Category Archives: Guadalupe Gateways

Links to sites, physical and virtual, of interest to those who love Mexico

How big is your “all”?

This blog entry started out as a Facebook post, a response to a post which read (with some editing):

People with the privileges keep saying: “It’ll be OK!” “It is what it is now.” “Oh, well, better luck in four years.” “He’s our President now. It’s time to accept it.”

All my friends without those same privileges are saying: “Will my marriage stay legal?” “Are we safe?” “What will happen with my health care?””Will my trans child be safe at school?” “Will this increase the militarization of the police in my pre-dominantly black neighborhood?” “Will I still have sovereignty over my own body?” “Will my autistic black son be safe in public places?”

If you tell people to accept this and move on, your privilege is showing.

 

As one who has been privileged, so very privileged, I share this. I had a Sunday School teacher who would ask me “How big is your ‘all’?” She was talking about the concept of God as All-in-all, and she wanted me to recognize my individual infinite potential. As a white child from a prosperous upper middle class family, it was pretty darn easy to see a lot of possibilities. Even if I was limited by a 1960’s vision of women’s roles, the horizon for me and my desires stretched pretty far.

But I’ve grown to understand that it’s not all about me.  My concept of that “all” (the lower case part of the All-in-all) has to billow out, grow and stretch to cover the vast expanse of humanity, the earth, and the universe. I’ve discovered that the more I’ve recognized the existence of the challenged, the disadvantaged, the infinite variety of those other-than-me, the more my concept of the “All” part of the “All-in-all” has developed.

To widen our view of humanity and the world it inhabits is to see new aspects of the face of God. To belittle their existence diminishes our own potential.

My tendency over this whole election process has been to say “I love humanity, just not that man.” Watching Mr. Trump, listening to his speeches has evoked in me a visceral reaction, a bodily sensation of snakes in the stomach, a foreboding of evil to come. I have been repulsed by trolls, disheartened by friends who support him. I know who you are, even if you have not openly trumpeted your political leanings. You’re the ones talking about the weather and casseroles instead of mourning the end of the world. I’ve been caught up “with us or ag’in us.” I am tired of living like that.

I am surrounded by sisters in warrior mode. Oh, how much I love and respect you! I will march with you today, and my heart will be with you in the coming days on every battlefield you choose to fight on. But I know myself, and I cannot sustain a warrior mentality. No, I am not “getting over it.” I am not “moving on.” but the very term “resistance” implies that what we are resisting has power. “You belong to the power you acknowedge,” counseled the apostle Paul. I refuse to acknowledge the power of what Trump represents.

I have to go back to what my Sunday School teacher asked: “How big is my all?” And just how big is my All, the one with the capital A? What is that All?  I know that  All in all of us is Love. It has to be. For what other purpose are we here on the planet than to live that Love?

“There is nothing on earth that can withstand the power of Love. Whatever it is we are going through, whatever anyone has done to hurt us, it is a gift, an opportunity to learn how to love more, to learn more about love.” That’s what the priest in charge of the relics of Mary Magdalene told our group, when we visited the church built to honor her in St. Maximum Le Beaume in the summer of 2015.  So I choose love. I will find new ways of directing and reflecting its beam, new ways of reaching out, new ways to let people know they are safe. It will be my privilege.

 

What I Learned in India

“So what did you learn about yourself in India?”

Maybe that’s the question I’ve been waiting to hear, the nudge to finally get me to put into words what that trip last month meant to me. Thanks, Dilia. Saturday night was fun, but your question really got me thinking.

A few days ago, The New York Times ran an article about the temperature in Rajasthan reaching 123.8 Fahrenheit; they invited readers in India to share how they were coping with the heat. I haven’t checked the responses. Who reads in that kind of heat? Who moves? Who thinks? Who writes to The New York Times? No one gets “used” to that kind of temperature.  It was much cooler five weeks ago when I was there, but when I did finally start writing in my journal, the first words were “I would rather stay here in a darkened hotel room and write about India, than to actually go out the door and be in India. India is waiting out there, for I see its white hot light seeping under the drawn drapes.” Such was my state of thought.

Let me be clear. I am very glad I went. I would do it differently next time, if there is a next time. I’m grateful I did it this way this time. But it was exhausting. My friend Penny who spent five weeks in Jaipur (heart of the heat wave) during November and December a year or so ago, had a totally different experience than this whirlwind tour of mine. She spoke of wearing a light sweater, walking unimpeded to the corner of the block where she was staying and negotiating a tuk-tuk to take her to the center of town where she could wander in the shops at a leisurely pace. She went to a yoga class every morning in the temple a block away. She took walks in the big park next door to the inn where she stayed the whole time. She took the time to really get to know India.

No one (that means me) who flies into Delhi, spends one night there, two nights in Agra and two nights in Jaipur, all in four star hotels, can claim to “know” anything about India.  I saw India. I’ve written briefly about the main attractions that impressed me. Our small group saw most of them in early morning light. We would arrive about seven in the morning and be making our exit between ten and eleven, emerging into teeming hordes of aggressive vendors and less aggressive sightseers.

We spent a lot of time on the bus. I have photos of teeming streets in old Delhi, tree and park-lined streets of New Delhi, and everywhere traffic.

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We looked down on tuk-tuks, pushcarts, and thousands of scooters and cycles, motorized and not.

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From that privileged vantage point high above and far-removed in air-conditioned comfort, I caught glimpses of monkeys, elephants, camels and cattle not only in the country side, but moving through the city streets of both Delhis, Agra, Jaipur and points in between. Our bus drove on the left side of the road, like they do in England. We used four lane highways going from one major town to the next, but local traffic in the country uses the same four lane highway for local purposes, staying in the outside lane, walking, driving, herding cattle, going whichever direction is convenient.  It gets crowded. I closed my eyes a lot.

There were fourteen of us on a bus that would seat more than twice that many, so we were able to move around and spread out. No one could really sleep, write, or read, as the pavement was, shall we say, “challenging.” Nor was the bus of the same standard I’ve experienced with other Smartours tours. Padding in the seats was minimal, the seats were small, and the glass in the windows was neither tempered nor tinted. But our travel conditions were so far above what the masses around us were experiencing, that to even take notice of these finer points seems churlish.

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I will mention the rock that someone hurled at us, which crashed through one of those un-tempered windows, showering glass in the seat beneath. It was the window two back from the driver and one back from where our guide, Arvind, was sitting.  The seat was vacant. No one was hurt, but the incident was upsetting to us all. Was it merely unsupervised children after school? That was the explanation offered. Perhaps. But maybe our latent guilt at being so obviously separate from those around us made us think it might have been more. I for one felt rattled.

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“The problem is,” my travel mate Marilyn counseled me, “is that you have no barriers. You engage too much. Even when you say ‘no,’ you are still engaged.” She was right. I can’t be surrounded by so much humanity and not “engage,” mentally, if not physically.  At 5’10” and totally white-headed, I definitely stood out in the Indian crowds. I felt like a lighthouse with waves crashing around my base. I defended myself by moving into an ivory tower in my head and moving my body forward. Marilyn, consciously or not, had assumed the role of my protector. She of equal height as the aggressors met them eye to eye. “Shoo!” she would say. “Go away!” Words I could not utter from my exalted height without seeming like a bully.

That was the dynamic we’d adopted when on our next to last day we ventured out after lunch to buy spices in Jaipur. We had spotted the little shop a block and a half away from the hotel. We negotiated the short distance without incident, and entered the dusty half light, the air redolent of meals we dreamed of making in our own kitchens at home. We poured over the directions for preparing curry and tandoori chicken.  A new shipment of saffron had just arrived. We shelled out rupees for tiny little cases of the tiny little threads. The shopkeeper prepared us tea. It was like a ritual: one cardamom pod, one thread of saffron, and a few chips of cinnamon bark in each cup. It required time to steep.  We settled in and bought more – black rock salt from the Himalayas, a chai tea mix so strong it requires only a quarter of a teaspoonful for every two cups of water and milk. Almost an hour later we emerged, precious packets of future indulgence wrapped in pink plastic bags. Now this was the India I’d dreamed about, the India I wanted to carry home! Safe India.

We blinked in the blazing sun outside the shop. The crowds were formidable, the noise overwhelming, the distance back to the hotel longer than we remembered. That’s when one small piece of Indian humanity attached himself to me. I would guess that from his size that he was four or five, but he was probably older. He grasped a wad of my skirt in his little fist and trotted alongside me to match my stride. “Missy, Missy, Missy,” was all I could decipher of what he was saying. Marilyn tried shooing. He grasped tighter. I looked down at him, but he didn’t meet my eyes. He was like a little automaton, repeating his mantra. I breathed hard and looked around as I plowed forward. There were other children watching us. I realized that if I stopped, opened my purse or reached into my pocket it would be like feeding the seagulls in Galveston. And it would all be useless. Marilyn and I soldiered on, and finally, escaped into the hotel.

But I didn’t escape that little boy. I felt helpless and sad. It was like the feelings that had been hanging heavy around me during our trip condensed into one heavy cloud. I was miserable. I dreamed about him that night, realizing that under the current circumstances, there was nothing humanly I could have done to help that one child. It wasn’t a comfort. I woke the next morning, our last day in India, eager to head home. What right did I have to swoop into this country, take in the sights, do a little shopping and blithely take my leave? I had joked about this tour, admitting to being unabashedly shallow in this approach. I wanted it that way. This was a “bucket list” trip, purely for my own indulgence. I wanted to “see” India. I didn’t want to be touched by it.

Marilyn and I went down to the hotel pool while it was still cool. She swam while I sat in the shade, thinking about the day we had before us. We were to get on the bus at 11:30, drive six hours to Delhi, have a farewell dinner and then be dropped at the airport. Our flight back to JFK would leave at 2:30 a.m. for an early morning arrival in New York. Lots of hours, lots of travel. We savored this last little bit of cool serenity. I was more than ready to leave.

At 8:30, the sun was fully up. It was hot. We crossed the white marble pool deck to descend pink marble stairs, all sharp corners and shining. When I stepped onto the white marble floor of the courtyard below, disaster struck. The staff had been watering the potted plants and the floor was covered with the leakage, absolutely invisible. I stepped onto it and my feet slid out from under me. I remember the sound of glass breaking somewhere and I came down hard on my back, my head striking the last marble step at the base of my skull. I lay there and the thought came, “This is serious.”

The last thing I wanted to do was end up in a hospital in India. I knew I wouldn’t actually end up there. I had with me my about-to-expire Air Rescue card. I’d been assured I could be whisked away to any hospital in the world that I desired. But I didn’t want to even go through a hospital experience here. People were gathering. “Marilyn,” I appealed to my protector. “I need to be quiet for a while. Can you keep them away?” She was frightened and valiant and faithful. She stood guard while I lay on the floor. Did someone put a prop under my head? I don’t remember. I just lay there.

Then I did what came naturally. I turned to God. “Help! Please!” I started saying Mary Baker Eddy’s “scientific statement of being” – the “go to” position I’ve had since childhood. “There is no life, truth, intelligence nor substance in matter.” That’s the way it begins. “All is infinite Mind, and its infinite manifestation.” Then I stopped. Two sentences in and I was “engaged.” I had been trying so hard to disengage, to not think, respond or react to all that seemed to have been assaulting me this trip. “All is infinite Mind…” How could “not thinking” happen when all was infinite Mind? How could I not engage with Mind’s “infinite manifestation?” I was part of that infinite manifestation!

“What do I need to know, Father? I’m ready to listen.” I don’t know if I literally thought those words, but I experienced them. It was a major shift in attitude, lying there on that marble floor. Arvind’s concerned face looked down at me. “I’m fine,” I assured him. “I just need a little time here.” Marilyn continued her watch. She was obviously worried, but fiercely determined to honor my request. I turned my head. It hurt. “What do I need to see, Father-Mother?” I really wanted to know how to get through this. I desperately needed….I didn’t even know what I needed. I closed my eyes and just was still.

When I opened them again, it was there. I saw what I needed to see. It was all around me. My request was being honored. There was a periphery of people ready to help, eager to help, but they were giving me space, letting me do whatever it was I was doing without interference. I did not feel invaded or assaulted or pushed or shoved. I felt held totally in the love of that “infinite Mind,” which is Love itself. I felt enveloped in love, like there was nothing but me and the Universe and all was well. A flood-tide of comfort and well-being washed through me.

Then the image of that little boy came into my thought. But this time I saw him in a different way. “Why, he has as direct a line as I do, straight to Mind, straight to Love,” I thought. I wasn’t helpless, vulnerable, with a hard shell that needed to be cracked open – and neither was he. We were both made up of better stuff than mere matter. We were idea, individual shining expressions of the infinite One. The most effective thing I could do for him, for India, for myself, was see all of us as gathered into “infinite Mind,” see all of us as part of Mind’s “infinite manifestation.” My whole view of India shifted.

The pain just drained away. I left it like a jacket on the floor when I got up. I accepted some helping hands to cross the still slippery floor and went back up to our room with Marilyn. A little while later I got a call from the lobby. Some things I had ordered had been delivered. What was my pleasure? “I’ll come down,” I answered. Arvind was in the lobby, with the man making the delivery. The hotel manager was also there, along with the doctor who had been called. Would I please allow the doctor to examine me, they all asked. I realized the tour company needed this to happen, as did the hotel. It would also be an assurance to Marilyn. “Of course,” I said, and he did. There was no mark, no lump, no physical evidence of injury at all. The doctor shrugged his shoulders and left.

I’ve waited a while to write about this. I’ve learned to let experiences like this one “set.” I don’t know how else to explain it, but rushing out to tell the world about it when you’ve gone through something, well, holy, just isn’t the thing to do.  In the days following my return, I felt some soreness through my back and shoulders — mostly memory of the fall, and maybe of that fifteen hour flight back to New York in seat 51D on Air India. Those are all long gone.

What hasn’t gone is what I learned about myself. Most of what I’ve written in this blog has to do with “virgin qualities.” If you want a reminder, here’s what I’m talking about.  But just because you can talk a good game, doesn’t mean you don’t have to get out on the field and play. That’s the way we learn. India reminded me in spades that more is demanded of me than just “staying above it all,” and occasionally fumbling for change. I know now I have to engage; I can’t avoid it. But I’ve got to do it first through Love, for my own sake, as well as for the sake of others. Then if there is an opportunity or need for me to do something as one human being for another, it will come to light, and it will be just the right thing for that moment.  But the love has to come first.

 

India — the highlights

I’ve been putting off writing about India until I got my head around it. It was intense. Perhaps taking a two week trip to spend five nights in the country of destination isn’t the ideal way to get acquainted, but neither do I think five weeks of residency (my original plan) would have been an ideal alternative. There is no “perfect way” to see India, just like there’s no “perfect way” to dance with an elephant. The fact that you are doing it at all should be notable.

I’ll start with the places that made the biggest impression on me, the ones people read about in guidebooks and that are listed on the itinerary.

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One of the places that moved me most was the Ghandi Museum in Delhi where walls are filled with photographs, biographical information and quotations from the physically diminutive spiritual dynamo who transformed India, and still wields transformative power in the lives of anyone who will listen.

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I wasn’t familiar with the culture of khadi. How could this be, when I was raised in a family dedicated to making cotton better?  It is the whole reason India has a spinning wheel on its flag. I photographed volumes of information. I could have spent a whole day here instead of just the few hours. So much more to learn!

The Birla Temple in Delhi, one of the few Hindu temples which opens its doors to people of all faiths. They don’t, however, allow photographs. Sorry! But here’s a link where you can see the outside. We entered in mid-morning, leaving our shoes in an anteroom and walked barefooted over red and white veined marble floors, immaculately clean under intricately carved ceilings. The walls, spires and towers were red sandstone trimmed with white and gold paint. Shrines within the temple – dedicated to Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva and others — were decked mostly in marigolds, which reminded me of our Mexican Day of the Dead. It is colorful, color-filled worship.  Guadalupe has nothing on this pantheon.

 

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The glow of the Taj Mahal in morning’s first sunbeams is magic. It is essential to get here early, to see the extensive gardens, stone work, pools and fountains that lie between the entry gate and the main attraction before harsher rays and teeming hordes dilute the effect of pure radiance.

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Obviously, it was undergoing some restoration work when we were there.

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The glory is all outside in the intricate inlays and stone work, the amplitude of the gardens and fountains; the interior of the exquisite building is claustrophobic, confining. After all, it’s a tomb.

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The vast empty spaces of the abandoned colonial capital of Fatehphur Sikri. All of the Muslim engineering skills that have attracted millions to the Alhambra in Spain are present here, but without water the artistry is lifeless. Canals and fountains are filled not with liquid, but with the dry pollen of pepper trees. The elaborately carved red sandstone facades look out on vacant plazas.

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The Muslim influence is seen not only in the water engineering, but in elaborately carved screens. They let in light and air, but keep out the sun’s harsh rays.

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It is a ghostly place.

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The Amber (also Amer) Fort, crowning some of the hills surrounding Jaipur, provided me another time warp.

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I rode an elephant to get up to it, the last of our group to step elegantly from a stone platform onto the twin bed contraption that bore us onward and upward.Never mind what we left behind us.

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All I could see of the elephant was the top of his head beyond the turban of Ali, the driver.  The hordes of clamoring vendors had followed the main body of the tour group far ahead, and Ali, the elephant and I were left behind plodding and swaying our way up the medieval road in silence. In my mind I was a maharani; there was nothing outside to contradict the illusion.

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We had a long time to explore the many nooks and crannies of the Amber Fort — which is essentially a palace.But there were palaces within the palace for different seasons of the year and different slants of the sun.

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The designs made me think of the interior of the churches we saw last summer in the south of France.

That is the rundown on the tourist highlights. As impressive as they were, they did not have as great an effect on me as India itself did. For that I will write further.

A New Way to Look at Mexico

C.M. Mayo’s “Marfa Mondays” podcast interview with Georgetown University professor John Tutino gives a fascinating new perspective on an old and shared history between the United States and Mexico. Give a listen. It’s an hour and fourteen minutes, so download it for a road trip or have your knitting or Spider Solitaire game handy.

http://cmmayo.podomatic.com/entry/2014-04-02T16_01_26-07_00

Hola, Spain — again

We returned from Spain and Portugal June 2, and I’m just now going through the photos I took on the journey. I sort of disappeared from Facebook after that last post without an adios or a by-your-leave. Fact was that on the third day in Spain, I had a close encounter with a castle floor, so I wasn’t into a lot of commentary or taking of selfies during the rest of the trip. But I kept the camera clicking as we moved through the major sites on the itinerary. It’s nice going back and seeing where we were, even posting a few reviews on TripAdvisor. I’m all fully recovered now, able to speak lightly of the whole thing and ready to start posting more than an occasional lurking “like.” Missed you, FB buddies!

Hola, Spain!

I would have titled this Hola, Espana, but as you can see, I still don’t know how to put  a tilde on those “n’s” that require one.  After two weeks on the Liberty of the Seas, Larry and I are ready to explore the Spain I’ve read about all my life.  And since it has taken me fifteen minutes to write those first two sentences of this post, I will wait for more responsive internet to let you know more. Hasta luego!

Hope for High Wind

I admit it. I subscribe to all those “liberal” newsfeeds and mailing lists, like UPWORTHY, CREDO, Ultraviolet, BBC, NPR, The New York Times. And lately, distressed by the stalemate in Washington, I’ve posted links from these on FB. And, surprise, surprise, I’ve gotten retaliating comments from “conservative” friends, and friends of their friends. The most recent was a link to a 1961 recording of Ronald Reagan talking about the evils of socialized medicine.

Yep, I remember hearing this. it was an LP record, and my folks invited groups of friends over to listen to it. They were never shy about their politics. I was in sixth grade and that commie pinko John F. Kennedy had just been elected. The country was going to hell in a hand basket.  I also remember how LIVID my mother got at me in August 1976, when right before the Republican convention, I commented that wasn’t it something to be grateful for that we had three good and honest men to choose from to lead the country. Jimmy Carter had already been selected by the Democrats, and the Republicans were to choose between Gerald Ford and Reagan. I could have been happy enough with any of them. But for my mom it was Reagan, Reagan, only Reagan. She was devastated when Ford was tapped to run against Carter.

Before going to Oklahoma City with Mom to visit Mama Hope that August, I had just come through a bout of shingles. I found that it was imperative that I NOT become worked up about politics. It wasn’t just politics. I had some personal issues, but if my thought became inflamed about anything, that horrible rash would reappear.  I had spent the summer mostly in bed, learning to control my thinking. Barely able to move, I learned concentrated mindfulness. I spent days and nights consciously identifying myself, everyone I knew, and every detail around me in terms of spiritual qualities.  For example, the redbud tree outside the bedroom window became a metaphor for vibrancy, flexibility, growth, development, It gently responded to the summer breeze, and I tried to emulate that responsiveness, bending my thought to that of the Holy Spirit wind that seemed to be blowing through my whole experience. This mindfulness was as effective as an electric fence. I literally had to corral every angry, disruptive thought and replace it with something kind and loving. A knee-jerk mental reaction would lead to an immediate physical reaction in my body. It was a heck of a discipline.

Eventually Mom got her wish, and both she and I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Honestly, I don’t even know how Larry voted. I still had some of that discipline left from 1976.

In the mid-80’s Larry and I moved to California. “Don’t go out there and get all weird on us,” counseled our West Texas friends. Does getting weird include making friends with Democrats, people who actually went to Berkeley, who voted for Alan Cranston? And, son of a gun, they had neither horns nor tails, and nary a pitchfork in sight. I found them to be deeply caring and loving people. Just like my Republican friends back in Texas, and all the other Republican friends I soon made in South Orange County.

And that’s where I need to go now — back to that sense of loving and caring. From a distance here in Mexico, surrounded by an admittedly liberal enclave of expat Americans and Canadians (you know, those socialists), listening to the echo chamber of my chosen “news” sources, as — please admit it — we all tend to do these days, it’s easy to become reactionary. Responsiveness, not reaction, is what I need right now. No more links. So bring it on — a good clean gust of Holy Spirit wind to carry me upward in thought, to carry us all upward and outward, even though in the whirlwind we may be 180 degrees apart.