Category Archives: Reflections

Awakening Slowly

Carol A. Hand

Awakening slowly
after a stormy night’s
seemingly dreamless sleep
frequently interrupted
by the urgent sound of rain
pounding on windows and roof
accompanied by booming thunder
that shook the house
to its very foundations
yet resting unafraid
and rising gently
to greet the day
gardens transformed
overnight

***

July 12, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 12, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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other awakenings grace my days
encountering random kindness
in unexpected places like the city bus
as a stately elder gentleman
reached across the divisiveness
so prevalent here today
to bring kindness and comfort
into the lives of others
and graciously dealt with
rejection from those
effectively conditioned
to fear difference and joy
I couldn’t leave the bus
without thanking him
in the only words
that came to me
Sir, you are a blessing to others

***

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Reflections about Living and Leadership

Carol A. Hand

***

It’s not easy when others expect you to be a bodhisattva
or describe you as the smartest person in the room
You know it’s the kiss of death to friendships
Those who seek status and control will vengefully attack
Those you thought friends will opine “I’m not in your league”
and demand you assume responsibility, make decisions, and lead

How can others learn their own wisdom, strengths, or who they are
if they always expect others to know the answers and serve as the vanguard?

You know you’re not anyone’s guru –
you stumble and fall more times than most

After a while you retreat and grow silent
knowing others need to find their own truths
all you can do is to keep seeking and forging your own path

It’s a paradox, isn’t it
when the only way to lead is to simply live
without need of recognition or followers
in hopes that others will find the song in their own hearts
that’s been waiting patiently to be discovered all along

Note:

I wrote this poem when I was wondering if I would recover from a serious illness recently. Although I am recovering, there are no guarantees for the future. It’s only one moment at a time now, so I have to be ever mindful of how I spend those moments. I had no intentions of sharing this poem until today when I read the following passage from Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore.

37

I THOUGHT that my voyage had come to its end at the last limit of my power, ⎯ that the
path before me was closed, that provisions were exhausted and the time come to take
shelter in a silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me. And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country
is revealed with its wonders.

(from Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee, pp. 31-32)

I wonder how many others have felt silenced by others’ expectations for them to be strong, smart, or a spiritual healer because of their Native American heritage. Reading Tagore is helping me focus on following what’s in my own heart. He’s a gifted thinker and poet.

If you want to read more of Tagore’s work, you can access a free copy from The Spiritual Bee. “This e-book is a reproduction of the original “Gitanjali – Song Offerings” by Rabindranath Tagore, first published in 1913. This book is now in the public domain in the United States and in India; because it’s original copyright owned by the Macmillan Company has expired.”

The Spiritual Bee also has a number of other copyright-expired books that can be downloaded for free.

***

Summer Days

Carol A. Hand

Simple summer days
spent clearing clutter
a family trip to the city dump
in a rented uhaul truck

*

Crossing the High Bridge from Duluth, MN to Superior, WI on a foggy day – July 3, 2018

*

then riding the bus to town

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Duluth, MN – July 5, 2018

*

realizing that Reiki energy
draws lonely people

*

Bus Stop – July 5, 2018

*

looking for someone to listen

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Duluth, MN – July 5, 2018

*

something I can do gratefully
wishing I could do more
but accepting the fact
that all they’ve asked of me
is to be present in the moment

*

Morning Reflections – June 28, 2018

Carol A. Hand

Morning gardens dappled with sunlight and shadow

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June 28, 2018

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a few bumble bees and butterflies feasting on flowers
as another dry June day begins – this one already hot

*

One of the few butterflies this season

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Last evening’s promise of rain unfulfilled
despite the dramatic sunset sky
*
Sunset (1) – June 27, 2018
Sunset (2) – June 27, 2018
Sunset (3) – June 27, 2018
Sunset (4) – June 27, 2018

*

Dark clouds quickly effacing the rising full moon
on their way east to deliver rain elsewhere

*

Full Moon Rising – June 27, 2018

*

giving me an opportunity to do the best I can
to gratefully sustain life in times of adversity

*

May Snippets II – May 30, 2018

Carol A. Hand

This is my final post for an indeterminate time. I wanted to let you know why I have been so slow responding to comments and remiss in visiting your blogs.

***

Rocking Away Pain (May 27, 2018)

Tears flowing silently
unbidden
Shivering
despite the growing pile of blankets
lovingly placed to warm me
by the daughter and granddaughter
now holding my hand
while I lie supine
in a hospital emergency room

These are not tears of fear or regret
They come from gratitude
and the deep knowing
that ultimately we all die
The time and manner of passing
are not really ours to determine

For my daughter’s sake
my choice at this moment
is courage
to face the uncertainty of fate
not knowing if the dye that will be injected
for diagnostic tests
will stop my heart
as it did to my mother’s
starving her brain of oxygen
the first step in her long journey
wandering through the unknown territory of dementia

With an explicit advanced directive
“Do Not Resuscitate”
for me the test might mean death

This time, instead
it meant painful survival
and days in my glider rocking chair
trying to rock away pain and discomfort
and choking down food despite nausea

Even now, though, I find joy and humor in life

***

Recovery Reflections (May 29, 2018)

There is a time to bring forth blossoms

and a time to release flower petals
to dance in the spring winds
and softly clothe the earth in beauty
followed by a time to focus on forming fruit
then giving it a chance to ripen
before the first frosts come
signaling the time for rest
and deep reflection
to gather strength
for next season’s
bloom

It’s the necessary cycle
to feed one’s spirit

***

This morning when I awakened, silent tears of gratitude fell as I thought about my life. I have been blessed with so many gifts. Even now, I have the privilege of tending lilacs I can share with others who can no longer do so. It’s the small things we do that bring beauty and kindness into the lives of others that matter, as many of you have done for me over the years. Thank you so very much.

Please note that I have attempted, perhaps unsuccessfully, to close comments for this post. I am not sure when I would be able to reply. Let me just send my deep gratitude and best wishes to all.

What Would You Choose?

Carol A. Hand

We teach the next generations
through our lived example
how to care for the earth
and all our relations
We’re ever creating the world
our children and grandchildren will inherit
across all of earth’s imaginary boundaries
and within diverse fictive nations

The question to consider
is what we want that world to be

Do we teach children to care,
cooperate, and conserve?
Or do we teach them to compete,
conquer, and consume?

The answers matter profoundly
but we need to remember
awareness can’t be imposed
through legislation
It can only be encouraged
through living examples
that offer another kind of education
opening up new possibilities
that demonstrate the value
of compassionate contemplation

A lesson from an “Inchworm”

Note

Sometimes it feels futile and foolish to work on creating healthy gardens on a city lot that has long been neglected. Factories just to the east churn out foul-smelling toxic fumes. My neighbor on one side has spent more than a decade burying garbage along the fence-line. Lately, the garbage has merely been left exposed, joined by plastic toys his children abandon when their interest wanes.

I have tried to engage in reasoned conversations and offered to help create a healthy landscaped transition. My words have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps suggestions from an Ojibwe grandmother (you know, a triple whammy – age, gender, and ancestry) even exacerbated his unwillingness to consider alternatives. The experience has taught me how profoundly cultures and life experiences affect our ability to discern how our everyday choices affect what our children learn and the health of the environments they will inherit.

I’ve been told it’s a matter of perspective. Some prefer landfills that will someday look like manicured lawns despite the toxic or dangerous things that are hidden from sight, while others prefer healthy gardens.

May 31, 2014

May 23, 2018

***

I still wonder, though, how someone who claims to love children doesn’t seem to realize his actions are destroying a child’s garden.

July 3, 2015 – My granddaughter standing next to the garden she helped create.

May 23, 2018 – Damage control in process as the wooden divide grows ever higher to protect my granddaughter’s garden from the growing pile of refuse (including piles of dog feces).

***

Reflections about “Art”

Carol A. Hand

Approach the art of creating
as a sacred ceremony
emerging from spirit
as a path
for honoring and celebrating life
knowing deep in our hearts
intentions matter

***

Raindrops And The White Rose, by Audrey from Central Pennsylvania, USA (5 August 2006) – Wikimedia – Creative Commons

***

Loving thoughts will vibrate
in whatever we create
long after we are gone
as the essence of light and new possibilities
like the scent of rain and roses
and the peace of sun-kissed pine
blessing all those who follow

***

Endings are never easy for me. They signal times of transition. Yet, as I walked to my car Saturday after my last class of the semester, I had a sudden realization. Regardless of my circumstances, I have always found ways to express creativity. The subjects and media changed based on what was close at hand. Sewing, singing, drawing, studying pond-life under my microscope, making pottery, hooking rugs, tying macramé art, knitting, gardening. Learning about life and crafting useful things that were colorful and well-made proved to be a form of peaceful meditation. I could daydream and reflect. My spirit needed to express creativity. It gave me a quiet space to think and time to breathe love into being.

Under different conditions, I worked with people, developing innovative programs and experimenting with different ways of supervising staff, evaluating programs, conducting research, and teaching.

Creating living art, if you will, is like building sand castles that dissolve in the waves of time. Gaining fame and fortune was never the goal. The only legacies my “art” left were the interventions and projects others believed they had created (and in reality, they were essential and made it possible) and the memories for me of what had been possible to create in the past.

During times of transition, I have learned to ask myself a crucial question. Why not create again, and again, in each new now with whatever opportunities and media are available? There are grandchildren to love, gardens to revitalize, and endless issues to ponder and thoughtfully address in creative ways.

The privilege to dream of possibilities is accompanied by the responsibility to work toward their realization. I don’t claim it’s an easy choice. I have no power to change others who don’t seem to be able to see and honor the wonder and beauty of life. Despite the deep sorrow that accompanies witnessing disrespect and destruction and the seeming futility of giving voice to the art of change, I still believe simple caring actions matter. I’m just not sure what form that will take for me in the coming days…

***

Sun-Kissed Pine – May 11, 2018

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Simple Moments

Carol A. Hand

 

Sometimes, I can’t resist photographing the night sky.

***

May 2, 2018

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The moon highlighting the church steeple

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May 2, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

Perhaps I post too many photos of

the moon and everyday landscapes

exposing the limits of my old hand-held cameras

 

Still, I prefer to believe that

capturing the beauty of a simple life

is an act of gratitude –

and a special kind of art

***

May 3, 2018

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Like the view from across the street

of the long-lived willow tree

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May 3, 2018

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a solitary sentinel gracing an urban neighborhood

greeting her final spring

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May 3, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The winds and weight of her branches

finally proved more than she could bear

Photos will help me preserve poignant memories

of her beauty and my enduring gratitude

for her comforting presence in my life

***

Without Warning

Carol A. Hand

The long-awaited spring is finally here
Kneeling on earth, hands in the dirt
tending resting gardens with love
not knowing what has survived winter
or what will grow once planted

Blissfully unaware in the north wind
that disaster struck just across the river
I’ve grown accustomed to dark smokestack clouds
billowing toxic fumes from factories to the east
I’ve learned not to breathe deeply
when the wind blows from the east

View of the refinery fire from my yard across the St. Louis River, April 26, 2018

***

Those to the south were not so lucky yesterday
Black toxic towers rose and blew south
when the oil refinery exploded and caught fire
Though the disaster was just a few miles away
no warning sirens sounded in my neighborhood
I guess the city saves those for periodic tests

People on this side of the river went on with their lives
not knowing the city of Superior shut down schools
or that a “shelter in place” order for my neighborhood
was issued for this morning when the wind
was due to shift and blow from the east

Another view of the Superior fire from my neighborhood

***

I think of people in Syria, Palestine, and Puerto Rico,
Houston, Florida, and San Bernadino
Lives lost and homes destroyed with little warning
yet we live unaware of disasters waiting to happen
hoping that we won’t be downwind when they do

Addressing the threat is not a simple undertaking
Assigning blame and expecting others to fix this
are not constructive responses to complex predicaments
Perhaps this is a topic for students and all of us to explore
How can we bring communities together to dialogue?
To listen respectfully to diverse perspectives,
negotiate a shared future vision, and find common ground
that inspires wise collective action?

The imminent danger has passed here – this time