August can be a tough month. Summer is both at its peak and winding down. Back to School is far off, and yet just around the corner. It’s too hot for home maintenance especially in the garage and basement as my husband wants to focus on. For our family, it’s time to get ready for our annual vacation as we stress about covid – getting it and not getting it but having our vacation canceled as so many others are having happen. There is also GISH. The annual, Guinness Book of World Record-holding scavenger hunt is about a third of the way complete, and while I can’t share actual items, I have four things that you can do at your own home that are inspirational and GISH-adjacent. But first:
“Education must, then, be not only a transmission of culture but also a provider of alternative views of the world and a strengthener of the will to explore them.”
Jerome S. Bruner
This photo will be added to my post about my recent visit to a labyrinth. I went back and found these newly painted rocks as well as a new plant, a rainbow flag, a fallen tree branch, and a basket of bubbles.
It is a good reminder to revisit places because even in the shortest times, they will change; some for the better (new rocks) and some not so much (a bit of overgrowth).
However there is always something new to see if you just open your eyes, your heart, and observe the world around you.
Those four things I mentioned above:
1. Find a cloud in the sky that you like. What does it look like to you? Take a photo. Or draw it. Whatever you do, enjoy it.
2. Write a poem. Any topic.
3. What direction do you want to travel in today? Draw a compass and make a map, like a treasure map, but all your own. What (and where) is your buried treasure?
4. Do some good. Donate time or treasure. One good organization is Random Acts and a second is the ACLU.
It’s been a good day, and I may post about that in the delayed Inspire post later today or this weekend, but after my mental health break this morning, I returned to my favorite Starbucks, computer and backpack in tow, and they are open for seating (with appropriate social distancing), and I am thrilled.
I have set myself up at my favorite seat and am deliciously enjoying a breakfast sandwich and Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher.
Sometimes it’s the food that makes the Friday, and sometimes it’s the place that you’re enjoying the food.
In this case, it’s both.
We are slowing returning to pre-pandemic times, although I hope we’ve grown in the last year plus. Time will tell, but today maybe time can stand still for just a little longer.
I never miss an opportunity to celebrate the glorious nature of tea. Below is a selection of the variety of United Kingdom teas in my collection. Not pictured is a Scottish afternoon tea, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, and others that I’ve tried and liked.
One of my perennial go-to’s at Starbucks is a London Fog, which is made with classic Earl Grey with steamed milk and hints of lavender, vanilla, and Italian bergamot which lends a citrusy element.
There is no bad time to enjoy a cup of hot British tea.
A little over two years ago I discovered labyrinths. I happened upon one at a local church and it immediately drew me in and down the proverbial rabbit hole. I was fascinated by it. It wasn’t just the shape, the circular path, but also in this case the courtyard it was in. There were windows set in stone walls with worn wooden benches separated by narrow walls giving it a medieval structured look. Opposite the entrance to the courtyard were a pair of French doors and around the boundary of the space were a variety of plants and flowers. The first time I was there was a bright sunny day, but on my second visit when I actually prayed with the labyrinth it was much colder and overcast. It didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for my hour in the labyrinth and meditating in the courtyard.
I started reading about them, and in an unexpected coincidence I met a woman in my writing group who used to teach a workshop about labyrinths. She loaned me a few of her books for my reading that semester.
The first thing I learned in my studies is that labyrinths and mazes, though the words are often used interchangeably, are not the same thing. Mazes are meant to be a little confusing, they dead end and may have more than one path to get to the center and the goal or treasure. Labyrinths usually have one path to the center and then either a second path out or a reversal of the original path and the treasure is in the journey through the labyrinth rather than a golden prize.
You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way.
– Congressman John Lewis, 1940-2020
A few years ago, I bought the book, The Children by David Halberstam, but I only read it recently. As an aside, David Halberstam was the commencement speaker when I graduated from college, so I always took a second look at his books.
I looked at this one often in my kindle library, but was never quite ready to sit down for such a serious book. In the last four years, I’ve been engulfed with politics, including racial justice, but I wasn’t ready for a history lesson.
I finally started it last summer, soon after George Floyd’s murder, and with all of Halberstam’s work, it did not disappoint.
I had misinterpreted the title to mean the literal children of the civil rights movement, the young people growing up in that time and after. What I discovered is that Halberstam’s implication that the civil rights movement was left to “the children” – the young adults who risked everything, including their lives to march, to sit at lunch counters, to register to vote, to do many of the things we take for granted, even today.
One of the very surprising things that stood out to me was the level of participation of John Lewis. John Lewis was a hero of mine, but more in an abstract way listening to his modern, inspirational speeches rather than his history, and I wondered why I hadn’t learned his name as readily as I learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. In school. I didn’t realize they were contemporaries, and met and worked together to build what they called the “beloved community.” As I thought about this missing piece in my childhood education, I realized that growing up in the seventies during busing, and my really formative years of middle and high school in the eighties, John Lewis wasn’t part of “history” as we think of it; for that matter, neither was MLK. Lewis’ beating on the Edmund Pettus Bridge was in 1965, one year before I was born, and King was assassinated in 1968 when I was a toddler. These events, and the bulk of the civil rights movement occurred a mere twenty years before I graduated high school; nineteen years to be more precise. In the time between Lewis and King’s assault and assassination, I hadn’t even reached adulthood. This book really brought that home to me. John Lewis would live in my kids’ history books, but for me, he was in my now.
I hadn’t even made it halfway through the book when John Lewis died, and I thought for several days of putting the book down and reading something else, but I didn’t. I finished the story, cringing and welling with tears, and sometimes gasping for air at the horror of it all and the idea that while we’ve come far, we have so much farther to go. When I finished The Children, I immediately read Jon Meacham‘s new book, His Truth is Marching On, and that bridged the short gap between Lewis’ civil rights activism and his congressional career all on that path to the beloved community.
One of the things that I found somewhat amazing, miraculous even, was the number of long-lasting activists all being in the same town at the same time. They didn’t travel to Nashville; they were already there from around the country attending school. John Lewis, Diane Nash, James Bevel, CT Vivian, James Lafayette, Kelly Miller Smith, Rev. James Lawson, who learned the non-violent method he taught them from his trip to India and learning from Gandhi, and of course as witness, David Halberstam, a local journalist with The Tenesseean in Nashville. Reverand Lawson described it as providential during his eulogy for John Lewis in 2020, and that just gave me chills.
If you do one thing, watch the Reverand James Lawson at the funeral of John Lewis in Atlanta, Georgia:
As we come to the last Sunday of Advent, I have finally decided to recommend an Advent book. The book itself begins with Advent but continues with daily readings throughout the Christmas season. What I have really come to share with you is the author, Michelle Frankl-Donnay.
I have been reading her reflections for a few years now, and she is by far my favorite person to read their reflections. They are a wonderful blend of spirituality and real life with the enormity of the universe for perspective. Professor Frankl-Donnay teaches chemistry at Bryn Mawr College and her science background gives an entire feeling with the mixing of the scientific and religious. Whenever I am reading her books durng the holiday seasons, I am wonderfully surprised at my reactions and how much I get emotionally from her reflections.