Riders on the Storm
That title of a famous song by The Doors might be little strong in terms of the blizzard of 2016 that many of us experienced this past week – all up and down the east coast, from North Carolina through Virginia – but still, the weather was indeed cataclysmic for many and some died as a result of being caught up in it. Remember that song by The Doors? “Into this house we’re born, Into this world we’re thrown, Like a dog without a bone …?”
Now that might be little strong in terms of the blizzard of 2016 that many of us experienced this past week – all up and down the east coast, from North Carolina (mostly ice) through Virginia (snow and lots of it) up through New England. But still, the weather was indeed cataclysmic for many and some died as a result of being caught up in it.
I wasn’t actually caught up in it because, seeing what was coming into our area, I moved up my flight to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami by a day in order to get out of Richmond and fly down to the Miami area to visit my oldest son, Brian, for the weekend. A long-planned trip that I didn’t want to cancel.
So I wasn’t actually in Richmond or my suburban neighborhood when 20 to 25 inches or so of snow fell. But I might as well have been. The news on radio and TV about the blizzard and its aftermath was ubiquitous and relentless. I might have escaped the physical happening, but in my mind, I was there with my friends nonetheless. Of course I was also connected by email, by text messages, by calls to friends and family. So I was oppressed by what was happening and was weighed down by the uncertainty of getting home. And even if I got back to Richmond the following Monday, would I actually be able to access my neighborhood, and so on.
Of course, this is the way we live anyway, isn’t it? From one disaster to another, inundated with news of the worst that is happening to us 24/7. I still get two print newspapers – seriously – and there are days that I dread looking at the headlines, asking myself “what terrible thing has happened now?” (I was in a restaurant recently, sipping something and reading my New York Times, and the waiter had to comment. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he settled in with an actual paper to read and that I looked so peaceful doing it. Unfortunately the news that I was reading was still awful, nevertheless.) I mean, it’s depressing. So very hard these days to escape Cruz and Trump.
One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver. And in her collection titled A Thousand Mornings she includes a poem called “The Morning Paper.” An excerpt from it reads, “Read one newspaper daily … and let the disasters, the unbelievable yet approved decisions, soak in. … What keeps us from falling down, our faces to the ground; ashamed, ashamed?” Ashamed of many things in this country and in this world, including the current political mess. Frank Bruni, one of my very favorite commentators, had an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Sunday, Jan. 10. The title of his writing was “Obnoxiousness is the New Charisma.” The inset read, “Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are smug; mean and in the lead.” How sad it all is.
Unlike the next line in The Doors song, “An actor out alone,” we are not alone, but are all in this together. The last four lines of Mary Oliver’s poem “On Traveling to Beautiful Places” – found in the same collection – reads:
But it’s late, for all of us,
and in truth the only ship there is
is the ship we are all on
burning the world as we go.
Sorry folks, these are bleak times – from our weather to our politics, to our gun policies to corruption in high places.
And yet. There is more, isn’t there? For example, after loss, after sorrow, after riding the storm out, there is still kindness in the world and in our lives. So let me end on a note of hope.
Last week, Chrysalis Institute – a Richmond-based spiritual center that provides a venue for conferences and workshops and where I have also been invited to share my writing – sent out their newsletter with a poem titled “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye. The poem is beautiful and the last stanza is well worth quoting as a fitting end to this blog post:
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
As we are all in this together, no matter how bad our politics or weather may seem, we can do what we can do – reach way down and deep inside and know Transcendence in our daily lives, and practice kindness with one another. Actually, come to think of it, that is indeed doing quite a lot.