When I was eight years old my sisters and I spent a semester living with Mother, our paternal grandmother. She was a large, round woman who ruled with an iron hand. Her large wooden house had a wide, screened back porch that ran the full length of the house. A well was on the back porch and we pulled up water from it in the early morning chill to wash up for school. One day I was sweeping the porch and saw the largest spider I had ever seen crawling slowly across the floor. When I tried to crush the spider with the broom, its back exploded into dozens of tiny spiders scurrying across the wood. Mother came and stood at the kitchen door with her hands on her wide hips.
“What are you doing?”
I hung my head, feeling badly about the baby spiders. “I tried to kill a spider. But I didn’t know it had babies.”
Mother shook her head as she watched the last few baby spiders run away and looked at me sternly. “Child, don’t be trying to kill no spiders. Spiders are good luck. They mean you’ll always have money. And they eat up all the bothersome insects, flies and roaches. So, just leave them spiders alone.”
I followed her advice. I became a storyteller and learned of Spider Woman’s significance in storytelling. So for my fiftieth birthday I had my storytelling staff carved with a spider on top. After a few years my husband began to use my method of catching spiders with a paper cup and index card to carry them outside. When I became a Buddhist I learned that all sentient beings, even grasshoppers and flies, could have been my mother in a previous life. We do our best to carry the many insects we find in our house back outdoors.
But in July, I was confronted with a dilemma when I discovered squash bugs devouring my young winter squash leaves. I had no choice but to destroy them after they killed two of my plants. I felt badly and chanted “Om Mani Padme Hum” as I crushed them into the sand. I try to justify my murders with the thought that my prayers will allow them to be reborn as humans sooner than if they were allowed to destroy all of my squash plants.
To my sorrow this has been a daily battle. I did find a natural garden site, Planetnatural, http://www.planetnatural.com and ordered neem oil and a high powered hose attachment to control their population, and not harm the feeding bees. But, every afternoon when I go out to check on my plants, I find from one to dozens of squash bugs. Just when I learned what their babies look like, and how they can consume a full squash, they have appeared and added to my challenge.
But, I am managing to see some squash begin to grow and hopefully will have a few to harvest. Now, I have the added challenge of trying to save my corn. Yesterday I checked on my first ripe cob and saw it is being eaten up by black beetle like bugs and worms! So, I’ll try the high powered hose on them and cayenne pepper which I heard discussed on the radio during a Hopi agricultural conference. For next year’s garden, I’m going to find plants that are bug repellents, mint was mentioned against squash bugs, and research other ways of preventing pests. (Any and all suggestions are welcome!)
When I use the high power hose, I have to put on my water resistant jump suit or I get thoroughly soaked. Brian, my husband, took photos of my work last week. I have interspersed them with some of the haikus I wrote this summer.
During the Cuban Missile Crises, I was in fifth grade and lived on Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. I remember we had to walk to school because the base was using our school buses to transport troops in case the President decided to take military action against the Russians. Anti-communism was at a peak and I worried constantly about the possibility of war. My worries grew so intense I became ill with a sickness the doctors never defined. I didn’t eat, had terrible headaches, and slept all of the time. I was admitted to the hospital and only began to eat when doctors threatened to feed me intravenously. Years later, when I read my diaries from that time, I saw that my entries on fearing war and communism stopped after I left the hospital.
Growing up in a military family, I learned early that nothing is permanent, not homes, not friends, not schools. I also began at an early age to question the necessity of war. I have not yet understood the justification for legalized murder in order to obtain power over others. I was a pacifist before I became a Buddhist and “Just War,” “War for Peace” are lies. As the Dalai Lama teaches harming the person who harms you just leads to more violence. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. led movements that proved non-violent actions can result in permanent social change.
Sixty-seven years ago on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first weapon of mass destruction, an atomic bomb, over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb’s explosion destroyed 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people. Three days later, another B-29 dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing about 40,000 people. Countless thousands of people died over the following years as a result of radiation poisoning and other injuries from the bombing.
Every year we observe this anniversary, not only to recall the deaths of innocent women, men, and children who were not soldiers, but also to urge those who call themselves leaders to recognize the need to end nuclear proliferation. When I was a freshman in college, I read the screenplay, Hiroshima Mon Amour by Marguerite Duras. That script provided many strong images of Hiroshima after the explosion. The image that struck me most was that flowers began to grow just 14 days after the bombing. Those images led to my poem, Hiroshima.
Please click on the following link to listen to the poem.
This is a calendar of events being held in commemoration of the Hiroshima bombing. http://www.ananuclear.org/Calendar/tabid/157/Default.aspx
In a far distant future, a wind of compassion and power sweeps over the planet earth like a fire. Its force destroys every single man made weapon, from small pistols to the most powerful atomic bombs. Biological weapons too, are swept up in this wave of celestial annihilation. When the wind disappears, human beings confront each other unarmored. They realize that artificial state and national boundaries, walls and checkpoints are unnecessary. They acknowledge we are all simply human beings traversing but a blink – in universal time – on this planet earth. Human meets human to create a world of peace and harmony.
Yes, another one of my utopian stories, for I must have been born under that star – utopia. The star that bestows upon its seekers the belief that human beings can transcend the poisons of greed, jealousy, anger, and hatred to create a world of peace, abundance, justice, and equality. A first step in achieving my utopian dream is happening now, July 27th, 2012 at the United Nations as diplomats and representatives from 190 countries convene in the United Nations to ratify a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). They have been working on this treaty for some time and today is the date it should be completed.
As these treaties go, probably much will be left to criticize. And I’m sure it will fall far short of the utopian vision of pacifists such as me. But it is a step in the right direction.
Of course, this treaty will not be able to impact the lucrative illegal business of international arms transfers, so well portrayed by Nicholas Cage in Lord of War. That movie led me to discover the Arms Control Association http://www.armscontrol.org/ which offers a free e-mail newsletter that keeps readers aware of efforts around the world to control one tool that can lead to mass murders – guns.
Here in the United States we mourn the murder and wounding of less than 100 people by one deranged individual. But, around the world – from Burma, to Sudan, to Syria, to Columbia thousands of innocent civilians are killed daily by weapons sold by companies and governments in the so-called “developed nations” to equally deranged individuals. Our efforts to be brokers of peace are hypocritical until we, as individuals and as a nation, acknowledge that our endorsement of unfettered gun marketing, directly contributes to every war, genocide, and injustice that occurs around the world.
Profit and power
walk hand in hand
like a disease
plaguing the land.
This week I tell an African story, which comes in different versions, however the message is always the same. It’s one I need to remember, and one that serves everyone well. Enjoy.
Just click on the link below to hear story.
I wrote my first poem when I was in third grade. My only book published is a slim poetry chapbook, “I Am That We May Be” published by Third World Press in the seventies. Poetry dances in and out of my life like a seasonal bird. Poetry requires space and time to see and receive the words that can create colorful imagery.
After years of having neither space nor time, a month ago, I began writing poetry daily. The movie Sylvia, in which Gwyneth Paltrow gave a touching and sympathetic portrayal of the poet Sylvia Plath was the catalyst. In my twenties I read Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, but it did not resonate with me. But, after watching the movie, I went on-line and searched for Plath’s poetry. The one or two I read, hit me like bolts of lightening and poetry continues to flow through me.
I begin with older poems, as the new ones need much work. Today’s poem is different from most of my poetry, and some may say it really isn’t a poem but more a statement. I want to share it because it reflects many thoughts I have seen in other people’s blogs or writings lately and because it speaks of my creative and spiritual base.
I wrote this during my twenties at some point as I traveled between Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles when I was experiencing the free life striving to make a living as a writer and performance artist. The title is a quote from a source I did not save and can not now find.
The Becoming which is in the Becoming of All When They Become
Beneath the spirit of the creative genius
sleeps the body of the despairing heart.
Between writers be the word.
Between bodies be touch taste feeling.
Between spirits all is light understanding bliss of sound.
Between creators is the Supreme Creator.
Some stars, sages say, cross each other’s path
but once in eternity. Some are a light’s year
light year apart in distance. Some stars
transit each other’s path periodically.
All energy expands and explodes in its own universe into the all embracing Universal.
Can we be more committed than to say before ALL, “We submit.”?
We submit solely to the One Supreme Creative Force
the All Embracing Light of Universal Love Consciousness.
All that is before us is work that we may be images of perfect creativity.
In the Beginning was no “sell” of Creation.
In the Beginning was the Word manifest in the Way of Light.
we are committed to becoming Pure Spirits
Balanced in the Hand of the Supreme Juggler.
My husband and I watched “Bowling for Columbine” on HBO this week. This Michael Moore documentary examines root causes of the Columbine High School tragedy on April 20, 1999. That day two students came to the school with guns and killed 12 students, one teacher, wounded many, and killed themselves. The school is located in Littleton, Colorado the home of Lockheed Martin, a leading missile arms manufacturer. Moore’s movie examined gun use in the USA, and the lack of adequate controls on gun sales. The movie also showed how media and politicians exaggerate and create a fear of violence even though actual acts of violence in this country have declined. One of the most heart wrenching parts of the film was a montage of interventions by the USA government in the overthrow of foreign governments which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people from Iran to El Salvador.
In my research I also found an article printed in Slate which presents a very interesting psychological analysis of the Columbine murderers which may be of interest to some readers. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2004/04/the_depressive_and_the_psychopath.single.html#pagebreak_anchor_3
I was working on my introduction for this week’s post and seeing Moore’s movie brought me back to my roots. For many years I lost faith in the American dream. However, being a pacifist, I was not in support of any ill fated violent revolution. However, I did not vote and felt that U.S. politics was a sham and a lie I did not want to participate in. My husband, Brian Payne, a child of Iowa, changed my mind and I began to vote. I recognized the legitimacy of his argument, if we don’t vote, we have no basis in which to complain. So I vote.
In 2005, I participated in the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by presenting a storytelling performance. My research for that performance led me to appreciate what the ability to vote means, not only for black Americans, but for all Americans of different cultural and language backgrounds. The laws now being passed in states attempting to hinder individual’s rights to vote are a travesty and should be opposed by all who recognize that thousands, throughout this country’s history, sacrificed their lives to secure this right for all citizens.
Now, in this 21st Century, the USA is entering a new era. No longer is this a country in which white people can claim to be the majority. People of color are having more children and are becoming the majority in states in the Southwest. The USA is a multicultural nation, of diverse religions, colors, and national heritages. This is a fact. No amount of bigoted rhetoric can change this fact, no number of bigoted laws can stop the forward progress of citizens whose first language is not English.
So, I ask you to listen to my story, which is part a dream of a USA that I intend should manifest, even though some would call it a utopia. When we, this diverse population, recognize that we are the power. We must unite to overcome the force of monied interests and create a true democracy that practices equality and freedom of expression and opportunity to all regardless of race, cultural background, or religion.
Click link to hear the story of my dream of what a united multicultural USA can accomplish.
Before I began looking at my e-mails I was contemplating how I was going to write this Friday’s story because I wanted to write about the big day coming up, July 4th. Fortunately, I received an e-mail which gives an important message and have decided to share it in its entirety below. As we gather with family and friends for barbecues, beach trips, and to watch colorful fireworks, I think it is very important that this year we reflect on exactly what the celebration is about.
July 4th is the day in which the new Congress formed of 13 Colonies approved its Declaration of Independence from rule by Great Britain. The Congress actually approved its act of independence two days earlier, on July 2nd. But, that decision was made in a closed session. The approval of the Declaration was a public act and document. The opening words of its second paragraph are the most important words of the document: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It seems that many have forgotten those words in this politics of division and selfishness. When we as individuals, communities, and country remember that everyone is equal and everyone wants happiness then we can honestly celebrate July 4th. Ironically, this basic tenant that all are equal and all desire happiness is basic to Buddhism and most religions. So, despite all of the short fallings of this country’s history and changing governments, it actually wrote down in its founding document a basic spiritual truth.
While we celebrate this uniquely American holiday, we should contemplate how wonderful it would be if we lived on a planet in which everyone recognized the value of equality and everyone’s right to happiness. In my twenties I first encountered the concept of Planetary Citizens. Simply, it was the idea that we are all citizens of this one planet and should be able to travel freely to any country. Of course, with the current continuing geographic and political battles going on around the globe, we need a global epiphany before people are allowed to travel anywhere freely. However, we can recognize the concept of universal equality as explained in this article from The Bridge, written by Tony Burroughs, founder of The Intenders.
The Bridge ~ Reminder 28 ~ Equality – We are all different but equal
A common thread that runs through all of the Intenders writings has to do with our illusions and how we can extricate ourselves from them. As we have said many times, there is nothing wrong with harboring an illusion; it’s just that when we become aware of its true nature, we make a conscious decision whether to continue to play with it or set it aside. ”Somewhere along the line, you decided to have some fun and incarnate into a body – and before you knew it, certain rules and resistances became apparent. Life on Earth, though abundant with rich feelings and experiences, had its risks. A wide variety of illusions and games presented themselves and you said to yourself, “This looks interesting! I think I’ll play this game for awhile. Why not? Everybody else is playing it. When the time comes for me to set aside this silly amusement and return to the way I felt as a child, it won’t be any problem” So you jumped in with both feet, started giving names to everything around you (including yourself), agreed that a great many artificial boundaries were real, created false identities and relationships, arbitrarily gave power to other people which allowed them to control you, began making judgments, and so forth. Life went on and as the years passed, you became more and more enmeshed in your illusions. When the time arrived for you to set aside all your games and dramas, it turned out that it wasn’t so easy. You’d been heavily programmed and had developed habits that didn’t want to go away. Such is the challenge that faces most people today. They’re playing games; some taking life less seriously, while others are passionately putting everything they have on the line. In both instances, however, most people have long forgotten the moment when they chose to start playing. Most are lost in the dramas.” From The Highest Light Teachings Perhaps the most insidious dramas we take part in have to do with our identification and allegiance to a particular nation. We identify with this country or that, and in doing so, we isolate ourselves, to one degree or another, from everyone else in the world. We agree upon arbitrary, make-believe boundaries and tell ourselves that we are the good guys, while anyone else who lives outside of our country’s boundary lines is not as good as us, or isn’t as deserving of all good things as we are. God forbid that someday, someone wanders across one of our boundary lines in need of help – but instead of sharing and opening our arms to our fellow traveler, we rally our other misguided countrymen together and run the needy invader out on a rail. Of all our illusions, nationalism seems to bring out the worst in us. Our allegiance to it somehow gives us an instant excuse to wreck harm or havoc on our fellowman and women. We stumble blindly forward, rarely looking deep enough to see that our allegiance to our nation has its inherent costs to us – costs which are perhaps higher than we know. In its wake, nationalism leaves us living in constant fear, not only for our homes and possessions, but for our very lives and the lives of our precious families. It asks us to set aside all of our noble human traits and align ourselves with those who would kill at the drop of a hat. It makes everyone who believes in it a barbarian, indistinguishable from the pillaging hoards of centuries past. Indeed, none who kill in the name of country can call themselves sane. Fortunately, the truth is always there to free us from our insanity. The truth brings all illusions to light where they can be seen and acted upon from a higher, more loving perspective. In the case of nationalism, we need look no further than the fact that the Earth is home to all of us. We all live here and have as much right to enjoy our lives as the next person. We may be different in our appearances, our languages, values, and beliefs, but we are all equal – equal in the eyes of God, equal at the core of our Beings. As we begin to see through the illusion that we are better than someone else, it loosens its grip on us, and we take the first step toward living in a world of comfort and peace. We take the first step back to our sanity.
My intention for today is: I Intend that I am seeing everyone, everywhere as equal, regardless of our differences.
This message was sent to you from a friend, you can go to http://www.intenders.org to sign up free for The Intenders Bridge.
In my lifetime the idea and image of father has changed. I’m of that generation in which Daddy was the feared disciplinarian, a mysterious but strong and dependable source of stability and safety. He wasn’t my confidant or comfort. So, the memories of my dads that I treasure the most are those as an adult which happened just months before their deaths.
First, I am one of those special people who was an only child but had two dads – a situation more common now than when I was a child. I am the only child of the union of Ann Elizabeth Glenn and Tommie Walker. Even though Tommie had proposed to Ann and gave her an engagement ring, he was not yet divorced. Despite his separation, he visited his wife, after Mama was pregnant with me, and as a result of that visit I have a half sister just six months younger than me. My mother could not handle that betrayal and ended up marrying her high school sweetheart, Willie Alexander. I grew up calling him Daddy and was raised with my three sisters, the daughters of Mama and Daddy.
When I was in third grade, my mother asked me if I wanted to change my last name from Walker to Alexander. Not only did that name change move me from sitting in the back of the classroom to the front of the class, it also meant that my sisters did not know my father was different from theirs . They did not find out until we were all grown and had left home. When I was 24 years old my other sister and three brothers, Tommie Walker’s other children, met me for the first time.
My two fathers had two things in common, both loved Ann Glenn and both were attractive light skinned black men. Growing up, my mother always thought it was funny when people said I looked like Willie, solely because I was light skinned compared to his daughters. But, I look like my father and even though not raised with him, inherited a lot of his characteristics.Tommie Walker was a creative, athletic, and reserved man. He was a lifelong photographer, worked at TV stations, and was a mechanical engineer. His last career was as a teacher. He was athletic, playing tennis into his early eighties with a wall full of trophies. Willie Alexander was very different. He was a partier, drinker, storyteller, womanizer, career Air Force sergeant, and retired from a job in juvenile detention.
Tommie was active, vibrant, and healthy until he got shingles. After that he had one medical problem after another and suffered from a traffic accident. The last time I saw him, he still was not speaking, but he was up, alert, and aware of my presence. Before he went to bed he looked directly into my eyes and I felt a lifetime of love.
I visited Willie after he had recovered from a bad illness. He was up and about, driving, talking, the man I had known all of my life but with a softer edge. We visited my mother’s grave. There, I asked him about the wedding and engagement ring I wore. They were in the box of photos and papers Mama had left for me. I did not receive the box until after she died. Daddy told me Tommie had given the rings to Mama. After that visit I talked to Daddy more often on the phone and we grew closer. He died, unexpectedly, about six months later.
Now, I hold equal fondness in my heart’s memory for both of my dads, Tommie Walker and Willie Alexander.
Every Friday I will post either an audio or written story. This year my audio stories are podcasts from my Website Series, The Ultimate Wonder. This week’s story offers answers to three questions that have baffled many minds. Just click onto the link below. Listen, ponder, and Enjoy.