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On the two challenging hikes, one Thursday with my husband in White Oak Canyon and Friday with my son above Skyline Drive, I had to pay attention to each step, to place my foot carefully to avoid a fall. To use my sticks and have three points solid before I lifted one leg to move forward. I paid lots of attention to my breathing, pacing myself, resting when it became labored or short. I was alone many times, letting my younger companions sprint ahead, thinking of the Caminos that friends walked for many miles a day, also one step at a time. Their hikes might not be this steep, but they were also walking slowly, just walking, mindful of each step. I found myself letting go of worries, letting go of the fear of falling. I felt so alive and vigorous doing something beyond my capacity.

I also tried to look carefully at what was in front of me and around me – the distinct green of laurel leaves, the twists in the branches, the majesty of boulders thousands of years old, the vistas of mountain sides when sunlight lit them in all their glory, the tiny “stick mantis” that crawled up my son’s pant leg, the rare sound of a bird. It was necessary to keep the focus on the next step, the solidity of the rock in front of me, then to look wide and far when I stopped to rest. It was a powerful practice of staying in the present moment. What more wonderful moment could I imagine that this one – hiking a new trail high in the mountains, with my beloved son. This moment a gift, his life one of the greatest gifts in my life. We celebrated it by stretching our bodies and minds to new heights together…one step at a time, one breath at a time.

Happy Hallowe’en!  Hope you are enjoying fall also!

October 10, 2022 Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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A day to reflect on our history in the US beginning with the treatment by Columbus of the Arawak peoples he encountered on Hispaniola in 1492. Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the US (which I used as a text in the DC public school where I taught US History for eleven years) says,

“Columbus reported, ‘The Indians are so naive and free with their possessions that …when you ask for something they have they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with everyone.”

In return for their kindness and welcome, Columbus “rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town…‘Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.’” Zinn, A People’s History of the US, p. 4.

Thus began the 530 years of massacre, enslavement, cruelty and genocide against the Native peoples of the Americas. We owe their descendants true history, their stories to be told widely in our schools, churches, libraries and media…their land, language and culture preserved, honored – and returned.

We could learn much about building equitable beloved communities from the Arawaks.

I write this in the land of the Piscataway, the Anacostan and Pamunkey.

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!

Do your Little Bit of Good

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

This Sunday’s Washington Post has enough material to inspire many posts for my writing, but today I’ll choose “Taking the Lead on Uphill Fight for Abortion Rights in WV” on p. A3. The Shero is West Virginia Delegate Danielle Walker who has had to hire a body guard to protect her from KKK threats on her life.

She read a letter on the floor of the WV House of Delegates from a transgender community organizer who had been raped repeatedly from the age of 10, attacked, assaulted, resulting in an abortion.

Walker speaks out, drafts laws and stands up in numerous ways for her African American community and the whole of her constituency in West Virginia for equality, justice, and freedom. “I’m feeling motivated and energized. I’m feeling that we don’t currently have the freedoms that we deserve, but life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is our birthright and we will take it back. We’re going to rally, we’re going to protest, we’re going to have town halls and candidate debates.”Washington Post – 17 Sep 22

Amid threats, W.Va.’s only Black female lawmaker stood up for abortion 1

Second-term legislator Danielle Walker lost her effort to persuade the Republican state to protect abortion rights. But she remains optimistic. GO Ms. WALKER!!!

Some districts in Texas are switching to four-day school weeks. College students, administrators and military personnel are being used to fill positions left by teachers around the country. There is no national database to confirm statistics, but many states are reporting staffing gaps that reach into the thousands per district.

No wonder! With the stress of transitioning back and forth to on-line teaching due to covid, the recent attacks on teachers who teach real history to their students, and the low respect, overwork and fatigue long present for teachers, many are saying NO.

In my twenty-seven years in high-school classrooms, I found that no one who had not had the experience could understand the level of constantly increasing pressure. Duties were added every year, without the old ones being taken away. Especially in the public school systems, we were expected to be social workers, psychiatrists, and policemen, in addition to teaching a rigorous curriculum in multiple subjects to groups of 35 plus students each hour. I usually taught over 300 different teenagers each of the last twenty years in the classroom.

I loved the students, loved the diversity of ethnicity and culture. The rewards came in bright eyes, understanding, open sharing of their lives, hugs, connections that last to this day in my life. All values that cannot be measured by standardized testing.

School boards need to listen to students’ needs and teachers’ needs if they expect to begin to solve the problems of losing these valuable, generous people who are shaping our next generation.

FREE EBOOK!
We Organize to Change Everything

Co-publication with
Lux Magazine

An urgent collection on losing Roe v. Wade, struggling to provide abortion across the Americas, and how we can rebuild a fighting movement for reproductive justice.

Contributors also consider the intimate connection of abortion rights to forced sterilization and structural racism, incarceration and criminalization, Indigenous people’s sovereignty, transgender rights, and the growing threat of a white supremacist far right.

I finished this book yesterday just before our Takoma Park Mobilization book group discussion. We Organize to Change Everything is a collection of twenty articles on reproductive justice that appeared on Verso Books on line in June 2022.

I plan to send a link of the book to my granddaughter, to make sure that she and her friends know about how to do an at-home abortion in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy with misoprostol, a pill that causes uterine contractions. The book includes many stories of how women have been using herbal methods to end unwanted pregnancies for millennia, and how our racist, patriarchal system is making new laws to stop all abortion access. They call for a powerful grassroots movement for reproductive justice to ensure rights for every member of our society.

Statistics are cited about the efforts of eugenicists in 1937 to “wipe out” the Puerto Rican population with forced sterilization. Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer tells the story of being sterilized during another operation without her knowledge. Forced sterilizations continued for women of color in California prisons as recently at 2011. As with most social issues, people of color and the poor are most oppressed by the efforts of the right to deny women’s rights.

The authors call for a “Women’s liberation movement” that gives the choice back to women about when, where and how often they wish to become parents. Planned Parenthood and NARAL receive criticism for focusing too narrowly on white women and not enough on the larger social issues of justice for all. Native American, African American and Latina activists tell about forced sterilizations of people of color, eugenics, the history of forced childbirth for slaves, conditions for women in prison, trans and non-binary people, and the necessity to fight for fair wages, housing, and health care in addition to abortion. It is truly a call to “change everything” from the grassroots up.

Some of the most hopeful and uplifting stories come from women who devote their time to “accompanying” women who are feeling frightened and hopeless in their dilemma. Anna, dedicated to accompanying other women continued to do so during her pregnancy until contractions began.

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Humans need Hope

This fresh new Southern Magnolia blossom on the little tree we planted last fall sparks my nostrils with citrus sweet smell and touches my heart through my eyes. Beauty rouses hope in the continuation of life. We humans need hope. Need beauty, truth, insight in order to take useful action in our challenging world.

I want my writing, even my description of scary news about climate change or gun violence to contain morsels of hope that will spur people to action rather than depress them into stupor. Otherwise, what is the point of being barraged by constant news of war, poverty, disease and cruel death?

An editorial by Amanda Ripley in the WP today was a journalist’s honest admission that she has stopped reading the news. It depresses and immobilizes her to have “news creep into every crevice of life.” Once she admitted that she no longer watched television news and was limiting print news, she found many journalist friends doing the same, along with 40% of the American public who avoided the news altogether!

I had a similar reaction after working for the Washington Post’s television news bureau for five years. I quit watching television news and preferred print versions with analysis and varied points of view, not just endless repetition of microphones shoved into the faces of mother’s whose children had been shot. I felt that the new 24/7 news stations were required to shock, scare and keep the attention of viewers primarily in order to sell advertising. The type of in-depth reporting for which the WP was respected began to deteriorate. I wanted to stay informed without being manipulated and emotionally disturbed.

Amand Ripley’s solution? Change the way news is reported to fit the human beings receiving it. To report news that 1) gives people HOPE, 2) AGENCY (offering suggestions of actions to take on climate change and gun violence), and 3) DIGNITY (“the feeling that I matter, that my life has some worth”). She said “There is a way to communicate news – including very bad news – that leaves us better off as a result. A way to spark anger and action. Empathy alongside dignity. Hope alongside fear.” She ended her article with an example of interviewing people at an anti-abortion rally who held views different from her own. She tried to keep an open mind, to ask real questions in order to hear the answers, not just to obtain the catchy soundbite. Understanding the interviewees helped them feel more human. Helped the journalist feel more human, more humble. Perhaps her readers had a similar response.

Whatever I write, I hope that it touches people’s hearts and encourages them to be part of life, to connect with the beauty all around us, in us, in every human being we encounter, to more deeply understand and help relieve their suffering.


How to Raise an Antiracist

I am filled with the joy and inspiration from Ibram Kendi’s talk at the 6th & I Synagogue in DC last evening. I attended by zoom and LOVED it, love HIM! He’s so brilliant, yet humble, sincere, and honest about his own failings and inadequacies. He’s passionate about telling the truth about racism, slavery, and the dangers of continuing to discriminate against people of color in this country. He is especially concerned that his lovely 6-year-old daughter be free, equal, protected, and loved by community and her teachers. The talk/interview was about his latest book – How to Raise an Anti-racist.

He teaches by telling stories, often of his experiences (and inspired me to do the same in AWAKE to Racism, for which I read two of his previous books, Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist).

He told the story of his wife not being heard about difficulties with her pregnancy (Black pregnant moms die at 3 times the rate of white women), her need for medical attention, the early birth of their daughter Imani. He answered a question about how the environment of a baby is critical in learning to trust people of various colors and cultures. His terror at leaving his daughter alone in kindergarten, recalling his punitive first-grade teacher who didn’t know how to encourage a bright little Black boy who had already learned the lesson.

He was asked about his favorite teacher, Mrs. Miles, who had high expectations of him in fourth grade, and encouraged, pushed, supported, respected him, and taught him critical thinking.

He urged white parents to protect their children from hate-mongers and racist thinking that can so easily warp young minds longing for the truth about racism and slavery. Talk to children! They want to understand!

The last question from his colleague Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy of American University was “Are you optimistic about the future? He said, “Yes! Young people don’t have all the baggage we have. They are less confused and afraid. They understand right and wrong, fairness and unfairness. They are honest, and that lights my fire.”

His final message – “The most optimistic adults are the ones engaged with young people, the parents and teachers who are comfortable talking about race. But don’t rely on the kids to transform society. That’s OUR job!”


Interviewer: Cheryl Holcolm McCoy, Dean of School of Education at American University, colleague and friend of Ibram Kendi. Dr. Kendi is a MacArthur Genius Fellow, a professor at Boston University, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2020.

Non-Violence, Guns, Change, Meditation

Photo by Tony Dejak/Associated Press

We stand up like a hero

An article in the Washington Post today listed some of the schools attacked by gunfire since Columbine in 1999. At least 185 children, teachers, and others lost lives in over 300 school shootings since then, including nearly 80 that resulted in at least one death. More than 311,000 children in schools have now witnessed gun violence. Hundreds of thousands more have witnessed or been shot in homes and neighborhoods where they should also feel safe.

What does the awakened mind, the compassionate heart do with the anger and frustration with politicians who have the power to STOP gun violence yet choose money, power and fame over the lives of children?

Our reading before this morning’s meditation says:
“When we get angry…we practice conscious breathing, and recognizing and embracing our anger…our mind begins to restore its sovereignty and can declare, ‘I don’t want to be a victim of my anger. I want to be myself. I want to initiate change’…

“With the energies of understanding, insight, and compassion, you are free, and you can help others become free. Practicing in this way you will be able to transform your heart and mind, and you become a bodhisattva. You will be in a position to help those who discriminate against you, those who suppress you, or those who try to kill you.

Every time we fall is an opportunity to stand up again – that’s the attitude of one who is active: Every time I fall, I’ll stand up again so life can get better. That’s the attitude: although there are obstacles and challenges, we don’t allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by them. We stand up like a hero. With that intention, a great deal of suffering falls away already.” Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh, p. 71.


Bombs falling on their city, the ensemble of the Ukrainian national Tchaikovsky Academy of Music performed March 9, 2022 in Kyiv’s central square. “We are showing our strength through music,” said Louri Loutsenko, senior adviser to the academy’s president. Two students have been killed and fifty gather in basement bomb shelters when air raid sirens go off. But they continue to play music, to compose, to perform when possible, assuaging fear, soothing loss, lifting the spirits of their fellow UkrainiansWashington Post – 10 Mar 22. Some pieces they couldn’t play. Too many musicians had either fled or joined the fight against Russia.

Music as resistance: Kyiv’s orchestra plays on

Musicians keep making music, artists create paintings, writers write, poets inspire. We keep doing our best to keep our spirits and those about us alive, energized, creative, no matter what.

I am deeply moved by the courage and determination of the Tchaikovsky Academy in Kyiv and by the resilience of magnolia and cherry blossoms to thrive in bitter cold and snow today.

Life, love, energy and art are more powerful than the forces of death and destruction. We live as fully as possible in this moment…because in this moment is precious. We make peace, make music, tell the truth in this moment to stop war and oppression, because we must. Because we are alive.

“The present moment and eternity happen at the same time.” (Thich Nhat Hahn, Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet)

The Story of Chang ‘e, the “Fair Lady” of the Moon

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On January 25, 2022, my husband Patrick and I will resume teaching our fourth season of Moonlight Qi Gong, a beautiful series of six movements dedicated to the Goddess of the Moon.

There are many tales in Chinese folklore about Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, including a well-known story given as the origin of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.* In a very distant past, ten suns had risen together into the skies and scorched the earth, thus causing hardship for the people. The archer Yi (or Houyi) was asked by the Emperor to shoot down nine of them, leaving just one sun. He was given the elixir of immortality as a reward. He did not consume it straight away, but let his wife Chang’e keep it with her, as he did not want to gain immortality without his beloved Chang’e. However, while Yi went out hunting, his apprentice Fengmeng broke into his house and tried to force Chang’e to give him the elixir; she refused and to prevent him from getting it, drank it. Chang’e then flew upward toward the heavens, choosing the Moon as residence, as she loved her husband and hoped to live nearby him. Yi discovered what had transpired and felt sad, so he displayed the fruits and cakes that Chang’e had liked, and gave sacrifices to her.

We were told the story by our Qi Gong teacher, Nianzu Li of the SongHo Health Center, who developed this particular version of Moonlight Qi Gong, which we keep alive by teaching to our students. As far as we know, this is the only place where students can learn this particular form of Moonlight Qi Gong. You will be able to experience the gestures described below as you practice the movements and feel the energy of the moon in your body.

When Chang ‘e (pronounced “Chang Ur”) was flying up to the moon, her husband was so distraught that he tried to shoot her down – seen in the first of six movements called “Gaze at the Moon.” He kept drawing back his arrow and then releasing it without shooting because he loved her and could not kill her. The second movement is called “Fair Lady” and represents Chang ‘e’s beauty as she moves and flies. The third movement – “Fly to the Moon” – represents her travel to the moon. The fourth movement is “Yearning,” her offering to the moon and longing for her husband’s safety. The fifth “Dancing,” shows her delight in living in the Moon. The sixth movement “Blessing” honors the moon, but also shows her strength and determination in choosing to continue to live close to her husband.

Pat and I gain tremendous energy and inspiration from practicing Moonlight Qi Gong, so we are dedicated to sharing its rich benefits for physical and mental health with our students.

Join us if you wish – only 30 minutes from 7:30-8:00pm (EST) on Tuesdays from January 25 to March 15. Register TODAY at Moonlight Qi Gong II (Virtual)


*Related stories:  Chang’e also appears in Wu Cheng’en’s novel Journey to the West and in a lovely illustrated book Houyi Shoots Down the Suns, adapted by Wang Zhiwei (Beijing: Dolphin Books, 2005).