Yesterday I sent out a blog titled: I Wish We Were Neighbors. Later in the day I looked at the news and discovered there were two mass shootings the day before, one in Ohio, one in Texas. I was flooded with doubt and judgment. Had I colossally screwed up? Had I sent out an unrealistically optimistic and naive blog about the world and the way it works in the aftermath of enormous human suffering?
I have described myself as a card-carrying optimist. I'm famous for saying "it will all work out." But friends, sometimes it doesn't all work out. Tragedy happens. Come over for coffee and we can share our lists of tragedies. It can be so painful to be human.
You would think a woman who worked for hospice for six years would focus on death. But instead hospice taught me about life and resilience. Here is what poet Robert Frost said on the occasion of his 80th birthday:
“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that."
There was a mass shooting with many fatalities years ago in a high school in Oregon. Remembering and honoring their friends who had been killed, the principal of the school said the most meaningful thing their community could do would be to not allow the tragedy to be the end of the story.
I'll probably always be an optimist. It doesn't mean I don't grieve, get depressed, feel anxious and confused. Of course I do. But also, and more accurately, I am becoming a "possibilitarian." While feeling the inevitable sorrows of this world, I eventually realize that the story isn't over... Possibilities to find meaning, learn something, do a kindness and any of a hundred other ways to respond to tragedy with love, generosity, sensitivity and compassion are always there.
Poet Emily Dickinson said: “Dwell in possibility.”
We live in a world where there are wonderful neighbors, community connection and love shared on a daily basis. At the same time our world can be violent, cruel and unpredictable. Somehow we have to embrace both. Its difficult. Its possible.
By the way, the root meaning of the word possible is “capable of making happen”. Let's make it a good day.
With love to you, Judy
I made this little pin a long time ago and I'm giving it to a friend. But, if you make a donation of any amount to Charity:Water I'll make one for you. Just email me that you have made the donation and I'll get to work on it.
The pin is about 1" x 2" - hand embroidered on linen, with a pin clasp on the back. Its possible that working together we can help other families have access to clean water like we have.
Picture and poem available in etsy shop. See sidebar.
This illustration is available for purchase in my etsy shop. See side bar.
I grew up on the south shore of Long Island close to Jones Beach. On hot summer days like these, we spent so much time in the ocean that at night in bed after a day's swim, I could feel the push and pull of the waves still working on my body. But today, if I close my eyes and think of home its the marshes I see - that middle space of earth and water between the ocean and solid ground. I remember golden cattails reflected in the water, the smell of salt on the edge of the pond and the cushion of mud between my toes as I searched for the red winged blackbirds perched on the sea grasses.
This week I finished reading the highly recommended Where the Crawdad's Sing (Delia Owens). It is a finely crafted story about a young woman who calls the marshes of North Carolina her home. The heroine, Kya, collects bird's nests, feathers, shells, and mushrooms. She studies clouds, knows the tides, paints the grasses, feeds the gulls. Its a love story between the marsh and Kya. It is poetry and mystery and awe and I was captivated.
My muse Mary Oliver says in her poem, My Work is Loving the World, our work is standing still and learning to be astonished. How, I ask myself and you, do I learn to be astonished?
It was easy for me to be at home on this earth when I was a child. As a seventy year old woman my work is to learn to be at home again, but this time with the maturity to give this world the amazement and astonishment it deserves. I take a clue from Kya, who studied the marsh and came to know it intimately and learned to love it.
My Work is Loving the World by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
I welcome your thoughts on learning to be astonished.
Best to you, Judy
I visited Arizona last month and man do they have a big sky there! Where I live in Pennsylvania the land is hilly - you can see as far as the next red barn. But in the desert the clouds and blue sky go on forever.
Loving as big as the sky is a very tall order. My hope is to gradually build up to that with one act of kindness at a time. Today I wrote a short thank you note to the woman who introduced me to the 'big as the sky' concept. Her generosity and words made me a more loving woman.
By being herself, and sharing herself freely, she changed my life for
Who, by their words, ideas, and actions, has influenced your life? Who has made you a better person? Have you told them?
These cards are from Choosing the Encouraging Life card deck.
This morning I propped them up on my kitchen table to remind me to share myself with others, because it matters.
Love you big as the sky, Judy
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now... Rilke
Rilke invites us to have patience and love and live the questions that shape our lives. I don't know about the patience part but I've been loving and living with encouragement as one of my questions. How can I be an encouraging person today?
Living with this question I created a card deck of encouraging ideas and actions that I would love to share with you. The deck has three parts - Encouraging Beliefs, Encouraging Actions, and Strengths. Use the deck to support your spirit through the changes and challenges of your life. Use it as your own personal creative muse. Use it with teens, seniors, friends, and co-workers. Use it when you are grieving, growing, creating, loving, and in confusion, despair, hope and joy.
While creating this deck I encountered the inevitable obstacles, delays, disappointments and confusion that are part of a big project. I was so pleased to discover that the ideas in the deck helped see me through the rough patches. This is exactly what I had hoped for!
The images are all original drawings of women and birds. They are quirky and spunky characters which is perfect actually because you and I are quirky originals and that is what we have to work with.
If you'd like to purchase a deck please click on the button below.
PS - like children, art projects require many people to help them grow. I offer much gratitude to Annette Murray and Jim Bradley for helping me bring this project home.
Best to you, love Judy
The sky is not your limit. Your mind is.
Visit my etsy shop for illustrations from my imagination: