Today is the twenty-first anniversary since the attack on and the destruction of the World Trade Center. The further away we get from that day, the closer it still remains. The raw, visceral pain is somewhat dulled, but never gone. There are few days that continue to make me feel that way, that bring a tear to my eye and a catch in my throat, and this is one of them. I never know if I should meditate on it privately or write a reflection in commemoration.
On September 10th of that year, we drove home from visiting our family on Long Island, pointing out the World Trade Center to our young son from the bridge, went to sleep that night unbothered, and woke up the next morning to the unthinkable.
Today is a bittersweet day.
Last week, The Foo Fighters performed a tribute concert at Wembly Stadium for their bandmate, drummer, Taylor Hawkins who died suddenly in March at the age of fifty. Many music greats, both inspiration for and inspired by Taylor joined The Foo Fighters onstage including the likes of Paul McCartney, Stewart Copeland, The Pretenders, Mark Ronson, Geddy Lee (Rush), Brian May, Roger Taylor (Queen), Lars Ulrich (AC/DC), and Liam Gallagher (Oasis). Also featured were children of the greats: Violet Grohl (Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters), Rufus Taylor (Roger Taylor of Queen), Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen), and in the video below Shane Hawkins, son of Taylor Hawkins.
I have been watching this set on repeat since I saw it for the first time. It exemplifies how much Shane was loved by his father and is loved by his family and his extended Foo Fighters family. He plays like a pro with the raw emotion that fits and fills the moment. His solo is time-stopping. I love the drums, and I love this so much – this kid, the same age as my youngest, playing spectacularly on his father’s drum kit for us out in the world, for Dave Grohl, looking like a proud uncle, and for his father. It is so much, and it is so profound.
I thought about when to share this video, and as I began to write about today’s memories, I thought that I would include Shane, because just like with 9/11 for New York, for our country, and our families, there was tragedy here for the Hawkins’ and Foo Fighters’ families, but as we move further away from 2001, seeing Shane Hawkins play his father’s music on his father’s drums, there is also hope for the future.
The struggles will subside, the memories will remain, the pain will dull, and the hope will live on.
I’m not feeling particularly inspired this month after last month’s partisan, rogue display by the Supreme Court, so I will leave you with two quotations that I listened to today on Jon Meacham’s podcast, Reflections of History, both by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall:
We must never forget that the only real source of power that we as judges can tap is the respect of the people. We will command that respect only as long as we strive for neutrality. If we are perceived as campaigning for particular policies, as joining with other branches of government in resolving questions not committed to us by the Constitution, we may gain some public acclaim in the short run. In the long run, however, we will cease to be perceived as neutral arbiters, and we will lose that public respect so vital to our function.
Thurgood Marshall, 1981
I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendant of an African slave. ‘We the people’ no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the Framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of ‘liberty,’ ‘justice’ and ‘equality,’ and who strived to better them.
Thurgood Marshall, on the Bicentennial of The Constitution, 1987
Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
St. Francis of Assisi
I was happy to find the above quotation in my collection for today since today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. He is well known for his love of animals; in fact, many churches do blessings of animals during this weekend of his feast including my own parish. He is the patron of animals, merchants, and ecology and is known to have set up the first live nativity scene around the year 1220.
In devotion to our common home and its care as well as his concern for the poor, Pope Francis took that name as his Papal name in 2013. It is the first time a Pope has been called Francis, and truly speaks to the heart of our current pope and brings on much inspiration to do for others in many ways.
The above photo is of my most recent labyrinth walk. Located behind the library in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, it is placed in serene, pastoral setting, surrounded by grass, trees, and a farm in the distance. There was the opportunity to walk it, pray the walk, and then to sit just taking in the space around me. There was a vegetable garden, a gazebo, and a court for lawn bowling. If my family wasn’t waiting for me in the car, I could have stayed there at least an additonal hour. I may plan on them dropping me off for a bit longer the next time we’re in the area.
It was a very hot day, but once I settled onto the marble bench after my walk, I was able to feel the breeze, letting it cool me off while I contemplated the bucolic area. Despite sitting relatively still, I felt energized and inspired, and all I wanted to do was to sit and write for a bit. That is one of the reasons that I always carry pen and paper, although in this case, I left it in the car bringing only my mask and my phone camera.
When I first saw the shape of this labyrinth online about two years ago it seemed an unusual shape. Upon seeing it in person, I realized that the shape itself wasn’t unusual or the design, but the way the turns were so sharp with acute angles. For me, it created the feeling of looking inside a keyhole or walking through the inside of a keyhole like a miniature person, Elves and the Shoemaker style.
As I said in yesterday’s reflection, I like falling headfirst into the photos and letting myself be inspired as if I had returned to the original place of the photo.
On this last day of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to reiterate that we can use everyday to be aware of our mental health and changes that happen in our lives.
Think about and use the tools that help you on those bad or not-great days. We each have so much to offer to ourselves and to each other. I went back over the /mentalhealthmonday tag and rediscovered tools I hadn’t thought about in months.
One positive thing that I’ve been doing for several weeks is watching the one minute videos of Gurdeep Pandher on Twitter dancing the Bhangra.
Bhangra is an energetic folk dance originating in the Punjab region of the subcontinent of India and Pakistan. Its beginnings are with farmers during the harvest. There is kicking, leaping, and hand movements that all combine to create something that I can’t look away from.
Although I don’t watch everyday I find that when I scroll past his posts, I always stop to watch the dance and listen to the music. I can always find the time to pause for one minute and these videos cause a deep welling of joy from inside. They are truly uplifting. When I do watch them, which is often, they make my day better; they inspire me, they bring my thoughts to contemplation rather than the dispiriting noise that usually finds me online.
In addition to the joy the videos bring, I have watched the seasons of the Yukon, where Gurdeep lives, change from deep frozen winter to spring and grass and blue skies. In the video below, the Takhini River and mountains behind him took my breath away, and was one of the reasons that I decided to share this one with you today.
The following may be triggering to some people so please continue through to the link below with caution.
To read more about the tragedy he mentions in his prayer of the children discovered in Kamloops this week, follow the link.
Across this country, at least 43 states have over 250 laws proposed by Republicans to limit voting access (source: ACLU mailing), and these predominantly negatively affect minorities and lower income voters.
One of these bills that recently became law in Georgia is SB202, and when asked in Congressional committee about what it does, Stacey Abrams was cut off by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), so she released a video on Twitter that explained it.
We cannot rest while Republicans continue to keep eligible voters from casting their ballots. Voting is a right and should be accessible to all eligible voters.
The below video of Stacey Abrams is a good example of the preconceived notions and misinformation that GOP lawmakers accept even when experts in voter suppression are willing to explain the situation to them. They just don’t accept it, and are willing to dismiss the voting rights of people unlike themselves (ie. middle class white men).
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:
Tonight is a unique opportunity to see the conjunction of the planets, Saturn and Jupiter, looking in the sky to some people like a large star, perhaps the same Christmas Star the three wise men (kings, shepherds) saw that guided them to Jesus’ birthplace.
In my neck of the woods, the Northeast USA, sunset is at 4:25pm, and the best time to see the star/conjunction is an hour past sunset looking towards the southwestern sky. With binoculars, you may also be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons.
Some links to read about this special sight while you’re waiting for sunset:
November is full of opportunities for gratitude – Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, colorful fall leaves, the smell of apples and cinnamon. We don’t think so much of Election Day as a day of gratitude, but for those of us who cherish our representative democracy, it is definitely a day to count our blessings.
After the last seven months of isolating and after 230,000 covid deaths (and rising), those of us who have been spared have much to be grateful for in addition to respecting the sacrifice made by others, not only the dead, but the frontline workers – in the health care field, in the food field and the fields that grow the food, our first responders, our teachers, and our parents, and so many other unsung heroes.
Tomorrow is Election Day.
It is the final day to vote for the candidate that best represents us, ALL of us. We have the opportunity to vote for the man (this time) who cares; who epitomizes decency and character; who truly feels the empathy this country needs right now. On a more pragmatic note, he also knows how to get things done without divisiveness, without distruct, with honesty and dedication to service, and that is Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris. I proudly voted for them more than a week ago during early voting. You can join the majority of this country in turning around the hate train, the white supremecists who in the last two days tried to run the Biden bus off the road in Texas and closed highways in New Jersey and bridges in New York and today blocking polling places in California. We can take our country back, and it begins tomorrow.
“May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation.“ – Joe Biden
When I was young, I loved to read about Joan of Arc. It was many years before I discovered she was a saint. It just wasn’t part of my growing up to associate her with religion; not really. I know she talked to G-d; I mean, so did I! I wasn’t Christian so I didn’t grow up attending church. But I knew Joan of Arc. She was a part of my girlhood, like Anne Frank, another young girl, someone I could relate to who also died too young. These were my heroes.
In my recent years of finding Catholicism and spirituality, I’ve added to my “collection” of saints and saintly people. I love hearing that saints are just like us. I’ve also learned that they are an outgrowth of their times. Sometimes their lives are huge and important and sometimes their deaths are, but in a lot of times, they are just ordinary people who do or preach extraordinary things. I know that today is All Saints Day, but I was still taken aback by the number of times I was called by the saints in the last two weeks.
Once I put this topic on my calendar a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about it and the saints I look to in my life. They do change depending on the circumstances. I didn’t start reading on any of them in particular, but I looked at the saints for the day, seeing which feast days were coming up and thought a lot of who I felt the closest to.
Throughout October, I had been attending weekly zoom presentations on Diversity in Spirituality. Last week’s lecture was given by Dr. Kim Harris of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Her focus was on Black Americans, their experience, their worship, and their saints (and lack thereof). In addition to music and talk of the ancestors, Dr. Harris also asked the following question:
In our troubled and tumultuous times, what kinds of saints do we need or what kinds of saints do we need to be?
I was stunned into silence. That is very nearly the exact question I put on my calendar, the one that I’ve been contemplating on for the past two weeks, and here it was as our breakout room assignment!
What kinds of saints do we need in our lives right now indeed?
In conjunction to that synchronism and along with all of these thought provoking happenings, yesterday, I also attended a scheduled Day of Reflection centered on walking and praying with the saints. I had been looking forward to this day for several weeks and it did not disappoint. It also led me in my continuation of thinking about the saints and who I feel the closest to.
This was a question that I had been giving a lot of thought to, although in my mind I hadn’t phrased it quite like that at all. I’ll share a few thoughts with you.
I’ve mentioned Joan of Arc earlier. I was always enthralled by her hearing voices and following as well as being able to command an army. Maybe it was because I grew up in the feminist wave of the 70s that it seemed impossible to ignore and easy to admire.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha is a newer, local saint. Her birthplace is in upstate New York at the village where the North American Jesuit Martyrs died although they weren’t there at the same time. The spring where St. Kateri was baptized is there, and I am hoping to be in good enough shape to go through the woods to the spring sometime in 2021.
St. Elen is my personal saint, the patron of travelers and roads. I chose her for my saint’s name for my confirmation in 2014. Upon finding her, I found so many things about her that I could relate to as well as having been in her homeland, literally where she walked the earth although I did not know it at the time. I was fortunate to be able to pilgrimage to one of her holy wells in Wales in 2017, and it still gives me pause when I remember my times there.
Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein draw me back to my Jewishness and my Jewish upbringing. I know that Maximilian Kolbe wasn’t Jewish but he was killed in the camps in Nazi Germany as was Edith Stein. It reminds me that others (in Edith Stein’s case) have walked a similar path to mine.
I was drawn to Mary, Untier of Knots through Pope Francis’ devotion, and it has only grown stronger over the years. There is something very familiar about untying knots as a mother from shoelaces to necklaces to yarn and in needlework, not to mention the untying and smoothing that goes along metaphorically.
St. Dafydd is, of course, the patron saint of Wales, a place that I feel connected to since I first set foot there in 1987.
And finally, in this moment at least, Mary Magdalene. I didn’t know much about her; her life was co-opted a bit and confused with others, but what I do know and believe is that she followed Jesus from very early on. She was the first of his disciples to see him after his Resurrection, and she brought the word of his Resurrection to the apostles, becoming the first to bring the Holy Word of Jesus to others after his death. I love that she is the Apostle to the Apostles and that she is in history as someone who can possibly convert hearts to allow women priest and preachers.
Which saints are you drawn to during these difficult times of chaos and uncertainity?