Category Archives: World

Becoming a Grandmother: Part Two

Aven and grandma

As some of you may have noticed, I have been absent from the blog lately. I confess I have not had the energy or the life spirit to write. I wasn’t able to put my finger on the problem until a few nights ago, when I realized that I have been suffering  from the only downside of becoming a grandmother to Aven: an inability to stop thinking about the future and about the terrible world we are passing on to those coming after us.

I can see now that I  must have adjusted somewhere along the way, without even knowing it,  to the fact that my children will, at some point, be living without me in a world full of problems–or I’ve just been so busy being a parent that I didn’t have that much time to ponder! Or I have taken comfort from the fact that I have  at least had the privilege to watch our four grow into adults, and so I know they are strong and loving people and that they will, in any case, have the good sense to hold onto the ones they love  for strength during bad times.

But Aven is so little, so fresh, so vulnerable.  I look at her, and I remember what my Uncle Jack once said about another new baby in the family:  “Even her little insides are all bright and shining.”  I look at her, and I get angry.  I can’t help but wonder why in the world things are so damn difficult for people?  Why in the world can’t we stop all this mess and create together a world that is better and safer for children?

FullSizeRender

I can’t stand to listen to the news.  I try, every now and then, thinking I can handle it, but then I hear another story about young girls being stolen off into the woods of Nigeria or about some German guy deciding to fly a plane into the ground, killing a whole class full of students coming home from an exchange program abroad, and I have to switch off the dial.

I do not know how to come to terms with things like ISIS or climate change when I consider even the possibility that such things could, at any point, become real for Aven.  It was easier before because I could think, “well, at least my friends and my sisters and even my children will all die before the polar caps melt” or “well, we’ve all survived so far with terrorists in the world, so maybe we can hold out a little longer.”

But now, Aven is here, and so the time span for my worry has lengthened.  There is this precious little creature in the world with her mama’s eyes who, at the very least, will have to hear about all the future, unimaginably terrible things that will happen–that’s if she’s lucky and doesn’t have to experience them firsthand!

Lizzie and Aven
Lizzie and Aven

 

I haven’t had much luck turning to religion for comfort, so I turn to poetry.   I keep thinking about Yeats’ poem,  “The Second Coming.”  He was writing about a totally different time in history, but he could so easily be writing about today.  I won’t say this poem is uplifting, but it is strangely comforting to me because he wrote it so long ago, and yet he expresses the way I feel lately about the world we live in, especially about all the evil currently being carried out in the name of religion!  Forgive me if I quote the whole thing, but, when I read this poem, I think to myself two things:  1) maybe things aren’t as bad as I thought, since Yeats thought the world was going to hell in a hand basket, and yet we’ve muddled along for almost 100 years since then!  and 2) “I bet Yeats was worrying about his grandchildren when he wrote it!”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
yeats

 

 

Remains To Be Seen

Adrienne Crowther
Adrienne Crowther

Let’s face it – no one likes to talk about death. Whether it’s our own, our parents, a spouse, or a friend, it hasn’t been a conversation topic of choice…..until now. Not surprisingly, we baby boomers are re-inventing our end of life practices and attitudes around death.

Here are the facts:

  • Cremation rates have soared to more than 40% of all deaths (close to 90% in some states)
  • Burial costs have reached high, sometimes unaffordable levels
  • Families are transient, and family members no longer live in close proximity to each other, nor to a family burial site
  • Religious tenets are more flexible regarding cremation as an option for disposition

Many recent articles, books, and other media point toward the growing number of cremations, both in the US and worldwide. Baby boomers especially, are breaking tradition in their spiritual beliefs, environmental convictions, and affinity toward individuality in all aspects of life. The funeral industry concedes to this rapid conversion to cremation, yet products for containment of cremation remains are limited, and are often mass-produced and outsourced.

Shine on Brightly
Shine on Brightly

Shine On Brightly is an online company that was launched in 2008 – the result of a lifelong passion for art, love for people and their stories, and lots of research on the changing trends around life and death rituals (especially among baby boomers). Fifteen months later, Founder and Owner, Adrienne Crowther lost her husband of 30 years. Nine months after that, his sister, who had been one of her dearest childhood friends, also died.  Adrienne’s work and business is truly unique and I thought it appropriate to address this subject for our oops50.blog.

Annice and dad
Annice and dad

What are your plans? When my own father died in 2011, I was grateful that he had taken care of all his burial plans.  Everything carefully outlined and paid for- in advance.  What a gift that was to all of us.  And what an alternative Adrienne has to offer to both the living  who want to plan their end of life rituals, or for those who will be making arrangement for their  loved ones.

A Hero for our Time: Joanna Macy

Jane in Africa 2012

This morning, while dealing with a crazy, incessantly barking dog,  I listened to “On Being” with Krista Tippett.  Her guest was an “environmental philosopher,” Joanna Macy.  I was only half listening at first, since I had never even heard of this woman before, but the interview ended up blowing me away.  Macy is an 85-year-old woman who sounds like a twenty-year-old in her wonderful, enlightened thinking.  Here’s a quick bio of Macy from Wikipedia:

Joanna Rogers Macy (born May 2, 1929), is an environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of eight books. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1950 and received her Ph.D in Religious Studies in 1978 from Syracuse University.  She is an international spokesperson for anti-nuclear causes, peace, justice, and environmentalism, most renowned for her book Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World….She has created a theoretical framework for personal and social change, and a workshop methodology for its application. Her work addresses psychological and spiritual issues, Buddhist thought, and contemporary science.

And here is her picture:

Joanna Macy
Joanna Macy

But I wasn’t blown away by this woman because of her impressive resume or her open appearance.  I was blown away by the things she said.  First, she talked about how Buddhists don’t put much stock in trying to have hope, since it takes too much effort.  The important thing is just to be as aware as we can of what is going on around you.  She said that our earth is “not a supply house and a sewer” for humans, and that we have to stop treating it as if it is.

Here’s another great picture of her:

joanna macy laughing

All I can give you is a quick intro to Macy, but I urge our readers to check her out.  Here are two more quotes that I wrote down from when she was talking about her work in  translating Rainer Marie Rilke’s Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God:  “There is a song that wants to be sung through us, but we need to be present to it in order to sing it,” and “This moment you are alive, so you can just dial up the magic of that any time.” Continue reading A Hero for our Time: Joanna Macy

VOTE

Annice
Annice

I remember the first time I voted. The year was 1972, and thanks to The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 18 year olds were granted the right to vote (July 1, 1971), and it was the quickest amendment ever to be ratified.  I remember the national debates over lowering the voting age because it focused on all our friends being drafted to fight in Vietnam when they had absolutely no say about the war, who was sending them, and why.  draftHaving participated in the anti-war movement with hundreds of thousands of other young students across the country, I’d like to think our protests made a difference and forced the government to lower the voting age.  So, when the time came in 1972 to vote in the presidential election, I cast my ballot for George McGovern.

George McGovern
George McGovern

 

Shortly before the election, McGovern came to the University of Cincinnati where I was studying.   After his campaign speech, he thanked all the volunteers back stage, and I was thrilled to shake the hand of the next President of the United States of America. I just knew he would win.  And, trust me, to this day, I still can’t believe that Nixon won (by a landslide) despite the fact that 52% of 18-24 year-olds showed up at the polls, the highest ever voter turnout of young adults including the 2008 Obama-McCain election.

votepinSo, I write this post the day before the elections as a reminder that anything can happen, and every vote matters.  Here in North Carolina, we have a very important Senate race.  I know who I’ll be voting for?  You?

Anita Hill: A Hero for All of Us

Jane
Jane

Anita Hill came to our town last week as the keynote speaker for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of “Our Voice”, our wonderful rape crisis/education/prevention center here in Asheville.

When I heard she was coming, I was immediately right back there on my sofa in Roxbury, New York, glued to the television set, watching every moment of those hearings.  I remembered how I felt completely inspired by her courage, her composure, her refusal to back down.  And I relived how completely horrified and despairing I felt when that panel of white men managed to find a way to approve Clarence Thomas anyway.  Along with millions of other women, I felt kicked in the gut.

Anita HillSo, I was excited to see her.  What I didn’t expect was how, once again, I would be completely inspired by this amazing woman.

Here is a woman whose life was turned upside down simply because she decided to come forward, to do the right thing, to speak the truth.  Here is a woman who believed in our system of justice and fairness, only to get kicked in the gut herself.  But here is a woman who also has never backed down and has managed to find a way to forgive all those people on the Judiciary Committee and to say, “it was not the failure of those individuals; it was the failure of the system.”  The committee, after all, decided not to call in experts to testify or to bring in the other women who were ready to corroborate her testimony.  But here is also a woman who, when asked if she would do it again, answers yes, without a doubt.  “I found my voice in 1991, and I am not about to give it up ever again,” she said.  She said that is what kept her going, what brought her back to life after the hearings, were the letters and phone calls from people all around the country who thanked her for giving them the courage, finally, to speak out, to bring sexual harassment or sexual violence against them out into the light of day–to confront their predator and to bring justice.

I have to say it brings me great pleasure to see how, in the big picture, she has come out on top.  She is a national icon, a hero for women everywhere.  While that other person, who will remain nameless, will always be associated in most people’s minds with sexual harassment and othe predatory behaviors. Continue reading Anita Hill: A Hero for All of Us