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Last night I saw video footage of the BP oil spill here and here.  I had already been deeply concerned about it; seeing the footage, I was grief-stricken.

At first, I was focused on the horror of it.  I saw that the thing had already happened. I felt the death of all that life very very keenly.  My heart hurt.

Fortunately, I’ve spent enough time with grief to know a few things about how to navigate the territory.  I shifted modes, and prayed: “how is one to relate to this?”

The answer was a shift in how I was carrying the disaster.  Instead of something that I couldn’t do anything about, it became something I could help with.  I didn’t yet know how I could help, but I did know that there would be a way of lending my particular strengths.

This morning as I woke I saw those images again in my mind’s eye.  But today I saw the images peacefully, as a thinker and troubleshooter.  (This is a big part of what I do for a living.)

Looking at the whole thing from this new perspective, I saw an instance of something I see all the time at a smaller scale: people frantically continuing to do what isn’t working because they are caught in a particular interpretation of the situation.

I noticed that the word carrying the heaviest load in the oil spill disaster is ‘containment’.  Thousands of people are trying very very hard to surround that oil.  The thinking goes, “it should have been prevented, but now that it’s happened, we’ve got to contain it.”

But it’s becoming apparent that it’s too big to contain.  The last words I heard on one of the videos last night were, “for the first time, I’m seeing that it’s hopeless.”

Right here, I see something crucial: the speaker was equating ‘uncontainable’ with ‘hopeless’.  But that’s an error in thought.  Containment isn’t working, but that doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless.  What it does mean, is that we have to think differently here.

The second video I watched showed the leak itself.  This is the root of the problem.  When BP tried to cap it (a form of containment) it didn’t work because inside the container, the leak itself was still a leak.

What we need is not to contain the leak, but to stop it:  to mend that wound.  Now I begin to think of a gushing artery, and to wonder what would happen if we were to bring skilled surgeons together in the same room with the kind of engineers who mend enormous leaks that happen under pressure.  I think ‘tourniquet': take the pressure off enough to be able to work at the site.

These thoughts are very unskilled of course; I don’t actually know enough here to think the next thoughts.  But it’s a possible direction.

But this particular possible direction is not my real message here.  My real message is the meta-direction, and I want to say something to Obama in particular, here:

You won the election because you never allowed yourself to get caught in a defensive position.  You didn’t let your opponent define your next moves.  You took in reality very accurately, and then you thought three steps ahead of it.  This is your strength.  We need it here.

The oil that’s already spilled, is spilled.  We can’t contain it, but we can work to mend. Obama, your job as our leader in this moment is to cast the nets widely for thinkers who know a lot, from their day in day out work of mending this kind of  thing.  Let ‘this kind of thing’ be generous enough to hold a variety of kinds of thinking.

Bring these thinkers together, face to face.  Don’t let BP try to handle this alone.  They’re in panic mode, they’re stuck merely responding.

And when the flow has been staunched, the next task will be to find how to think about this new ground zero: not as a dead zone, but as … what?  That question, I’ll leave open.  But let’s not leave it just to the ‘experts’, okay?


being Persephone

by kye on March 18, 2010

Nearly six months ago I descended into one of life’s winter seasons.  My mother and sister had already been very fragile for several years.  Then last autumn, my sister’s husband had a heart attack and became mostly disabled too.

My mother lives in the same city I do, but my sister lives a thousand miles away.  Trying to support my loved ones in both places, I’ve felt extremely inadequate to the task.  Guilt has been my daily companion as I’ve tried my best to balance regular daily life, the extraordinary needs of my family which I couldn’t begin to meet, and also enough self-care to keep myself in decent running order.

My creative life dropped into the far background.  I’ve not been to my studio in months; and this blog has received little attention.  This seemed necessary for a while, but a point comes when the inner well needs a more profound kind of replenishment than that offered by time at the farmer’s market on Saturday, or reading a few pages at bedtime, or appreciating the small blessings of the present moment.

At the peak of this season of challenges, my hard drive crashed and had to be replaced, at the same time as all three of my ailing ones landed in the hospital.  I felt incredibly overstretched and responded by dropping an exciting new project that felt ‘optional’.  But after that I began to get sick–first the flu, then, a week and a half ago, scarlet fever.

That, finally, stopped me in my tracks.  I couldn’t do anything for anyone.  I ate takeout sushi instead of cooking.  The dishes piled up.  After the first couple of days in bed I began to pick up tiny tasks related to my dropped project. A missing energy began to glimmer.

Yesterday, I emerged into the springtime.  My son and I went on a ‘playing hooky’ kind of errand.  The redbud and mountain laurel were in full bloom and the new green everywhere was so beautiful that it still brings a mist to my eyes to think of it.  We stopped by my studio and I brought several panels back home to live with.  I became ravenous for vegetables and made a big pot of vegetarian chili for supper.  My vitality soared.

And today, I’m writing.  My heart is full.

What gives meaning is not optional.  It’s where we gain our strength.


restorative walking 101

October 25, 2009

This past week, I was dealing with a difficult, time-consuming situation.  By the time I could step back a little I was drained of energy.  My body was tense and tight.  I needed a restorative walk. I just got back from that walk feeling balanced, relaxed, and at peace.  I’d like to share with you […]

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how to remove a stuck mantra

September 4, 2009

I am an adventurer when it comes to meditation.  It’s not that I’ll try anything and everything — but I do like to play. Walking meditation is the most basic kind for me.  When I need to come home again, walking meditation is how I get there. Often I’ll synchronize my breath and my steps.  […]

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destination unknown

August 16, 2009

My new possible guest is nervous. He’s asked for pictures of the apartment inside and out, and my address so he can Google it and tour the neighborhood —and late last night he emailed that today he would like to have a conversation. His angst brings back memories of a few travel adventures of my […]

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