Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

sandbagging the Ice House Restaurant
I have to write while it is still fresh.

All week we have been hearing the need to prepare for the coming hurricane, with the predictions that this would have a huge impact on our corner of the world.  The grocery stores were busy selling water, milk, essentials.  Home Depot ran out of D batteries, and had a run on flashlights and generators.  Most people were taking the warnings seriously.

Of course you never know what you're going to get.  Even Sunday evening there were people in vulnerable areas declaring they'd stick it out rather than evacuate.

We prepared as much as we could - battened down things that could go flying, got the flashlights out and stationed around the house, made sure we had supplies.  And waited.  And waited.

Waryas Park, Poughkeepsie, NY
We ended up being very lucky.  There were power outages around town and throughout the county.  The river flooded its banks but fortunately most homes and businesses are on higher ground.  There weren't even a lot of trees that came down.

We lost power off and on through Monday afternoon and night.  At 1:30 am I wakened to power saws and chippers.  A tree down the block had apparently lost some limbs in such a way that the crews decided they'd top the whole tree.  I went out on the porch to see what they were doing and it was eerily warm and still, the high winds we'd had earlier had subsided, and the rain had stopped.  I couldn't help but think of all the people who were out and awake, either through worry or work, to send prayers for their safety and in gratitude for their efforts.

In the morning our power was on and we could get online to see what was happening elsewhere.  The damage was horrendous further south, in the city and NJ.  One of my friends sent a letter asking for prayers for her brother who is unwell who had had to evacuate finally, slept in his car, and was out of contact.  We still don't know his whereabouts or how he is.

One of the bright and moving things was reading a post by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes on facebook first thing this morning.  She starts: Dear Brave Souls: I am here and awake, holding vigil for all souls in the path of floods and fires, darkness, toppled structures...  You can find the rest of this on her Facebook site.  I was moved to tears to think that people far away were keeping vigil.  What a lovely, supportive thing to do!

In the end, this is what we can offer:  to acknowledge our interconnectedness, to practice gratitude, to pray, and to act when there are things we can do.  

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

All Saints and All Souls Day Banner Project

In the Christian Church there is a special day, November 1st, that is set aside to celebrate all the saints, known and unknown to us.  This is a major feast day.  The next day is All Souls Day when we honor those who have died.  Of course the distinction between those two groups is unclear.  There are officially recognized saints, but no one would say that that list can possibly cover all those who would/could be described as saints - so many are known to God alone.  Certainly, the Christian church doesn't have a corner on the market in saints - they have existed in all cultures and faith communities, maybe by other names.

This year  at my church (Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie, NY) we decided to help our children learn the origins of Halloween - which got its name from All Hallows Eve, by coming up with a  project that raised the children's awareness of those who have gone before them.  A set of banners was planned.   We used the image of stars - that those who have died continue to share their light with us and guide us as long as we remember them.  The children had spent the Sunday before this one cutting and decorating paper stars that would be put out at coffee hour and they then invited people to write names of loved ones who had died on them.  Besides friends and relatives, there may have been special saints or people who were inspirational to them.  A few of the children included names of beloved pets.

We made three 6' by 3' banners of felt, attaching them to dowels for hanging.  And then everyone started writing out names.  The stars were attached with double stick tape.  We ran out of over 200 stars and will be making more this week so other names can be added.  Our church hosts a number of different groups, like AA, and it would be great to offer these guests the chance to include names if they'd like.

The idea is simple, easily completed with minimal expense.  And the community involvement is priceless.  Feel free to use it, ammend it, or share your own ideas.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Debate

Along with millions of other people, I watched the debate between President Obama and Governor Romney the other evening.  And it was as disheartening as I always find these things.  I have realized that I don't like debate.  I don't find the process to be a good vehicle for  enlightenment.  I didn't come away with any clearer ideas of what each candidate was offering.  I felt great mistrust throughout.   Even though the tone was basically civil, political debates feel like a dog fight.  People put a lot of stock in debates as a way to sway people to their position.  I just don't get it.

I have never studied debate.  I have friends who have loved it, have taught it, know many of the finer points for judging winner and loser.   It wasn't until recently when I was reading Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, that it dawned on me why debate makes me so uncomfortable.   She brings up suggestions for how we should talk to one another; she explains Socratic dialogue; and I realized that what I'd really love to see is candidates exercising their positions using these methods.  "You entered into a Socratic dialogue in order to change; the object of this exercise was to create a new, more authentic self."  If there were a place for that in our system, wouldn't that be something?

The vitriol that follows debates is even more dismaying.  At least the candidates maintain some civility.  That's more than you can say about many of the comments that follow over the social media.  I see people saying the most outrageous things about members of the opposite party.  My husband and I rarely agree on who we are voting for.  Sometimes I've been almost in tears as he sticks to his position, and I think it's so wrong.  And yet, I know him to be a kind, compassionate man.  I know that he would like to see many improvements in our society.  We just have very different ways of looking at the solutions.  I cringe at the thought that people are so ready to denigrate others so readily.

I'll be glad when November 6th comes and goes.  And I hope my candidates win!

Fannie Lou Hamer