Wow, I remember starting questions with, “Sorry…” This girl at least recognizes her tendency to do that. OK? Let’s start to NOT do that.
What’s On This Site?
Wow, I remember starting questions with, “Sorry…” This girl at least recognizes her tendency to do that. OK? Let’s start to NOT do that.
Newspaper article preceding my talk last Wednesday in San Miguel de Allende sums up what I’m about these days. Thanks to the Education Committee of the Community Church!
If a Married Lesbian Couple Saves 40 Teens from the Norway Massacre and No One Writes About it, Did it Really Happen?. Yes it did! Who gets to define who’s a hero? WE DO — every time we tell the story.
This is to let subscribers to this Welcome to Virgin Territory blog know what I’m doing. Or at least as I’m trying to figure it out, I thought I’d let you in on my process. A new blog of mine, “Clothed With the Sun, Feet on the Ground,” is where I’m starting to get back to doing what I used to be pretty good at — before I turned into a reactionary, screaming angry harridan who internalized all those feelings, moved to Mexico, got embroiled with countless health issues and almost checked out. What I was pretty good at back before I got sidetracked by all that was finding a spiritual perspective on daily life.
Although the recent craziness in the U.S. capital has nudged me back toward the angry harridan position, I am refusing to go. I insist, dang it, that I will draw on those Inner Guadalupe virgin qualities, take refuge in virginity — innate wholeness, sanity, and steadfast presence of Mind. (OK, I’m repeating this to myself, reminding myself. It’s a constant process.) My true treasure — my ability to love life and live love — remains pure and intact. No one in Washington can touch that.
I’m not quite up to loving my fellow beings on the political scene. Maybe because I’m still American and they’re like, well, family. You expect a lot more from your family, and it hurts more when they hurt you.
I’m reminded of a story I heard as a jail chaplain. Two inmates shared a cell. Each felt they were in jail because of betrayal and false charges by someone close to them, one by an employer, the other by a brother-in-law. After “getting religion” they each knew that love and forgiveness were key elements toward winning their freedom — freedom on so many levels. But each felt incapable of loving or forgiving the person close to them.
“So, why don’t I take on sending love and light to your brother-in-law, and you send love and light to my @#$%* boss?” one asked the other one day.
“Agreed,” came the reply. “I don’t know your @#$% boss, but he can’t be as bad as my @#$%. brother-in-law. I’ll be happy to send him love and light.” So they did. And it wasn’t long before both the @#$%s had rethought their stories and all charges were dropped against the two cellmates.
I’m wondering if that can’t work on an international level. Maybe I should ask my Canadian friends to send a little love and light to our U.S. Congress and President. I, in the meantime, will take on the drug violence in Mexico. And that’s where “Clothed with the Sun, Feet on the Ground” is headed. I’m making that blog a frequent practice in sending love and light to that particular situation. I invite you to join me there, and on the corresponding Facebook page put up by my friend Chris Raymond, Corazon a Corazon – A Spiritual Defense of Mexico. That’s an open page, which means if you have a little love and light to lend you can post it yourself. Heart to heart, we’ll get through all this.
* Did you catch the * after the @#$%? I decided to use @#$% because all profanity is either sexist, racist, unintelligible or unimaginative. This way you can create your own.
It’s the day after my father’s funeral in Lubbock, Texas. I’ve been awake for hours, even went out for a walk before daybreak, drawn by a full moon and the thought that exercise might dissipate pent up emotions. I crept out the door, not wanting to disturb sleeping relatives scattered through the house. I almost fell into the flowerbed. Weird stairs. This is not the house I grew up in. Everything seems strange right now. The moonlight turned out to be mostly from streetlights, the full moon itself unspectacular above the orangey artificial glow. A wind, dry and dusty, sapped moisture from my nose and lips, and left my skin feeling scratchy. Cranky, I crossed the street, turned around and came back in.
I miss my home in Mexico. The full moon there is shining on Centennial festivities. Yesterday was Revolution Day in La Peñita. My dad would have loved the fireworks, music, and little kids dressed up in costumes. I miss Daddy. I had breakfast in Santa Monica last week with a Facebook friend who had read Virgin Territory and identified with my memories of being raised on the High Plains of Texas. Blocks from the Pacific, we unconsciously lapsed into our native drawl, laughing when we both noticed. Neither of us talk that way now, but there are a few tell tale signs that give us away as Texans. One of them is the phrase, “my daddy.” Another is funeral food: pots of beans, home made potato salad, Jell-o concoctions, casseroles, glazed ham, pounds of smoked brisket, and acres of dessert. Do they mourn this way in Santa Monica? I don’t think so. Arugula is not a comfort food. They do mourn this way in Mexico, only with tamales.
Dad would have delighted in my Mexican experience. There are Sam Jackson Humidaire units and drying systems at work in cotton gins all over the world, many in Mexico. I talked last night with a company engineer who had just returned from servicing some of them installed forty-five miles south of the border towns of Presidio/Ojinaga, a peaceful area where Mennonites grow cotton, not drug crops. It is Dad’s machinery that helps make growing cotton profitable in places as diverse and widespread as Tajikistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Greece, Turkey, Australia, Egypt, Central and South America, South Africa, Israel, and yes, Afghanistan. If you wear cotton, the fiber in your garment has probably passed through a system designed or inspired by the man I called Daddy. He was brilliant.
But that daddy disappeared sometime during these last eight years. I can’t say exactly when his pensiveness and dry humor turned unresponsive, or his thoughtful reflection ceased to take concrete form in vibrant conversation and repartee. Even this past year he’d come out with plays on words that would make our jaws drop they were so funny. Did his departure begin under the guise of apathy and indifference, a sense of resignation generally identified with growing older? Did I mistake his waning passion for mellowing, instead of recognizing the black hole where there was no there there? I have no question about one thing: Alzheimer’s sucks.
We opened a time capsule last night, after well-fed guests left and the house had cleared of all but family. It was a caramel corn container that Boy Scouts sell, filled with letters written by family members and then sealed shut with duct tape. The label on the lid read “Christmas Day, 1999. Do not open until Christmas, 2009.” OK, we’re a little late. But this is the first time the family has been together since 1999. So almost a year later than planned, we took turns reading our individual thoughts about the new millennium. Ashton, now a self-possessed college freshman, was surprised at the tight little wad of paper she’d scribbled as an angry eight-year old in a post-Christmas snit. “Mean Kindahl. Rude Savannah,” she’d described her sisters. “I’m sorry,” she said to them last night, all of the sisters sitting together, laughing uproariously at the image of that ranting little girl who had stapled her letter to the future shut.
That was the beautiful thing. We were laughing, all of us. Sweet Ashton was before us, her true image intact, untouched by the past. And, now that the sun is up, I realize that with yesterday’s memorial, the true image of my dad was restored as well. The silent and distant resident of Grace House was no more Daddy than that angry eight-year old is Ashton. Sam Jackson’s friends and family were there to share their stories and memories, to bring him to life – his identity intact, sweet, solid, unbroken, and whole. Hah! My dad with virgin qualities! Perhaps there’s an Inner Guadalupe in us all.
“Honorary virgins.” The phrase has stuck in my head ever since I read it last Friday in The New York Times. It had to do with Republicans who will probably be swept into office today. “The fact that they aren’t incumbents is a technicality,” Russell Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers explains. “They still have a lot of political experience.”
The quote caught my attention because I’m always on the lookout for good virgin references. My own book is Virgin Territory: How I Found My Inner Guadalupe. But I set this quote aside at the time, because frankly, I just didn’t want to get into the whole political scene. That’s one of the reasons we moved four years ago to Mexico, where the Virgin of Guadalupe is everywhere. We were just tired of the fight – tired of the polarization, the rhetoric, and the battles being waged on so many levels and on so many fronts. Yes, we voted for Obama, and No, we didn’t expect the world to be transformed by his presence. We did expect to see a few new faces in the administration on the financial front. That didn’t happen. But I’m still grateful he was elected. It was transformational for the country in the mere fact that it was done. It was proof that a majority of Americans are looking for a new way of doing things. Obama, if he is not re-elected in 2012, will be able to play with more freedom on the world stage than he could as President of the United States. Like Jimmy Carter, the presidency may serve for him as a springboard to greater accomplishments. It may be one of many accomplishments for which Obama will be known.
“Being known” is what draws me to that phrase “honorary virgin.” There is, as I’m sure we’re all aware, a Biblical sense of that word, as in “And Adam knew Eve, and she conceived.” Carnal knowledge is what we associate with losing virginity. But that’s the kind of virginity that deals in technicalities. The concept of virginity that I’ve been touting is that of the original meaning of the Greek word translated virgin. That would be someone who was “one-in-herself,” a complete entity, undefined by any relationship other than the original one she had with her Creator. It was this kind of virginity that Mary expressed when she said, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord!” She didn’t say, “What are Mom and Dad going to think?” or “How is this going to play down at the temple?”
I’d like to reclaim my own virginity. I don’t want to be known as somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife, or somebody’s mother. I don’t want to be solely identified by any carnal relationship, real or metaphorical. And that includes, in particular, the body politic. Don’t shove me in a corner and stick me with the name of Republican, Democrat, or anything else. Looking at the options offered, I feel my mental knees slamming shut. You don’t know me! You can’t know me!
I grew up attending church, so I’m hardwired with Bible language. The Sunday service I went to always ended with the same verse from First John, which included these words: “Therefore the world knoweth us not.” It came on the heels of words by Mary Baker Eddy that said that right here and now, we were not material beings, but spiritual. I had a real Aha! moment a few years back when I read about the practice of using acronyms for legal charges in Victorian England. So when someone was arrested for engaging the services of a prostitute we do not find the entire entry, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” but just the first letter of each word. “Aha!” I saw. “It’s only when I lose sight of who I really am, and identify myself as some body, or with some “body” of thought, that I get, ahem, known.”
The people of the United States, the citizens who pay taxes and have seen Wall Street and the banks bailed out, have been well and truly known. Many would indeed use that f-word. And still we get promises that So-and-so running for such-and-such knows how we feel. In all due respect you don’t know how I feel. But that’s not to say I don’t want to be known. I just want it to be more. I’ve voted, but I honestly don’t think that the seeds of what I as a person, or we as a nation will become lie in what goes on in Washington. We’ve been there, done that, and done it over and over again. Right now we’ve been used, violated, and left on the side of the road. No mortal hero, congressional, senatorial or presidential is going to fix that.
One manner of dealing with trauma, the most common, is dissociation. People seal themselves off, isolate the hurt, find ways, consciously or not, to avoid thinking about it. That’s another reason I left the country. But being broken can also mean being broken open. I refer with tongue in cheek to “My Inner Guadalupe.” It’s a euphemism, inspired by my new surroundings, for that open place inside of each of us that’s ready for new things. I’m wondering if we’re ready as Americans for that “new thing.” Are we ready, rather than being the all-knowledgeable, all knowing, to open up and be, well, virginal?
Open up to whom? Or should I ask, to what? I find myself tip-toeing around God-talk these days — even another reason for my geographical distance. There are some subjects that are too intimate, too tender for those who are traumatized to articulate, or hash over on talk radio or television in soundbites. That’s why the Psalms have served humanity over millennia. They give us words to express our longings, a means to voice our pain. Confronted with public noise, recorded phone messages, a barrage of advertising and rhetoric, I whisper ancient words. “Behold, you want truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom.” Modern words from The Message put it this way: “What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.”
Maybe what we need is not a new Congress or even a new President. Maybe what we need is a midwife.