less and less time outside in the dirt.  Now, I was being called to reconnect with the earth.  After Carolyn led us in a guided mediation, she asked us what we believed we could do to make a difference.  I had had a very clear message, "Jean Anne, go outside." I have begun to work out a way to start and to nurture that process.  Why?  What is the message Carolyn is relaying from Thomas?

The only way to save the earth and humankind is to embrace nature.  We are being called not to simply see our world as a place to meet our needs but as a place for which we are responsible and which needs our care and nurturing.  It is time for me to recognize that unless we embrace our universe and all its majesty and miracles, it will not continue to thrive and if it is depleted and not appreciated, our existence will be compromised, if we are not made extinct.  Thomas Berry declared, "As we practice a presence to the natural world through our intuition we come to know ourselves, not simply as physical beings, but as spiritual beings.  We humans are modes of the Divine presence who have forgotten our identity with creation. We are one earth community that lives or dies together.  We depend on the earth to sustain us in body and soul.  We come into relationship to it instead of establishing an identity over and against it."

The rest of this week's lesson came when we entered the Native American Museum in DC.  We began our tour on the fourth floor where several of the larger tribes had been invited to display their heritage.  There were stories about their costumes, their dances and songs and especially about their reverence for Mother Earth: for the plants, the animals, the stars and the wind.  They honored all four of our elements: water, fire, wind and earth.  They not only experienced nature, they treasured it.  They don't just consume it.  Even more important is that their major concern is teaching these lessons to the next generation and letting them know that they were responsible for all their future generations. "How will this decisions affect my seventh generation?" was and is one of their key lessons.

My awareness of God's miracles seen in nature and my responsibility to honor and treasure those gifts, have already begun to blossom.  I am determined to "go outside" more often and to meditate on the stars as well as the weeds.  I will tenderly hold a flower or attentively listen to the bird's song.  I may not be able to care for the whole planet but I am more than capable of caring for my small piece of it here in North Carolina and perhaps by heightening my awareness my tiny steps will make a difference in our universe. I believe that my efforts will have the added gift of not just appreciating our earth, but will lead me to a greater appreciation, perhaps a greater connection to the Divine and to my God.  By learning to treasure the earth, I'll be able to have hope that my seventh generation will not only still be here on this planet and not off living on Mars or a satellite but thriving right here on this amazing planet Earth.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Buddy, Answered Prayer

Affirmation:  I believe in answered prayer.  

Buddy was a Brittany, not a Brittany Spaniel which is a common mistake because the breed looks like a Spaniel, somewhere between a Cocker and a King Charles. They are, however, their own special breed and special was Buddy.  He was orange and white and as far as we were concerned he was the most beautiful dog ever, inside and out.  

I was searching for a new dog.  We'd had dogs most of our lives and at the time we only had Misty, our cat that had adopted us a few years earlier.  She was only allowed in the garage because the children were allergic to cats.  That lasted about month and now she ruled the entire house whether people were sneezing or not.  

This time I was determined to get a dog that was appropriate for our family. We hadn't always been successful with our adoptions.  Ralph was a prime example.  He was a hyper Dalmatian who consumed a picnic table, did several thousand dollar's worth of damage to one of our cars when he wanted to get in and play with the children and sprayed all the furniture to insure that his territory was marked.  After a year or so we were able to find a farmer that wanted to care for him.  It had been a very trying experience.  He wasn't the only dog we had issues with and I was very hesitant to take on another pet with which I would fail.  I am not the best "dog person." I might as well admit it.  I am not a Caesar Milano, the dog whisperer.  I'm not sure I have a single gene that enables me to respond appropriately to a dog's deepest desires.  I'm a good caregiver, please understand.  I feed, shelter, offer warm cozy beds and long walks and good medial care.  I even undergo lots of training sessions but I can't seem to hear their inner most concerns.  It didn't matter with Buddy.  Perhaps one of the reasons we did better with him was because he came to us at eleven months of age and was already somewhat trained or maybe it was because I had asked God whether or not to adopt him and God had sent a very clear message.  

When I "found" Buddy I had gone and sat quietly to pray about adopting him.  I don't know what I expected but I'd read a lot about praying for specific answers and I was desperate.  I didn't want to disappoint another animal with my inability to create a livable space for it and for the family.  I was afraid.  So, I went and sat.  I prayed, "God what should I do?  Should I allow this animal to come into our home?" and then I waited.  I was prepared to wait for as long as it took.  It wasn't more than a couple of breaths when I "heard," "It won't be easy, but it will be worth it."  I was stunned but there it was, my answer.  I stood up, called the breeder and a week later Buddy was being delivered to us by the New Jersey breeders who “happened” to be driving to their new home here in North Carolina.  It was destiny. I'm here to tell you, God was right.  I had my struggles but it was really really worth it.  Buddy lived with us for fourteen years and he was the best dog ever.  He's been gone now for six years but we still have his ashes and his photo in our bedroom!  I'm crying as I write this.  I know many of you completely understand.

My friend, Mary Ann Scope, recently put down her English Bulldog and long time friend.  That's what prompted this story.  She said she cried for days, she's probably still crying, like me.  My other friend, Tracie Barton-Barrett is in the process of writing a book about grieving for our pets.  It's a reality, isn't it?  There are so many life lessons we experience through them.  The most important lesson being that of unconditional love.  I have one photo of Buddy where he had gathered all of my sneakers.  He had a "soft mouth" because he was a bird dog.  He dropped them all around his bed and then snuggled in for a nap.  

My husband, Sandy, loves to tell the story about when I was gone for six weeks doing my yoga training at Kripalu.  Buddy waited outside the back door, in the garage, every day until I finally returned,  He had slept with Sandy every night in our bed until the night I came home when he wouldn't come up even when called.  He was just fine going back to his own bed next to ours.  I was home and he was good again.  Amazing!

Sandy shared his tiny family home with a dog named Missy.  She was a Doberman they found in their back yard.  She was very protective of that family!  When he went to see his father's office, he was struck by the fact that the only picture Joe had on his desk was of the dog.  He asked where the other family photos were and his father told him, "Missy is the only one that runs to the door to greet me when I come home."  There it is again, unconditional love, total devotion; all the qualities we wished we and our loved one's emulated.  

There have been hundreds of doggie movies about their journeys around the globe in an effort to return to their owners.  One we recently watched is Red Dog, an Australian film about a dog and his deceased owner.  It's a great example of how much they love us and affirm us regardless of who we are or how dumb we are.

My adult daughter, Melissa and my grand-daughter, Isabelle, volunteer at the Wake County SPCA.  They are "dog people."  They always have at least two dogs in their home.  Recently, they brought home Gibson, a six weeks old mixed breed.  What joy!  Gibson discovered a pin cushion on the top of the dining room table.  He didn't eat it, but he did eat the thirteen pins and one needle.  Their rescue dog needed several thousand dollars of surgery.  They were saving for a new roof but their priorities were with this new guy who has brought smiles and giggles and once again, the unconditional love of a pet.  

We are presently "pet free," but I am beginning to open my heart and mind to maybe adopting another dog, maybe!  I haven't found one yet who is asking to come here.  Once again, however, if one does come a knocking, I plan to sit with God and find out what the message is for us.  It won't surprise me at all if once again I am told, "it won't be easy but it'll be worth it."