It Is What It Is. Until It Isn’t (An SWB post)

Outside my window this morning

Beau: Excuse me Louise. That is not a picture of me and as this is my blog, who said you could put a photo of a deer on it?

Me: I did.

Beau: And who gave you that permission?

Me: I did.

Beau: And what about me?

Me: Well Beau, you gotta admit, he’s rather cute.

Beau: What difference does that make? He’s not me and this is my blog. I decide who gets to appear on it.

Beau hopes you come join him on his blog Sundays with Beaumont to read the rest.

Gabriola Morning

From where I sit drinking my morning coffee
Morning slips softly
out of night’s embrace
rising with light 
pouring out of a mist-laden
horizon.

Gently, morning breaks
me open
pulling apart the blinds
that held my heart
trapped
in believing 
amidst the destruction
of man’s fury
morning
would not rise again.

Breathing,
my heart
melts
into morning’s soft light.

Breathing in and out

Leaving the mainland

The float plane is full but I’m the first passenger to check in and score the co-pilot seat.

The rain does not diminish my enthusiasm.

On the short 20 minute flight I spy a pod of dolphins. Entranced I forget all about taking a photo and smile. Ahhhh. The joy of being in the moment.

Silva Bay Harbour

It is my first time on Gabriola Island since the fall of 2019. Or, as it’s so often referred to these days, “Since before Covid”.

It is two years since I’ve seen my middle sister. The last time was when we were all together for our mother’s memorial service, the week before two years of on again- off again lockdowns began.

I feel the stress and worry of worldly woes ease. I am here until Sunday when I will take the ferry back to Vancouver to spend two weeks with my daughter and her family.

Gratitude washes over me like the waves rushing over the black granite of this Gulf island, smoothing, smoothing, smoothing rough edges, rocky crags, crenelated surfaces worn smooth by time’s passing.

A quick check of my news feed confirms the war in Ukraine and other troubled places on this planet still wage.

But for now, I shall breathe into the salt infused air, savour the green laden forests and the waves crashing against the rocks.

I shall savour it all as my breath slows and my senses become soothed by the rugged beauty of this island where rain falls and my worldly woes are washed away.

I am filled with gratitude. Replete with the grace-infused air I breathe. I cannot change the wars that rage. The hunger that looms. The pain and suffering of our humanity without first centring myself in the calmness of being at one with all of nature connecting me to all the world around me.

Namaste 🙏

Where are the women at the table?

I sit in a wine bar. A solitary 60 something woman alone. The girl friend I was to have met had an emergency. I didn’t get her message until after I sat down and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir.

It’s from Bulgaria. The mention of its country of origin in Eastern Europe immediately takes me to ‘the war’. Ukraine under fire.

But then everything seems to take me to ‘the war’.

I notice the single quotation marks I use to encircle ‘the war’ and wonder why I cannot reference the two three letter words without them. As if they somehow separate the reality of what is happening from my life.

Six letters in total and I cannot come to grasp with the totality of what they represent. Death. Destruction. Despair.

Loss of life. The tearing apart of our humanity. The constant fear of wondering, “How much worse can it get?”

Much worse, if I am to believe the newsfeeds I scroll in an endless search for ‘the end’ as if I am expecting to suddenly awaken to a miracle. It was all a bad dream.

But that wish in and of itself minimizes the pain and suffering of those living the horrendous reality of this war.

Negotiated settlement talks resume and I wonder where are the women at the table? The mothers whose sons are sent to war to die at the firing of a stranger’s gun, a distant unseen missile, a lumbering tank.

Where are the women?

Those who carry life and bring it into this world only to witness its demise at the front of a war they did not ask for, did not want, do not condone.

Where are the women?

Those who teach their sons and daughters the sanctity of all life. The beauty of all souls.

Where are the women?

According to the Council on Foreign Relations

Women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution can improve outcomes before, during, and after conflict. But women are often excluded from formal peace processes.

Between 1992 and 2019, women constituted, on average, 13 percent of negotiators, 6 percent of mediators, and 6 percent of signatories in major peace processes around the world.

While there has been some progress in women’s participation, about seven out of every ten peace processes still did not include women mediators or women signatories—the latter indicating that few women participated in leadership roles as negotiators, guarantors, or witnesses.

Source

Where are the women?

I finish my glass of wine, pay my bill, walk to my car. I do not fear this walk could end my life.

My privilege does not escape me.

I am not evading missiles screeching through the air. I am not passing bombed out homes and firey buildings and burned out tanks along my route.

I am safe to travel the few kilometers home without passing through a checkpoint. Without fearing I will be fired upon as I drive away.

As I drive my daughter calls. My granddaughter wants to FaceTime. Not yet, I say. Let me get home.

I am a woman alone. Unlike my sisters in war-torn lands, I am safe.

And when I arrive home, I call my granddaughter and sing her a lullabye as women around the world do so that when she sleeps her dreams are filled with peace.

I know where the women are. They are sheltering their children, trying to protect them from war.

Heidi Baumbach – Making a Difference in Ukraine

Image by jplenio from Pixabay

In the still quiet of dawn not yet broken, I awaken. With a rush, images of war run through my mind. A nightmare I cannot escape.

I turn over. Check the time on my phone. Not quite 5.

I close my eyes but the images awaken in the darkness.

I open my eyes.

In my dream, I am running from a battle. A tank rolls into view. I want to stop it. I put up my hands. Fire flashes from its snout. A blast of hot air washes over me as a tree falls.

I wonder about its survival. Will it ever be able to grow again? Will its family miss its sheltering branches joining with theirs, offering protection from the sun, cover from the rain, a home to nest in for forest animals?

Will it survive?

I turn and run. And awaken.

For a moment, I think it is my nightmare. And, as dreams have meaning, I wonder, ‘what is this dream telling me? Where in my life do I need to make peace?’

And then I remember.

I roll over, grab my phone, scroll through my newsfeed.

It wasn’t a nightmare only I could see, trying to awaken me to peace.

This is the nightmare millions of people are living right now. A nightmare from which they cannot awaken because the war has come to them. The war has arrived in hundreds of tanks rolling across their land destroying homes and roads and bridges indiscriminately. A war where soldiers fire weapons that kill and harm and maim and destroy everything in their line of sight.

The war where missiles fired from jets streaking across a smoky sky tear into a maternity ward killing all hope of peace before it is even born.

_______________________

Heidi Baumbach

If like me you desperately want to do something, Heidi Baumbach is in need of support. Upon hearing of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Heidi, from a small central Alberta town, packed up suitcases of supplies and headed to Warsaw to help. She rented a car, and an apartment, drove to the border and picked up a family. She provided them support until they could arrange to move on to meet up with family in another country. And then, she welcomed in another family.

Heidi is doing this on her own. Any financial help she receives goes to supporting refugees. Not just the families she is sheltering, but also at the refugee camps. As she writes on a recent FB post:

The math is simple.

  • $120 CAD buys $400 of toiletries—enough for me to stock the 3 stall bathroom supplying the entire Przemysl refugee camp for an evening.
  • $25 CAD buys enough for a nice meal for everyone
  • $100 buys what would cost $300-$400 back home for groceries.

If you would like to support Heidi and all she is doing, she has set up a GiveSendGo fund — she is trying to raise $10,000 to buy a van to help bring refugees to Lviv from other areas of the Ukraine and to pay rent on an apartment for refugees.

I heard of Heidi’s mission through a co-worker. His daughter and Heidi grew up together. When Heidi emailed me she told me she thinks of my co-worker as her second father. My co-worker, a CPA, is helping Heidi track donations and ensuring her financial records are beyond reproach.

If you can help, please do.

For me, giving directly to someone on the ground, someone who is on her own making a difference helps me feel less helpless.

You can learn more about Heidi’s story at these links:

Lacombe County News

Global News (Heidi’s interview begins at around 4:50)

Heidi on Facebook

Heidi’s GiveSendGo Fund

_________

This post is also in response to this week’s prompt at Eugi’s Causerie.

The prompt is ‘survival’.

The photo accompanies the prompt on Eugi’s website.

Let Us Not Forget The Mothers

On this International Women’s Day let us not forget the mothers. The ones who are fleeing war-torn lands, their children’s hands gripped firmly in theirs as they navigate the uncertain terrains they must cross to reach safety.

These women are not feeling the war. They are building the future for all humankind by taking the children out of the line of fire.

They are future-makers, memory-keepers and peace-makers.

They carry with them the memories that make lives rich. Traditions handed down through generations. Recipes passed from one mother to the next. They carry the scars on their bodies of childbirth, of watching their sons go off to war, of burying their children before their time, of moving through exhaustion and fear to care for those who cannot care for themselves. And always, despite the hardships they’ve endured, the losses they’ve experienced, the fear their children would not make it to safety, they carry with them, Love.

It is the courage of these women to love in times of war and unspeakable losses and fear and turmoil as they struggle to get their children to safety that will carry us beyond the tragedy of these days so that one day we can all stand united in peace, together in Love.

It is the children who make me cry.

It is the children who make me cry. Their sweet innocent faces tucked into a mother’s shoulder, their tiny hands in pink and brown and green mittens holding on to stuffed bears and bunnies, toy trucks, books and backpacks stuffed with the few worldly possessions they can carry.

It is the children who make me cry and the scenes of once tidy bedrooms torn apart by missiles invading, blowing out windows and scattering belongings, shredded by the blast, to kingdom come, that make me cry more.

It is the children who make me cry and the scenes of destruction and the photos of soldiers carrying an older woman across a bombed-out bridge as groups of mothers and children and young boys and older men pick their way across, to safety? To an unknown future?

It is the unknown future that makes me stop and say a prayer and light a candle and promise to not speak of war, to not hold enmity in my heart, to not let anger hold me trapped in believing all of this is about all of ‘them’, the ones who invaded, the ones who fire missiles and lob grenades and drive tanks along residential streets firing into homes where once a child played with her favourite pink bunny while her parents sat tucked together on the couch in front of a TV watching SHUM perform at the Eurovision song contest and cheering and hooting for their beloved Ukraine to win.

It is the ‘us and them’ that makes me feel hopeless. That makes me want to scream, “There is no us and them!” What we do to one we do to another. We are one world. One planet and what we do to them we are doing to one another. And in the tearing apart of their lives we are tearing our world apart.

It is the children who make me cry.

The child and mother have navigated the broken beams and busted concrete of the bridge now. They have boarded a train to somewhere west away from the fighting, the fear, the terror, leaving behind the place they called home, the flowered curtains the mother made and hung with care on the windows of the bedroom where the little girl slept beneath a comforter covered in giant sunflowers, the comforter her mother made to match the curtains that now lay shredded in the glassless window of the roofless house on the street where they once lived.

They are travelling west, leaving behind the life they knew, leaving behind the husband and father they love who must stay to fight this force of destruction that has rolled in carrying with it death and destruction.

They are travelling west.

It is the child who makes me cry, her face tucked into her mother’s shoulder, blue eyes wide, a little pink bunny grasped tightly in one hand as she looks out from the safety of her mother’s arms at a world she does not understand.

It is the wondering of how she will ever make sense of all of this that makes me weep.

I do not want to write of war

I do not want to write of war, of bombs falling and bodies lying in the rubble.

I do not want to read of missiles falling from the sky and shattered glass flying.

I do not want to know of death counts and how many wounded lie untended amidst the shelling that reigns over the land.

I do not want any of this in this world, but it is here, has been here for a very long time, a symbol of our inability to make peace without first killing off those whose peace we do not agree with.

I do not want any of this, just as I do not want to write about how I cannot stop reading of what is happening in Ukraine. Or how I cannot stop the tears that flow as I say a prayer for those sheltering underground desperately trying to protect the ones they love from the destruction happening above them. Or those walking the long road away from war into an uncertain future.

I do not want any of this.

Just as I do not want to hear of how a man who owns a Russian grocery store in our city has been threatened by his neighbours. How he now fears for his safety and the safety of his family.

He came to this country for freedom. Not to be persecuted for the wrong-doings of the leaders he ran away from in search of a place to call home.

My heart feels so heavy. My mind restless. My body weary.

I breathe deep into my body, deep into my belly. I breathe deeply in the hopes that each breath will bring me calm.

Tears flow.

Let them flow, my wise inner guide whispers. In flowing, they create space for calm to prevail.

I do not want to read the news. I do not want to witness the destruction.

But this is happening to my fellow human beings on this planet. Just as it was happening to innocents in Syria and Rwanda and Iraq and so many other places and times throughout our human journey on this planet.

And if I have learned anything through our tragic history of war, it is that turning a blind eye to what is happening does nothing but make me blind to the suffering of others.

Pretending it isn’t happening keeps me stuck in believing there’s nothing I can do.

I am not that powerless.

I have agency. I have a voice. Fingers. Resources. And, while I cannot stop the guns blazing, I can stop staying silent, trapped in my fears and trepidations.

I can stand up and add my voice, donate resources to help those who are fleeing or hiding from war, know, they are not alone.

While I lay sleeping. For Ukraine.

A child on a swing outside a residential building damaged by a missile on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Pierre Crom/Getty Images

While I lay sleeping, bombs fell. Tanks rolled across invisible lines meant to somehow hold them back from eagerly gobbling up land that did not belong to them.

While I lay sleeping ships sailed into harbours claiming the right to take the lives of those who valiantly stood against them and armies marched with guns pointed forward, always forward, intent on killing anyone who stood in their path.

While I lay sleeping, a child swung on a swing outside a building damaged by a missile shattering dreams of peace and people died and babies were born to the sound of rockets falling from the sky.

While I lay sleeping, families fled their homes and mothers held their children tight while their sons poured gasoline into bottles stuffed with cloths and got ready to lift their arms to fight for their country, their freedom, their families, their lives.

While I lay sleeping people fought for the right to live in peace while I slept on, restful in my dreams.

When I awoke, daylight had come but the darkness holds fast to my every breath and fear lurks in every corner of my mind.

Awake, I want to stop the streams of news filling my social media pages. I want to stop my mind’s incessant clamouring for more as if knowing more will somehow make sense of this place where the whole world sits with bated breath waiting for one man to pull or not to pull the trigger that will change our world forever.

Awake, I can no longer sleep believing peace will come if we do nothing to stop the darkness from falling all around.

Awake, I raise my voice and call out for peace. For quick and fair treatment of refugees. For support for those who must flee. For support for those who stand on guard to defend against the guns blazing and missiles flying and bombs falling.

Awake, I turn away from ranting against one man’s deeds and turn instead to finding ways to help those whose lives have been unjustly impacted by what he has done.

Asleep, I dreamt I was powerful enough to stop tanks and pull fingers off triggers and hands off buttons of mass destruction.

Awakened, I know I am not powerful enough to stop war. I am powerful enough to stop fueling its fires with angry words and deeds.

Asleep, I dreamt one voice was powerful enough to make peace happen.

Awakened, I know I am not powerful enough to be heard by all the world. I am powerful enough to contribute my prayers to a world praying for peace.

Asleep, I dreamt I could stand alone.

Awakened, I know I alone am not powerful enough to make peace happen. I am powerful enough to stand united with those who, like me, want our children and grandchildren and their children too to grow up in a world where war is no more because together, we have chosen a path to make peace happen.

Because, if we can make weapons of mass destruction and rocket ships to reach Mars and submarines to explore the depths of the oceans, we must be able to build a bridge to peace.

We must be able to join hands of every colour all around the world and hold our arms out to welcome those who are fleeing war in search of peace.

Together we must. For our world depends on us. And so does Ukraine.