Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday Wish (153); The Lone Donkey

It was just last week, the end of summer in the South, so the temperature was still in the 80’s. My car was filled with groceries that needed to be refrigerated and frozen and I was still a good ten minutes from home. I was singing. Of course. The landscape here invites song. I know you’d agree with me if you knew the Mountain as I do. But you don’t. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

So, I’m driving along on a spirited mission when suddenly I look out across a field to see something I’ve never seen before. Google tells me that a group of goats is called a ‘tribe’ or a ‘trip’. In this case, they were a tribe on a trip, a group of about 20 goats with an imaginary, albeit sloppy, circle around them. Two or three were looking out of their circle as if they had spotted an intruder. They looked rigid. Alert. As if they were standing guard, not wanting their circle to be soiled or broken. And do you know what stood outside that circle with his head facing toward them but his eyes and nose turned down? A lone donkey.

I drove by like a buzzing bee in my own little world. But the farther I drove past this scene, past this event in the life of a tribe and their donkey intruder, the closer I came to another world. It was a world where no one was excluded based on the shape of their body, the color of their fur or the noises that came from their mouths. It was a world where fields had no imaginary fences, where goat food was donkey food and donkey food was goat food and where all animals knew they were an important and even necessary part of the farm.

I turned off my music and made a u-turn.

I pulled into the high grass that bordered the field.

And I got out to give that tribe of goats a talking to. Maybe I even yelled at them a little bit, too—to be sure they heard me.

They looked at me. They stared me. And call me dreamy-eyed, but I’m pretty sure one or two of the older goats sitting down even nodded at me, together with me.

And the donkey? He looked up, his ears for a second there, perked and hopeful. And then, like a real life Eeyore, he turned his head back down again. But that’s why I had come. To give him even a small bit of hope when he seemed to have none himself. And to remind those goats that their tribe was bigger and kinder than they were letting it be.

*          *          *

That’s what we do. That’s what people who care, do. We live in our own little words, singing our own little happy tunes but when something comes along that needs us, that begs us to make a difference, we don’t shirk that opportunity, we take it.

Some days we’re the lone donkey, other days we’re a part of a tribe on a trip. It’s consciousness that separates the two, consciousness and a daring to stay centered in the goodness of ourselves and not the angry, rushed, self-centeredness of ourselves. And when one of us forgets, forgets to stay centered in the place where good things happen and kind things unfold, it’s up to the rest of us to stop what we are doing, to step up and forward. To make a difference.

Even in the life of a donkey.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wednesday Wish (152); The Road Home

photo via

When you experience it for the first time, you can’t help but wonder why. Not why your life hasn’t ever taken you that way before, but why the feelings it evokes haven’t found you before. At once new and then again strangely familiar, they sink into you as if they’ve always belonged to you, sailing through your veins like someone returning home after a long trip abroad. You have unknowingly carved out a space inside yourself, left it open all these years and now, like a dream, the feelings have begun their delightful, welcome infection of your soul.

It begins at the base of the mountain just as the road starts to bend. From the ground, it narrows. From the sides, it tightens. And from above, the sky starts to disappear, swashes of blue only seen now through the rare parting of leaves. You don’t realize you are holding your breath. You don’t notice your speed or even if any other cars are behind you. All you care about is the unfolding before you.

Your body leans with the car, to the left and to the right and back again. You feel as if you are somehow dancing. In your seat. Inside yourself. Outside all you have ever known. You breathe in tropical, humid, big-leaf flavors. The wind from your open windows helping you gulp up as much as you can, inviting you to let the forest tickle your skin, tempt your senses, tantalize your imagination with secrets.

Secrets that only hint of themselves.
Of their wisdom
And endurance--
Their ability to hold their truths high
In spite of so many closed ears, and eyes
And souls.

The vines of the invading kudzu cover acres of the mountainside creating elaborate topiaries on the skeletons of bushes and trees. Branches drip with strangulation. But leaves open up into fresh hope. Life and death move forward, together.

The incline increases. Your ears fog and pop. Is this mist or a cloud? The forest must be breathing. You think you may even hear it. Can one hear the outside from within? For that’s exactly how it feels—as if you are as much a part of this wild amalgam of mystery and beauty as that tree there, its spindly trunk wrapping itself like an octopus up and around, further, higher, not just on, but above the stone cliff. Beyond all that is stationary.

And now you become the water trickling down the slippery, moss-covered stone, your spirit suddenly fluid. You refresh. You convey. You nourish and hydrate. You are life and give life—You breathe it all in and feel. You feel water’s truths and know they are also your own.

*          *          *

All the beauty that was once yours wants to find you again. Not by taking you somewhere new or showing you something previously unknown but by opening you up, back up to your deep feeling Self where the old is once again new, and the worn finally dares to reveal its quiet wisdom.

That place where a vine or a tree or a trickle of nearly invisible water suddenly becomes a metaphor transforming you as it transforms itself.

That place where we remember we are brave enough, even in the face of all the cruelty and pain of life, to stay open, to choose vulnerability over ‘tough guy’, rawness over scarring, and feeling over denial.

That place where the richest treasures of life, the little things that make life magic, reveal themselves, again, for the very first time.

Even on your road home . . . 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wednesday Wish (151); Listen for Gold

photo by sophia nahli allison via google images

He stubbed out his cigarette and watched me approach with clear intent.

‘It’s right here,’ he said, his prison scrubs hanging like curtains on his slender frame. ‘See this . . .?’ he stretched open the side of his mouth with a finger then abruptly shut it again.

I just saw a shadow of tongue and teeth. ‘I’m not sure I know what I’m looking for Ed.’

He half-smiled and did one of those quick shy nods. ‘You don’t believe me, do you, Miss Brynne?’ He cocked his head, eyeing me now suspiciously. ‘You’re just like the rest of them, aren’t you?’

‘I don’t think you see many other staff standing outside on a chilly day, do you? I stopped to talk to you because I care and I think you can tell if you try really hard, that that’s nothing but the truth.’ I rubbed my arms up and down a bit because truthfully, it was even colder while standing still. I was deep in the North Carolina countryside, this particular prison surrounded on all sides by acres of woods and farm fields.

He studied me for a moment then must’ve decided I meant what I said because he opened his mouth again. ‘See this black spot? Right here . . . on my tooth, on my molar?’

I peered in and sure enough, following his finger, I did. I saw the black spot. ‘I do. I see it, Ed.’

He closed his mouth and nodded. Victory.

‘So what’s it doing there? What’s it about?’

‘It’s not a cavity, if that’s what you mean.’

‘I didn’t say that. I don’t know what it is, Ed.’

‘Ok. I’ll tell you. When I was a kid, about 6 or 7, I was riding my bike and I got hit by a car. In the hospital, men in black suits came to talk to my mama. They told her that I was brain dead but that a simple agreement with them could bring me back to life.’

‘Bring you back from being dead?’ I asked, careful not to shut him down.

‘Yes, ma’am. Back from the dead. But there was a catch. I had to have a chip put into my head. And they would have control over me for the rest of my life.’

‘Wow,’ I said, taking a deep breath. ‘So your mama agreed to it?’

‘Wouldn’t you if your baby was going to die?’

‘I guess so,’ I mumbled, ‘I guess so. And the black spot?’

‘That’s how they communicate with me. That’s the way they remind me of our agreement. That’s the way they remind me of who’s in control.’

*          *          *

Every day we meet people – people with histories, with stories, with experiences that live within their walls.

And every day we have a choice.
To tell the people around us what we believe they need to see or think or do.
Or to meet the people around us where they are.
To stand with them in their world, in their shoes, in their unique Self.

When we meet people where we are, where we want them to be, we stagnate. Like a dog in a kennel, we circle and circle and circle with nothing new to see or feel. Life is predictable and uninspired, many times even boring.

When we meet people where they are instead of where we are, we embark on new adventures, we expand ourselves, we become something we could not be on our own. The people around us become treasure chests filled with riches and we grow in our own richness because of them.

*          *          *

I put my hands over my chest and lowered my head. I took a deep breath. ‘And you couldn’t tell anyone because they would think you were crazy.’

He nodded. Slowly. Silently. His feet now starting to shift.

‘And they talk to you all the time, these men, trying to make you do things even when you don’t want to?’

‘Well, not as much now that I am in prison, but before, yes. It was a lot. Almost every day.’

‘Wow. You have been through a lot, haven’t you, Ed?' I paused. 'I can’t even imagine how much you have held inside and to yourself all these years. That’s gotta be exhausting. You must have felt so alone. For so very long. Maybe even still now.’

And when I said the last words, his eyes filled up with tears.

‘I get it.’ I said nodding. ‘I get it. And I am so very sorry, Ed.’

It was then that the tears finally began to fall and before long, he was sobbing. A great big man who had committed all sorts of crimes, a man who was in prison for most of his adult life, sobbing his heart out like a little boy with a deeply broken heart. All I could do was keep clutching my own heart.

‘You know, you’re the first person other than my mama that’s ever believed me.’

‘I am?’ I shook my head. ‘I am so sorry, Ed.’ And I was.

‘But I’m not,’ he said, now collecting himself, ‘because you’re also the first person I’ve ever shared my tears with. Except my mama. And that there, that means a lot to me.’

I smiled. ‘I’m glad. I’m really glad. That means a lot to me, too.’

‘Have a nice day, Miss Brynne. Thanks for listening. Thanks for talking.’

‘You too, Ed,’ I said. ‘And thank you. Thanks for sharing.’ And as I walked inside I realized I wasn't cold anymore. I was warm. I had struck gold.

*          *          *

Real or imagined doesn’t make a difference. All of the stories of those around us and within us, matter. They matter because they define us. They teach us what we feel and how we perceive, and give us some of the most authentic clues to understanding our deeper Selves.

When we listen, truly listen, and honor what it is that we hear, we free not only ourselves, but we free the storyteller, too.

For the heart is delicate and rarely speaks unless it is first, invited.

*          *          *
Do you want to make the world a better place?
Do you want to be a part of healing the hurt?

Then listen.
Listen with your heart.
And treat whatever it is that you hear,
as if it were gold.
Because it is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday Wish (150); Sustainable Success

photo by minoru nitta/

We don’t see the air around us. It envelops us, it touches every part of us, it rubs us and caresses us, and we don’t see it. It finds its way into our bodies, journeys through our veins and into our every organ, and we don’t notice it. It is always with us. Seeping into us. Soaking through us. Saturating us with all that it is. And still, we don’t see it.

Every place I have ever been has its own feel, its own personality, a personality not unlike a mosaic with many different pieces making up the whole. This personality infuses into the air of their home, riding along like little dust puffs, the kind you only see if the sun shines through the window just right. I have not seen such personality riding the air, though. I cannot touch it, sometimes I can't even call out its name. But I know it is there.

We don’t see the air.
We don’t see the unique personality-infused mosaic of place riding that air wherever we go.

But if we slow down and connect with our inner selves, we know it is there. Because we feel it.

*          *          *

What floats in the air around you? What envelops you every day? What infuses you every morning? What affects you every night?

I know you feel it.
I know you sense it.
For we all do even if we don’t want to admit it.
It is always there.
Even though we can’t see it.

*          *          *

Are you not sure why you are sad?
Can you not name what makes you unhappy?
Why not look at what you cannot see? Why not pluck the pieces of the mosaic from the air around you and glue them down as colors on your heart’s map?

Are you eating more?
Are you laughing less?
Are you frightened or avoiding or lost when you weren’t before?
Why not feel-- that which you cannot see? Why not invite your heart from its quiet place, to sense, to recognize, to honor what you already know to be true.

*          *          *

Whenever I am off-kilter I know it’s time to go within, to visit with deeper intent, my heart, my feelings, my knowings that have not yet been given a name. Like the air around me, these feelings are with me every day with no voice. Until I let them speak. Until I let them be heard. Until I give them a name.

Some times it is home that most affects me.
Other times it is community.
Still others it is culture, country and even world.

But eventually, I feel what's imbedded in the air around me. I give voice to how it feels. I listen with my heart. And honor, as best I can, the wisdom of what I have always known to be true.

*          *          *

Success isn’t money based for me.
Nor does it have anything to do with power
Or title
Or prestige.

Yes, contrary to what the air around me breathes.

Sustainable Success
Comes from within
From my heart to yours
And yours back to mine.

Sustainable Success is a life of heart
Of caring
Of loving
Of connecting
when no one else dares.
It is raw
And real
And feels good.

And  . . . it flies in the face of what the majority of this modern world breathes.

*          *          * 

Listen to the silence 
that's never been so silent after all. 
For there 
-- there -- 
lives your own 
Sustainable Success.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday Wish (149); Flying Free

photo by via googleimages

The heat of the sun softened everything—colors, sounds, even feelings. I was an easy almost sloppy happy in an undefined, muted-edge kind of way, my long hair free to tangle in the sea breeze, my bare feet covered with bits of sand, my spirit feeling more like an unattached, wind-blown cloud than the responsible Peace Corps Volunteer that I was. I looked out across the shallow tropical waters toward my partner who was fishing intensely with a friend, their rods flying back and forth like whips, determined to catch what they had never caught before. I was about to sit down in the sand when a bit of wood caught my eye. It was small and dark and mostly square with a wad of fishing line wrapped up around it and a fishhook on the end. I smiled to myself as my feet led me to the end of the dock.

The water was clear and warm. I didn’t see any schools of fish but I did see an occasional loner, a maverick who wasn’t afraid to swim his path alone. My easy happy kept giving me new smiles—me, the maverick not afraid to swim her own path alone. I was just like the little loner fish. That yellow one. The blue one, too. And even the stripped one. They were all so pretty, so rare, so exquisite in their colors and shapes and how they frolicked in their carefree happy, an expression that might have even reminded me of my own. Maybe I wanted to visit their world. Maybe I wanted to see the hook catch the sparkle of the sun. Maybe I just wanted to extend my fingers with the help of an invisible line and a tiny little, unthreatening hook. So I let it down, that little hook, gently down into the depths of that magical, tropical sea with the fishes, the fishes that seemed like pure joy to me.

I might have been singing a little love song. I don’t know. I might have been daydreaming of new stories to tell. I’m not sure. But I do know my heart was open to almost sloppy, and happy, happy to be exactly where she was meant to be with not a need or a worry anywhere around me.

Until he bit.

I screamed.

He was the most beautiful I had ever seen.

‘Reel him in,’ my partner yelled, ‘reel him in!’

And when I couldn’t get him free any other way, that’s exactly what we had to do.

‘Please don’t hurt him,’ I begged.
‘What did you use for bait?’ they asked.
‘Please don’t let him die,’ I pleaded.
‘Did you rattle the line or let it sit still?’ they poked.

And finally, we got him up, and after protesting that his fate was my choice, not theirs, they agreed to set him free.

*          *          *

When we focus on the good things in life, on the things that beg us like a bubble bath or a squishy chair, or maybe even a tropical beach, to stay awhile, to be embraced by their comforting arms, we smile from a deep place. And when we smile from a deep place, when our minds are set free because we’ve given the reins to our hearts, we get as close as I think we’ll ever be to flying, flying free. And when we feel as if we are flying free, as if we are soaring through even a small blip of our day, we know, deep down, that we are where we were born to be. 

That is when the true riches find us.

For many of us the door with ancient, priceless riches on the other side appears locked. But this one, the door to the feelings we all wish to have, is only off limits until we remember that we have always, always, always held the key.

We just have to be where our hearts long to be and suddenly, we are flying free . . . exactly where we were born to be.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday Wish (148); Foolish Ecstasy

photo by via googleimages

My world is one of scents. I breathe in to better understand—the scented flavors of my surroundings sharing secrets the rest of me could never know.

*          *          *

The scent of the Southern Highlands in Papua New Guinea begins with the reeds along the dirt road moving like an ocean, their gentle rhythm whispering slow down, listen, be with the sacred silence. I gladly melt into the equatorial heat, my head rising up for still more, the sun’s kiss a welcome warmth upon my thirsty face. I close my eyes and when I do, the scent emerges like faint ribbon of smoke twisting its way to my open, unsuspecting heart. I breathe in to better see. I breathe in and smile. I breathe in and an old woman finds me, just a solitary soul in front of an ocean of reed, soaking up the gifts of an ancient sea.

Years later, I lift a string bilum from its storage place and the scent emerges again, sending me back, back to that day on the road with the old woman.

She herself carries a bilum, the knotted ends meeting at the top of her head, its heavy contents weighting her rounded back until she is almost horizontal. She rubs her leathered fingers up and down my legs as if to be sure I am real, my skin so different from her own. She squeezes my flesh and pets my head of long hair as if I am a treasure. But she, she is the treasure. Her eyes look up at me, wet with age, red- rimmed with life experience and she begins to speak to me . . .

I remember. I remember when your people first came. I was a small one but my eyes were open, my ears listened and my fingers, they knew what they touched. Some thought your people were angels reincarnated from our dead. And maybe you are. But I know as well as you that your pek pek smells just as bad as ours. It’s just that your eyes, they still confuse me. Why do so many of your people close them? Close them, you say? Yes. From the inside. So they cannot connect. How do your people live so closed off? I see how they do not feel the earth with their feet never touching the ground, but their eyes . . ? Why do they hide those, too? Are they so afraid? Do they not know that they have given themselves dead eyes, broken tools, a fire that can no longer provide warmth? Neither for themselves or for anyone around them. Why have they forgotten to stay foolish, foolish enough to feel it all? Is there anything more to fear than living a life without fire, yes a life without deep connection?

She screamed a little fright when she looked into my eyes that day. I wasn’t like the others, she said, for I still had my fire. I could hear her! Not her words, but her scented mystery. I was not afraid to connect, to deeply connect, with someone so different from myself, to slow down, to listen, to be present in our shared sacred silence. 

And so the souls of our eyes danced in those few moments along a dusty dirt road in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, a dance scented like a sea of roasted grass on a hot equatorial day, my every bit ablaze in foolish ecstasy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wednesday Wish (147); Beauty . . . Anywhere

photo by via google images

If you go up the hill and around the bend, then slow down to make a turn to the left at the baseball field, you will have found the road. It’s a kind road. It starts out gently with a church on the right and a big parking lot around that church to hold all of the faithful’s cars. And when you drive a little further, you begin to notice that the houses seem kind, too. They don’t brag. They don’t scream out to be heard. And they don’t want for attention. They just feel kind.

Except one.

The outside is nothing very memorable. Not the siding nor the windows, nor even the shape of the house speaks of anything much to be heard. But there is one thing that does. One thing that yells out at me every time I drive by.

But that’s not really the story. The story is far more important than a piece of fabric hanging from a pole. Yes, you must know me far better than that by now. This story is about a person. A person just like you and me.

His name is Benjamin and he lives next door to the not-so-memorable-house with the memorable flag that yells out at me every time I drive by, next door in the kind-feeling house on the kind-feeling road not far from my own.

So one day as I was driving home, I saw that Confederate flag flying, and next door I saw a man who I would later learn was named Benjamin, standing in his front yard. I stopped the car.

            “Hello there,” I said, with nothing but connection and open-heartedness lurking in my eaves. “How do you do it?” my eyes gazing over to the flag proudly flying in his neighbor’s yard.
            “Oh, you mean the flag?”
            I nodded. “I know it’s supposed to be about pride and that it probably isn’t directed at you, but I also know that for many, if not most of us, it’s a symbol of oppression and hate, and you, being African American, how do you handle that? Is it hard for you? How do you look outside every day, probably multiple times a day, and then get on with having a happy day?”
            Benjamin nodded and shared one of those knowing smiles. (I forgot to say, we had already exchanged names and earlier smiles) Then he said with sparkling eyes, “You know, it actually reminds me of Evel Knievel. He had a similar pattern on his clothes and on his bike so every time I look outside and see that flag,” he turned to look at it as he spoke, “I just smile.” And I think I even heard him share a little chuckle.

What else could I do right then myself other than smile, too? 
How could I be anything less than who Benjamin was? 
He got it right, said my own spontaneous chuckle.
Benjamin got it ALL, right.

*          *          *

What if the world was made up of only Benjamins—of people who looked insensitive actions and things in the face and saw only beauty? How different would things be? Might we live in a different world altogether? What if we tried it out ---you and me?

What if the next time someone honks at you, you agree to assume they are trying to tell you something beautiful . . . maybe to look up at a pretty bird or a lucky rainbow, or maybe they think you are beautiful and need you to know.

What if you agreed to find some bit of beauty in every insensitive or mean or ugly thing you came across? Would your world change? Would you let it if it tried to? Could you allow yourself to let go of the hardened parts in favor of the gentle and soft and kind? What if I told you that the simple act of seeing beauty, of finding it when it seems to most eyes simply nonexistent, takes courage? Would you dare to find that courage within yourself?

What if I promised you such daring could change your world?

It can.
It changes mine every single day.

Besides, if Benjamin can find beauty in the Confederate flag flying in his neighbor’s yard, then I know you and I can dare to find it . . . anywhere.