Readings for the International Day of Peace

Peace is not just the mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” 

― Dalai Lama XIV

flowers

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace.

Following are a few readings relevant to the day. The point of the list isn’t to tell anyone they should absolutely agree with every word of every one of these writings, but just to prompt folks to spend some time examining different viewpoints and really thinking about what peace is and how we might work toward it. Feel free to add your own suggestions for titles in the comments.

The Racial Healing Handbook by Annaliese Singh. The theme for 2021 is “recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.” This book seems like a good fit. The subtitle is “Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing.”

Bone to Pick: of Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Reparation, and Revenge by Ellis Cose. Is forgiveness possible for genocide? How do warring factions reconcile once the battles are over? Does revenge serve a purpose? Deep questions pondered here.

Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg and Arun Gandhi. I have found this book helpful in my personal and professional life, especially as I have a job that requires a lot of interaction with the public.

War No More: Three Centuries of American Antiwar and Peace Writing edited by Lawrence Rosenwald. Provides a broad historical overview of peace advocacy in the U.S. It’s always good to hear a variety of voices.

Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words. In 1953, a woman began a decades-long journey on foot throughout the United States and Canada, carrying a message of peace to everyone she met. This is her memoir. Talk about walking the walk.

The War Prayer by Mark Twain, who was a consistent critic of U.S. military action in the Philippines. This had a huge influence on me when I read it as a teen. In the story, a church assembly prays for victory in battle for their soldiers. Immediately, an unknown man in a long robe appears, promising the request will be fulfilled, but only if the congregation still wants it after hearing the full consequences of what they are asking.

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On Today’s Bike Ride: This Guy

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Man looking at lake

It’s thanks to this guy that I got out on my bicycle at all this morning.


When I crawled back into bed after getting up to use the bathroom, my husband reminded me of my stated intentions from last night. “It’s not too late to take a ride before the day gets hot.”

He even accompanied me to the lake that is my favorite cycling destination, about four miles from our house. And he humored me by letting me set the pace rather than taking off and leaving me in the dust. This is a person who has ridden his bike virtually every day for decades.

It might be awhile before my next ride. I have a minor medical procedure schedule later this week and will probably not be saddle-ready for at least a couple of weeks after that. But the lure of the bicycle will give me something to look forward to as motivation to follow all recovery instructions and take care of myself.

See you all on the other side.

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Today’s Bike Ride: After Bicycle Surgery

I haven’t been taking Freida out much lately due to some of my own minor health issues, combined with bad weather luck and other factors. Plus my first road trip in forever. I thought about it a lot. But when I finally had my act together enough for a ride, she received an unexpected diagnosis.

Trek Bikes sent me a letter saying she was in danger of losing her pedals. It’s happened to other bikes of the same type. So today I had to take her in for a pedal transplant.

I’m happy to say they were able to handle it on an out patient basis. I waited while they performed the procedure and then took her home right after.

Fresh out of the recovery room

Unfortunately, it was drizzling when we came home, so we couldn’t go out together right away. I had to go do some other errands, too. But we went for a spin after dinner. Of course, by then, it was so late, I had to race the sunset to get in even a brief ride. I didn’t stop to take any photos.

We had a shorter, but more intense trip than we’re used to. A quick three miles at what would be average speed for my husband or son, and was Indy 500 level for me. No coasting. All went well, with no pedal loss, even with me pumping them furiously.

Looking at the shiny new parts made me realize how much Freida needs a wash. Sorry I’ve neglected you, girl. I have to work tomorrow, but I will try to give the bike a good scrub on Sunday.

Here’s hoping Freida and I both stay healthy enough for more frequent rides.

Final note: Here’s more info on the recall for anyone who thinks their bike might be affected. The pedals in question are from Bontrager.

On This Week’s Walks: Surprises

I’ve been walking, just not making the time to post. So instead of “On Today’s Walk,” I’m doing a small compilation from the past few days. Even when you walk the same routes over and over for years, you’ll still find surprises.

What exactly is happening on this retaining wall? Is this the aftermath of a battle, with the victor standing triumphant? Or is it an act of compassion, with a friend rushing to aid a fallen companion?


Hmmm..what are those two things in the middle of the grass, visible from thirty feet away?

Field
Mystery objects

Maybe a closer investigation is in order:

Two shrooms

Aha! Wow, those are big! How big?

Big fungus
That’s a size 8 1/2 (US) women’s shoe.

And finally: always expected, yet still a surprise with their sudden appearance every year. My first surprise lily sighting of 2021.

Surprise lilies

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Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, 17th Century Scholar and Feminist Poet

Attribution: José Luis Filpo Cabana, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I first read about Juana Ines de la Cruz and her 17th century feminist poetry in Isabel Allende’s memoir, “The Soul of a Woman.” I immediately knew I needed to learn more, and the universe provided. The next day, her name came up in a textbook I was reading for an online class — just a brief mention of the fact that she amassed one of the largest personal libraries in North America while living in a convent as a nun. Obviously, I had to find out all I could.

Who was this feminist poet librarian nun? Only one of the most brilliant, accomplished women I never learned about in school. In a time when universities and learning were for solely for men, she managed to outshine many renowned scholars through a lifetime of self-directed education.

Juana Ramirez de Asbaje (her birth name) was born in 1648 in the Vice Royalty of New Spain, now known as Mexico. Her mother and father were not married, and Juana was raised in the homes of her mother’s relatives. From an early age, she displayed an almost unquenchable thirst for learning and knowledge, spending hours reading the books in her grandfather’s personal library. 

She began writing poetry at age eight, and had an in-depth knowledge of Greek logic and of the Latin language by her teen years, even teaching Latin to younger children. She asked her family to allow her to disguise herself as a male so she could attend university classes, but they refused. She was forced to continue as the creator of her own education.

Later, she became a lady in waiting to the wife of the Viceroy Antonio Sebastian de Toledo, marquis de Mancera. Juana’s keen mind and accomplishments were apparent to everyone, and the viceroy invited a group of noted scholars to test her knowledge. They were so impressed they granted her the equivalent of a university degree, with no need to disguise herself.

A couple of years later, she chose the one path open to her as a woman that would allow her to continue pursuing her studies. She became a nun at the Convent of St. Paula, where she also taught girls in the subjects of drama and music. There she also wrote plays and poetry, amassed her personal library, and collected musical and scientific instruments.

Many of her writings tackled the sexist double standards of society, most notably “Foolish Men,” which criticizes men for displaying the very same illogical behavior they ascribe to women. Here’s one stanza:

“Whether you’re favored or disdained,
nothing can leave you satisfied.
You whimper if you’re turned away,
you sneer if you’ve been gratified.”

Her poem “First Dream” delves into what it means to have a life-long passion for learning and knowledge. Well, it’s a pretty long poem and that’s a simplistic summary of it. But here’s one fragment:

“In Homer’s opinion, then,
the pyramids were mere material versions,
outward manifestations only
of inner dimensions instancing
the human spirit’s attitude:
for just as the ambitious fiery flame
assumes pyramidal shape when mounting
heavenward, so the human mind
assumes this very shape
in ever aspiring to the one First Cause,
the center toward which the straight line tends,
if not indeed the circumference
containing every essence ad infinitum.”

Not everyone approved of Sor Juana’s achievements. In 1690, the bishop of Pueblo published a critique she had made of a priest’s sermon. The bishop used a false name, Sister Philothea, pretending to be a nun, and accompanied the piece with criticisms of Sor Juana, saying she should stop writing anything secular and instead concentrate on her religious studies.

In response, Sor Juana wrote and published a defense of the right of women to attain knowledge, “Reply to Sister Philothea of the Cross.” In it, she recounted the obstacles she had faced. “I went on with the studious pursuit (in which I found relaxation during all the free time remaining from my obligations) of reading and more reading, study and more study, with no other teacher than books themselves.” Later in the missive, she speaks of a period of time during which she had been forbidden to read. She said that she used that time to study the natural world instead. And this is where I find her truly inspiring. When someone put up a roadblock, she said, in effect, “Okay, I’ll make my own road.”

In 1694, her detractors within the church finally either persuaded or forced her to sell her library for alms and to give up writing. She died April 17, 1695 when a plague swept through her convent. But her influence continues to resonate generations later. I’m glad I found her.

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Sources:

Merrim, Stephanie. “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 13 Apr. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sor-Juana-Ines-de-la-Cruz

https://poets.org/poet/sor-juana-ines-de-la-cruz

Women Walking: Book Thoughts

I’m happy to report I have a much lower degree of hitch in my git-along than I did the last time I posted. I still have to be mindful of how I move while doing certain tasks, but I can take walks again. I have even been on my bicycle. You may ask, what does an avid ambler do while sidelined? She reads about walking, of course!

I will read almost anything about walking and almost anything about women empowering themselves. I found a great combination of the two themes in Wanderers, a History of Women Walking by Kerri Andrews.

Andrews focuses on women who have written about their walking experiences. Some figures were familiar to me — Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf. Others were new introductions. I was particularly interested to learn of Dorothy Wordsworth, who exhilarated in day-long walks of twenty miles or more, and was every bit as accomplished as her brother William. I want to know more about her. I’m also planning to look up the work of Linda Cracknell. In fact, Wanderers grew my to-read list quite a bit.

In addition to profiling ten other women, Andrews also shares some of her own adventures in the mountains of Scotland and elsewhere. She was able to retrace a few of the walks mentioned by women who came before her, exploring her feelings as she follows their footsteps.

She adds a lot of context, too, about women’s lives in different locations and time periods, speaking of the challenges that kept, and still too often keep, our existences restricted. William Wordsworth was usually free to pick up and go at a moment’s notice, while his sister was tied down with domestic chores. And then there have been societal expectations on women’s behavior, plus the extra threats women face when striking out alone. Walking is great medicine, but it’s one some of us have to work for more than others.

I want to finish with a special note of appreciation for the author’s words about the value of walking and re-walking the same routes again and again. Doing this myself has turned out to be one of the most profoundly spiritual practices of my life.

On Today’s Walk: Slow and Easy

It rained here for nearly two solid months. I had forgotten what color the sky is when the clouds are gone. But the weather cleared up and became beautiful with pleasant temps just in time for the long weekend.

Unfortunately, I did something to my back. I woke up yesterday morning barely able to get out of bed and hobble to the bathroom as my muscles groaned, seized, and resisted movement. Things gradually improved after I’d forced myself to move around the house a little, put some ice on my back, and took ibuprofen.

By afternoon, my back felt A-okay. I thought, Well, that was unpleasant, but it’s over with. Guess I’ll go tackle some yard work. Things remained okay through an hour and a half of mowing and more.

Then I woke up this morning, once again barely able to move. I did what I refer to as the Igor Shuffle across my bedroom, pushing one foot forward a few inches, then dragging the other from behind to catch up with it. More ice packs and ibuprofen, combined with slow stretches throughout the day had it feeling mostly better by afternoon. But I learned my lesson. The weeding remains unfinished.

However, I talked my son — who currently has a slightly bum foot and also needs a to move more slowly than usual — into accompanying me on a little outing to Shelter Gardens, where we could make like the gentry and stroll at a leisurely pace, enjoying the results of someone else’s manual labor. I didn’t take many photos, but we found serenity lingering at the fish pond.


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On Today’s Walk: Drainage

When you’re a homeowner in Missouri, you spend a lot of time thinking about water flow and drainage. If you have a basement, you probably have a sump pump. The repeated hummmm-clunk on rainy days is just part of the soundtrack of your life.

I live in one of the oldest parts of our city, old enough that maps of the sewer system in our neighborhood have been lost to history. The municipal government is always going to do something to make sure the sewers are up to snuff around here, but they first have to figure out how they’re all networked. That’s been going on for a while. Once, they even sent someone into our home to blow smoke through our toilet while other workers were stationed at various access holes nearby to see which direction it was traveling. I’m not sure what they learned.

Drainage has been on my mind even more than usual lately because it’s been extremely rainy and also because my husband came up with a new plan for our sump pump drain. It’s always been a puzzle trying to determine the best place for the water to discharge. We had some pipe along the side of the driveway to a French drain at the end, but we share a driveway with an apartment building, and people kept driving over the curb while passing each other and damaging it. Then we’d get leaks that would cause slime in the summer and ice in the winter. After a lot of digging (division of labor roughly 85% spouse / 15% me), a few yards of pipe are now buried, with just the end emerging by the drain. Fingers crossed this will be the final iteration.

Ambling around the neighborhood lately, I’ve been paying attention to drainage pipes and grates. It’s amazing, once you notice it, what a large part of the infrastructure has to do with getting the water to flow a certain direction.



On Today’s Bike Ride: Perfect Easter Morning

Frieda and I decided it was the perfect morning for a bike ride — temp in the 60s, sunny, with the slightest gentle breeze. We took one of our most commonly traversed trail routes to a small lake area.

Many family groups were out walking. Good thing I have this delightful little bell to let folks know when I’m about to pass.

Bicycle bell

I love the bell because there’s nothing clangy about it. It gives a cheerful and polite “excuse me” chime that sounds friendly. One of my small joys of life is that minor interaction when I’m coming up behind a trail walker and put my thumb to the bike bell, then see the person acknowledge it with a tiny wave.

Also on the trail today were many dogs making sure their humans were getting fresh air and exercise. So many good doggos. Maybe some of them were heading to the dog park on the other side of the lake from where I stopped to rest and hydrate. I heard lots of excited barking carrying across the water.

Near my take-a-break bench a man sat in a camp chair with a fishing rod propped next to him, line dropped into the water. He didn’t appear to care whether anything was biting as he relaxed with his fingers interlaced behind his head in the ultimate no worries posture. I wanted to take a photo of him, but didn’t because I couldn’t get an angle without his face and decided I should respect his privacy. I’m sharing that he was there just so I can say that the amount of relaxation and peace he was generating felt contagious. Maybe seeking inner peace really does help the world around us.

Here’s Frieda, propped against the bench where we lingered to take in the scene for a while.

Bicycle propped at bench

I did a quick internet search to see if I could find any information on the Frank Patton who is memorialized on the plaque, but didn’t come up with anything. It’s nice that somebody wanted to remember him in a way that provides something good for the community.

We had to take it a little slow on the trail section that loops the lake:

Caution sign
Loose gravel did exist.

Whether or not you celebrate Easter, I hope all my readers are having a beautiful day. If the weather allows where you are, I highly recommend some outdoors time as a personal health measure.

On Today’s Walk: Spring at Last

It was funny — funny odd – after the time change last week that you couldn’t tell a difference around here. That’s because the sun didn’t come out from behind the clouds for about five days. It was like one continual night, with lots of rain. Kind of in tune with my spirits of late. Until yesterday, when things finally brightened.

Then came today, the first day of spring. I was able to walk in the sun this afternoon wearing jeans and t-shirt, no jacket. My son accompanied me. Once you get them through the teen years, they become willing to be seen with you again. They’ll even indulge you in things like stopping to snap pictures of new blossoms. I think this is a magnolia tree. Whatever it is, it made me happy.