LOCKDOWN by Richard Hendrick

© 2016, Laura Riggs

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.

But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless,
the sick, the weary.

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are. To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.

To Love. So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate. Yes there is isolation. But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying. But there does not have to be meanness. Yes there is sickness. But there does not have to be disease of the soulYes there is even death. But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. Today, breathe. Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again. The sky is clearing, Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love. Open the windows of your soul.

And though you may not be able to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

– Richard Hendrick, an Irish Capuchin Franciscan (March 13th, 2020)

Old Friends

Old Friends By Laura Riggs

Hello Regret.
Hello Sadness.
Hello Anger.
Hello Loathing.
Hello Disgust.
Hello Angst.
Hello Hate.
Hello Disappointment.

It’s been awhile, my Friends.
I’ve been expecting you.
Please, won’t you come in?
Sit down.
Can I get you a drink?
Vodka perhaps.

I’m sorry it’s been so long
since I’ve called any of you.
But, I’m glad you could
Join me tonight for dinner.
Please, tell me how life has
been treating you, as of late.
For I have missed you.

I’ve called you all here as
A matter of great urgency.
I’ve been contacted by the
Depths of Despair.
And they’ve come to
collect their dues.
But I cannot pay the bill.

I was hoping to borrow
from you, my friends.
From your coffers of illusion,
disguising all sorrows,
to veil the agony.
And keep Despair from
entering these hallways.

For if I don’t defend my
Soul, who will?
I’ve been on this field
before, my friends.  And
watched as Despair took over.
All while you hid your faces
in plain sight.  You said
Nothing as they ripped
my heart into pieces.

This time, you will join me
in a performance of love
My hips have been heavy
With sadness. They don’t
Move the way they used to.
They’re too stiff with regret to
Dance, swing, make love.

I’m glad you got out today.
I’m glad you got to see this day.
Too many days are spent inside
Because Despair locked us in.
Maybe I’ll get out tomorrow.
Maybe that’s the end of it, then.
Maybe the time has come
to have Despair meet with Mercy.

When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal. But when we instead experience the raw quality of the itch or pain of the wound and do not scratch it, we actually allow the wound to heal.—Pema Chodron

The Summer Day…by Mary Oliver

Maui (C) 2014, Laura Riggs

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper,
I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down 
into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

Travel Log: Real Jardin Botanico Madrid

Dahlia; (C) 2011 Laura Riggs, all rights reserved

In September 2011, I traveled to Madrid on a one way ticket, alone, with a backpack of clothes, a small laptop, and some toiletries…no phone, no itinerary.  I had a rough “plan”, however…I had sketched a path along the Mediterranean coast, then maybe head north, and at some point, I would go home.  I had lost a child who was not my own, been laid off, ended a relationship, sold my home, and was in the throws of a deep depression.  Basically, my life blew up and I decided it would best for my soul, if I went out and wandered the world for a while.

It had been more than a decade since I’d last visited Europe, nor had I ever been to Spain, so I really had no idea what to expect.  Initially, I (like every other American) mistakenly believed I would “know” how to navigate the city because it would be similar to my own, and that everyone would speak English.  After three failed attempts to get to the city centre from the airport by train, I finally made it to my hotel  Then, I panicked — this was only day one of my adventure in a city where I couldn’t read the street signs, nor the understand the logic as to how the streets were laid out, and I didn’t speak Spanish well enough to ask for help, or get directions.

When Don Miguel Ruiz laid out the criteria for navigating the life through four agreements, he wasn’t kidding about the third – Don’t Make Assumptions.  I realized that nothing would be as I assumed, so I either needed to get my ass back on a plane and go home, or adapt.  I had to remember why I had even decided to come on the trip to start with – my life was a mess, and I needed to believe in myself again.

Most of my time in Madrid was a blur, but I remember sitting in the Real Jardin Botanico, having a full blown panic attack, when I looked up and noticed this dahlia staring back at me.  There was so much beauty I was missing, because I had shackled myself to my past.  I had to trust myself to navigate through the challenge, to let go of the assumption that things would be similar to home.  Bigger still, I had to let go of the assumption that I was not worthy of joy.  It took three more months of wandering before I found acceptance, but this place was where I began to understand that my fear/my assumptions, were full of shit.

At times of stress, I find myself slipping back into this space.  It’s hard work to stay on the other upside of depression, and a continual commitment to keep seeking joyful moments, while also being firm with my boundaries and the need for self-care.  I slip for a few months, and fall into the pattern of criticizing every single flaw, every mistake, every thing I did to miss out on being happy. It’s like crawling out of the hole all over again, although the distance gets smaller each time, as I become more aware of my patterns and relying on meditation to bring me back to the present moment.

Today, I was reminded of this poem by Ariana Reines:

“Come to me whole: with your flaws, your scars and everything you consider imperfect.  Then let me show you what I see.  I see galaxies in your eyes and fire in your hair.  I see journeys in your palms and adventure waiting in your smile.  I see what you cannot: you are absolutely, maddeningly, irrevocably perfect.”

The more you can be at peace with your flaws and imperfections, the more compassionate you are towards others.  If you look closely enough, the dahlia pictured above isn’t perfect, but that isn’t what I see when I look at the photo.  I see the vibrant pinks and I remember the way it smelled, and I remember it drawing me back to the moment and out of my panic.  Imperfections and all, it’s one of my favorite pictures I took while I was in Madrid.

 

Hymn: A New Poem by Sherman Alexie

(c) 2012 Laura Riggs

The author’s new poem addresses the hatred currently plaguing the United States.

“But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.”

©2017, Sherman Alexie