I remember as a teenager having real battles with my father on this issue. Ours was a religiously split household, and to profess a faith in his Roman Catholic God or my mother’s Protestant God of Love was to reject beloved family members on the other “side”. As the oldest child I bore the brunt of their disagreements. These got worse when I reached Confirmation age. I refused. I refused to reject any of my family or their religion. I also refused to just go through the motions to please an aging and dominant grandmother. I insisted that was MY choice to make as an adult. I tried to explain to him that I wasn’t sure how much of the Bible I believed, but I had Faith in … Faith itself was the best I could articulate it at 17. I used to pray daily, directing my attention to whatever Force ‘out there’ might be listening. “show me the path you would have me walk.”
In my mid twenties life brought me to KS, and one day as I perused the Kansas City Star, my eye landed on the talk title for that Sunday: “Integrity” at a place called Unity Church of Overland Park. where was that? And the next morning I got up early and drove the 42 miles from Leavenworth to UCOP for the first time. Hearing the music and Rev. Mary Omwake speak, I knew my heart had found its home. ❤️
That was many years ago now. Today I am unchurched again, living in RI, near (but not too near) my parents, far from the spiritual communities that nourished me so. I have lived through betrayals and griefs, seen much more of the world’s darkness. Life has been harder than I ever imagined it would be. Yet somehow I still find the sweetness, the Good, wherever and whenever I choose to look for it.
And whether I identify myself with any religion or like the Dalai Lama simply say, my religion is kindness, I wholeheartedly embrace the definition of Faith given in Hebrews 11:11 “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things not seen.”
Faith to me now is the calm certainty that there is Good to be found or made in any situation, and if I am not seeing it, then perhaps it is mine to BE it.
By Amy Marchand Collins
A swirl of blackness, gone already before you realize she is here.
In the deepest depths.
And she scarcely knows which she wants more: to howl with grief and rage and pain or lash out in anger.
And I allow her none of it.
Instead, I push her down.
Confine her to this small, dark space.
Where she cannot be heard.
And I will not listen.
And instead she has to witness while I “smile”
And react “professionally”
Like an adult.
A grievously wounded dragon is gathering her wings beneath her.
When she takes the sky
You who deserve her wrath may yet feel it.
She is kind
But even kindness has its limits
And she is reaching hers.
So I will go and sit with her just as Innanna went eventually to sit by the grieving, laboring body of her sister, Ereshkigal.
And I will let her know how sorry I am that she was hurt. And worse, that her gorgeous, wrathful Beauty is not welcome in this world.
She belongs to the Elder time
When Goddesses walked and dragons roamed freely.
But St. George killed all the dragons
And Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland
They built a religion and a worldview that revered death rather than life.
Instead of the soul-renewing cycles of the Mother’s Wheel, we have boxes and boxes
Swords and guns (Phalluses all)
To exact the land’s tribute in blood.
What women give freely each month with no discernible wound, man takes instead through death, destruction, rape and pillage.
But driven underground though they may be, the pulses of a thousand thousand turns of the wheel echo down through the centuries.
And we women find ourselves at turns parched by the desert heat
Or drowning in the astronomical spring flood.
Longing for the wisdom from before the time of boxes.
When we all knew enough to listen to the wise women.
And there was space for dragons to fly in the open air.
The flood washes the fertile soil down from the frozen places and deposits it on the fields, renewing them.
Our grandmother’s grandmothers learned quickly enough that seeds planted in that thick, black soil would sprout quickly. And that when they returned to that place they could harvest the fruits of what they had planted.
Soon they ventured shorter and shorter distances, for the land itself yielded abundance to support them.
And this was the beginning of leaving behind our nomadic wandering ways.
The cyclic floods, so like the predictable rhythms of women’s bodies brought life and greenery to the desert.
And gave birth to civilization.
What Darkness Does
By Amy Marchand Collins
What darkness does is bring us close, closer together, closer to the Light.
So it has always been, since first we left the trees and congregated around fires to tell the stories that make us who we are.
The woman sitting and knitting in the back of meetings and council halls going back thousands of years, has been oft-overlooked. But she hears more than you realize. And when she speaks, all in earshot would do well to listen to her wisdom. She is speaking now, reminding us of who we are, who we have been, and who we yet can be.
What darkness does is draw us close, seeking Light and warmth and the comfort of togetherness. May we in our togetherness remember to welcome and even celebrate the stranger in our midst. For we all have been strangers too. Besides. It’s just the right thing to do.
What darkness does is call forth our instincts to nurture and protect what is precious and most sacred. In the dark, seedling ideas can gestate, protected from harsh criticisms until they grow past the point of vulnerability.
Those who bring the darkness want us
And forgetful of who we are
But instead, here we stand.
Not against, but FOR:
For the Environment,
Anchored in Love
Shining our Lights
Over and over, saying to our friends on our left and on our right, “I see you. I love you. I am so glad you are here.”
Handcrafted pussyhats, the color of the sunset sky. As my hands form each stitch, I imbue them with my love and prayers, which join with the wearer’s intentions, our love and prayers blending and joining as one.
As we head into the long dark ahead of us, the friends, connections and memories made now must sustain us through the dark times ahead. Would that it were dawn already and these pink hats were instead harbingers of a new day!
Not all who enter this night will live to see the dawn.
But let these hats be reminders of all that we stand FOR.
We hoped to make history by inaugurating one woman to occupy the seat of power. Instead, we who are alive today bear witness to the last gasp of a system that no longer works. For anyone. And more importantly, to the galvanizing of all of us, as we awaken to how much work remains to be done – by us – to make the changes needed, both in our systems and in our hearts to create a world that works for everyone.
What darkness does in its arrogance is revel in its power.
And that WILL prove its undoing.
Because in its power-drunk madness it forgets:
There have always been those with the ability to see right through it.
And this is why
what darkness does best
is give strength and clarity to the Light.
By Amy Marchand Collins
Wouldn’t it be fun
If instead of mud-slinging,
People and politics were more about light-flinging?
What needs to seen?
What’s there to be healed?
Instead of lobbing bombs or bullets
We could shine the light of compassion
Where were you bullied?
How were you oppressed?
Rather than cut people down, dragging them through the mud
Let’s lift them up
Like a snowball fight,
Each landed “shot” leaving us that much warmer, safer, clearer, whole
Turn up the light. All the way up.
And drag the old stained mattresses and cupboards and hiding places we have used,
Thinking ourselves or others unworthy of this light
Drag it all outside
Put it on the lawn
Like the contents of a house after a flood.
Let the antiseptic sunlight into every crevice and corner
To dry and heal and strengthen
Let’s salvage what is good
Let’s toss what no longer works
The foundation is strong.
Let’s rebuild a more perfect union
This one founded on love and light and dedicated not just to the principle of equality and justice for all,
But to making that a reality
But first things first
For every person, with or without a disability, there are a web of people who support that person as they grow and develop to live an independent, productive life. For children, that web starts but cannot end with the child’s parents.
For a child with a disability, much of that web of support depends on programs that rely on federal funding through Medicaid.
As a parent of two teens with disabilities, a parent who already struggles even WITH the supports we receive, I can make a prediction.
If these cuts are allowed to happen, they will drive millions of people OUT of the labor force. Millions of mothers (and some fathers, too) who are already stretched because private insurance doesn’t cover the treatment or therapy or medication their child needs. Millions of mothers who are ALREADY underemployed, working in jobs far below their earning potential or intellectual capacity because the needs of their child (or children!) makes their schedule too unpredictable. Mothers who are spending their own prime earning years and college degrees changing pull-ups on teenaged bodies. Mothers who are risking injury and disability of their own lifting and changing and rolling — and ducking the unexpected spasm.
A New Foundation for American Greatness, you say? You are building it on the blood, tears, sweat and bones of myself and my beloveds.
–and to that I say NO.
I WILL NOT LET YOU FORGET THAT WE EXIST. OR THAT WE MATTER.
You are perhaps counting on the smallness and meanness of politicians whose limited measure of a person’s worth is what they add in economic value to the already overstuffed coffers of the billionaires who fill the cabinet and the Congress. And you are counting, perhaps, on the smallness and meanness of people who are also struggling and who don’t want to see any of their hard-earned money go to ‘undeserving moochers” on the system.
When and how did we the people become so jaded and calloused?
I was born years after his death, but the echoes of JFK’s challenge still reverberated through my childhood – “Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country.” I was brought up to revere education, learning for learning’s sake, curiosity, travel for the way it opens first our minds and then our hearts. I took to heart the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Everybody can be great, Because anybody can serve.” I believe that generosity and optimism and kindness will always take us further than cynicism, let alone hatred.
We need a new foundation for American greatness, I agree with you there. But what I have in mind involves taking a full, clear-eyed grown-up assessment of who we are and where we stand.
Certainly anything that requires further denigrating or diminishing the lives of human citizens of our republic isn’t worthy of the appellation ‘great.’
To be great, to be worthy of honor and esteem, we need to know what we value as a nation and then demonstrate those values by our collective spending. Words alone are not enough.
This is a momentous night for our nation. A full moon. Unsettled thoughts after tonight’s shocking action by the President. Firing the Director of the FBI! Unprecedented! And Unpresidential. What revelations will the new day bring?
Tonight our Democracy is fighting for her life. If she survives this crisis, there are fundamental changes that will need to be made. This meddling by the Russians and probable collusion by one or more members of the current administration is a grievous insult right to our core. It strikes at our fundamental values of life, liberty equality, and justice for all.
If she doesn’t survive, it will be because the elegant system of checks and balances that has worked for 228 years will have finally succumbed, collapsed under the weight of partisanship. (A weight the structure was never built to support – there is no mention of political parties in the Constitution)
I have felt this peculiar tension before, sitting between the isolettes of my twins in the NICU before they were big enough for me to hold. As if by my watching and waiting, through sheer force of will I can prevent anything worse from happening.
Bad news: I can’t. Not then and not now.
And I know I need to go to bed and make an attempt at sleep soon.
But first let me unravel a bit more of this.
He said he wanted to make America “Great Again.” That may well come to pass, but probably not the way his followers envision. Instead, if he does succeed at this slogan it will be after the fact and accidental. Also much more like the way Anakin Skywalker brought “balance to the Force” than any return to some mythical great American past.
Leave off the again. Let’s listen. What would a truly great America look and sound like?
An America, a United States that rose to the challenge of those who have called to her greatness over the years, an America that lives out the fulfillment of her creed. And expands upon it.
An America that recognizes that ALL people are created equal. Where one person equals one vote. And an America that recognizes that no one’s achievements are theirs alone. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have come before. An America that can honor and learn from the past but also not be condemned to repeat it.
An America that fosters community, compassion and courage.
An America that honors the sanctity of the land and our obligation to protect and preserve it. Not to plunder it for our own economic gains.
An America where we recognize the state as having an active role to play in protecting and fostering the full implementation of the inalienable rights we all are born with. Whether it is healthcare for all, education policy, a universal minimum income or consistent treatment across state lines, some things cannot be left to the invisible hand of the market
For America to become truly great, we need to learn how to reach out to one another with our real flawed human hands, across the issues that divide us.
I take seriously the injunctions of my faith traditions to love your enemies, and “pray for those who would spitefully use you.”
It is often hard work. I have to dig deep to get beneath my own fear and anger and outrage, to try to find some thread of humanity that I am willing to join common cause with.
Looking at this picture, I see both confusion and suspicion in the narrowed but foggy gaze. Perhaps the suspicion covers a layer of sadness or fear?
I don’t know. This man is in many ways a modern day embodiment of the archetype of King Midas. That ancient King had all the money and all the power that went with it, but it ended up costing him love and all of the valuable human experiences that money cannot buy.
Midas’s story did not end happily.
I cannot speak to this man’s personal experiences, but certainly having him as leader of our country, as “leader of the free world” has led to a greater emphasis on winning at all costs and on permitting hate in the public sphere. The rest of the world holds its breath while he and the leader of North Korea trade barbed insults more typical of schoolyard bullies than world leaders, threatening the entire planet with destruction by nuclear weapons.
In many ways he embodies America’s shadow — he is the American Dream taken to its obscene extreme.
Perhaps at some point in the future we will look back on this time as one where we finally got real and let go of the old consciousness, the often violent beliefs that have held our species back.
We may come to view this time as a collective chemicalization, and once we have bubbled it all up and out, we will finally have room to begin to remember the truth that what unites us really is stronger than what divides us.
But for now we are here in this moment, peering into an unknown future. Tensions on the geopolitical scene are higher than they have been since I was in college in the early 1980s.
I pray we and all our leaders find a way to see our differences with a new understanding. I pray we may look upon one another with eyes of love and compassion, rather than suspicion or fear.
By Amy D. Marchand (c) 1996
In the blueness of a watery tomb
I searched for you and found you not.
For though your body was there, it was but a cast-aside expression,
An empty suit of clothes.
Oh my Beloved, where have you gone?
My tears fall in echoing anguish to the storms that rage both without my dwelling
And within my soul.
WHY hast thou forsaken me?!
I rage and scream and cry until one morn, my anger spent,
I behold a sunrise with new eyes.
With a heart humbled from my search,
I am gently led
To the one door
I kept locked and sealed.
I touch the knob of this door and it opens
Onto the inmost reaches of my own heart.
The warmth and light that greets me stuns me to new tears.
For while I searched and raged,
Here you were
Waiting for me the entire time.
And here I know I am safe, protected from the buffeting storms I have wandered through.
Here, in the heart of God,
I am at home
With my Beloved.
This poem is one of those gems that dropped into my notebook fully formed, twenty-one years ago this month.
If I’m going to get called names, let it be because I stood for something rather than let my silence imply my assent.
I am someone who deeply loves this country. I was raised in NH, educated in DC and have made my home in Virginia, Kansas and now Rhode Island, not far from the land where my mother’s ancestors farmed since 1639.
I care deeply about the environment and the changes humankind has wrought upon it. I can remember as a child noticing the maple tree next to the road that always turned red a month earlier than the others not as close to the damaging road salts. It’s probably starting to turn right now.
I have family members who have served our nation honorably in military service. My nephews are about to join that proud tradition, one in the US Navy, one as a US Marine.
I have family members who are disabled. Hearing loss, cerebral palsy, Autism – these are part of my daily life.
I have family members who are transgendered.
I have people I consider family who are gay, lesbian, black, Latino, young, old, poor, and maybe even a few who might be considered rich.
I have walked in the halls of power both in DC and abroad. I have met with generals at home and in Europe and listened to our troops tell us what they need in places from Fort Irwin, CA to Fort Polk, LA, to Hohenfels, Germany.
I have stood in the snow at Dachau, feeling my feet burning with cold, adding my promise to the vow of “Never Again.”
I have climbed mountains and a volcano. And swum in oceans wherever I could.
I have danced in the woods by fire and moonlight offering my dance as a prayer for peace on the planet.
I have held my friends while they grieved their children’s deaths.
I have sat night after night between two incubators, my own babies too tiny for me even to hold.
By education and avocation I am more than just an interested bystander in our political system.
I have watched the growing polarization in Washington over the past fifteen or so years with deepening despair. Last year or maybe it was two years ago? I cried on the Fourth of July. We have moved so far away from the ideals our country represents.
I was thrilled with Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. Here finally was someone who put together many of the issues that are not just important to me but have to be tackled as one interconnected whole. But he is not on the ballot this November.
I sat and watched and knit through the incredibly difficult summer of 2016. Knitting is my way to make, not sense, but connections, and ultimately beauty of the experiences of my life. The picture at the top of my blog is of the shawl I knit that fateful summer. Through the shootings of unarmed black men. Through peaceful protests turned into massacres of police in Dallas. Through both political conventions. Through the Olympics. Through learning about Black Lives Matter and White Privilege and so much more.
Through my own challenges closer to home Botox injections for the kids, lots of turnover in the community of helpers that makes our lives run smoothly, and through good times, too – hours spent in peaceful contemplation of nature, looking for birds, watching the kids at therapeutic horseback riding, enjoying the nearly imperceptible passage of the seasons.
Take a long-term perspective.
As the great Martin Luther King, Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
May it be so.
It is always worth asking, especially when a headline or a post gets you riled up – who benefits from my upset? And is this the best use of my energy?
Let’s go higher.