In my small bucolic New England town sitting at the foot of rounded tree-filled mounds of earth we call mountains, I am nestled in the valley of the Housatonic with my fellows. Humans are not necessarily the majority of inhabitants here, although they claim to be in charge.
Some of us have been here a long time and some of us have been here longer. Personally I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. My own history in this place where I live now is very brief – I just moved in a year ago. Before that I was somewhere else I hadn’t lived long in and before that the same. I have always been welcomed as a native although that is hardly the case. Before my ancestors came here, they were some place else. Who can say otherwise?
It happens that here, where I live now, there are many we call Hispanic, they have been here far longer than I. They might have moved here, as I did, recently or years ago but they are only called Hispanic because the country I call mine invaded their country and won.
For some reason, perhaps because of the might of Teddy Rooseveldt and others, I do not call myself English-German-Dutch-French-Irish American, nor do I have to fill out forms or be counted as anything much. Demographics in this country have largely confined themselves to my gender and my politics, neither of which I have to explore to any degree.
I once did live in a place – Concord, MA, with three small, quiet rivers surrounding and running through my environs. It was only when they flooded and I had to drive thirty or forty minutes to get to a destination five minutes away that I noticed their existence. Time is relative until it isn’t and now the people I work with who far outdate my contribution to this area are being threatened. If not they themselves, their relatives, friends – you know what I mean.
Living here has become very stressful, we are being raided and rounded up. I used to ask my mother, “What did you think when you heard about the pogroms? About the raids? About the trains? What did you do? How did you act? What did it feel like?”
Her reply, like many of her answers to other questions, was more than disappointing. She didn’t know – about anything. She didn’t know what to do and she didn’t ask. In fact in her life she didn’t feel safe emotionally, I know that colored her heart. And she felt she had made her mark, made her life, even though she felt vulnerable in it as a woman. In truth if she had set herself free with her opinions and desires, she would have been shunned, pushed aside. She was pushed aside anyway and she didn’t invite more. It also wasn’t happening “here.”
Now it is. When Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is pushed out of a meeting of his peers in the House of Representatives, we are in trouble. When my friends are rounded up all over the country –including the ones I know along this corridor between CT and NY – I am afraid.
Now is the time. This is on us.
People talk of Hitler and his ilk. They only mean they ones we know – Papa Doc, Idi Amin, Pol Pot – to touch the surface. But these days, this month, has caused me to think there are many Hitlers. We are surrounded. I asked a friend who lives in VT and has gone to Canada for decades – weekends visiting friends. She says that after this election when she comes back, they hassel her, take her phone, keep her and her husband pulled over. I asked after the tone of her interaction, what was on the minds of these agents who had been quiescent for decades. How could one person’s voice give them this power, this drive? Did she think they had been waiting for the chance? She thought it was that they could. Now, it was supported, they could be kings, they had a mission. That simple.
In such a simple world, I find simplicity too.
It has long been both my assumption and very clear to me personally that there is no gold in mining the past for anything that will “cure” whatever distress is lingering in my daily life. That is not to say that where something disturbing me comes from cannot be useful, it’s that I don’t think it’s necessary.
In fact the more I am exposed to quantum theory and the research coming from the genetic dynamics we are heir to, the less I am inclined to lean on the past for anything but storyline.
I want to share with you this article I found recently as I think it speaks to so much clarity we could have using strategies in the moment without the concomitant muddying of waters gone still.
Reminds me of the teeshirts I have seen proliferating – Keep Calm and Carry On or variations which satisfy the makers’ intentions.
Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent @The Telegraph
Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop.
Scientists have long assumed that memories and learned experiences built up during a lifetime must be passed on by teaching later generations or through personal experience.
However, new research has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA.
Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations.
The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.
So a fear of spiders may in fact be an inherited defence mechanism laid down in a families genes by an ancestors’ frightening encounter with an arachnid.
Dr Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said: “We have begun to explore an underappreciated influence on adult behaviour – ancestral experience before conception.
“From a translational perspective, our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.
“Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
In the study, which is published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience, the researchers trained mice to fear the smell of cherry blossom using electric shocks before allowing them to breed.
The offspring produced showed fearful responses to the odour of cherry blossom compared to a neutral odour, despite never having encountered them before.
The following generation also showed the same behaviour. This effect continued even if the mice had been fathered through artificial insemination.
The researchers found the brains of the trained mice and their offspring showed structural changes in areas used to detect the odour.
The DNA of the animals also carried chemical changes, known as epigenetic methylation, on the gene responsible for detecting the odour.
This suggests that experiences are somehow transferred from the brain into the genome, allowing them to be passed on to later generations.
The researchers now hope to carry out further work to understand how the information comes to be stored on the DNA in the first place.
They also want to explore whether similar effects can be seen in the genes of humans.
Professor Marcus Pembrey, a paediatric geneticist at University College London, said the work provided “compelling evidence” for the biological transmission of memory.
He added: “It addresses constitutional fearfulness that is highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, plus the controversial subject of transmission of the ‘memory’ of ancestral experience down the generations.
“It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously.
“I suspect we will not understand the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes and metabolic disruptions generally without taking a multigenerational approach.”
Professor Wolf Reik, head of epigenetics at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, said, however, further work was needed before such results could be applied to humans.
He said: “These types of results are encouraging as they suggest that transgenerational inheritance exists and is mediated by epigenetics, but more careful mechanistic study of animal models is needed before extrapolating such findings to humans.”
It comes as another study in mice has shown that their ability to remember can be effected by the presence of immune system factors in their mother’s milk
Dr Miklos Toth, from Weill Cornell Medical College, found that chemokines carried in a mother’s milk caused changes in the brains of their offspring, affecting their memory in later life.
Lately I’ve been walking with Liam on a leash.
I noticed (for the last few years…I can be slow) that Cho takes his walk with us in a wide arc. It dawned on me that he might be avoiding Liam who goes after Cho’s neck and then Cho easily outruns him. When he gets far enough away and Liam has given up, Cho stops and eats grass.
As I said it’s taken me a while to notice that Cho spends most of his time eating grass. Typically he runs a few circles around us and then he stays a distance away but is always with us.
So now that Liam is leashed, Cho almost heels! He does his run and then he hangs with us. He even comes into the dog gate with the rest of us – Guinnie, who is always on a leash, Jules who follows behind my heels and Liam who until recently has been free to jump at all our necks at will.
My lesson is that Cho doesn’t really want to be far away. He really wants to walk with us and when I lessen the pressure on him, that’s exactly what he does!
Cho and Liam (leashed)
I’ve been quiet. I notice it’s hard for me to think what to say. This has happened before. When I am waiting for someone and something out of my control to make a decision that will change my life, I get really quiet.
A few years ago in 2004 I stood in front of a tribunal of congregates, my peers and colleagues in a Congregational church of which I was a trustee. A meeting was held among parishioners to vote whether or not Paula and I could get married in the physical body of the church. A number of parishioners turned out for discussion. Another group wrote notes and e-mails to the minister who had been preaching equality in sermon after sermon. There was a note to him mentioning that if Paula and I could marry then he could marry his grandson and keep his healthy retirement package in his family for as long as he could foresee.
And if I found that argument specious, there were more to choose, some I knew about, many I didn’t. People who knew me would ask me why I was attempting. Why was I in the church at all? The answer for me was that my daughter had asked – she later regretted it! – to participate in various church-related activities. Paula and I showed up. It’s what I say to anyone who asks – “show up, be reliable, be ready to love.” Now I’m more likely to add, “be ready to be loved,” and in its absence, vacate the space!
I didn’t come out until after Stonewall, after I had my children, after I had grown up not knowing there was “one more thing” to be different about. I appreciate that, I wasn’t ready to face the world of the 50’s with that much difference. In the spring of 1969 I was 25 with two children and as far away as I could get from my “upbringing.”
Later a lover’s mother would call my mother for support and succor. When asked how she felt about my being a lesbian my mother said, “oh, I have two other children, I don’t have to think about Pam at all.” She had said to me years before to “keep That in Boston, don’t bring It here.” I didn’t.
And that brings me to my wondering now, as we wait for DOMA, is our silence not helpful to those who would we were not here? I grew up where silence was the default for anyone not in the clear majority. When I would speak up it was assumed I was not telling the truth or that I was making it up. I truly think that today we have such “fast” change because we have been allowed the mainstream for a while. We have turned up, shown up, been counted and not made much of a difference. I used to joke when marriage was first an option that a line around the city hall in a few towns was about what people were going to see. We are not so many and our influence is not about sexual orientation. We are like everyone else. I think that’s what’s so funny to me, our perceived impact is huge compared to our mass.
The arguments against our civil rights would be funny if I weren’t dependent on them to tell me where I can stand.
With even the days getting cooler now and me waiting for Indian Summer, the sunflowers are really important.
There isn’t much to say about them. They stand tall, so tall it’s amazing to me they can do it. I feel that way about all of us. We keep showing up. We take what is here. Smell the air, feel the wind and the abundant rain. I am reminded that our words, our expression of ourself is as significant as the sunflower and as obvious. Our words, our thoughts are within us in such a way as to mark us who we are.
We never question the butterfly or the pigeon.
Who they are.
Sometimes I wonder what they are thinking, but not for very long.
Beings exercising themselves are not a mystery. Nor am I on my walk with the dog.
But diving into a flower. driving into the rain. sluicing in the warm effluent of life.
There is mystery. And why does the butterfly come to certain flowers?
Why does my eye catch the light
These hydrangeas are so abundant this time of year, we used them for Bimala and Jeff’s wedding on Saturday by the hundreds from our garden. In buckets, adorning tent poles, and table settings their delicious white blossoms everywhere.
We use the frailest of nature’s offerings to endow and support our deepest rituals and desires. If I want to bring a smile or warm the heart of anyone I know, I have only to proffer one of these fragile delights.
In my world the next most valuable offering is a heartstone – thanks to living on Martha’s Vineyard for some years where collections reach gigantic proportions, I am familiar with the resonance the wear-sculpted stones have on the hearts of giver and receiver.
And for me, as a writer of this blog which gives me so much, I find such comfort in your comments. It is such awesome magic that I can write and share myself with you and then be given your distinct and generous voice which inspires my heart to open to the allowing that we share.
This morning, after a very restful time away, I woke up to being home. Sometimes when I go away my life gets simpler and coming home is a shock. The dogs seem so doggy, cats aggogle with needs, hair everywhere, weeds as if I’d not weeded. We had stayed for a few days on Martha’s Vineyard, a place I associated with rest and quiet until we lived there with all our animals, kids and needs! We moved there with our two greyhounds, six or so cats and ourselves – a large ficus and perhaps one other sizeable plant. We left twelve years later with six dogs, three horses, two children, maybe ten cats, bonsais and large plants that took a separate rented van, ferry trip etc to move. We were not laid back!
But this time when we went back we stayed in the beautiful Aquinnah house (five minutes from one of the loveliest of Island beaches) of our dear friends and the godparents of our daughters. We are part of the godparent contingent of their son Jacob who, a child of autism, is one of the dynamic teachers on this life/plane. On the front door is a sign that reads, “Jacob’s house.” And it might as well say, “and all who dwell within are Jacob’s.” There is no way not to participate, no way to be above or below. I am keenly aware of the world of Jacob and as keenly that I know nothing. Nothing, not of it, not to it or from it. Nothing.
This shifted me into complete acceptance. Awareness. Mindfulness. I have studied Bare Attention for years as part of a yogic practice. Something I could choose to do, be firm about, be lax. That choice doesn’t exist in Jacob’s world. I was aware, I was OK. I was attentive – that was particularly helpful when I found out he can propel himself through the screen door and out – out where he can run very fast, for he is a very fit eleven year old now. The first time I was surprised, the second time I latched the screen in anticipation and was triumphant when he thudded against the door but no release! Just because he is autistic doesn’t mean he isn’t smart, or he can’t understand and react to news that might apply to him.
What I learned and take back home is to accept what is. I have some of that I need to do here. I think Jacob is my guy to help with that. He’s the professor of my acceptance. The courier of my disunity. The master of my expression. All in terms of helping me realize my own illusions, my diversity – I am not always who I think I am. Anthony de Mello writes about how we have an illusory vision of what is around us. Our belief system is propelled and encouraged by what we think we see as “reality.” I have been awoken, shifted into appreciation and acceptance. That includes me, it includes you – and all that we say and do. Need to keep going back to get these courses.
Nature’s deeply rooted impulses are what I walk in and around upon stepping outside. Step by step I can reflect upon the confusing abundance of effort, action and just sheer thoughtless presence. This tulip came up where Paula and Bimala planted it. It reacts to its surrounding soil, water conditions and so on. It wouldn’t look like this necessarily in another location.
Nor would I. Or you, wherever you are. Transformation is a word we often use to mean big things but it happens every millisecond we are alive – and, continues after death. It’s one of the most normal of experiences. We don’t give it much thought – and the tulip could care less.
The tulip’s actions to growth can be captured step by step in slow-motion. What would your slow-motion movie show? The microcosm bit, not the trajectory of birth to death. The one where you make the decision to…..whatever your decision is. Can you catch it before you say the word you regret? Take the food you don’t want? The step which will not benefit you? What do you look like in that moment?
Every moment, minute, hour we have choices fly by us like bosons and neutrons, we have the chance to catch the flame of our attention, take action or reaction, stabilize or destabilize. The fuse, the fuel of our transformation is how well we know who we are and what we want – our passion, our reason for taking breath.
I love to draw. I sit and pick colors for outlines I have made. I can do this for a long time. I don’t always feel good about it – I mean as in not very accomplished – but I always know who I am while I’m doing it.
I don’t know how to express what I want to say about seeing a deer, its back legs broken by a car, struggle across four lanes and a fenced median strip while we were on our way to see our daughter’s dance at college.
Two young women, in separate cars, who saw the deer hit by a man who did not stop were helping her get out of extremely intense traffic. The one who crossed the road with the deer – a pregnant doe – told of several men who tried to film the deer’s struggle with their cameras to post on YouTube. The young women had called 911. We called again, several times. I found our exact location on my iPhone and called it in. Paula and I and the young woman – I never got her name – stood where the deer had gone into the brush. The young woman had to leave, we reassured her we would stay. We stood for an hour as cars, trucks and buses raced by. Only one other person stopped to see if we needed help. Another woman.
When the police finally came, he was extremely nice and honored our watch and thanked us. He went up the hill and into the woods, he reassured us he saw the deer and he would shoot her. We heard the shot. Several minutes later another shot and the man came down, thanked us again, said the deer was in a better place.
During the hour we waited I reflected a bit on the men in my life. How so many men I love have told me they don’t have men friends, they don’t connect with them. They have women friends, they talk to women, go on walks, eat meals with women. I think I got it. I would not be interested in someone filming this horrific sight. I would not want to be with someone who couldn’t share wanting to put this right. And in this case it did mean killing. There was no other choice, it was the humane act of the moment.
I’m sure that the many thousand people who passed us in that hour or more were not all heartless men. I am sure that most people do not know what to do. They do not want to feel the intolerable feelings we carried with us as we five women watched and waited for help to come. I don’t blame them but I wish there was more courage.
I wish mothers of boys could teach them vulnerability. I wish fathers could hold their growing young sons in an embrace of new born love their whole lives. I wish teachers could touch students, I wish touch was sacred. I wish courage was more ordinary.