Hold It All

Month: September, 2013

Gratitude Journal/6

Dear Kelley,

Thanks for this week’s nocturnal emails expressing indignation,  that, yes, injustice continues to spread misery all over the planet.  What can I say in response?  How  can we resist being colonized, mentally enslaved to the dread Thatcher vision TINA (There is no alternative)?

We know the truth, and then in the hurly burly of a typical day we forget.

But you summoned me to remember… Pascal’s wager, Gramsci’s maxim, our own U.S. history of struggle and solidarity, however faint-hearted we ourselves sometimes are.

I’m not joking, Kelley–I need to be with you in something like a base community, on a regular basis, because I need your pizzazz, your perspectives, your rants, your openness. I don’t know yet the particulars or how to make this happen, but just articulating the wish is a start. Plus, I don’t have to figure it out alone, I’ll do it with you, and Ann, and Lindsay, and Kate, and our other friends.

Ever grateful for your candor and ability/willingness to let it rip,


Kelley writing14900_n

Rant/1 (Welcome to Palestine/2)

From an internet cafe
Somewhere on the outskirts of Ramallah
80 degrees and sunny outside

Dear Layla

So in your last email
(Which I’ve read four times as of this morning)
You wanted to know how it’s going

It’s been seven weeks since I left
(Feels like seven months)
It’s welcome to Palestine
Welcome to a rude awakening
Compliments of an U.S. Apache helicopter gunship

We belong here
(Wish you were here)
We ought to see this
We pay for it after all
But my composure every day gives way to desperation
Being here allows us to see
From another point of view
From the standpoint of the victims of Zionism
(And after all our conversations
On Gandhi and the Gita
I’m tempted like Edward Said
To fling a few stones…) Read the rest of this entry »

How We Love Each Other

You often say to me
With smiling encouragement
“No worries!”
Then I take a big deep breath

I sometimes remind you
With beaming confidence
“No hurries!”
Then you stop and stand still

Who Is That Person Who Can Stay Calm?

A book I have enjoyed is Happiness by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I’ve liked it so much I give it to friends for their happiness!

In the book, Thầy shares various gathas, verses  one recites to maintain mindfulness. I am planning on using the following one this week, from the chapter “Taking Refuge”:

Breathing in, I go back to the island within myself.
There are beautiful trees within the island.
There are cool streams of water,
there are birds, sunshine, and fresh air.
Breathing out, I feel safe.

He then offers the following commentary: “We are like a boat crossing the ocean. If the boat encounters a storm and everyone panics, the boat will turn over. If there is one person in the boat who can remain calm, that person can inspire other people to be calm. Then there will be hope for the whole boatload. Who is that person who can stay calm in the situation of distress? Each of us is that person. We count on each other.”

Writing Meditation: A Course Inspired by the Work of Thich Nhat Hanh

“Every day we are engaged in a miracle  which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child–our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

“I vow to offer joy to one person in the morning.  I vow to relieve the suffering of one person in the afternoon.”

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

Join us this fall for a class  that explores writing as a form of meditation, for which we draw our themes and topics from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

His many concerns over the past five decades include environmentalism, healthy diet, spiritual practice,  social justice, poetry, civic responsibility, diversity, interfaith dialogue, intimate relationships, nonviolent action, and community. Read the rest of this entry »

When Truth Is Staring You in the Face

Tasha Morris sent me a message a few weeks ago and I post a portion of it below. She told me I could share it, no problem. We studied Social Justice in spring 2007 at SLU.


What I am studying now is officially titled as Master’s of Nursing– Nurse Educator. A prestigious title for a little country girl, even if the importance of such is usually lost. I continually try to explain this decision to the members of the small Missouri community from whence I hail, which is no easy task. I have been asked a million times why I did not choose to be a doctor or a nurse practitioner, or a lawyer, or a politician…. These are the “important” callings that my friends and family can relate to. Truth be known, even when I studied under you, I WAS a premedical student. Read the rest of this entry »

The Beauty of This Life

Thanks to Tricia Stackle
Who in 2001 introduced me to Carrie Culver
Who in 2011 introduced me to Katy Didden
Who in 2011 introduced me to Lindsay Sihilling
Who in 2012 introduced me to Kelley Schwartz
Who in 2013 introduced me to Kate Raymond

Kelley and Kate

Kate and Kelley

Vitebsk, Yelets, Uglitch, Murmansk, Minsk

Dear Bella Levenshteyn
The last twenty minutes
I’ve been staring into space
Above the computer screen
After reading the notes you sent me
From your mother’s recollections of Russia
When you visited her recently in Haifa

Joyce’s Dedalus said
“History is a nightmare
From which I am trying to awaken”
To me it is a miracle
Bordering on the biblical
That you (at least) have awakened
From your family’s peripathetic nightmares

Possessed of serene clarity
Capable of going to your studio
Day after day
Producing one watercolor wonder
After another
All brimming with beauty
Like you yourself

–from novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

The Diamond Sutra Explained

She asked me,”Hey Shimmelstoy
Are you headed to Mississippi
To see Thich Nhat Hanh?”

“Naw, ” I said
“I already see him twice a week
When I’m with Chris Wallach”


Dear Doctor Marwaha

Back then we did shots
Of Liquid Cocaine

Feasted on the dishes
At Little Saigon Café

Talked about Red Warren’s
All the King’s Men

You gave me an authentic
George W. Bush doll Read the rest of this entry »