Juneteenth: Keeping Faith with Our African American Brothers and Sisters

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On this Nineteenth of June 2019 African Americans around the United States commemorate the Abolition of slavery. It has been called Juneteenth since 1865, even though Lincoln proclaimed the end of slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963. African Americans in Texas still toiled in bondage until June 19, 1865 when news of the Proclamation finally reached Texas, and, in some cases grudgingly, slaves were notified they were free at last. Perhaps now, as never before, do we need to remember who we are as Americans in all our varieties and ancestral origins. As hatred is spoken around and about the highest offices in the land, we must celebrate all that is good, kind and right within one another. Hatred cannot stand, and in the longer scheme of things, it will not. But for now, as hearts are wounded and rage engendered, let there be balm in Gilead.

A few weeks ago while I was in a medical office making a return appointment the African American clerk offered me June 19. My calendar noted the date was Juneteenth, and I had a conflict anyhow, so we found another day. I mentioned that this date was Juneteenth, and she looked at me blankly. I was prompted to ask if she knew what it was. When she said no I gave a feeble explanation. I asked if she was familiar with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem, and she said she was. I had heard it on a radio broadcast, entranced, two years ago and that evening blogged about this amazing music here. I told her the song and the day were related. Evidently it wasn’t until Ralph Abernathy and Coretta Scott King incorporated Juneteenth into the Poor People’s March to Washington DC in 1968 that the tradition was carried home to communities around the nation. The Juneteenth World Wide website gives its detailed history.

Yesterday in The Forward, a Jewish periodical that goes back to 1897, Tema Smith in its Opinion section called for Jews to celebrate Juneteenth with our African American brethren and sisters. She writes:

Let the Jewish community take cues from black leaders who ask them to reckon with hard truths — truths like the fact that the wealth of America was built on the back of African slaves from whom our black community is largely descended. Truths like the fact that many Jews in pre-Civil War America were silent on slavery, and some did, in fact, own slaves. Truths like, while many in our Jewish community have been able to access reparations for our communal tragedy of the Holocaust, black Americans continue to fight for theirs.

Smith ends her powerful piece with these immortal words of Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”

And today as a Congressional Reparations hearing begins in Congress, I end this post with one of the most haunting and evocative anthems I have ever heard. A capella group Committed sings “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:

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Red Winged Blackbird

Photo courtesy of David at Incidental Naturalist

He sings, he cheekily sounds an earsplitting chirp, and he rasps like a rusty gate.

Displaying his red and yellow epaulets, the Red Wing Blackbird wakes me daily, calling back and forth with his peers, from the tall grasses dividing lawn and lake to the grassy tussocks across the narrow inlet behind our house. Dawn to dusk they make their presence known to me. My Peterson’s Birds of North America, an app worth every cent of the $20 charge, says they are here in Southwest Florida year round, but they arrived late last fall and if past is prologue will soon be gone again.

How I love the birds who grace my life with their songs and movement and flashes of color. From waders to raptors to songbirds, we have them all here in our pond. Even a Brown Pelican sometimes finds us, patrolling the perimeter and dipping his huge beak in the water to get his fill of the small fish. A Kite soars overhead, easily identified by his forked tail. An Osprey descends to clutch a fish and fly off with it firmly in its talons, head first, like a bomb under a military plane. After Hurricane Irma and we were still snowbirds, we returned in October to find scores of statuesque Wood Storks perched on rooflines and in the trees, and ringing an overflow catchment filled with fish. We saw them here and there this past winter but they’re long gone now.

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a smallish bird perching on a woody stalk by the water’s edge, and consulting Peterson’s I tried to identify it. At first I thought it was a Least Bittern or American Bittern. Then I decided it was a Green Heron. I played its call and it oriented towards me. Eureka!

Let us notice and savor the natural world around us, even if only a trail of ants along a city sidewalk. We are not alone here. We can turn from our personal troubles, large and small, along the day and know this.

Be well.

A Day to Remember

Today is Memorial Day, or as it was called in my youth, Decoration Day. It’s a day to remember our veterans, those injured or killed in the service of our country, and our dear departed loved ones. All over the United States people visit cemeteries and place flags, flowers and even fancy “grave blankets” on the resting places of the dead. My father and my husband served in the US Army. I’m very proud of them and grateful for their service. Somewhere in the albums we shipped south I have photos of them in uniform. Here’s one of my maternal grandfather who was a Navy officer and served in both WWI and WWII. He died before I was born, and although the family lore is pretty negative about him, I thank him for his service as well. As I once wrote in a poem,

I thank thee fathers past for all thy pain, Thou vital links in my eternal chain.

We live in Florida, thousand of miles from my father’s grave in the Garden of Valor in a cemetery in California and my mother’s in Maine. My in-laws are buried about 1,500 miles north in New York and New Jersey. We haven’t figured out where we want our mortal residue to rest. It doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

I just published a post in my mother’s art blog, and here’s a link for all who wish to see her striking work that blesses our home and those of many others today. Many are on display at the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy in Sarasota. My cousin Mary owns and fills this amazing place with a fine collection of paintings, statuary and colorful crafts that must be seen to be appreciated.

Enjoy the day and remember that this is a great country that has weathered worse than what threatens us today. But climate change is real, and we all need to get serious about it or we won’t be leaving this land as good as we found it. Love to you all.

Thus Have I Read

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An American flag and photograph of the Buddha are prominently displayed in the barracks of the Portland Livestock Exposition Building, where Japanese Americans were interned. May 31, 1942 | Photograph courtesy The Oregonian / Barcroft Media

This morning I read an article in the Tricycle magazine and found it so forceful, I wanted to assure more people read it. That’s where you come in, and hopefully you’ll direct your friends and followers to check it out as well. For immediate, present moment relevance, just notice the crib in the above photograph.

At this time in our nation’s history when children as young as infants are being separated from parents at our southern border and held in tent encampments and other dreary facilities, we need to remember where this country has been. We may have thought we had moved beyond the paranoid ideation leading to the ensiling of the different, or alien, other. Au contraire. Here we are. We are being led by an individual who hawks lies and hatred purchased wholesale by the incurious and the uninformed. That there are so many of them appalls and frightens me. So, as Duncan Ryuken Williams quotes Nyogen Senzaki in this Tricycle piece,

The Buddha taught that identity is neither permanent nor disconnected from the realities of other identities. From this vantage point, America is a nation that is always dynamically evolving—a nation of becoming, its composition and character constantly transformed by migrations from many corners of the world, its promise made manifest not by an assertion of a singular or supremacist racial and religious identity, but by the recognition of the interconnected realities of a complex of peoples, cultures, and religions that enrich everyone.

Namasté,

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Just When you Think You’ve Got it

Good morning! Let us wake up and remember today is another important opportunity to practice mindfulness and gratitude, patience and courage. Less reactivity and more humility. Val Boyko reminds us we’re still on our path. Namasté 🙏 Shielagh

Find Your Middle Ground

unseen events “Forests Edge” Photo by Mike Bizeau at http://www.naturehasnoboss.com

Many of us continue our path into 2019. We are on a journey of curiosity, inner exploration, trying on new ideas, committing to better behaviors, taking care of ourselves … and taking time out to nourish mind, body and spirit.

We see ahead clearly and then something comes along to bring doubt, temptation, discomfort or rejection.

So soon… Really?

The most significant lessons are unexpected. And they often come along just when we were hoping or counting on something else.

Let them be wake up calls rather than obstacles in your mind.

Be alert. Wake up.

The class of your life is in session.

Take time to pause and reflect on the real lesson waiting to be seen.

p.s. My thanks to Mike Bizeau for the permission to share this image.

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Winds of Change

How beautiful this always awesome blog from a friend in Northern California that brings me smiles from playful chipmunks, oohs and aahs from gorgeous autumn leaves, and nods in glad remembrance of Thäy’s wise words today. Thank you, David!

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seeing sky streaming ~d nelson

Rising with sunshine, feeling
gratitude for a brand new day.
Vowing to bring happiness
during morning, to myself
& others; & reduce misery
in the afternoon.

15th holiday season for Fang the Terrible ~d nelson

Recently a friend said to me,
“life’s always been tough.”
Me: “yet, has it
ever been this tough for
so many at the same time?”

full fall color

Walking slowly in nearby park
taking in an array of natural expressions,
i.e. miracle of life, continuing
in all its hues & shades.

play chipmunks

Feeling gratitude for nature’s gift
of renewal & smiles
experienced when being with
mother earth’s plants & critters.
A few images for encouragement
to take a meditative walk in wilds.

May we offer each other,
whoever we are with,
supportive comfort,
warmth & little lights shining,
moving into this season’s
winds of change.

Impermanence makes everything possible.

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Revisiting the Why of What I Do

My Manhattan Office

How my New York office looked from where I sat for many years

Reposted from August 2016

[The panorama above of my Manhattan office shows so much of what has been important to me. The watercolor over the couch was painted by my mother, an accomplished artist, may she Rest in Peace. The stone Buddha head was a cherished gift that I gave a colleague when shlepping it home on the subway proved too daunting. The glowing shape near the far window is a Himalayan salt lamp. The green mid-century modern chair is the only furniture I brought with me to Florida where I now live and work. It sits in my garage awaiting refurbishing, its woven tape faded and badly snagged often and enthusiastically by the cat after I brought it home.]

In New York City where I practiced for over twenty years, it seemed as if everyone knew what psychotherapy is, even if they hadn’t ever experienced it personally. Occasionally I’d meet with an older patient whose primary physician or psychiatrist had referred them to me for treatment, and they’d say something like, “I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m supposed to do.” A discussion would follow, and soon we’d be “doing psychotherapy” every week. But many elderly people are psychotherapy-savvy, a case in point being a ninety year old woman in New York who had undergone a lengthy psychoanalysis fifty years before she came to me to address a current issue.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So these days, I’m explaining psychotherapy a little more often, and helping shed a light on experiences that have baffled, frightened, confounded or annoyed my patients. I’m describing how certain medications treat depression and why they aren’t good for people with the mood swings of bipolar disorder.

photo of head bust print artwork

Photo by meo on Pexels.com

I’m cataloging symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and helping patients gauge how much those symptoms interfere with functioning and their overall quality of life. Sometimes just asking a question about obsessions triggers access to a deeper emotional issue never before spoken to another. As I was psychodynamically trained, I enjoy helping a patient explore a dream for its value in clarifying issues, past and current. I take my role as therapist and guide along this most challenging journey very seriously.

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Flatiron Building, Photo by Kai Pilger on Pexels.com

As we prepared to move out of New York, I considered retiring. For about five minutes. I got a late start on my career as a psychologist so there’s a practical, financial incentive to continue, but there’s an even more important reason I am still actively working as a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy: I love the work. I enjoy meeting new people and sitting down with them to see what we can do together to alleviate their distress, resolve their conflicts, arrive at healthier alternatives to their problematic habits and behaviors, and find greater and deeper meaning in their lives, both in terms of the past, the present, and into the future.

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Photo by Tobias Aeppli on Pexels.com

I find it to be a great blessing helping people traverse very intense points on their path, such as dating, marriage or divorce; pregnancy, miscarriage, or birth; seeking, losing, improving or getting new jobs; illness, accident, treatment, death and grief, and as the late death and dying pioneer Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross taught us, acceptance. Acceptance of what has been and of what is, even when we wish it were different. Acceptance of what we’ve done and who we are, and acceptance of our ability to learn and grow and change despite the past, even though it can be extremely challenging and a lot of hard work.

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I alway have ended these posts with the Sanskrit word namasté, which basically means, “The goodness in me bows to the goodness in you.”

And so it is.

Namasté,

 

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