I rediscovered this photo while rummaging in a long-forgotten drawer for a greeting card. The find has had me rummaging through the time I spent in the Ground Zero community, a nonviolent resistance movement to nuclear weapons. I lived in the woods in a house above the railroad tracks that moved weapons and fuel in and out of Subase Bangor in Poulsbo/Silverdale WA. Perhaps the message I want to share in the accompanying poem is the realization that if we allow our spiritual practice to divest us of the need to cling to possessions, the world will not need weapons to protect the “lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed.”
My intrepid Blue Cream Tortoise Shell
boldly went where no sane mortal
dared to roam.
Emily slinked across the railroad tracks
which carried warheads and fuel-
fresh and spent- into Subase Bangor.
She scooted under the gate
making her way to the bunkers
where armed marines waited
ready to shoot intruders at first sight-
but surely not Emily.
Emily who did not threaten to destroy
"the lifestyle to which we had become accustomed."*
Jim and I passed out the week's leaflets
from our respective lanes at Trigger Avenue gate.
We shivered against the temperature outside,
and the inside temperature of workers
as they spotted us when traffic stalled.
It was a typical early morning arrival-
yawning, putting on makeup, shaving.
Until an unexpected guest materialized
darting in and out of cars, nostrils flaring
eyes betraying the deer's sheer terror.
Guards rushed out to stop traffic
and opened the gate wide.
We waited. And waited.
Finally the deer leaped up
and shot to safety on the other side.
Jim looked at me and said,
"How ironic that she is safer in there than out here."
No open gate for those who "threaten the lifestyle to which we've become accustomed."
*Admiral Trost in The Trident Tides U.S. Navy publication
c. rita hemmer kowats Indigenous Peoples Day 2021
Waiting for a just peace
to show up.
with twelve jurors
in their pain
in their fear
in their doubt.
we extend protection.
Breathing-in deep listening
we welcome transparency.
c. Rita H Kowats April 19, 2021
I have been listening to Anderson Cooper’s 360 podcast this week. Reluctantly. I want in-depth coverage so I know where to direct my prayers, but I’ve been tempted to turn it off several times. As the reporters narrate, the background plays a steady, unrelenting stream of protesters shouting. The energy is too much for me to take in and I want to escape to the silence of my privileged white anchorage and chant “All shall be well.”
I keep listening because those protesters in Minneapolis and elsewhere around the US and the globe, deserve the respect of deep listening. Not listening and analyzing words; rather, a deep listening for feelings that describe experiences.This is the kind of listening that can bring a just peace. Hundreds of oppressed citizens have literally put their lives on the line to tell me they can endure no more. The least I can do is listen.
In his book Silence: The Power Of Quiet In A World Full Of Noise, Thich Nhat Hanh tells of Avalokita, the Bodhisattva of Deep Listening. The name means “the one who listens deeply to the sounds of the world.” “Bodhisattva” refers to someone with great compassion who works tirelessly to mitigate the suffering of others. I, we, can be a Bodisattva of deep listening by willing ourselves to take in the energy of those who are crying out for justice. We can send back a sound of peace and healing. We can send back a commitment to act for a just peace.
In this strange stretch of time, we take turns needing and giving solace. What we receive today we give tomorrow. May spirit guide us to pay attention to others’ need for solace and offer it; that we have the humility to accept solace when it is offered. It’s simple. “Shine your shoes. Fill your refrigerator. Water your plants. Make some soup.” Say thank you. And together we will survive.
That’s it. That’s all this blessing knows how to do:
Shine your shoes. Fill your refrigerator. Water your plants. Make some soup.
All the things you cannot think to do yourself when the world has come apart, when nothing will be normal again.
Somehow this blessing knows precisely what you need, even before you know.
It sees what will bring the deepest solace for you. It senses what will offer the kindest grace.
And so it will step with such quietness into the ordinary moments where the absence is the deepest.
It will enter with such tenderness into the hours where the sorrow is most keen.
You do not even have to ask. Just leave it open— your door, your heart, your day in every aching moment it holds.
See what solace spills through the gaps your sorrow has torn.
See what comfort comes to visit, holding out its gifts in each compassionate hand.
Jan Richardson in The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief
This poem came from meditation at a time when conditions in our world weighed heavily on me. LOL! If only I had known the conditions we endure in this moment! It feels like the time to revisit the poem. We seek to tame the current of fear that rushes over imposing boulders springing up in our unconscious. So we flex our intellectual prowess in countless monologues across social media, in offices, living rooms and backyard gatherings. We seek to blame and fix. In our love for justice we can continue our self-assigned role as “The Great White Fixers,” or we can practice waiting, listening more intentionally for the words of the oppressed.
We must act for justice, AND there is this from James Baldwin:
The root of the black man’s hatred is rage,
and he does not so much hate the white man
as simply as wants them out of his way,
and, more than that,
out of his children’s way.
James Baldwin I Am Not Your Negro
I hear my rapid thought-fire
Ricochet off your heart,
Creating a wall of words to
Keep me safe.
Wait for the space
Between the thoughts
Between the words.