Monday, September 26, 2011


                      "...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;
                       and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
                                                    John Donne  Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

It was through ignorance and impatience that I killed the unhatched/unborn robin.  And it was through sheer neglect that I killed the tiny turtle with the pink flower painted on its tiny shell.  Sixty years later, I still feel some guilt, some sadness when I recall those killings.  I get a queasy feeling and I gently clench my teeth and I squeeze my eyes shut in apologetic acknowledgement of those long ago crimes against Life.  Small crimes.  Still, I think those small killings have left a tiny black speck on my soul--all innocence notwithstanding.
Over the years, I've killed ants and mosquitos and other insects as well as the occasional spider...but not so much any more.  Now, I shoo their peskiness away...or I leave them alone...or I gently remove them to an unobtrusive place.  I do this not because I am slouching towards Buddhism so much as because I find that I am moving, naturally, to a place of compassion for all living things.  Although, I still sense a snippet of ego in my actions/non-actions toward all life.
                                                And so I wonder:  Why am I not a vegetarian! 

In the long ago seasons of love (circa 1960 something) I killed a rattlesnake...days after I had been taught how to load and fire a little 22 calibre Smith and Wesson.   You see,  my gun-savvy husband was insistent that I should be pistol competant---living, as we did, off the grid, in the wilds of the New Mexican desert.  I didn't shoot the rattlesnake because he/she was threatening to bite me.  No.  It's not like the rattlesnake was invading my home or about to eat the quail that lived nearby.  Nor was the rattlesnake in the corral where it might have spooked one of the horses---thrusting its poison-filled fangs  into the leg of my Palomino.  No, the snake was by the side of a country road, far from any so-called civilization.  My husband spotted it as we were driving from one rural place to another.  He stopped the truck.  He handed me the twenty-two colt revolver.  He encouraged me (coaxed me) to get out of the car and to shoot the rattlesnake...

It was coiled up in rattlesnake fashion, next to a yellow chamisa.  I stood at a safe distance.  The snake looked at me.  I pointed the gun.  I pulled the trigger.  BANG!  The little bullet went through the snake's body several times.
I never shot the gun again.  I can still recall the place in the road where I killed it.  I can conjure the blue sky, the autumn foliage, the distant mountains..and I can still see the mangled piece of flesh that once was a creature---minding its own business, doing no harm, thinking about crossing the road...thinking about getting to the other side, perhaps.

I have a t-shirt that says DO NO HARM.  I got it in Greece during my weeks with the passengers of The Audacity of Hope/International Peace Flotilla;  a gathering of people who would not kill, joining together-from the far corners of our world to stop the killing and harming of others---to stop violence through peaceful means...wearing shirts that plainly said DO NO HARM.

Do peaceful means succeed in stopping killing?

TROY DAVIS was killed last week.  MURDERED

     "You never had time to learn. 
     They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base
     they killed you."
                                                    Ernest Hemingway  A Farewell to Arms

Troy was executed, murdered.  Despite the pleas and various peaceful protests and despite the petitions to stop the killing, the execution was executed. It was carried out in order to satisfy the decades-long cry from a few angry friends and some family members of the slain victim---an off-duty policeman.  The angry and unforgiving people were tireless (and ultimately successful) in their pursuit of retribution.  Retribution?  There is no righteous retribution to be found in the murder-for-murder form of punishment.  And in a justice system that is sometimes unjust, who can justify strapping a young man to a gurney and---in a semi-private "screening room"---injecting him with lethal poisons! 
People watched this spectacle.  Yes, they did! 
While hundreds of caring anti-death-penalty friends and strangers stood outside the death penalty prison with signs and prayers and petitions (petitions with thousand upon thousands of names of people asking the government of the state of Georgia to stop the execution, to have a new trial, to consider the "recantations" of the original witnesses and the clear evidence of reasonable doubt and the pleas from The Pope and Bishop TuTu and President Jimmy Carter) a few people sat in stone silence and stillness and watched a man be murdered thinking it would (at last, at last) assuage their pain or end the annoying, ongoing questions:  to kill him or not to kill him?  Guilty or not guilty?  Right or wrong?  Forgive or withhold forgiveness?

     "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. 
     But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle
     and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure that
     it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." 
                                                        Ernest Hemingway   "A Farewell to Arms"

Forgiveness.  Now, we who cried when Troy died, we who signed petitions to spare his life, we who stood outside the execution prison must forgive those who---decades ago---rushed to judge him, tried him, found him guilty, sentenced him...It is up to us to find, in our hearts, forgiveness for those who wanted him executed, who held on to their anger, who denied him a new trial, a polygraph test,,,We must forgive the parole board, the governor's office, the Governor...the Supreme Court...We must "forgive them" for---in the words of a great man of love and peace (Jesus Christ)---"... for they know not what they do."

Or words to that effect.

I want to know that I am forgiven and that I have forgiven my childhood self for forgetting to keep water in the tiny turtle's habitat that I kept in the abandoned chicken coop in the back of my neighbor's yard and for my misguided notion that I could speed up the hatching of the little blue egg by wrapping it in a paper towel and placing it in a little metal bowl and warming the bowl with some matches my friend Margie stole from her brother's room...and for the unnecessary murder of the rattlesnake...and for the accidental killing of the jackrabbit in the road one night very late, driving home from an evening of idle conversation...

And while I'm at it:  I wonder if I might forgive myself for all my lazy or cavalier or thoughtless killings of... ideas, and friendships, and Time, and opportunities...And finally, let me strive to understand and to remember that, not  unlike Hemingway,
                "I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after
                 and what is immoral is what you feel bad after." 
                                                                              Death in the Afternoon

Friday, September 16, 2011


"...shepherd...I lie down in green pastures...still waters...
restoreth my soul...righteousness...fear no with me...
a table before cup runneth over...goodness and mercy...
all the days of my life...forever.                                
                                                                excerpts from Psalm Twenty-three

(Caution if you are squeamish!)
My left big toenail and the second toenail of my right foot are growing back--after falling off.  First the toes were injured.  Then they were infected, sore and fragile.  Black.  Soon the nails were dead.  Now they are growing back.  It's amazing, isn't it, the way the body restoreth itself.   I've been wearing a band-aid on the big toe since early I've had a summer of unfortunate pedicurial realities to endure.  Not an earth-shaking inconvenience...I wouldn't even mention it except...
Last evening, in the middle of a luxurious mountain pine-scented bubble bath, I looked at that offending/offensive toenail...and noticed that it is actually restoring itself, reproducing those peculiar cells.  And, I began to wax semi-poetic and philosophic about the way in which virtually everything works; about how things begin and how they are affected by other things or events and how they respond to those events or things and what the various effects and outcomes are and how...just how, things are restored.

I believe that I, we, you, he, she, it, they shall be restored.

There is a desire for order in the universe...I think.  And it all seems so alternately mysterious and predictable.  I am thinking about those tests in which one is asked to predict the next number in a series of numbers.  But how can one answer accurately without considering how at that next number perhaps the whole pattern would change and the series would have to be reconsidered and reconfigured from the point of the next unexpected number.
I wait, and I search while waiting, for the next expected or unexpected number or incident or accident or event.  And I wonder if there is something that should be--or might be--observing me and wondering or predicting just what to expect with my next move or accident...Probably not.  And yet...I muse on...
"Re" is such a wonderful suffix.  So forgiving.  Restore.  Revive.  Rework.  Rearrange.  Re-evaluate.  Re-energize.  Remember.  Revisit.  Relive.  Relieve.  Resuscitate.  Resurrect.  Resume...
Restore the court of public opinion.  Restore our faith in humanity.  Restore a sense of optimism in the land---across the land.  Restore confidence in the future...That's what I am struggling to do.  Confidence in my future and yours and ours...Restore a sense of community, a sense of purpose, a sense of goodness...
Restore our collective pride in our family, home, neighborhood, town, city, country, world...a sense of cooperation.  Restore our trust in our neighbors, our laws, our leaders.
We are weary from the erosion of so many valuable things in our lives--in the environment, of course...but even more so in our values...
My father lived by the saying "My word is my bond."  It was his truth.  We could rely on his word.  He valued it.  We valued it.  Today?  "Sorry Sir, we don't take words for bonds.  We're going to need to see some collateral."  Collateral.  My collateral has been damaged...I only have my word.  Of course they're going to need to see some collateral.  Because Trust is gone.  It has no value in today's world. 

But...couldn't it be re-built? Couldn't we realize that it was injured.  That it was sore and that it got infected?  And that it is fragile...Isn't it possible to realize that there is in Nature (including Human Nature) a force to restore.   Let the land lie fallow so that it will be restored so that it can hold and nurture and nourish that which is planted in it...

What do we as a PEOPLE value today?  What did we value that we now have lost?  Do we want to reclaim it?  How do we reclaim it, given that we've done what we've done and are where we are?

                    "I do not believe that civilization will be wiped out in a war fought

                      with the atomic bomb.  Perhaps two thirds of the people of the earth
                      might be killed, but enough men (and women, I add) capable of thinking,
                      and enough books, would be left to start again, and civilization could be

                                                                                               Albert Einstein, 1945