Posts Tagged ‘conflict resolution’

crawling through the wreckage

I’m taking the view, Gentle Reader, that this past week showed nothing less than my survival of a Zombie Apocalypse.

It wasn’t enough that we saw the guy on TV who’d lived across the road from us- and been a gigantic pain the entire time (Mr. Hummer Ranchero, to be exact-) got 98 years in prison for kidnap and torture.  Warm and fuzzy?  No, it wasn’t enough.  First? A man, who’d either been in a fiery crash or a drug lab explosion and lost his hands, took a plastic bag of dirty clothes out of my basket at the laundromat while I was getting change.  Hair pulling and sanity questioning ensued but the interesting thing was that once I finally calmed down and thought, well, it is what it is, here comes the handless man with my laundry.  So, OK.  But then?

Then! Some heavily tattooed guy in a KIA  t-boned me in the parking lot as I was wending my way to the recycling kiosk having at last washed all my laundry.  Leaps out of his car screaming and suddenly there’s half a dozen large, toothless men surrounding me and my car, yelling they were witnesses and i was a b****, among other things.  THEN two very large women oozed over and I found myself wondering why Ronda Rousey wasn’t anywhere to be seen when I needed her so much.  The interesting thing here was that even though all these rather scary individuals were surrounding me screaming, and the older guy who came up and told them to stop was immediately threatened with potential dismemberment, I managed to stay in a non-violent frame of mind and get through the fiasco (no swearing, even!), with Mr. Tattoo actually lowering his voice at the end and thanking me for cooperating with him.   And, fiasco it was since somehow all those “witnesses” had no problem distorting the situation and I now find myself in a yuck-hole with my insurance company.

Aside from the baseline terror I felt when being confronted by all these large, yelling White people, and the stress of seeing my car crunched and home being miles away, what I came away with was this.  Along with a healthy respect for the fact that witch hunts can be pretty real, the fact is?  If you go outside, sooner or later something will catch up with you.  Nothing personal, just the way it is.  You aren’t being punished, it’s just your day for wearing the bullseye.  And, if you can stay neutral during the fireworks that ensue from such bullseye encounters, everyone else will get calmer too, regardless of the outcome. Maybe that’s really the point of such things.  Non-violence does, indeed, take a long time.  But I saw it worked in this situation because even though TRUTH didn’t prevail, the level of stress and anger was substantially lessened and everyone was able to walk away.  Sometimes that’s the best you can do, I guess.  So, I’m sticking with my Practice, even though I still feel very strongly that I don’t ever want to go outside around here again.  Prayers appreciated that my insurance company doesn’t refuse to fix my elderly car!

eat the strawberry

I’ve always been impressed by the Buddhist story about a man, running from pursuers, who finds himself going over the edge of a cliff, at the bottom of which are a passel of slavering tigers just waiting for him.  His fall is caught by a protruding ledge.  On that ledge are growing wild strawberries, and he eats one.  End of story.

At first I was overly concerned with, well, yeah, but what about after he eats the berry? What then? Among other silly questions.  Of course now I know that this story pretty much describes life, in a nutshell.  At least it describes MY life, and I think I can finally report, Gentle Reader, that I have indeed learned to eat that strawberry.  Having narrowly avoided electrocution in the laundromat ( a pipe burst, whole place flooded with a few inches of water on the floor, I’m standing next to a bank of dryers set to HOT!! all full of wet, flopping clothes), I went on to surmount monstrously high triple digit temperatures AND tempers, and find yet another internet home (at least for a while).  This new spot involves the constant fending off of cats but I suppose things could be worse.

This business of being alive is strange and gets stranger by the moment if you pay any attention at all.  But I think the strawberry in the story may represent faith, in a way.  The truth is, there is always a strawberry somewhere, even if in one’s darkest moments one may be thinking that strawberries are extinct, or a figment of one’s fevered imagination.   They do exist, however, and another thing about them is you cannot live in expectation of finding them or making them appear or anything of the sort.  They just ARE, along with all that other stuff, but somehow understanding that allows a person to get through many experiences and ultimately makes it all, somehow, easier.  So.  When you see joy or beauty, engage with it.  It will probably save you and at least you will be in a slightly better frame of mind when encountering the snakes, dragons, and tigers that always await.

failure & redemption

Indeed, Gentle Reader, life of late has been like HELLBOY meets Alice Starmore.  Without Hellboy’s help.  His hands really are way too big to knit with, I’d think, but I feel sure he’d understand Alice’s patterns, and one could always wind yarn on his horns.

Anyway.  It turns out that among other things, my hospital interlude left me with heart failure.  Which they knew at the time of my discharge and somehow omitted to mention.  Thus, I’ve had six weeks of that stuff where you wake up after being asleep for a while and feel you’re suffocating.  Among other things like not being able to pull weeds for five minutes without running out of breath and being totally at the bottom of the barrel moodwise.  Another six plus hour trip to the emergency room (ha!ha! that’s an oxymoron, G.R.) where I never did get seen but finally tottered out knowing I didn’t want to be there until midnight.  Instead? We went to a restaurant in town, where I always seem to be a bit tattered.  The first time, I had a black eye (beam from yurt roof fell on my forehead) and THIS time I was covered in bandages and hospital bracelets.  They take it in stride here, however, because EVERYONE looks more or less like a wreck, and after some shockingly good food (a REAL New York steak sandwich) and an Actual Cocktail (bourbon, thank you), survival seemed likely.  And whaddaya know- I’m still here and even perhaps improved.

In the meantime, things have been floating up in my mind.  The wound, as Rumi wrote, is indeed where the light enters you.  That light can reveal some things one might rather not examine, like how old patterns still form a big part of the operating system.  What’s my father doing in here? one might ask.  More pertinently, why have I been racing around my whole life thinking I had to do,do, do, do more, do more again- when really that isn’t it at all in life, and also? It’ll kill you.  Of course, there is a bit of a concerted effort to keep us all doing precisely that, rushing around and not thinking.  Just accepting it when it seems that you must work (for someone else) until you drop meanwhile saving some impossibly vast sum of money so that when you get cut loose by your benevolent corporate sponsor you don’t starve to death.  Using weed killer on the lawn, not thinking about what that’s doing to the ground and the water.  Letting your phone tell you what to do and where to go.  Believing them when they say that all the poison that got dumped/inadvertently mailed/put in your food poses no threat to public health.  Finding a place to stand in the midst of all this is indeed the work of a lifetime, and it’s a pity more of us don’t start earlier.  Or perhaps, more successfully- I THOUGHT I’d started but it turns out I was a foolish and deluded bear.

The thing of it was that I didn’t really accept the way things actually are.  It was just too depressing to acknowledge the evil and harm in the world, and I had a rather large set of matched emotional baggage to cart around as well.  It’s taken a long time to get even the bit of clarity I have now, and one thing seems clear at least.  One must remain calm.  It sounds silly but when you think about all the times you get stressed and disoriented, just in the course of a day or a stroll down the grocery store aisle, it illuminates the fog we (yes, I) walk around in far too often.  Calmness isn’t a matter of repressing what you feel, either.  It’s more a matter of feeling what you feel, looking to the source and putting it in perspective.  Like, that was then, this is now.  What can really be done at any given point?  WHERE THE HELL AM I? If I am in fact in the grocery store there’s no need to panic, seriously.  The other big part of it is acknowledging the World around you.  Look at and speak to your fellow humans and animals.  Look at the sky.  This alone goes a long way toward clarity because it eventually does show you you are NOT alone- others are slogging through all this stuff too and the odds are that one of you will actually make it and be able to deliver a cogent report about the lay of the land.

Last evening we looked at storm clouds on the horizon.  (And we could do this because we had on our handy dandy mosquito and bug repelling bracelets! Yay!)  They were an incredible slate blue, behind the varying shades of grey and olive green of the trees, and there was a strange kind of alertness to it all- a soundless sound.  The finches and titmice and woodpeckers and hummingbirds were  busily eating their dinners and taking baths, the lizards and frogs were bustling around (we have BABY frogs at present, and they’re PINK).  We’d spent the workable part of the day (the non-broiler setting on the temperature that is) weeding and digging our raised beds up, the Partner and I (albeit slowly in my case).  Everything was quiet and the soil seemed to be thanking us for our work as it laid there tilled and breathing, happy with its new rock dust and peat and seaweed.  Our seedlings have sprung up luxuriantly and of course, even though I did a drawing of what seed was where….naturally, it is now all a mish mosh and it will be a revelation to see which tomatoes are the giant yellow Ukrainians and which are the San Marzanos.  Will it be cayenne or bell pepper?  We’re clear on which melons are which but that is about as far as it goes right now.

Anyway, as everything breathed in unison it seemed to me that the truth is, redemption is always possible, and always happening.  There’s a wonderful line in a poem by Robinson Jeffers about how the heartbreaking beauty of the world is there, whether or not there is a heart there to break.  Our hearts generally do break, of course….but perhaps that is what they are made to do.  If they don’t break they don’t open, and we never grow and flower.

let the dog decide

We’ve been pondering getting a dog and I was asking the Partner about dog baths.  For some reason or maybe because it seems to me like another Thing To Do That Might Have Disastrous Results. The horse next door, for example, routinely grabs the hose from me and sprays me down thoroughly when I’m trying to fill up their (leaky) water tub.  You see the potential here, don’t you? Anyway.  He said, in his usual judicious way, that it was “best to let the dog decide which they prefer”, in terms of indoor or outdoor sudsing, and that further, they seem to generally prefer a gentle shower such as one might find in a hand held apparatus in a well-appointed bathroom.  My goodness.  I think I WAS a dog in my last life after all.

I thought about allowing such a level of communication to develop in ANY setting, and about how, really, all of us benefit from being given a little space in which to decide which way our actual needs would best be met.  Trial and error is the general mode of the day for humans, however,  and probably what keeps people from thinking all this through on a more regular basis- it’s too scary, we think.  Too time consuming.

In the meantime, while balancing the calm rationality of administering potential dog baths with the raging chaos in my little brain, I had occasion to observe that as usual, it wasn’t only me going off the deep end.  Admittedly, the Hospital Experience from Hell has left a mark on my equanimity and it has taken me what seems like a very long time (a month!) to move through the resultant post traumatic stress- which only gets worse the more I find out about what actually happened, but that’s another episode.  Anyway, I had finally pulled myself together enough to cook and when I turned around to face the TV with a pan of chocolate chip bars in my paws, what did I see but what verged on an outright riot on a soccer field in Mexico.  Guadalajara vs Atlas.  The melee appeared to be set off by an astounding Guadalajara goal and the Atlas fans losing their tiny minds and attempting to rush onto the field.  The Atlas team itself was standing on the pitch, very still, and blenching, and the Policia were immediately present, bagging and tagging.  This is Guadalajara, Mexico, people, and that is not a place anyone wants to just get arrested.  So I had to wonder why all these young men were tempting grisly fate over something like the inadequacy of their team.  The rage boiling up in both the deranged fans and the combat fatigue garbed police was palpable and frightening.  It was transfixing and horrifying.  Was the match fixed? Was it just the last straw in corrupted soccer play? Was everyone on bad drugs? Why didn’t they seem to care at all about what happened to them? Then we went on to the biker brawl in Waco, Texas (and just what is it about THAT place?), and ISIS, and….and…….it seemed as though the entire planet shared my lack of inner peace.

It always helps to put things in a broader perspective as often as one is able.  In truth, there really isn’t an absolute concrete reality and there are always a lot of ways to look at things. (Except, say, methamphetamines, Arctic drilling, Monsanto, child labor, water pollution….) If, as it seems, we’re a planet at the boiling point and it isn’t only flying in planes, driving on bridges and attending soccer matches that place us in mortal peril, then each of us has to acknowledge that and sit with it in order to, well, let our inner dog decide.  We live in a world where I think it isn’t too much to say that Evil is ascendant.  The push of the political is toward the crushing of joy and true human feeling and this manifests throughout society, everywhere.  We’re constantly presented with things we know on a deep level are untrue (how do you feel upon hearing the words “there’s no danger to public health”, or “people don’t have a right to clean drinking water”?).  But those things are also presented as being factual reality, to which we have to conform.

Non-violence takes a long time.  It’s hard to resist the impulse to call someone an idiot or think about decking them.  But it’s also hard to avoid the awareness that in the end this accomplishes precisely nothing.  This uncomfortable place is where we all get to begin again, and as a tribal elder up here said, it is always about peace and equity, this process we must engage in vis-a-vis ourselves and the world.  Sometimes those things seem a long way off, as a proper bath may sometimes seem to be for a dog.  The quest for peace in one’s own heart may be the hardest thing any of us ever does, is what I’m finding these days.  But every once in a while the right shower head comes along.  We live in hope.

la la la lalalala

Well. For the most part it has continued, of late, to be an extra weird mix of sturm AND drang.  I managed to obtain and download a new operating system for my antediluvian laptop, and also downloaded what appears to be a browser that will work.  I only cried about three times during all of that, which I think is pretty impressive, especially given the situation.  My heavy lifting routine consists of imagining a giant paddle with which I swat away all the bothersome thoughts about What Needs To Be Done.  Because I am not there yet, not at the place where Things Can Be Done.  Still a week away from being able to lift anything heavier than a kleenex, and watching the world careen from breathtaking mess to breathtaking mess on top of it.

In the meantime, I have been reading.  Detective novels during that grim period where I was applying ice blocks to my midriff and head, and now?  Two splendid LONG novels.  ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr, which is just wonderful.  Elegant, sinuous language and the visual construction of an amazing world.  The other is WOLF HALL, by Hilary Mantel.  (I have fallen hopelessly in love with Mark Rylance, who has the part of Thomas Cromwell in the current PBS version-it is quite wonderful to populate the novel with the excellently cast actors therefrom, especially him with his ruined face and clear, burning eyes.)  Anyway for such a long book about the Tudors, for heaven’s sake, it is completely riveting.  The action is implied from the characters’ inner processes, and you come away from it with the feeling of having been at an incredible dinner party where you observed everything unfold from a much larger perspective than your usual seat allows you.

Otherwise, it is still all about riding the wave, or the bull, or whatever it is that we get on as humans one way or another and have to stay on til the ride’s over.  This has been an enlightening experience, of course (at the same time as it is completely the opposite) and I have learned a lot about what rises up in us when we’re sick and injured.  All that stuff has to be dealt with for healing to occur and we can see all over the place how hard a time people are having with this particular project.  It takes witnessing and someone who can abide with the difficulties without having opinions about them- which is the work of a lifetime, in itself.  There’s a tremendous quality of breath holding to all this, along with an overwhelming sense of being somehow tested by some perhaps completely crazed inquisitor.  How much of your fear can you leave behind, really?  How clearly can you think about things when all your old “stuff” is forming an ungodly ferment with the new input and foaming all over the place?  How much, really, does any of this matter?  What in the end can any of us do in the face of the enormous suffering on this earth when we can’t keep our own minds in check?  Oh my.  The deep breathing it all takes!

Then again, there’s always the moment where a flash of light comes in and reminds one that since it is a question of perspective and focus, probably mostly a time to rest up and get ready to jump the next time the merry-go-round passes.  I do believe that we are guided, the information we need is available to us, and the thing is to step into the fires that burn in us instead of running away from them.  Easier said than done of course.  Still.  Civility and kindness go a long way and if each of us made perhaps a stronger effort we might see something interesting.  At the moment I’m having a devil of a time with the civility part, but probably because having spent my life being polite, self effacing and helpful, the impulse to even THINK in uncivil terms has been mercilessly suppressed.  There’s a certain amount of outgassing that happens, I guess.

In the meantime, it is clearer to me than ever before that the truth is of paramount importance and we must really all begin to seek it and tell it.  Truth.  Not opinions, and not propaganda.  It’s pretty clear if you choose to look, and the fact that things have gone on on this planet in this ridiculously dysfunctional way for so long seems to indicate that it might just be time for a change.  Not the non-change we see in politics and wars now, but a change to actual right-living.  Everyone working toward the common goals of stewarding resources and providing support to their communities. Setting aside the illusory thing called money, and enterprise, and economies in favor of something that actually matters across the board.   Call me crazy but even notwithstanding the past month, I still believe it can happen.

Vicious Circle Surfeit

It’s getting harder to know what to do about things, Gentle Reader.  How does one participate productively, when do you just shine things on, how does a change in paradigm get implemented and, really? Is it any of one’s business?  Of course it IS quite often one’s business if only insofar as we each have a responsibility to tell the truth and ……oh dear.  Well, you can see my quandary.

We have drama brewing apace here on the hill, which used up quite a bit of my time today.  The good news was that our landlady had indeed returned on Monday with plumbing parts, did fix the leak to a certain degree, and then?  The pipes froze.  That was yesterday.  So when the phone rang and the day went to hell right off the top, I guess I was temporarily buoyed up by the knowledge that the pipes weren’t frozen TODAY! All the water I’d put in buckets all over the yurt could stay there for now! Just in case! And even though my mail wasn’t reaching its important destinations and my calls weren’t being returned, there was still a (temporary) sense of having backed away from the actual edge of the cliff.   But back to the Drama.  Perhaps the importance is in knowing when to say something, when not.  Also to whom.  Stupidity, however, IS forever quite often, and attempting to provide redress to that fundamental gaping hole in things is pretty damned hard.  This particular case in point showcased my general tendency to jump in, sort things out, get the life boat provisioned, and other people’s willingness to send me straight to the front.  Etcetera.  But then I thought, hmmmm.  When it’s drama, and high drama at that, the messenger often gets shot so really it is probably better to wait until everyone is calmer. It has also been brought to my attention that people don’t listen all the time, and that being the case a different approach than talking might be better.  But then people may indeed experience the consequences of their own actions, which sometimes has a scattershot effect, and in this case would be highly undesirable to say the least.

So.  Public policy.  How do you get people to actually act in their own best interests?   A spot of news listening doesn’t cast much light on this, either.  Boehner of our existence, WTF?  SOPA? PIPA?  I actually heard someone say that these bills are, get this! ABOUT JOBS.  Zillions of innocent people will lose their jobs if these bills are not passed because…er….piracy of films online will…..why, it will…..Totally did not get the connection there, except that JOBS are a catchword now, used by Republicans in every context whether appropriate or not.    I think if I hear…(well, and here it is! ONE MORE TIME! Mitt and Newt running their mouths with minimal brain engagement and maximal use of “job creation” ) any more malarkey about jobs I will scream.  Pardon me……

The birds screamed for me just now, the sweethearts.  Still.  It is really something to be on this runaway train.  We can’t agree that climate change is real in the Hallowed Halls of Legislation but we can sure wade in and make sure censorship is alive and well, because why? Because it’s easier than tackling the actual problems of the world.  And? Because the money has to stay where it is.  The laws will still be broken, criminals will still succeed, but by cracky we’re striking a blow for….certainly not democracy.  I wonder what they’re going to call it this time.  All they really need to do now is put Monsanto in charge of the internet, and their work would be done here, the forks could be removed.  They could go back to being Job Creators!  I suspect our fine legislators are just as confused as we are, however, because I also heard something quite interesting from one of them this past week, something to the effect that half of the people in the US don’t pay income tax.  This, it turned out,  was an allusion to people at or below the poverty line not having to pay income tax.  Therefore, it would seem that this person was saying that half the people in the US are at or below the poverty line.  Wow, I thought.  Inadvertent truth!

Anyway.  The sky is completely clouded over, no visibility and dark falling rapidly.  The weather is changing, and winter may have actually arrived in full force.  This will make the coming week a logistical nightmare but what else is new?  Meantime, I found a recipe for pinto beans with garlic and red wine (Lynn Rosetto Kasper, in the JPR Monthly)  and it is a winner.  Simplified:  Cook beans in pressure cooker.  Saute finely diced carrot and onion until beginning to brown, then add 8 or so thinly sliced garlic cloves, cook until they are softened.  Then, a cup and a half of red wine, bring to simmer lower heat and let reduce to almost nothing.  THEN, add beans and their broth, let cook for a half hour or so to meld flavors.    This was a really good variation on pinto beans, and with some good bread makes a good meal.  Tonight we’ll probably make something spicier with them, which it is now time to ponder.  Chili? Cumin? The challenge of making something interesting from a basic and often used ingredient, as well as something good out of nothing particular, is always eventually very enlivening.  Thank goodness.