26 October, 2007

An embarrassment of riches?

Given the dramatic and difficult circumstances of this past week here in San Diego, you might think that an odd subject title. One of the local news anchors used that phrase when she was reporting that the evacuation sites were no longer needing or accepting donations. "We have an embarrassment of riches so to speak..." It was her way of acknowledging the good news that this community rallied in such a swift and generous manner that there was enough food, sundries, supplies, etc. to support the evacuees at Qualcomm and the like.

That phrase has been haunting me --appropriate for pre-Halloween-- as it was applied to a situation where people probably felt anything but rich (except perhaps in Spirit) and for some people, perhaps they had lost all their "riches" in their hearth and home that fell prey to the fires.

My further pondering was about the fact that there is such bounty and plenty in the city, in the nation,in the world, why is that we have such a problem with homelessness and hunger? Why is there not a way to share the wealth? I listened to countless stories and reports about families coming forward without hesitation to provide food, supplies, shelter or whatever was needed to support other people (who on a different week, might have easily been referred to as "strangers"). Ah, my heart expands in that the human spirit is alive and well. It just makes me ponder as to why it seems to emerge in such powerful ways only when called forth by dire circumstances?

Clearly, there are always people and organizations out in the community or in the world that are doing good deeds on a daily basis. Whatever else would all those telethons and pledge drives be about? Organizations quite often seek volunteers to help support and sustain. And yet, when something catastrophic takes place the "embarrassment of riches" comes forth in the manner of goods, person-power and donations. I ponder if that isn't possible more regularly and without such motivation.

Yet, maybe that is the way it needs to be. There is that rule in organizations, I believe that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. And perhaps that is the natural order of things. That way, when there is a specific need or call to action, the remaining 80% get to jump in and do their part. It is a way of balancing the load.
I doubt if everyone of us could do all that needs to be done for each other on a daily basis and still take care of our own with full attention and care. I liken it to the fact that nature finds it's own version of the 80/20 ratio when it needs to burn off the land for regrowth. Nature doesn't seem to have little spurts of fires on a daily or weekly basis; it appears as if nature accumulates stuff (as do we) and then when it gets to be too much or time for transformation, nature responds in a grand manner.

The small amount to which I was able to actively (hands-on) support at first, frustrated me. As I wrote earlier, Don and I threw together a bunch of supplies and took to Qualcomm the first afternoon. The next day, I went out and bought toiletries and sundries that I thought would be useful to add to further donations and it was declined. My registering on Volunteer San Diego showed me that all the positions were filled for now but to check back later. It became clear for me that I was meant to do more inner work. I would continue to support certain individuals and also cast a wider net of prayer. For others, this was their time to be on the front lines in service.

As I continue along this Ponderosa of mine, I am not judging any of this. In fact, I am not even weighing in on one side or the other. Merely, I am looking at the bigger picture by turning it upside down or on it's side to see if I can see things differently. Even this morning when I took my meditation walk (which this week, I have been unable to do because of the air quality) and stood on the mountain top where I have a perfect view of Qualcomm Stadium. I was pleased to see how calm and how empty it was today. A sign that people were able to move on from there into rebuilding their homes and their lives.

The next few weeks will be almost as critical. Not in the life-threatening sense, but in the post-traumatic phase when the active support begins to wane. This is the time where you/me/we can do some deep support for those who have been impacted by the fires; and for those who served so long and hard in protecting us. This phase is much like what happens after a death in the family. There is an immediate outpouring of love, attention, and support and then when the initial crisis is over the outside circle begins to fade--rightly so. People who have experienced a trauma, a major loss or transition in their lives do need to learn to move on and function independently. AND... and it is a big AND, we need to keep our antennae out to touch bases and connect with them along the way. If you have friends or family who were jeopardized or had major losses from this fire, please look to finding a way to connect with them as time goes on. Even if it means putting a reminder on your calendar to give a call and check in with folk.

How we as a community, we as individuals, move through and beyond a major event such as these wildfires, really sets the tone for how we are to live our lives on the world stage; how we expect and want our leaders, neighbors and friends to show up in the world. Gandhi was right, we must be the change we want to see in the world. And with having been given a new page upon which to write and draw the world we want to live in, this is a great opportunity for you to join me on the Ponderosa and contemplate the riches for which can be in abundance for all.

23 October, 2007

Southern California Anneals

The word, "anneal" has always been one of my favorites. Anneal means to heat glass or metal to such a high temperature that it removes internal stresses in order to strengthen and toughen it. I am fascinated by words and the alchemical processes language describes. Right now, areas of Southern California and in particular, where I live in San Diego, there is a huge annealing process going on that the media refers to as Firestorm 2007.

The fires have reflected an element of purging and transformation that has been going on in my own life; and now, makes me think a similar process is present for thousands of others. Maybe we need to be renamed, Southern Kali-fornia in honor of the powerful Hindu goddess.

It has been quite a year for me already with much re-ordering in my life and releasing people, places and things. When it came time to be pro-active and pack a few things incase we, too, needed to evacuate, the process seemed simpler. In addition to some basics and some important official documents, I packed a few special photographs for us, my first edition Science of Mind and Spirit textbook, and a lacy new bra I had just bought. I knew I would be so frustrated to think that I had been saving my new bra for yet another special occasion and not gotten to wear it.

By the way, as a reminder, remember the practical things like your cell phone and laptop power supplies. Medicine, reading glasses, passports, keys, flashlights, maps and such are really critical. Of course, by now we all know to pack: water, emergency food for yourselves and your animals, a hat, a jacket, a change of undies and socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer, blankets, pillows, paper, pen, small scissors, sunblock, comfortable shoes, and perhaps something to read or do to fill time. Also, remember to select someone locally and out of state that you can call as a contact point for other family members to call and check in on your safety and well-being. And keep your car tank filled so that if you need to evacuate or help someone else, you are prepared.

Yesterday, Don and I took supplies to Qualcomm Stadium where many of the evacuees are staying. We experienced a deeper insight into what it must have been like for people affected by Katrina. So I want to acknowledge the amazing team of paid and volunteer workers who have rallied to aid this city. It goes without saying that the firefighters are among the most courageous men and women I could ever imagine. Kudos also go out to the police and the teams eho helped with the evacuations or with other critical needs. At Qualcomm, we were so impressed at the grace with which the officers and volunteers were directing traffic; routing people to the appropriate areas; AND doing so with such compassion and dignity. It was so heartening to see how the city also responded with bringing the items requested. You could tell that some people had gone out and bought new pillows and blankets to bring along with donations of water and food. An interesting sidebar is that I noticed how I suddenly judged our contribution as being paltry in comparison to the people who had gone out and bought new bedding and linen to donate. Isn't it interesting how the ego can wreak havoc even in a crisis?

When I went to NIFCU today in La Mesa, the branch was closed. Most people managed to deal with that by simply using the ATM or leaving. I was struck by one woman who arrived and was verbally grousing that there was no reason this branch had to be closed since it was not affected by the fire. I noticed that I judged her for not having more sensitivity to the bigger picture. Ooops. After all, it is surreal for all of us who are going about our daily activities on a sunny San Diego day to know that only miles away others are facing travesties of nature. Time to self-correct. Hey, does anyone know where to buy metaphysical White-Out?

Today, I bought more supplies to take when I heard other basics such as toothpaste, chaptstick, etc. were needed. We heard that Qualcomm was not accepting more donations because they had more than needed. Instead, we could drop off supplies to Granite Hills High School. Once we arrived, we learned that we had been given erroneous information and this was not a donation site. It was frustrating to feel we weren't able to contribute but of course, we know that everyone is doing their best. I was grateful tonight that one of the news reports advised people to not go to any of the evacuation sites to volunteer or donate without getting clear advice or directions. And for anyone who is willing and able, there are volunteer opportunities being coordinated by Volunteer San Diego. You must register first and you can sign up for Wildfire 07 if that is your only interest at this time.
email: volunteer1@volunteersandiego.org
phone: 858-636-4131
web: http://www.volunteersandiego.org


We are all drawn to doing our prayers in different ways. Of course, we may have very specific people and places in the city to which we are connected that call for our primary attention and concern. And I want to offer a reminder to send out prayers and thoughts of love to the animals who are impacted by this crisis as well. Several of our local humane shelters and other animal sanctuaries are either already evacuated or in risk areas. The public learned a harsh lesson from Katrina about how animals often get ignored or neglected during a major disaster. Even if an animal is not separated from it's human family, they sense the stress and fear and are more keen to the smell of smoke and fire.

Thank you one and all who are sending their light and love and active
prayers to all of my fellow residents of San Diego. Don't for one second think that you are not doing something vital to help. Your loving support makes it possible for us to hang in and carry on.

Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.
~William Shakespeare

(nb: My original post of this on Tuesday night somehow got bolloxed up and the editing was all askew. My apologies if anyone read the blog and wondered just what kind of smoke I had been inhaling....)

City Slackers

No, I did not misspell the title of this post. Yes, I was playing off of the comedy film title, "City Slickers" about a bunch of...