We need to speak for what is right.

They say nothing happens you can’t handle. Bullshit. That’s right up there with everything happens for a reason or god is testing you because he loves you. No. People can heal, they can recover but they can’t always handle what happens. a lot if what happens is because people don’t care about the other beings on the planet are are selfish and self righteous. and if you think a god is ordering your life and testing you with a bad relationship then you believe that same god is starving millions and torturing people around the world. That selfish and egocentric view is killing society.
Life is often hard. it isn’t right. It isn’t fair. But it is. we should try to make things better because it’s the right thing to do not because it helps us. When we ignore the beatings next door because it isn’t our business or ignore wrongful imprisonment because they are the other we are wrong.

There isn’t always something we can do but the choice to ignore it and accept it is the problem. The choice to agree is worse.

Connection

It seems every time I write lately what I write about comes up in what I read the next day and what I read about comes up in the talks at meditation. Not the topic and action that I start on, the deeper parts.
Today I wrote about a moment that changed everything. The story meandered through the past and the memories of my husband and moments of impact.

It ended with a thought about his calm acceptance of what everyone sees as my sudden decisions. I was trying at one point to explain how they aren’t really sudden even if they are. After leaving the Lanai to catch the bus home I went back to reading.

The chapter I read was The Third Thing. It talks about this very topic. That when you are torn between two things you need a third thing. Two things is not a choice. But a third will come and balance things out, offering the way forward. It appears sudden but it is the culmination of the process that the two things created.

my first meditation session with this group they talked about dealing with intense emotions and sadness. I cried on the way there and going to sleep for several nights before.
The next time we talked about what is and the whole talk meshed into what I read the days before. I had been reading Writing Down the Bones. The idea of using writing meditation as a path to not following the thoughts and emotions when sitting meshed interestingly into the talk about sitting.
The last thing I read before one session was that a well that dashes about cannot draw water. We cannot do happiness, it flows through us in our stillness. I was a few minutes late and sat in stillness with the group. She talked about ending suffering and sharing love. We talked about enlightenment being a moment to moment thing not a permanent state. The balance of mind, and the four keys. She talked about the calm acceptance of what comes that you feel in enlightenment.
Saturday we sat on the ridge through the day. I was at a crossroads in my mind and emotional state. I had one of those two choices that need a third way. I didn’t realize that is what I needed. But in stillness I found a moment of peace and acceptance of what is. it didn’t change the situation but it let me see what is and reach a new possibility.

I went to the meditation Sunday lonely and sad but more at peace. Leaving , when she hurried over, obviously she had somewhere to be she was putting off, to give me a flower it struck a light in me. I’m not alone even if I have no close connection here. We are all one and connected. It is enough.

I don’t know what now but I do know I will be here for it.

Cooking

I love to cook. I love the ingredients, the flavors, the smells, the history, and the tastes. I spread my ingredients out and chop and prep running several dishes at a time until I have a meal or several meals ready. My goals are to have good food within a certain flavor profile for as many servings as I need and to have no ingredient waste if possible. I try to prepare lunch for several days and take the remainders for my meal that evening I prepare them. I want colors and flavors textures and scents. Food starts when you smell it and see it and the richness of the flavor is increased by the richness of the colors, scents, and texture. Some things I love the flavor of do have troublesome smells or textures but they are worth it.
I really learned to cook here in Hawaii the first time I lived here. Obviously, since I was in my 30s I did cook prior to that. But food wasn’t the same kind of interest. There were times I worked hard to prepare and learn complicated dishes and meals but I didn’t’ really understand them. I didn’t understand flavor profiles, cultural distinctions, the historical and cultural reasons certain dishes are what they are, why some substitutions work one place and not another. I loved good food but had not yet developed the love of ingredients, history, cooking, and the rich value of food and sharing food.
After I moved back to the mainland I had a really hard time adapting to what was available in stores. They are the usual things to people there and to many of the dishes I ate but not to how I learned to relate to food. Since I have returned here I find myself once again enjoying my time picking vegetables in China town or visiting the various stores I love to find ingredients at. I am coming back in to the pleasure of just cooking something because I want to not just so I can feed my family. I don’t come home too tired to think about cooking or to a kitchen I am unwilling to cook in. The kitchen here is small but clean and decently stocked with pans and needs.
Now I buy a few ingredients and spread them out to prep. I can take a couple vegetables, a protein (today it was tofu and mushrooms), a base like starch or purple sweet potatoes or kamut, and whatever I happen to have in my cabinet for spicing and flavor extras to create a series of different dishes for the week. Each is put into it’s container and sealed for the freezer and a bit is put on my plate for dinner. I spent $7 today and made dinner and 4 lunches by adding rice I made while I ate lunch and some spices from my cabinet.
I love that feeling when I finish eating something really good and know I have several meals ready for lunch in the freezer and when I look back to check the kitchen it is clean and ready for the next person with no sign I have been in there. I had only a few vegetable tips to discard and I could use those for broth if I had a way to store them.

Last week my flavors were mostly Italian leaning and this week they are more Thai or like those you see in Buddha bowl recipes. The week before I made each one different (to be able to do that with the same few ingredients pleases me.) Sometimes I have an ingredient I don’t know the name of because all the signs were in Chinese. I have used some of them many times and am familiar with them even if I don’t know what to call them. Others are new and that is always fun. I have learned usually to tell how to substitute or how to cook/prep something new by examining it.
I love food and cooking. Good food is calming and pleasant to enjoy. The ingredients have a history and a story. They are connected to cultures, people, and history of our lives. These foods rose out of cultures and impacted the changes in cultures. Food are the foundation of sharing and communication in many situations. They can be a way to connect or smooth interactions. Food is important and it is a foundation of society.

An Office Divide.

Politics, the great divider. It is interesting that the thing designed to run our society and equitably distribute power is seen in people’s minds as a way to control power and ensure their way which they know is the only right way is done. People argue and discuss, fight and work without hearing one another or understanding the reasons.

Compromise is not always the
answer, often you cannot compromise and move forward. When you continuously compromise with one that is extremely wrong you move gradually closer to that wrong. The person with the destructive plan may have other good concepts and desires, may care for their family and friends, may stand as a beacon in some things. None of that in any way changes a destructive or hateful trait that must not be allowed to dominate a society.

Early morning discussions of politics in the office almost always devolve into arguments and disagreements that fall back on irrelevant statements that misdirect from the discussion and inflame responses by sounding taunting and snide. That does not lead to understanding but people are not trying to understand they are trying to win. Politics is about wining and it is reaching into every area of life.

Outside the team is working too hard to have these discussions unless they do it on lunch. But in the office you hear these most days. The same men that talk about wanting to hang a basketball court to prove to the crew that they are better at physical stuff because they can play a sport and entertain themselves with sports all day bring that same mindset into a political or racial discussion. The boss that firmly believes each race can be categorized and slotted into a work and skill level will argue politics on any topic with no regard for human decency because in his mind they are the other. Throwing fallacies, irrelevancies, and false information into arguments is common in discussions and it prevents any of them from actually becoming a
discussion.
Living in Texas religion and politics were intricately tied together and one rarely was discussed without the other. Here in Hawaii it is different. Not that people’s religion does not affect their political stances but discussions are different and even when directly opposed there is often a smile in the voice and an underlying knowledge this is someone I like even if we disagree. One man in my office is incredibly religious and blatant about it. His religious stance is drastically different than mine but unlike the similar stance people I was around in small town Texas, here we not only get along well and work together but we only discuss it when on non-confrontational topics. There is a customer that is of an opposing faith that brings it up on most calls and
insists there is religious discrimination happening. The interesting point is that none of us knew his religion until he started doing that and we never discuss religion in the office.
I often have lunch with the crew working the warehouse that day and discussions with them are about life, working, playing, the island, families, and what we are doing to earn money on the side. We discuss the future and our goals. We discuss how people eat and live and the cost of living. Politics is a side note that is discussed only as how it impacts people. Religion isn’t discussed often. Some of the office people understand that and discuss it with an attempt at balance and compassion but that can be a challenge.

This is the difference, politics as a discussion or power or politics as a discussion of impact.

Just writing

Chill air from the AC feels like it is cooling my bones in my bare arms. The odd wavering drone of the long flat ceiling mounted unit above my head can be felt in my head where the pressure from the back of my neck is trying to produce a migraine. The first thing I do on arrival is reach
up and lift the vent to direct more of the air away from my desk. I didn’t move to Hawaii to be cold. Pulling on my hoodie the soft fuzzy interior brushes my arms lightly with a silky softness that doesn’t really match the heavy grey exterior. Staying on track when writing has been a challenge so I have started using the Shut Up and Write group as a place to do writing exercises and practice just writing or specific skills in writing. Some of them I post here, some of them I don’t. My primary goal write now is to write, and when that isn’t happening, to draw. I practice tones, descriptions, PoV, and styles. I practice topics, timing, speed, focus, freeform, and themes.
I get the exercises from writing magazines, talking to writers, reading books about writing or comments from writers, a few came from online. Some are hugely helpful, some just keep me writing. I am once again
building a collection of scenes and moments, thoughts and characters, lines and stories that are swirling in the back of my head trying to become a coherent story. Like Sir Pratchett talked about it is still like standing on a mountain looking across a valley and seeing only the highest peaks as you slowly lower the clouds and reveal more and more spots until the whole valley is cleared and coherent. I have a sense of it but it isn’t clear to my coherent mind yet.
The light in this room is adequate but dimmer than it seems. When you enter from good light you see the off tinted dingy feeling light that lends the old white walls a greater age than they have. Highlights in grey and tan increase this rather than combat the sense of tired efficiency. A quiet competence fills the space but radios and videos play here and there, competing for attention from a group that each has different interest and taste. A mix of rushed immediacy, detail specific, and relaxed tolerance pervades the workspace with a tension born of loose structure blending with OCD details. A need for a constant inflow of cash means an urgency touches everything and errors are a risk so the tolerance may be natural but it is pressed back out of necessity.
Doing more, being more places, being around more people, seeing more things – all of this feeds my writing. When I hide in a hole and see no one I can’t write. Writing for me is visceral in a way that requires experience and sensation. The feel of the sun as I walked down the hill from my car to the office at the garden was a pure experience that inspired a myriad of sensations and thoughts, memories and questions. Watching the people swarm at the intersections in Waikiki with their chattering noise and bright colors like
plumage of birds on display inspires amusement, observation, stories, loneliness, comfort, anxiety, and memories. The birds diving out of the tree for bugs in quick short swoops reminds me of the kittens learning to hunt and the bees moving between flowers. Each thing is a host of trains and streams of consciousness that arise from the scent, the sound, the colors, the pattern, the words, and
the moment.

Why do I Write ?

Today, another writing exercise. This is a sort of stream of consciousness based on what is around me and a question. It is unedited and random.

Why do I write? That is an interesting question, and one I
am not certain I can fully answer. I write to express myself. I write to get
the words out. I write to remember. I write to describe. I write to share. I
write to heal. I write because writing is part of who I am. I am not writing
but writing is and writing is happening. As Writing the Bones said “writing is
writing.
The sun is out. The ac is on. Heat wraps around you with a
wet blanket. It isn’t hot like I remember as a child. The stifling, heavy heat
that press on you and pushes tendrils into you sapping all your energy is
pervasive in Texas and Louisiana. The damp heavy air makes the heat oppressive
as it nears or passes 100 degrees. Mosquitoes and gnats swarm and bite causing
you to bleed and itch into your dripping sweat. Plants wilt in the sun and
often in the shade. You can’t water during the day or you burn them but you
have to water or many plants will die from the heat and dehydration. This same
dehydration will hit you if you spend to much time out in it when hiking,
working, camping, walking, or playing. People frequently fail to notice just how
dehydrated they are. In some areas the dry air draws the moisture out of you. In
others the heavy, wet humidity causes you to sweat it out.

A pounding echoes through the shop as the crew loads and
unloads materials and preps those that need pre-assembly or dismantling. Hearing
the sound outside the glass door my mind tries to picture what they are doing
and what equipment they are working with. I am uncertain what crew is here
today, although I have seen several of them coming in for equipment or paperwork.
Having taken the time to get a tour of the shop I know what equipment we supply
and assemble here. It helps me to follow the calls and conversations around me
if I know the materials we are working with. Having grown up on construction
sites and reading blueprints all the details make sense but the names are a
blur and a mystery. I don’t remember names. I remember the sounds of metal
alloys as they are worked or hammered. I remember the sounds or the specific
tools. I remember the smell of sawn wood and how the acrid touch of arsenic
touches the treated boards lending a different smell than the white pine or the
rich cedar smell.

Image and Bias

Like many other authors, my writing is often inspired by
what I am reading or by the people around me. One of the books I am reading
right now is
A Slip of the Keyboard
by Sir Terry Pratchett. Of the many tangents it inspired, one is how others see
each of us and how we build our views of others. How I see myself is its own
conundrum but reading this book and
Finding
Mary Foster
brought to mind the many varied ways I am viewed by others,
both those I know and those I do not.
Some people have a particular image they want to put forth
for others, like playing to an audience. Others have a mold or image they
strive to fit into. Unconscious or not most people have an idea or image of what
they should be. Inherently this implies they have an idea what others should be
as well.

What are the triggers that create and build the internal
stories you have about those around you? Clothing is a major social marker and
is the first point of information in many instances. They are an indication in people’s
minds of a person’s sense of style, their social status or standing, their
interests, personal and grooming habits, financial status, origin or home
region, connection a person may have, and sometimes their religion. These
images and indications may be completely inaccurate but they are typically
automatic and impact our interactions. Some people have an image of what other
things imply about a person and their background based on skin color, gender,
hair, eyes, voice, or mannerisms.

Depending how and where we met, you may have a very
different view of me than someone else. I am naturally quiet, introverted,
adaptable, passionate, generally untrusting but very trusting of those I am
close to, compassionate, and interested in learning and growth. I am aware of
some images of me, such as those that find me cold, distant, angry, and harsh.
On the other end you have those that find me open, caring, trustworthy,
compassionate, and quiet. On another range you have those that find me eager to
learn, intelligent, thoughtful, practical, and diligent compared to those that
find me flighty, uninformed, brash, talkative, and uncaring.
If I am viewed on such a broad scale as loquacious and brash
in one corner and silent and shy in another what purpose is served by me
worrying about my image? It is of interest though. As a gamer I am accustomed
to roles and displaying an image in short sessions. The idea of being a
different person for different needs is not hard to understand.
When someone enters a room in an expensive, tailored suit
people tend to respond differently and treat them differently than the one
entering in shorts or the one in a mini skirt. Their memory of each person
tends to be colored by the clothes as well. Consider, each of those
descriptions gave you an image of someone didn’t it? It was likely more
complete than just the clothes really give you reason to know. Play a game with
me for a minute or two.

Take each of those outfits in turn and create a brief story
showing a person of different origins, social classes, and put both more than
one gender in each role. How does your image change?

We each live many roles in life. In many ways we are a
different person for each. However, none of these roles define us or are
actually separate. What they define is the view others have of us and maybe how
we contain the needs of our lives. This could bother us or it can inform us. We
can learn to notice our own reactions and stories we build about others.
Perhaps we aspire to be the same in all our roles but perhaps we do not. That
choice is personal and is a point of growth or awareness we may not all be
striving for. But not judging others on a biased view or opinion of minor
factors.
On the other hand there will always be some words, actions,
and patterns of behavior that are incompatible with our own standards or
beliefs. That one item may be the foundation for a judgment of exclusion. We
should always strive to not base judgment on invariables such as physical
traits, medical issues, orientation, place of origin, or gender. We may be
unlikely to completely remove bias but that does not mean we accept it in
ourselves or others. I have no interest in associating with hate, control,
violence, or divisiveness. These are variable traits and chosen actions and beliefs.

Return with me to the images of the people entering a room.
Take each individual of each gender from each story and picture them
demonstrating extremes of emotion and behavior such as hat, kindness,
professionalism, laziness, fear, love, open mindedness, and closed mindedness.
Now, after all that, when I step back and say someone in a tailored suit,
someone in shorts, and someone in a skirt enter the room what is your mental
image? Has it changed? Do you get one image or a series of varied ones? Have
the colors changed?

Distance

Distance. My last post was the distance of those that lost their place. This is about distance within society and relationships. Sometimes we feel distant from someone we see every day. Other times we feel close to someone at a great physical distance. Other than a few nieces, nephews and cousins I am distant from my family. For years some of us lived in the same area but we rarely saw one another and after mother died we were increasingly distant. My husband and I are physically very distant but we talk every day and text all the time, we are not distant. We don’t have the emotional distance that is the standard in my family or his. My job is new so there is a natural distance of strangers that must be together every day and interact on a proscribed pattern. My roommates are each in their own worlds with little contact between us. We are distant in a whole different way.
Having moved back here again I feel the great distance to the mainland friends. However, when we lived in the same state we all worked and rarely saw each other. So, is the physical distance the source of that distance? Recent years have brought a new battle, with depression. That is part of the distance. Social anxieties and my natural introvert tendencies are also factors. My distance is often of my own devising and probably often in my own mind.
Crowds have always been difficult, sometimes to the point of physical pain or illness. I don’t make friends well, so moving many times, often great distances, allowed my circle to shrink from small to near non-existence. When you don’t make the casual friends most people have, you tend to have fewer but closer friends. To suddenly realize they consider the outsider and casual acquaintance you feared you are is not so much a shock as a blow. You are not surprised but you don’t know where it leaves you.

Gaiman at one point says that events are cowards. Like events, stresses tend to leap out at you all at once rather than one at a time. We all have stress and problems. How many can add up before you feel like you are being killed by the death of a thousand paper cuts while a mountain falls on you.

Many people add a little distance to those around them when a major stressor hits. By the same token some people distance themselves from people undergoing large amounts of stress. When debt becomes a problem or their marriage is strained that may become a verboten topic and one less thing friends are party to. A fight at work or uncomfortable relationships there are another type of stressor. Illness, auto problems, children, family, sick pets, trouble with neighbors, natural disasters, fear, debt, lost of income, each thing adds up a little or a lot and affects you and those around you. Each thing adds distance somewhere.
When work stresses you out and you come home angry it affects your family. Each thing adds to or changes the distance somewhere. Often that distance is more inside you than outside or it is in response to the changes in your behavior. But that distance feeds the fear, depression, anger, and pain. Distance creates distance.

Okay, so I feel distant and far from friends. But, as I settle back into the peace of living here where I choose to be I can admit that the distance is no greater here than it was anywhere else. I can allow myself to admit the distance is my own pain, social anxiety, and fear of being hurt more. Recognizing that allows me to acknowledge when I am creating a distance that I choose not to develop and to change my actions and reactions, thus breaking the triggers and changing the stories. The distance here is the same in every meaningful way as it was there but I am taking action in my responses.
Distance in society and relationships is a constantly changing thing with each layer and interconnected connection flowing with changes in the others. Our work life impacts our emotional state and our energy levels. What we eat, read, enjoy, and where we go affects our relationships and energy levels. I quit drinking and found my circle of active friends changed because we had different interests and pastimes. When stress levels are too high I find it hard to maintain the social connections that could help my mental state. But all of those things are also impacted by the many facets of the lives of each other person involved.
We live in a web of constantly changing distance that is as much internal as external.

Neverwhere and Distance

Taking the bus to work allows a lot of time to read. One of my books this week is Neverwhere. I am reading it again for a book club but it has been a favorite for years. One idea has especially stuck with me for years. That is how easily one falls from society and how hard it can be to return.
On the streets near my place you see a lot of homelessness. Mostly people ignore them, avoid them, and fear them. I often wonder why. What is it their fear? Sometimes I wonder if part of it is the fear they could easily be in that position themselves. Does it feel contagious or dangerous to get to close or acknowledge them? This is part of the the idea in Neverwhere. The act of acknowledging them, of helping them causes him to lose his place in society and fall through the cracks into the city under the city.
I understand this. Over the years I have spent a lot of time with homeless in many cities. There is a distance, a sense of separation from society that feels insurmountable. Being there either with them or as one of them you feel like you are in another world, a harsh and dangerous world far removed from the life you so recently knew. People rushing by have no connection to you and look down with a demeaning disdain and fear of contamination. Parents pull children away like you will eat them or infect them. Women move across the street like you are a threat to their safety.

By contrast, living in the high rise and living on the farm were vastly different from each other but they are connected. There is a pleasant and casual hostility between the sections within society, a rivalry of place and meaning. It is vastly different than the alien world underneath that none of them want to acknowledge.

The department head at one job asked the group how many of us were 1 or 2 checks from being homeless. Less than 5% could say no and most of those shared expenses with families. Working every day, many with multiple jobs, most with two or more family earners, many in school, most sharing expenses, yet we all lived paycheck to paycheck. Each of us knew that we needed every single check just to survive.

When that is always in the back of your mind (And how could it not be niggling at you to some extent) you see those homeless and know that you are one injury, illness, pregnancy from being where they are. Maybe the fear isn’t fear of them but fear of our economy and society that will not protect those on the edges. Would your friends be there if you went on the street? Would they blame you for being lazy or understand what happened? Would they help or would the distance grow? Would you be able to let them help or would your shame increase that distance?
I volunteer at a public garden and many people walk there or take the bus. Nearby is a walking underpass everyone avoids and says is unsafe. But the only reason anyone has ever given is that the homeless sleep there and need to have regular purges by the city. Daily I see homeless people. They are desperate, hungry, dirty, often broken. Many have given up. Sometimes they make me uncomfortable with smell or actions or talking to themselves but they don’t make me afraid.

But I approach them as someone that feels a distance from society and those around me at work, in stores, on the bus, on the beach. I still struggle to relate and communicate as a part of society. They talk about sports, family, nights out drinking, casual friendships, and simple lives they assume everyone relates to. Groups have always been hard for me anyway but life has made that more true rather than less. My degree was gained in classes with students half my age. My family is distant, callous and judgmental. Friends are far away. I worked my way to a high rise apartment and fell more than once in life. I have lived in many cities and in many parts and sections of society from the farms to the law offices, the hospitals to the construction sites, the streets to the high society events.
When people around me talk about how hard it is to afford living I remember mom sitting in the car calculating how she would feed 8 of us on $10 for the week. I remember selling cookies or anything else she and I could make so I could afford to be a part of the business meetings. When they talk about taking time off work or leaving their jobs or their 18 year old needing to look at getting something I remember I was a model at 14 and carrying lumber before 12. I remember working 5 part time jobs to pay for school and still being buried in school debt now. I remember driving my shiny new Mini and my limping 40 year old Honda. They talk about fearing the homeless and I remember the van of guys trying to grab me and the old man shooting the shotgun at the kids picking blackberries and us running unsure if he would really shoot us. I remember fights in the street and quiet nights answering phones in the room beside the morgue. I remember gardens and farm animals. I remember dark streets and formal dresses. I remember dying friends and casual game nights. I remember motorcycle trips and camping in the cold. I remember hospitals that couldn’t tell me what was wrong because there was no point in testing someone with cheap insurance and hospitals with spacious private rooms for comfortable recovery for those with the right insurance. I remember losing my job knowing I wouldn’t be able to pay rent and just leaving to avoid it. I remember using a public bathroom to get into my suit or formal dress so I could be at the event and smiling or the interview. I remember mother crying after a hellish trip to get to a meeting because she realized everyone there just had dinner, dressed, drove over and was reasonably calm and feeling normal and she was desperate, stressed and exhausted. The car caught on fire on the way there, her cancer treatments were possibly coming back, she had a migraine, one child was sick and another hurt, dad and she fought that day, a storm slammed into the house as we left for the meeting but there was no rain when we arrived and everyone else was dry, the floor in the bathroom collapsed and the mortgage company wanted to take the house.

Distance. It will never fully leave me. I can never completely escape the feeling I may not belong and that those around me can see it. Even when they cant and I know it, I feel like they can. I feel the distance so I can’t escape it. So, I understand the idea of falling through the cracks.

Distance

Leaves of Peckerwood Garden

Over time I have done collections of images of various types from bark or magnolia blooms to pathways and the recent stairs collection. Today’s collection was inspired by the variegated maple I got a picture of the other day.

Often the best part about a plant isn’t the bloom, it may be the leaves, the bark, the form, the behavior, or the smell. This set is devoted to leaves in Peckerwood Garden and it could be massively larger than it is.

When I write I often do it on my phone at night and just past it into here when I am on a computer so going back through it sometimes I edit and review and sometimes I just post. This is a collection of mostly old images I have taken ranging as far back as 2014 and I have done little to the set to prepare it for here.

Need and the Balance of Life

Why do people consider suffering a competition? Why when someone says they are stressed and tired do people feel they should deride them and tell them how much worse of others are? Why when someone is tired and sick do people feel the need to tell them they don’t deserve to complain because others are worse? Why is someone is having trouble paying rent or buying food do people tell them to get over it others have less? There seems to be a delicate balance point of acceptable suffering that places people in the place to deserve help and comfort but not be looked down on as being less of a person. there is also a level of ideal suffering that makes a person better in the eyes of others and makes them good. Phrases like suffer for their faith or suffering is the price of success are common and reinforce this idea. But also ideas like god rewards the faithful and the the difference between success and failure is a lack of will indicate that people believe the better people do better and have more and that poverty and illness is a sign of weakness and god’s disfavor. The very idea is rather appalling to evaluate in depth.
In the microcosm of my acquaintances I know people on every spectrum of this thought pattern and physical circumstances. When someone in their 40s says they are not bouncing back as quickly as they once did the response is for others to tell them how much more they work and how old they are to show the person is just weak and should “man up.” When a chronically ill friend mentions how hard basic activities are someone will invariably tell them they should lose weight or eat better or exercise more and their disease would disappear. When someone is afraid of the guns showing up in their neighborhood and children’s school someone will tell them the strong own guns and protect themselves whatever the cost to others and to fear that is to be weak and want to be dominated. When someone is stressed from everything in life someone will tell them how much worse someone else’s life is and that they are just being weak. When a marriage falls apart and someone can’t handle it someone will tell them they should have done better or that they should just get over it. When someone with social anxiety has trouble with general tasks someone will tell them it is just an excuse and they need to just do it or don’t complain. When someone is broke and desperate someone will tell them they should have a degree or a better job or work harder or work more hours. When someone is discriminated against someone will tell them not to infringe other peoples rights or expect to be handed everything. When someone can’t afford the medical care they need someone will tell them why society doesn’t owe people things they can’t afford on their own. When someone needs a handicapped spot and auto cart but doesn’t look ill enough they are judged and attacked.
Accepting someone’s suffering for what it is and where it is coming from seems a rare skill. We don’t know what is in each persons whole life or mind. We don’t know their past. We don’t know their health. We don’t know their family. We don’t know if that house they live in is in foreclosure and falling apart but they hide it. We don’t know if their refrigerator is empty and their clothes are old and from a thrift store. We don’t know if that shiny phone came from Craigslist and required work to repair to workable. We don’t know if their shoes don’t fit or have holes we can’t see. We don’t know that person walking to the automatic cart has a chronic illness or back injury we cant see. We don’t know if their social anxiety makes a shopping trip an ordeal. We don’t know if they are hiding a chronic illness that makes a basic workday a huge trial every day. We don’t know if their marriage that looks so nice is falling apart or violent. We don’t know that smiling man just lost his wife to cancer. We don’t know that smiling woman just left the hospital where her husband injured and car totaled. We don’t know the woman calmly running the office is trying not to show how worried she is that she left water pouring through the house from flooding. We don’t know if that small cough is allergies, a cold, cancer, flood damage, or measles.
All over the world people are suffering. People in some countries are in large numbers sleeping on the streets and starving. But here in our own country people starving may be doing it in a house they can’t afford and they may be working every day to pay for it. People here may be unable to afford to run the heater or air conditioner or water and can’t cook because the power is out. Being in a house may be better than being on the street but here they must also keep up appearances or be shunned and shamed for being a lesser person. If they slip they could lose the job that doesn’t pay the bills, their friends, their family, their homes, their car. It only takes a little to knock a lot of people of the precarious balance that is life for many. Working 2 jobs and struggling to survive means they don’t have the energy to do more and if that balance is disturbed they could drop all the plates.
It isn’t a competition. Everyone needs help. Everyone deserves a chance and to have basic needs met. Life shouldn’t be a constant struggle for so many. Society is broken. The economy is broken. Politics is broken. This does not make those caught in the wrong side of it lesser people, it means they are caught in a web they can’t escape from. Maybe they went into debt trying to further their degree and now they can’t get out of the hole. Maybe they had an injury or illness that put them in the hole. Maybe they were hit by a natural disaster. Maybe politics killed their chances. Maybe violence and murder hit their lives. Maybe drugs hit their family. Maybe age simply caught up to them.
Wherever they are that is not to be looked down on. They can move forward and do better but not without something to tip the balance. There is a part of the equation that is money and family, part that is raw luck and timing, part that is skill and education, part that is connections and placement, part that is societal acceptance and privilege, part that is work and endurance. But all of these things are a part and lacking enough of them to tip a balance all the work in the world will not change. My friend cannot work her disease away. My coworker cannot work his wife alive. None of us can work ourselves younger. I cannot work away my debt that is more than several years pay.
People are not less for struggling, they are working and you are working. Accept that you can both be working and have different strengths to draw on. Each of us has areas we are better in and areas we are not so good in. Accept that we are all in our own place and society has not dealt the same hand to everyone. Many start with half the deck of others and some start with extra cards. Accept that many people can need help in many ways. The desperate nature of one does not remove the need from the other it just means they need different things. Sometimes a supporting word can fill small needs and other times food or a job to buy food is the desperate need. Both are still needs and both are valid. Don’t refuse the one because the other hat you won’t provide also exists, especially for a friend.

Steps in the Garden

I have 2 pictures this week of steps in Peckerwood Garden and decided to pull in some older images of other steps to make a collection. This highlights the point that although this is an amazing garden, well worth visiting and learning about, it is not accessible.

Although they are now beginning to address this issue, it will be an ongoing issue and will not be addressed on a large scale for quite some time. Many of the issues lie in areas that are protected from changes so addressing the issue is not a simple one. But the current plan is to develop alternate paths that address the issues and progress is slow but they are working on it.

A Time of Transition

Changes happen all the time. Sometimes they are small or small in comparison to other things. Other times they seem huge and consuming but may or may not actually be. Right now is one of those times for me. After 5 years here at one of the most amazing gardens I have ever seen I am moving forward and helping them prepare for their next steps forward. This has been a long process as I gave notice in February to allow plenty of time for a transition. We negotiated the original move date to allow them more time to find someone and me more time to transition meaning I am now moving at the end of this month. Several stages of planning, applications, and direction have passed with varying degrees of certainty and levels of adjustment to change they would bring.

Many hours at work have been spent in meetings coordinating work and tasks to prepare them for a new structure and person. Many hours have gone into documenting every task in the job and organizing the office and supplies with the new funding that finally allows a proper set of storage supplies and equipment.

I have been here through a lot of changes at the garden and at home. When I started we were desperately broke, went rapidly down to 2 staff, and I worked closely with the founder most days, the property was private property, and our guest count was around 2000 a year. In these 5 years we have developed a real budget that includes major refurbishment projects, we have tackled the deferred maintenance from a couple decades, we have added a director of horticulture and a nursery manager, we have gone fully public garden, and we had more than 2000 guests in March alone this year. Where this garden can go from here is open to the imagination and it will remain a critical time of history that I was able to be a part of.

Leaving is a professional choice and a personal one that is allowing me to return to Hawaii and pursue a life I choose. But the changes will be massive in many ways. I am leaving my home, my life, my job, most possessions, my online business, my husband, and many friends behind. On the other hand, I will be working every day and returning to a place I previously lived, I will still be me, I will still eat and play and live, I will still love the things I do now, I will still be married, and I will still connect to my friends mostly online. So, maybe it isn’t as much a change as it first seems.

As I talk to each person in my life and communicate these happenings I see many responses and it often amuses me how people react and how the reactions change when they know where I am going. It is interesting those that you seem to feel an emotional disconnect the moment they learn you are leaving the state as opposed to those that immediately want to be sure you know how important you are and have been to them or the company. It is interesting those that wish you well and are sad for the loss until they hear Hawaii and then they are dismissive or jealous as opposed to those that grow more concerned for the distance and costs involved. Friends that step out and support or those that smile and nod are neither one a surprise since I have done this before. But this is the longest time I have had to prepare and communicate and to see the developments as they happen and not from the distance of one that has already done the unexpected.

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