Here Comes the Sun – Hope for Light in the Shadows

Here comes the sun. Today is full of sunlight. That doesn’t necessarily mean there is warmth. Yet, we all know that the coming sun promises of coming warmth. That’s always our hope especially after a winter as tough as the one that is still passing. My dear friend Alicia posted this wonderful picture saying, “Here Comes the Sun” and the photo is a perfect example of what we wait for during Holy Week. I think this picture is a perfect representation because there is the sun, but there are also shadows.

Here Comes the Sun, by Alicia Randolph Rapking

 

We all know that in the shadows, things can be cold. We live in a world of shadow. There are times when we read the news or argue with a loved one and it seems like the shadows are overcoming the world. As we enter into Holy Week, we enter a time where we are still in the shadows, but the promise of light is there shining brighter than the darkness.

Yesterday, we were without power here on Beech Mountain. Because of the snow on Friday and Saturday, then rain, well the mountain is basically a large ice cube. In order to keep the pipes from freezing, me and the dog tended a fire for twelve hours instead of attending church. It was Palm Sunday yesterday, but for me it was a day of keeping the fire going.

 

Yet, as I think about the meaning behind Palm Sunday and Holy Week, isn’t that what we are doing too? We are keeping the fire of hope and light alive in a cold and cruel world. By reenacting what happened in that dark time, we are remembering that life can be dark, but there is also promise of light.

 

As the days go by, the ground will warm. People have already begun to plant seeds for sprouting. Why now, when winter is still at our door? Because we know the sun comes around. Preparing the seeds, putting chicks in brooders, checking out dormant garden beds are ways that we all look to brighter days ahead. We all need such reminders in our lives.

 

Planting seeds can be discouraging too. Sometimes the things we sprout, dry up because we forget to water them or perhaps it was not fully germinated. There are sometimes things we just cannot know. I remember buying a goat one year and was so excited for only the goat to die suddenly. When I talked to people about what I might have done to better protect the goat, the sad answer given was that sometimes goats got sick with no warning. Sometimes bad things happen in our lives and there’s no way we could anticipate the tragedy or hurt. Sometimes we know a storm is coming and yet, it still throws us for a loop. If there were only shadows, only the cold cruel realities of life, it would be hard for us to go on.

Here comes the sun. Where? Look in the mirror. You are the sun. You are the one bringing light and hope to the world. Whether you do it by marching or by acts of kindness, our world needs you to shine. Shine a smile on the walk at your lunch break. Stop to pet a dog. Call a congress member or state representative. Here’s the important thing to remember: You are not alone. You are just a ray. You don’t have to be responsible for lighting up the entire world, just your corner of the world. Just your spot.

 

Here’s another important thing to remember. You are the seed. There are times that you cannot shine because so much humus has been composted on your head. That means you have to wait for others to shine a light so that you can grow into something new. Have you ever seen how a seed starts to sprout? It is so fascinating to watch. The seed is planted and is hard as stone. Then the moisture of the earth and the warmth of the sun causes the seed to soften. Soon, a tendril of new life comes out of the seed’s cover; the shell that kept everything hard. As the tendril grows, the seed begins to change shape and sheds the testa, and in shedding that hard seed coating becomes something totally different – a plant. Seeds? What does a seed have to do with the sun?

The gardeners reading this know the answer and perhaps you do too. New life. When the sun comes out we are hoping for new life. After a long winter, we all need to get out of our cabins, apartments, condos and be present in a different way. We may want to dig in the dirt, hike, or go to the beech. New life. What brings you new life? What brings light into your shadows? For me, worship, poetry, music, family, pets, and friends bring light into my life. The last time I talked with my mom, she reminisced about singing a song called, “I wanna be a Sunbeam.” She sang it to me, but I can’t sing it back. Yet, even that memory of mom singing to me over the phone brings light into my heart.

Today I have the opportunity to talk about my coming out process as a religious person. I see this as an opportunity to spread light and hope. My faith always gives me hope, even in the darkest of times. It is through my faith that I felt led to come out and accept myself. As a result, my life began changing in ways that many did not expect. Coming out is a process like a seed sprouting. One feels vulnerable every time, as tender as a young plant’s shoot. But by coming out, we can plant seeds of kindness and hope for others. We can be sunbeams and rays of hope in a hurting world. Here comes the sun and it wants to shine in your shadow places. Let there be light. Let the plant grow. Learn to be yourself in rays of hope. Here comes the sun.

 

 

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Not Dead Yet – The Disabled Hiker

 

Start of the trail to Crab Orchard Falls.

I wave at the girl coming down the path to assure that she saw my dog, Birdie. While Birdie won’t pull me down, the large dog with her could easily pull her off the path and down the steep hill. She nods an acknowledgement. I ask her if the path is the one to the water falls. She ignores me. I see she has ear buds in so it could be she didn’t hear me. It saddens me that she missed out on the beautiful sounds of nature while she hikes.

I decide that me and Birdie will follow that path anyway. It is the likely correct path to the Crab Orchard Falls. There are signs but they are pointed in strange directions. Perhaps some prank by a youth walking by, perhaps some animal brushed against it for a scratch. There are bears and deer in the area. A sign would make a good scratcher

Birdie is being a pill today and pulling harder than ever. She woke up on the bossy side of the bed. At first I hooked her to my bag so she would have a longer leash. We didn’t walk far before it was clear that she would need to be tied around my hips so she would know who was really in charge. Also, maybe she would help me walk farther. I used an old ski pole to stay balanced. Once everything is hooked safely, we start up the hill.

Immediately I had to turn to take a photo of the fields below us. The snow had kept the skies so gray. Then the rain kept it grayer still and the fog thicker than pea soup. It was nice to have a clear day. Streisand was right, that on a clear day you can see forever. At least, the beauty of this day reaches beyond the ordinary.

Below me is the Valle Crucis Conference Center

 

When I first began having problems with balance and pain management, I was discouraged that I would have to give up hiking. I love to hike and always have. I learned how to hike with asthma and did fine for years. When my marriage broke up because of my disability I argued that “I am not dead yet!” Now that I’ve had to move and the air is cooler, that turns into a motto of sorts. Whenever I get down, I remind myself that I am not dead yet and change my attitude.

Discovering that there are tons of trails on Beech Mountain and also near my church, I’ve made up my mind that I will find a way to hike. At least if I die on a trail, I will die happy!

That being said, my goal is always to stay well. I’m learning these helpful things.

  1. It’s okay to go slow no matter what the dog says (or the humans who might hike with you). When I walk too fast my arthritis complains more. It can also trigger asthma.
  2. Stop and rest along the way. Each time I stop, I also look back the way I came to ask if I think I could make it back. When I first tried to hike with my current disabilities, I always forgot the hike back. There were times I was in so much pain or my asthma was scary because I forgot this vital piece of information – do a health check to make sure you can go back the way you came. If you are unsure, it is better to turn back and go home. The trail will be there for another day. At least you showed up! That is the first step to getting back on the trail.
  3. Be okay with people passing you. Yes, it is awkward at times. When I first hiked Waterrock Knob in Waynesville, I had to sit down on the rocks and sometime the very path where I had to walk. This meant for people in a hurry to go up or down the path, they had to watch me struggle to get up and out of the way. Yes, it was awkward for us both, but that day I knew I had to make the hike. It was the first time I tried to hike and the first Father’s Day without my dad. There were some sixth graders who passed me and were rather rude. They were sixth graders. Who cares if they laugh or make eyes? They are the sixth graders, and not us. It’s okay to let people pass you or see you sitting.
  4. This actually should be #1 on this list. I leave it in this section because it goes with today’s hike. Don’t forget your water! My meds make my mouth dry. No, I don’t want to have to take a leak while on the trail, but you don’t want to be parched either. Besides, your dog might also need a sip. Today Birdie and I were both too thirsty to keep hiking.
  5. Enjoy the close up, detailed view. We don’t know how much we miss by simply hiking up to a view and then back down to our busy lives. By stopping and sitting, catching my breath, doing a health check up, I have been amazed at the beauty that the fast hikers are missing. Slowing down and having to stop every so often has not lessened the pleasure of hiking, but heightened and deepened the joy. Don’t miss the beauty at hand.
  6. It’s okay if you don’t reach the destination. Yes, it may be disappointing, but the goal is to remain active and still get to hike. Today I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to the waterfall. Although the path evened out for a time, it turned rocky and started uphill again. I stopped, looked behind me and asked if I could easily make it down. Then I looked up the hill and knew I couldn’t go on. Also, by stopping, I could feel the pain in my feet throbbing. By pausing, I could feel how labored my breathing was and realized it was too hot for me to go further without having an asthma attack. So I turned and started back down.
  7. Focus on what you DID do rather than what you couldn’t do.
  8. Remember that life is about being on a journey and that at the top is just another view. There is a view before your eyes that you can appreciate. Lichen, rocks, trees, all have interesting colors and patterns. Have you ever really looked at that beauty before? Have you ever seen so many shades of green or brown?
  9. When you get back to the start of the trail, DO congratulate yourself because the hike was hard if you had to turn back. You got the full effect for your health. AND now you know what you need to do in order to prepare to hike further the next time.
Even the start of the trail has a beautiful view.

I asked a new friend to hike some this summer on some of the trails here on Beech Mountain. I would love to hike Linville and Grandfather Mountain and I know I could not hike safely alone in those places. I make sure to tell people that I hike slowly and often have to stop. That way they are free to say no while we are not on the trail.

Hiking is about being out in nature for me more than it is about finding a view. I love views of course, but more than anything I love the sound of water flowing, birds singing, the rustle of leaves in the wind. Nature is good for the soul. Get out and hike, the distance doesn’t matter! Be good to your soul and get out!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”  ~ John Muir, Our National Parks

 

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A friend of mine who also battles arthritis and fibromyalgia reminded me of her cool walker that helps her still be able to hike. Check out the Trionic Walkers on FB if you need more than a cane.

 

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Random Thoughts on a February Morning

Tree at Beech Moutain’s Bark Park

Random Thoughts 2/2/2018

Just because a person misspeaks once, doesn’t mean the person is all-bad or all-wrong. As humans, we are prone to error. What makes us think another is in the wrong because of a mistake? What makes us think we are totally in the right because the mistake is obvious to us?

 

As I was washing dishes this morning, I rinsed out the small tub I use in my kitchen sink. There’s no dishwasher here but me. When I was drying it off, its white plastic not one I would choose, I thought of my Grandma Whitley. She always had a white plastic container she would put in her old porcelain sink to wash dishes. When the huge Whitley family gathered for meals, I always volunteered to do dishes. It’s something I never minded. It was also a way I could be around the women of my Southern family in a way that didn’t make me so nervous. I could listen and look out the window. They could talk.

We think we humans know how to love. It seems we only know how to create illusions of love. Then, when life gets tough, we take a pin to pop the bubble or the balloon of the illusion and think love is over when in fact, it may only have just begun.

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Sometimes the audio picked up the sound of Birdie swallowing or making a sound in her sleep. The sound is NOT my stomach growling. LOL

 

“The soul often speaks through longing.” ~Sue Monk Kidd

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Snow Kisses

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The Politics of Life and Faith

My friend from India, Reji, a Coptic Orthodox priest gave me this message when I left an ecumenical conference. I asked him, “If you could say ANY THING to the people in the US what would you say?”

I expected him to give me a beautiful spiritual quote on Christianity or living in peace together. He was an Orthodox priest and we were there to study, talk about religion and how we CAN get along even with differences. Here is his response:

“Tell your people to get out and vote. You may not think your vote matters, but for India, it decides whether or not many of my own people can afford to eat. We grow bananas near my town but we ship them to the US and then prices are raised so high we cannot afford to buy our own bananas.”

When there are no more hungry people,
When there is no more poverty (LOTS of artists in poverty)
When there are no more wars or violence against women, children, and those of different beliefs or different races…

Then, and then only will I quiet my voice.

When an artist can make a living doing what an artist does
When a painter can paint AND feed her family
A singer can sing and not have to compromise his or her integrity to make a living

Then, and only then will I quiet my voice.

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The above post is from a writing that I did in October of 2008 on my Redbubble Journal. I was new to the “blogosphere” and trying to find a safe place to write politics. Had hated them all my life until my friend from India gave me the above message.

I can’t say that I like politics any better, but what I do understand now is how political actions or statements can have far reaching effects. I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s journals as a nighttime meditation. His concerns about the political situation in the 60s resonates with now. Some of the things he discusses, I remember from the things I experienced as a child. Politics have always been a part of the life of what it means to be human. The word “polity” implies civility. Yet, our discourse is far from civil.

Mystics, contemplatives, and other spiritual greats of history always call for non-violent change. Choose justice, mercy, peace is a message that dates to Micah in the 8th century B.C.E.

[God] has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

 Micah 6:8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

We can no longer be silent about what is happening in our world. At the same time, we must stop pointing fingers at each other. How can we change the conversation? Justice, mercy, kindness is my responsibility. Each of us must look in the mirror of our soul and start there. The only change we can truly “control” is how we act or react to life, events, and those around us. I can only begin political activism by starting with me. I choose to love my neighbor in respect, dignity, and mercy. Make your choice. Are YOU willing to change and “… do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

“There is no consolation, only futility, in the idea that one is a kind of martyr for a cause. I am not a martyr for anything, I am afraid. I wanted to act like a reasonable, civilized, responsible Christian of my time. I am not allowed to do this. I am told I have renounced this – fine. In favor of what? In favor of a silence that is deeply and completely n complicity with the forces that carry out oppression, injustice, aggression, exploitation, war. In other words, silent complicity is presented as a ‘greater good’ than hones conscientious protest – it is supposed to be part of my vowed life, for the ‘glory of God.’ Certainly, I refuse complicity. My silence itself is a protest, and those who know me are aware of this fact.”     ~Thomas Merton March 3, 1964[1]

[1] Merton, Thomas, et al. “Part V: Seeking Peace in the Hermitage 1963-1965.” The Intimate Thomas Merton: His Life from His Journals, Lion Publishing, 2000, pp. 215–216.

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