Tuesday, January 10, 2017

All Things Being Connected

I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions, and it is getting well past New Year's anyway. I do like to use these moments in the year to look back over the past year and look to the time in front of me. I like to observe the symbolism of things and how they all come back around.

Last year was a weird one, marked in a very personal way for me by the death of my dad, and in a very public way by the election of a person whose name I refuse to type.

But as my kids have noted, there were some really lovely things about the year. For me, finishing the first draft of my current book was a big one. This is a work of the heart and one I am increasingly proud of. As I started out the year, my plan was to create my own publishing cooperative with other interested authors. But as I explored that it became clear to me the enormity of the time involved to publish books. I chose instead to put all of that time and energy into my work and craft. I opened myself up to learning more--and I did. A lot, actually. I think that focus has made my writing so much stronger and deeper. So I am continuing on this path of making the writing the focus. I have let go of the urgency to be published and find the urgency in the writing. That is an awesome feeling.

The death of my dad was huge for our family. And as these things tend to, it brought us closer together, and for me personally forged my life plan for the foreseeable future. When he died, I was at a writing retreat, and that night we did a guided meditation in which we built a cairn in our minds. This was a powerful meditation for me, and in fact, when we had dad's memorial service, I used that meditation as my memorial talk for him. (I don't remember if I posted it on this blog, but I know I posted it on my facebook page, so if you're curious, feel free to go back and read it.)

The cairn has become a strong symbol for me in so many ways. Cairns have been used since ancient times to mark a path or stand as a memorial. As I wrote the poem after the guided meditation that I later used at dad's service, some things began to click in my consciousness. Utmost of the notions that resounded there for me was the concept of HOME. The cairn marks a path toward home. My dad was the strong presence of home in our family. My dad gave us a home in the national parks, a very special and meaningful foundation for all that I am. So, the cairn, essentially, shows us the way toward home.

When I came home to Boise after the service, I built several cairns in my yard as memorials to dad. As reminders that I have that strong foundation of home. A childhood home. And an adult home. A home--whether it's a place, a family, a person, a thought, a belief system--is foundational to life.

I have always felt a deep connection and desire to help those who are homeless, a passion that grows deeper with time. Last year, I expanded my commitment to work harder to end homelessness in my community. Not just to serve meals or provide temporary shelter--although these are continuing and pressing needs, worthy of our time and valuable to those who have no homes. I spent the year exploring, acting, and learning as much as I could about ways I can help create homes and housing affordability here where I live. And this work will be something I keep on with for the rest of my life. Home, a way there, a foundation for a life.

It is no coincidence that most of my novels have strong themes involving home--what it means, who is there, and how to find it. My latest novel's working title is Show Me the Way to Go Home. The cairn's purpose. It's set at Tule Lake internment camp during WWII, with eerily similar echoes to the racism and nationalism we've seen more and more of since the election of 2016.

I, like millions of others, have dedicated myself to greater engagement in whatever is necessary to prevent this coming presidency from destroying our freedoms, our earth, and our fellow humans. I have become a monthly donor to the Sierra Club, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and to ACLU Idaho and joined in to volunteer specifically with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, as well as increased dedication to the work I've already been doing toward ending homelessness, working with the Idaho Humane Society, and trying to get four important words ("sexual orientation" and "gender identity") added to Idaho's anti-discrimination laws.

It can be discouraging, the amount of work there is to do politically, environmentally, locally and globally. I choose to focus on the actual things I can DO right where I am. Here at home.

I don't mention this activity to point out how great I am or get kudos. I mention it because for me, it all comes back around to the cairn, to home, to my dad. It's a multi-dimensional spiral that I can't fully comprehend or explain. How everything is so connected and important. How what has meaning in one realm of my life bleeds over into all the other areas of my life. How my life really isn't divided into compartments, but rather is one continuum of expression. How powerfully one simple meditation at a writer's retreat can become a symbol for my whole existence.

I will write more on the power of the cairn, because it warrants more in-depth exploration. For now, as my new year's present to myself, I wear a necklace of a cairn as a symbol of this coming year for me.

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