26 June 2014

Mother Earth

Waiting to hear Dr Goodall speak

Sunday afternoon, my friend and I attended a talk at the Michael Fowler center in Wellington. The speaker: Jane Goodall
As we made our way through the crowd to our seats, I was happily overwhelmed by the wide range of generations in attendance surrounding us. Some with white hair, well into their seventies; some younger generations sporting baseball caps, probably college aged, and even kiddos as young as three. The majority filling the seats were probably thirty-somethings.
After a brief greeting from a member of  Wellington Zoo staff and the mayor of Wellington, they introduced Dr. Goodall, who approached the podium. I'd only ever seen pictures of her and for some reason her signature hair was her most recognisable feature, at least from a distance: long, soft, greyish white pulled into a low ponytail. Behind her, a large screen projected her bigger for those of us in the upper levels to see.
She greeted with a Chimpanzee calling-- the way chimps announce to their pack their presence. Chuckles among the crowd, Jane Goodall smiled with lips together, not revealing teeth. This call familiar for her a sound perhaps, of her home in Gombe. 
Moving on, I don’t think there's any better way for Dr Goodall to begin than by sharing a story about her mother. As a young girl she'd bring worms into bed with her. Her mother, instead of getting upset with the dirt in bed, reminded that worms “need the earth to live” and helped her daughter bring the worms back to the dirt. For Goodall, this was the beginning of a deep understanding and appreciation of her environment and thus, led to her physical anthropologist career.
As Dame Goodall thanked her mother from the stage, I witnessed a mother in the row in front of me reach to pat her teenage daughter's hand. Her daughter returned the gesture, holding her mother’s hand. 
Dr Goodall spoke about her studies among a chimpanzee tribe, observing good mothers and bad mothers, the difference mostly attentiveness and playfulness. She spoke about how the chimpanzees care about and use their home to help them survive. Obviously we humans are more intelligent than them, so why don’t we use our wisdom to care for and respect our home as well?
While waiting for Dr Goodall, we are graced with this picture of David, I believe

 What caused me to pause and reflect was my favorite quote from the day, “When humans reach their full potential, the head and heart will be in harmony.”
I shifted in my seat, uncomfortable with my own hypocrisy. But Dr Goodall made it clear she wasn't there to make anyone feel guilty. She did not push her beliefs. There was no accusatory tone in her message or finger wagging. She was only there to share her observations.
The 80-year-old woman travels 300 days a year, remarking that everywhere she goes she has friends: in nature, in animals, in the people she meets. In the many children she meets, she sees anger and even violence over what has happened to their sacred home that we, the older generations have wounded. But in many of them she also sees hope, courage, and determination to make a difference. And she reports, “they are" making a difference.
With that, the audience thanked her with a standing ovation. To my left, a teenage girl accepted a tissue from her mother, both wiping away tears. It was clear this event was in honour of her mother, our mothers, their mothers, and Mother Earth.
Still appearing on the big screen, she slowly glanced at the hundreds standing before her, hearing her message. Quietly she said into the microphone, “That is enough to maintain hope”.
Afterward, I had to buy her latest book, Seeds of Hope. Not just for myself, but to give to my son as he gets older, a lover of all things nature. He’s the boy who stops to smell the flowers even if they are weeds. He’s the boy Jane Goodall refers to when she says there are future generations full of hope that we can replenish and nurture our nature.
With the purchased book in hand (after waiting in line for thirty minutes or more) my friend and I merged to a different line for a signing, which took another thirty-forty minutes. They were moving people through quite quickly, no dedications, only signing her name, so it didn’t take long. 
halfway through the line for signing

My turn to step up, I had to say something even though it felt we weren’t supposed to. I handed her the book, page open to sign, “I'll give this to my son.”
She glanced up to make eye contact- her hair no longer the focal point of recognition, overpowered by the kindest eyes I've ever seen- and in her hushed voice said, “Wonderful.”
Her assistant beside her asked, “How old is your son?”
Surprised I was spoken to and not ushered aside, I said, “Two.”
The assistant said, “Oh probably a little too young for the roots and shoots program then…”
Dr Goodall finished signing, handed the book back, and without missing a beat of conversation jumped right in and said, “Oh no, we have children that young who join… preschool age,” she said as our eyes locked.
The assistant continued to speak but I didn’t hear. I knew at any moment another person would pull me away to keep moving, so as I was very slowly walking away I just said, “He’s a helper.”
Jane Goodall smiled, “Is he?”
I continued, taking baby steps away, “He likes to pat-pat trees.” She grinned as I walked away. I managed to hurriedly get out one last “Thank you”.  She smiled and nodded again.
A very brief exchange but one leaving a lasting signature in my heart. My friend and I walked out onto the street; both of us giddy and full from Dr Goodall’s speech. Hopeful. 
Dr Jane Goodall signing copies of her book, "Seeds of Hope"

Looking into Dr Jane Goodall’s eyes, incredibly compassionate eyes maintaining the innocence of a child, inspired me not to become discouraged or hardened. She's reminded me the importance of perseverance, compassion, and hope. She's inspired me to accept the dirt in life and turn it into knowledge. She's shown me of the importance of observation- you never know what might inspire you just by watching others. Embrace warmth, know it's okay for there to be mistakes and flaws- as long as there is a desire to make it better. Hopefully my son will carry such messages, too. 
Resilient, enlightened, hopeful and caring… Mother Earth... Dr. Goodall.
I must honor her mothering spirit. 

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6 June 2014

Pocket of Grief

I have a lot of things to be emotional about these days. Anyone who knows me knows that I have always been someone who values emotion, no matter how difficult, as it’s there to make me pay attention. While trying to process my present emotions, I keep going back to an old, private writing of mine from 2010 titled, “Pocket of Grief”.
I have this little pocket of grief that is a part of me. It’s where I hold the pain from whatever may be having an affect on me at the time; from lost relationships with loved ones to death of friends and family members. It’s there for me to acknowledge but not to let consume me. I'm not concerned about emptying the pocket as it has become a part of who I am. But right now, I feel that pocket may be overflowing.
Since becoming a mom two years ago, I can’t seem to hear or read any stories that involve the abuse or death of a child. I think this is a pretty “normal” response for new moms, but I actually weep when I hear such ordeals. This is probably one reason why my job as an addictions counselor was more stressful for me after giving birth.
The latest grief added to my pocket is about the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. I realize violence is something that occurs on a regular basis over there and I cannot bring myself to hear too much about it. I don’t think it’s choosing to live in denial, really, but I think it’s that I don’t know what to do about it. A rally was held in our city and while I wanted to go, I’m actually glad I didn’t (toddler nap time). My good friend, Patricia Sexton participated in the rally and wrote about it. And what I read from her experience, I would not have been able to stay. Her blog post was enough to bring me to tears.
This morning I read about more violence by the Boko Haram group in which according to the CNN report, "Even nursing mothers had their male infants snatched from their backs and shot dead before their eyes," the local leader said. What are we supposed to do about this? Now that I’ve read this I am affected by it, my pocket of grief overflowing and I can’t do anything with this information accept cry about it.
So I write.
There are so many stories like these around the world that are untold. As we hear more about them, how do we keep our grief from overflowing?
Last night, I watched my son play with plastic milk bottle caps. He was so focused on sorting them from one cup to another. When it got too easy using his fingers, he chose to use a toy spatula from his play kitchen. I studied his face: his eyes darting from one cup to another, his lips parting and then breaking into a smile at a successful drop of the cap into a cup, then his shriek of joy in getting all the caps sorted. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of how much he has grown into a little person. My baby is now a little boy.
And then I thought of the stories of abuse I read about in the news.
The Santa Barbara killings that occurred a few weeks ago absolutely broke my heart for everyone involved. Not just sorrow for the victims, but also for the boy who struggled with a severe personality disorder and mental illness. And, for the families.
I can’t help but to think about the many stories I heard in my career; the stories of drug overdoses, of suicide. Suffering. Addicts wanting their high more than the love of their family or friends. These people started out as babies. Babies who had a mother or mother figure in their life who fought for them to thrive, who had hope that they would find peace and happiness in their lives.
Yet the baby is now an adult and the adult is in love with their addiction. And when that happens, nothing else can get in their way. They hurt and the hurt piles up because they know deep down their family hurts now, too. But they are too far gone into their addiction so they keep going… and they refuse any sort of love the family has to offer. Add a personality disorder or other mental health issue to it and the idea of help becomes hopeless.
The baby is gone just like that.
I think about the life these mothers give- the mothers of Nigeria, the mothers of the deceased in CA, the mother with a child struggling with illness- they bring a miracle into this world; they sacrifice to ensure their babies survive… and then lives are gone.
My pocket of grief overflows thinking of all the struggles that are out there in the world. We’re all searching for the answers, searching for help and trying to maintain hope. None of us really know what to do; we have ideas, but we don’t really know how to help.
I wish there was more I could offer. All I have to share is my pocket of grief.
Whether you’re in Nigeria, South Korea, Ukraine, the US, or New Zealand… I hope your pocket of grief doesn’t overflow and that you find a way to remember that at one time, we were all just babies.

3 June 2014


I'm in New Zealand! Where are you?
My search for Joe Wellington has come to a halt. I’m stuck. I don’t know what the next move should be.
The phone number I had for a 'J Wellington' in the region continues to ring, unanswered. And I try it frequently.
I’ve come to the conclusion that his last name must not be Wellington. Although I was pretttttty pretttttty sure (Larry David-style of sure) that was his last name, I just don’t know how it could be when I can’t find anyone matching his description with that name.
Or perhaps he just doesn’t live in New Zealand anymore.
In this day and age of technology, social media, how could he be so difficult to find? I’m open to suggestions if anyone has any of how I can continue this search.
So where does this leave me, and where does it leave this blog?
I’m not certain.
What I do know is that in my search for Mr. Wellington, I’ve uncovered some pretttty pretttttty old (Larry David-style of old ) writings of mine that have stopped me in my tracks. Moments in my life that I remember perfectly and am grateful to have that document that time in my life. While I’m all in favor of “living in the moment”, sometimes things are so eloquently said in the past that ring true for the present. 
So for now, I will stop with my search for Joe Wellington. All those men on the street I stare at as I pass them will not need to be scared of me any longer. The father at tumbling class will not need to avoid my gaze. No more crazy car chases.
It is time to move on...still open to finding Joe Wellington...
But let's get personal. 
I'm going to allow my vulnerability to create whatever it desires. In the next few months I will be sharing some more personal writings.  Some old, some new. Same blog name. Joe Wellington has inspired me to write. He has motivated me to take risks and get involved. 
I hope all of you will continue to join me during this intermission and remember... if you find Joe Wellington, you better let me know!