R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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Former Post Office, corner of Minnehaha and Lake

I live in south Minneapolis. During the recent troubles, the police precinct that serves our area was destroyed, as was the post office and the public library. Our nearby Walgreens was looted, and across 46th Street from Walgreen’s, the Holiday gas station was torched. Lake Street, a mile away, is nearly destroyed. A few long nights were filled with the constant smell of smoke, the unnerving sound of loud booms (guns? smoke bombs? fire bombs?), whirring blades of helicopters passing low overhead, and endless sirens.

Protests continue, as they should, and peace has returned. Trucks haul loads of rubble away. At some point, rebuilding will commence. We hope, wait, and work for positive change in our community.

In the meantime, the universe conspired to bring back into my hands a copy of a book that I first read in 1993 and which had a great impact on me at the time. What follows is a true story. At some point, my copy of Respect for Nature disappeared. It’s importance was such that I wouldn’t have given it away, although it is possible that I loaned it out. Last week while walking through my neighborhood I stopped to check out a Little Library. Inside was a copy of Respect for Nature! My day was made and with a silent “thank you” I carried it home. The next day, I started paging through the heavily marked up book, and here’s the thing that I wouldn’t believe if it hadn’t happened. The book I found in the Little Library was MY COPY! Marginal notes in another hand had been added to mine, but there is no mistaking one’s own scrawl.

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The book that wanted to come home again

Respect for Nature by the late Paul W. Taylor, presents a well-expressed biocentric theory of environmental ethics. He places the well-being of all life forms on the same plane. There is no hierarchical system of value with humans on the top rung. He begins his book by discussing human ethics, before fully expounding his theory of biocentric ethics. Respect is the centerpiece of his theory. He refers to all humans as “persons”. Every person is a member of the human community, in which all others are members on equal terms. Further, Taylor proposes, the human community should be ordered so that each person has the ability to live self-directed lives, subject only to constraints required to give everyone the same opportunities. Other humans are seen as persons with no greater or lesser than value than oneself, and are all due respect.

Think of this. How would our world be different if we accorded equal value to every human being? And if we respected the right to life of non-human beings, making all our decisions on the basis of this value?

Place the obscene murder of George Floyd, along with so many others in the context of respect for and the equality of all persons. Place the destruction of businesses employing people and places offering essential services in the context of the right of all the pursue their own well-being.

There are those who are so blinded by fear and anger that they are incapable of seeing the value of others. There are the bullies, there are the greedy, there are the cruel. They must be stopped.

Every person of relatively sound mind can make the choice to live by higher values, reflected in compassion, generosity, and kindness. We can make the choice to toil tirelessly to make our community, our state, our nation, and our world better for all who live and breathe.

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Beauty in Minnehaha Park. Forget-Me-Nots by the thousands.

 

 

 

 

Ten Things . . . Part 2

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From post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Time to fulfill the promise made in the last line.

Dear Reader, if you are so moved, pull out your journal or your legal pad. Don your thinking cap and begin writing the list of what you, unique human being that you are, know the most about. It’ll be fun. You have the time.

List of ten done? Good work. Now write a list of ten things you want to know more about.

Compare the lists. Do you have overlaps? I certainly did.

Do you see anything you would like to pursue in these strange at-home times?

Share your list if you want to. I’ll post mine in a couple of days.

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What I Know the Most About (I KNOW that I feel self-conscious admitting any specific areas of knowledge!)

In no particular order:

  1. Religion/Spirituality (they are different)
  2. Writing, especially for public speaking
  3. English words and etymology of same
  4. Cooking vegetarian food
  5. Baking
  6. Stain removal
  7. Trees, shrubs, and plants native to Minnesota
  8. Connecting with strangers
  9. Helping people through difficult times
  10. Spiritual healing

What I want to know more about:

All of the above.

That should keep me out of mischief :).

Sending you a warm virtual hug.

Robin’s Good Deed: A True and Happy Story for Today

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This morning I went shopping at the Richfield Target, arriving early, imagining it wouldn’t be busy yet. Wrong. My primary mission was dog food, but the list expanded to include a bag of whole wheat flour. The flour section of the baking aisle contained a few bags of white flour. Period. An employee finished confirming with a customer that no yeast was available. I asked him about whole wheat flour. The response was a negative shake of his head. The poor man had to be weary from answering the same questions over and over while trying to keep the shelves stocked.

A woman and her adult daughter shared the aisle. In their cart lay two bags of white flour.

The woman spoke. “Excuse me. I know this’ll sound strange, but we just bought a bag of whole wheat flour at Cub because that’s all they had. It’s out in the car and you’re welcome to it.”

Those who know me will be surprised, but I found myself momentarily speechless.

Finally I said, “No, that’s okay, really, you’re so sweet.”

“Well, it’s up to you.”

Then I began to appreciate the kindness of the offer and the importance of accepting.

“Where are you parked?” I asked.

“We’re in the handicapped area. A black KIA SUV. We can watch for each other at the check out.”

I agreed.

After going through the self-check, I looked around for the woman and her daughter. Maybe they already left, I thought, and headed out of the store, but parked in a handicapped spot was the black SUV. After putting my groceries in the car, I circled around and parked nearby. In the meantime, I prepared something for the duo.

Five minutes later, the mother and daughter approached their vehicle and I jumped out of my car and gave them a friendly wave.

“Hi, I saw your vehicle and waited a bit,” I said, pulling a card from my pocket.

The woman thought I was offering money, “No need to pay,” she said.

“Actually, I’m a writer and want to share the story of your kindness. This card has the web address of my blog. Check it out later today.”

As the daughter rummaged through the back of the SUV looking for the flour, the woman accepted the card. She reached her mittened hand toward my gloved hand and we shook.

“My name is Robin,” she said.

The daughter handed me a 5-pound bag of whole wheat flour and we parted ways.

Ten Things . . .

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At least for those whose lives are kid-free, these days of greater quietude give one time to ponder. Long walks on quiet streets, no-rush mornings, cooking at home rather than eating out, no worries about “what should we (I) do this weekend?”.

In all times, writers are advised to “write what you know” Familiar places, experiences, people (just change the names to protect the guilty, right?). This morning an obvious question occurred to me: What do I know the most about?

Later in the day I wrote a list of ten areas in which I might be considered knowledgable, not that I am an expert in ANYTHING. Spending eight years getting an undergrad degree at the U of MN, because I was interested in pretty much EVERYTHING, turned me into a wide-ranging dabbler.

Contemplating what I, personally,  know the most about, led to another question. What would I like to know more about?

Dear Reader, if you are so moved, pull out your journal or your legal pad. Don your thinking cap and begin writing the list of what you, unique human being that you are, know the most about. It’ll be fun. You have the time.

List of ten done? Good work. Now write a list of ten things you want to know more about.

Compare the lists. Do you have overlaps? I certainly did.

Do you see anything you would like to pursue in these strange at-home times?

Share your list if you want to. I’ll post mine in a couple of days.

Sending you a virus-free virtual hug!

A Greater Beauty

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Luna Moth Caterpillar

(What follows is a passage from my novel-in-progress. The protagonist had been visiting  friends whose son suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound.)

As Claire walked home from the hospital in the warm slanting sun of late afternoon, a co-worker from the newspaper honked and waved. She glanced over and waved back. In that brief moment, her foot crushed the head of a plump iridescent green caterpillar. She stooped to look and burst into tears. Claire picked up the intact part of the caterpillar corpse and deposited it, with an apology, at the foot of an oak tree.

For the past year it seemed that the universe kept hammering home the message that life can change in a flash. A misstep on the sidewalk. A moment of inattention behind the wheel. A disgruntled coworker with a gun. The bursting of a brain vessel. A gush of blood in a ladies’ room. A sudden insight that it is time to leave. A knock at the door. A glance across crowded powwow grounds.

That evening she sat in her chair, lights off, pondering the life of a caterpillar. What does it need to do in order to carry out its life’s mission? Eat, stay out of trouble, and ultimately build a cocoon for itself. All a caterpillar can be is a caterpillar until it’s not a caterpillar anymore. That didn’t mean its life was easy. Maybe there are insufficient leaves of the right kind. Maybe a careless person steps on you, or a bird has you for breakfast. That’s it for this life. No lovely moth or butterfly will ever emerge.

Claire recalled a funeral service during which the pastor used a caterpillar metaphor, where the caterpillar has no idea it will transform into something entirely different and beautiful. She wondered if that wasn’t a bit presumptuous. How do we know that a caterpillar isn’t aware it will transform into a moth or butterfly? Maybe it knows, maybe it doesn’t. And really, what does anyone know about what’s coming down the sidewalk at them? All we can do is munch our leaves and try to stay out of trouble.

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Change often seems to come in unexpected bunches and bundles.

February brought for me a serendipitous and sudden house sale, with an aggressive closing schedule, necessitating the need to rent an apartment, to say nothing of packing to move from a 3-bedroom home with too much storage into a 1-bedroom + “den” with modest storage space.

In the midst of this effort, my mother, after 104 years of physical and mental vibrancy, took a turn and died. She was ready, she was unafraid, so to grieve would be almost selfish. But ever since getting a cell phone with unlimited calling (when was that, anyway?), I had called her once or twice each day. Although I accept her passing, the thought of hitting “Mom” on the top of my phone favorites list crosses my mind most mornings.

Mom lived about 5 hours north, in small-town northwestern Minnesota. Since leaving home for college, my various vehicles have made hundreds of trips up through St. Cloud, past Little Falls, Motley (stop for smoked salmon at Morey’s!), Akeley, and Bemidji. Other than going up for her burial come spring thaw, the trips up that way will be few.

Our bodies respond to change with weariness. Our minds cope by seeking order or escape. Our spirits, if not crushed, can respond with freshness and creativity, transformed by new contexts and perspectives.

Change is inevitable. Let it open us to a greater beauty.

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Luna Moth