Thanks to my dear sister and her casual comment of last November or so, I did produce a Language of Love calendar for 2009, despite my being out of the country. "I'm looking forward to the new calendar," she'd said, and I thought, "Oh-oh. What new calendar?" Then, in the spirit of anything's possible, a calendar was born.
This year's Love's Freeway calendar is a limited edition. Only sixteen exist on the planet. I'm so pleased to be enjoying the companionship of the twelve of you are sharing the Love with me all the year through, month by calendar month. For any others out there who would like to join us, you're in luck! Just three copies of this special international edition remain, and one of them can be yours--at a discounted price no less. Simply go to the Giftshop, click-click, and voila! I will dispatch your copy pronto. Thanks, and cheers from Eire!
For the Love of the Land
I recall a cross-country flight of about a year ago that left its mark on me. At the same time that I was awestruck by the beauty and majesty of America's varying landscape as we flew west, I was also disturbed here and there by what I saw. I do believe my response was more intuitive than conscious--a sensation versus a thought, that is to say. What I sensed when I saw various sorts of open-air mines, roads cuts into ridiculous, impossible landscapes, and other "insults," was insistence, domination of an otherwise contented land. I felt as though I were feeling for the land, experiencing first hand the tortuous contortions it had been asked--without being asked at all--to withstand. Here and there, it felt to me as though the earth had been, in a word, abused.It is one thing to utilize the earth's provisions, to avail ourselves of its bounty and wondrous capacities and its wealth of resources while respecting and appreciating its greatness and dominion. It is another thing entirely to take over, to relinquish the partnership in favor of power.So often this line is crossed in intimate relationships does it start there? It's a fine, subtle line. We move from "Gee, isn't this great? Look at what a treasure I discovered in you" to "You are mine, and you had better act that way" or some such, without even noticing it. Suddenly each partner presumes to have a say in the other's life, and the interference, or at least attempted interference, begins. I know better for my partner: "I know the right way to speak, to spend, to make the bed!" and vice versa. At the least, this is the privilege of partnership gone awry.
It is the same with the land. Somewhere along the way, we have gone from stewards to sovereigns. Power over has usurped cooperation for mutual benefit. Developers don't ask permission of the land before they tear into it. I expect the average developer would find that notion quite amusing at best. The earliest settlers of this land knew and honored the importance of such a dialogue, such a collaborative relationship with the land, and the benefits of that way proliferated. Exploitation on the other hand, no matter its context, can only end badly. We are paying dearly these days for the disrespect we have shown, for the injury we have inflicted on our earth and sky.I have long been amazed that anyone anywhere takes the bait of the marketers. That "choosy" mothers will, say, choose Jiff peanut butter because the advertisements tell them it's the better food for their children's PB & J sandwiches. Yet, advertising works. Consumers do listen in great numbers, buy the name brands, retire last year's perfectly fine garments to replace them with the latest styles, and even fall for "new and improved," replacing good old stuff with "better" stuff! I don't get hooked much by this, as
I am not much of a shopper; comparatively speaking, my consumption is rather low, my "footprint" smaller than average. Perhaps that predisposes me to some degree of immunity from the "spell." Nevertheless, it has not escaped my notice: things don't last a long as they used to. I thought this was due to the rising costs of production and such, coupled perhaps with a drop in the pride of workmanship (after all, so much is computerized now, and computers take no pride in their work). I was appalled to learn that this trend was no trend at all, but rather a marketing strategy conceived by economist Victor Lebow. What was Lebow's strategy for post WWII economic recovery? He said that what we needed was to:
...make consumption our way of life...to convert the buying and use of goods into rituals...[to] seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption...we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.I was shocked to learn that it was so thoroughly intentional. Sad, but true--at least according to Annie Leonard's important and enlightening video, The Story of Stuff. If you haven't seen it, watch it. In its entirety. Visit her blog. Check out the EWG's Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Data Base.
But whatever you do, please help turn this ship around! We can start (or continue) by taking responsibility for our willing, however reflexive, collaboration in creating our current conditions. Then, we can set about transforming them. Perhaps we'll see the day when rabid consumption will be passe, when tossing good stuff to make room for the shiny, new, improved models will be stigmatized, when the old standby will be coveted. I do think we'd have a full-scale revolution on our hands, the likes of which would even put age spots, creases and wrinkles in demand!
And a last word about where all the "stuff" goes. I would venture to say that the average rabid consumer doesn't think very far beyond his or her own curb or dumpster. "Power over" got us here. Reinstate the dialogue, the partnership, the collaboration with this land, and the ship will turn.
Not to mention that the earth will love us for it.
Let's Do It
"You have to fall in love every day."So said my friend Jackson. This was seven years ago when he was my coach in a leadership training program. It was excellent coaching, even if I couldn't live up to it at the time. I wanted to. His words inspired me. Probably because they were more than words. Jackson knew whereof he spoke: he was the words. I knew they were words he lived by and that they--he--could be trusted.Today I find his words more potent than ever. It's never been so clear to me that no matter our circumstances, there is always, everywhere, the opportunity to fall in love.There's the warm softness of the cashmere lining your favorite gloves, and loving hugs. There's the cat's paws crossed for sleep. How orange zest envelops as you tear the peel. There are shoes littering the floor doffed by kids safe at home. The faintest ticking of snow as it strikes window, stem, stone. The hot cocoa in your hands that warms you to the bone.There is frankincense and peppermint tea, bath oil, the aqua sea. First light, the last peep. The lengthening days, the traveling geese.Yesterday, I tuned into the Eagle Cam at Norfolk Botanical Garden to check on the latest happenings around the nest. I was startled to find the tree in near darkness; for a moment, I had forgotten the time difference. But as on inauguration day last month, I seized the opportunity, and proceeded to witness sunrise in Norfolk--all the way from Dublin, Ireland. What's not to love about that!? And then there are the wonders called "wireless" and "Internet" that made it all possible.Last night I found myself spontaneously doing something I haven't done since I was a girl. Anyone observing might think I was bored, just passing the time. Au contraire. It was a "doodling" sort of impulse that had me smoothing out the wrinkles in a square of decorated foil I had unwrapped from a fancy Christmas cookie. While I worked, I found myself thinking that someone had come up with festive design of colorful lines. It charmed me to think that someone, somewhere took this time and trouble, that someone else somewhere (or maybe a computer, I don't know), amidst a current of cutting corners and costs, took the time and care to wrap the cookie: for no practical reason apparent. For the sole purpose, it would seem, of delighting...me! The cookies were already beautiful, decorated with chocolate drizzling and such; they needed no ornament to appeal. But they were ornamented just the same, and I found this sweet. It's those gestures made, that extra something extended by one for another whom he or she will never meet, that particularly charm me. Charm? It's a glow, really. A melting I feel in the center of the chest. In, presumably, the heart. What is Love, what is "falling in love" if not a matter of the heart? It's a willingness to be touched, to open, to receive. There is contact made, a lifting off. Sometime, there is exhilaration, not unlike the exhilaration that comes with abandoning your footing to zip line across a crevasse--eeeeeeeeeee!Food, flower, friend or "foe": find it! Especially on those days when you're sure there's no love in sight, there IS and it's just waiting to come in.And how great is it that we don't need a lover to fall in love! So whadya say? How about now!A few months ago, I fell in love with a Pad Thai at the Thai House of Dalkey. Tonight, I'm going back for more.
All is Well
It's not about the cards. It can't be that people think Love's Freeway exists to sell cards, prints, books, calendars and such. Don't get me wrong: I'm happy when they sell. For the money? It's nice, but no: it's not for the sake of the money. I am as happy when I learn someone has read this column as I am when something sells. Happy because the word gets out. Happy because the Love's Freeway family grows larger. Happy because any time we are focusing on all things Love related, our focus is on Love and not elsewhere. Love gets a wider audience, or so it feels to me, and this pleases me.In recent weeks, I have been engaged in an on-and-off dialogue about the expansion of Love's Freeway: what, when, how. And although I see expansion as good, and the prospect excites me, at another level, I am satisfied with the scope of Love's Freeway as is. The scope, but not the reach. As with Claritywork, I feel what it accomplishes and how it serves--message and methods--are perfect. I just want it to touch more people. I want the word to spread. I want to spread the word.What word?Well, I've been rethinking that this morning, and it occurs to me that the message of Love's Freeway could be distilled down to three words: All Is Well. The sky attests to this. The jonquils, popping through the brown cold earth yet again attest to it. The Spanish orange I just peeled and enjoyed segment by sweet segment attests to it. Venus, situated nightly just opposite our windows, attests to it. My fireplace in Boston attests to it. This pot of Irish honey that will sweeten the next many weeks' worth of tea attests to it.There is a mantra that plays each time I teach a "Just Write" course. In the latter half of the first class, we focus on detail, which is to the writer what the color palette is to the painter. Be awake to the details around you but don't be self conscious I read, or ask a student to read from Writing Down the Bones. And I swear: these are words to live by, not only words to write by--the first few, anyway:Be awake to the details around you... I could say be awake to the grace around you. Or to the perfection around you. Or to the miracles around you: isn't every entry of these columns about that? How many times now have I said, in one form or another: we look, but we don't necessarily see. And that's what it means to be awake. To be awake is to see. It is realizing as self evident that all is well.This is Love's Freeway's raison d'etre. Surely it is clear by now that this is it's purpose: to serve as the finger that points to the exquisite perfection called "moon." Not to be the moon, but to put a spotlight, a focus there so that anyone following that pointing, that finger, will look, will see it and say, "Oh, wow, look at that!?! Look at that big, beautiful, miracle-of-a-moon," or equivalent.What makes "moon" a miracle? Well, how did it get there, first off. And what keeps it in constant and reliable revolution? And, well, consider the tides--human, animal, and earthly. What about its effect on planting and growing cycles? For starters. Then there's the sun. But surely I needn't go on and on delineating evidence that the sun is a miracle, worthy of our awe and wonder.But my word of choice for this matter of "all is well" as you well know, for these various evidences of miracles of perfection, is Love. Love is having Its way with moon, with sun, with water, with earth--with life as we know it and beyond. And I am here to say so, one lone voice who continues to invite other voices to join in. Through the words, through the images, I hope I am succeeding in being that finger pointing to the moon of "All Is Well."Why?Because my sister is stressed today--every day, it seems. She's looking forward to the Clarity Book (my primary work in progress at present). She says she could use some clarity.Why?Because my neighbor-friend has lost his second and final sibling to cancer--this one making it to 46, at least (his sister passed on at 35)--and I imagine that both my friend and his parents are not particularly focused these days on that moon I'm pointing to.Because my writer-client tells me she started the day sad, in a bad place, pushing against the current.Because my brother is worried about the incredibly shrinking value of his stock these days. Because so many are focused on what seems to be awry, catastrophic, failing--on all sorts of evidence that seems to suggest to them that all is most certainly NOT very well.
Environment, economy, cutbacks, cancers, wars, terrorism, molestation, murder: violence, unrest and decline of all sorts abound. But still, in the face of all of these, I am here to say that all is well. I am pointing to the moon and I will keep pointing to that moon. To arrest progress? To fly in the face of activism and all strides being made to eliminate, to overcome these ravages? No! Of course not. And anyway, what are these if not further evidence that Love knows Its way. Even the ravages are gifts, are Love speaking. Take the melting ice caps, for example. If this was what it took to smarten us up, to change our course, this is what it took. Our ways have been severely damaging, disastrous. We have been abusing our lifelines, misusing our privilege of direct access to all the wealth of the Universe. The time has come to show some respect, to honor the privilege.I think of the vastness and power of ocean. Seafarers know you don't get very far out there without a healthy respect for the sea. It is mighty and capable of great good and great harm. Ditto with the handling of a weapon--a firearm, say. If you put a gun in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to use it, you shouldn't be surprised when trouble follows.Love is at least this vast and potentially dangerous.As for the economy, what ever happened to "What goes up must come down"? Did we really think that it all could climb up and up and up ad infinitum? Keep inhaling without an exhale and you'll explode!Witness the explosion. Witness the natural order and design. Witness how all is well.