Love In Action

 


Love

In

Action


a column by

Elizabeth Hill


Elizabeth Hill is an artist, teacher, nurse, and mother of three grown daughters.

Her early work in pediatric nursing inspired her international award-winning sculptures, which led her to live at a spiritual and eco-conscious community called Findhorn in Scotland for four years.

There her art became community-based, which ultimately led her back into nursing.



She now finds the two careers have merged in her teaching as well as creating therapeutic products for people with minimal mobility.

www.findhorn.org

www.elizabethhillart.com


Read Love in Action 2016

HERE

 

Robin in the Rain


Spring is finally here! I’m excited about all the colors and new life it brings year after year. Though I would love to be working in my garden, a drenching rain has been unrelenting all morning.


Midway through the afternoon the deluge slowed to a drizzle. A deep quiet and calm settled in. A few moments later, I heard a bird’s chirp as it searched the newly soaked soil for worms. Silence returned again momentarily, and then another chirp. The chirps became more frequent as the birds feasted and proclaimed the end of the storm.


I found myself humming a children’s tune titled Robin in the Rain, composed and sung by a man known as Raffi. I’ve heard and sung Raffi’s songs many times for the children in my care, so out of curiosity about his life I did some research. What I found opened my eyes and my heart to a wonderful service-oriented person whose life story quite literally emerged out of and was shaped by the ashes of a horrific manmade storm.


Raffi Cavoukian was born in Egypt to Armenian parents who named him after a poet from their homeland. Both parents had somehow escaped from Armenia during the genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government in 1915.

Each of Raffi’s parents had been married before the invasion. His father and his first wife had three daughters and his mother and her first husband had an infant son. Both spouses and all four children were killed or died of disease during the genocide.


Once safe as refugees in Egypt, Raffi’s parents met and were later married. Not surprisingly, Raffi recalls his parents as being very strict and protective throughout his childhood. Given their devastating experiences and memories of the genocide that claimed at least one million Armenian lives, it is no surprise they would do everything possible to keep their son safe and healthy.

When Raffi was ten, the family emigrated from Egypt to Canada, eventually settling in Toronto, Ontario. No doubt living in these two very different cultures combined with a complex Armenian heritage and history, helped to shape Raffi’s expansive worldview. 


Raffi’s music emerged from his own personal tragedy when both his parents passed away within an hour of each other. Songs for children became his main musical focus, as well as his mission as a fierce advocate for children around the world.


Also known as the Children’s Troubadour, Raffi was presented with the Fred Rogers Integrity Award in 2006 for his work protecting children from commercial exploitation.


In life, storms are, of course, inevitable and even necessary for growth. Tragically though, some storms, both natural as well as manmade, can be so destructive and deadly that they change our world forever.


Like a robin in the rain, Raffi’s music rings out with hope, gentleness and gratitude for life. Children everywhere love his optimistic tunes, sung with simplicity and gentle grace. May we all feel comfort in knowing that when a storm is finally over, a songbird will come out from its sheltered place to announce and celebrate a brand new day!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly1jh0I1wXs



This Land


As I went walking I saw a sign there

And on the sign it said “No Trespassing”

But on the other side it didn’t say nothing

That side was made for you and me

~Woody Guthrie


Recently, my daughter Kate relocated from Brooklyn, and is currently sharing my home in South Jersey. With her came a partially blind three and a half year old cat named Kitten Little. Integrating this feline into the household would have been simple if not for the ten-year old recently adopted Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix named Annie who already lives here.


Annie is the first dog I have ever adopted. After five and a half months, she has become very comfortable as the one and only four-legged being in this house. By nature, she is a predator who lives to chase squirrels, rabbits, and other critters, including cats. Though very loving with people, her soul is that of a hunter. She has lived in at least four different homes during her life, so I have incomplete knowledge of her past experiences and living conditions, in particular whether or not she has ever shared a house with a cat. What I do know about her is that my home is now her palace, which she enjoys and defends with gusto.


Kitten Little was born on the streets of Brooklyn. She was with her mother only briefly before her rescue. Her eyes were badly infected, which left her with cloudy corneas. She has been with Kate since then, and has lived peacefully with several other cats. For a time, there was a rather sedentary schnauzer named Biggie added to the mix. He and Kitten Little generally got along well except occasionally when the kitty got too rambunctious for him. Then Biggie often tried to boss her around, for which Kitten Little once swiped him across the nose. Thankfully truce prevailed, as they would often sleep curled up beside each other.


Learning as much as possible about our four-legged friends’ histories, needs, and inborn natures is helping foster understanding and empathy from Kate and me in this delicate process of acclimating the two animals to each other.


We both recognize that kindness, calmness, compassion, and respect for each of our animals is key to successfully creating a peaceable kingdom here in our shared home. To this end, we have installed two retractable see-through-able mesh gates to keep them separated and supervised until we are certain they will not hurt each other.


I find it curiously amusing that Annie’s arrival into my home coincided with our disastrous and corrupted 2016 national election. Kitten Little has now entered the picture smack dab in the middle of that election’s resultant chaos, scandals, rumors of war, and even possibly soon-to-be-proven treason.


The task ahead for Kate and me regarding our newly co-habituating animals in some way reflects the challenges our nation faces in addressing the deep divisions between people and ideologies.


As the confusion and angst around current events in our nation accelerates, I’m noticing people’s stress levels rising in kind. Casual conversations with friends and acquaintances so easily slide into intense analysis of political events. Some old friends who have never before been involved in the political process have become activists and involved in peaceful resistance.


From its infancy, America has been a country of diversity, built on the backs and blood of the poor, the enslaved, and the disenfranchised. It seems to me this is an outdated and outworn version of what humankind is capable of. In an atmosphere of hierarchy and fear, true cooperation and co-creating is impossible.


I think we humans can do better than that. As with the animals now living in our house, Kate and I could continue to accept that one animal will be bully while the other is bullied. That would mean our house would continue to have barriers that separate and divide. Instead, we prefer to give our beloved pets enough time, understanding, and loving kindness to help them bridge their own divides.


This Land Is Your Land


This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me


And I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me the golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I’ve roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me, a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


As I went walking I saw a sign there

And on the sign it said “No Trespassing”

But on the other side it didn’t say nothing

That side was made for you and me


When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting
This land was made for you and me


In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people

By the relief office I seen my people

As they stood there hungry I stood there asking

Is this land made for you and me?


Nobody living can ever stop me

As I go walking that freedom highway

Nobody living can ever make me turn back

This land was made for you and me


This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me


~Music and original words by Woodie Guthrie


Link to Global Village Project Refugee Girls Choir on You Tube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCDoZ7hiGAk



Mein Yertle


These past two months, our nation has been embroiled in, what many of us consider to be, a life or death struggle for Soul of our Democracy. It’s become my daily routine to sign petitions and make calls to elected officials regarding so many issues. Being informed and involved has been challenging in terms of staying positive in the face of so much mean-spiritedness.


The other day, as I watched a news clip from The White House, a children’s book by Dr. Seuss called ‘Yertle the Turtle’ came to mind. Ironically, re-reading that story helped to lighten my mood for a much-needed moment of respite and reassurance.


Yertle was king of all the turtles in a pond called Sala-ma-sond. The story begins with Yertle sitting on a rock, looking around the pond. He bragged about being ruler of all he could see, and then groaned and lamented that he wanted to go higher so he could see more of his kingdom! So Yertle commanded nine turtles to swim over to his rock and then told them to climb on top of each other, making a nine turtle stack! Then Yertle ascended to the top of the stack and sat down.


“All mine!” Yertle cried. “Oh the things I now rule! I’m the king of a cow! And I’m the king of a mule! I’m the king of a house! And, what’s more beyond that. I’m the king of a blueberry bush and a cat! I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me! For I am the ruler of all that I see!”


And all morning long, he sat way up high, bragging over and over, “A great king am I.”


Around noon, Yertle heard a small groan from down below, and he shouted, “What’s that!”


At the very bottom of throne was a turtle named Mack. A polite little fellow, he excused himself before asking the king just how long he and the other stacked turtles would have to sit there. He complained of having pain in his back, shoulders, and knees.


“Silence, the king of the turtles barked back! I’m king, and you’re only a turtle named Mack. You stay in your place while I sit here and rule. I’m king of a cow! And I’m king of a mule! I’m king of a house! And a bush! And a cat! But that isn’t all. I’ll do better that that! My throne shall be higher! his royal voice thundered, “So pile up more turtles! I want ‘bout two hundred!”


The king kept bellowing, demanding more turtles for his throne. All the pond’s turtles trembled with fear, though in the end they obeyed. By the dozens they came, and each of them climbed on the head of poor Mack. One by one they climbed up the ever-growing stack. Yertle was perched now so high in the sky he could see forty miles!


“Hooray!” shouted Yertle. “I’m the king of the trees! I’m the king of the birds! And I’m the king of the bees! I’m the king of the butterflies! King of the air! Ah, me! What a throne! What a wonderful chair! I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me! For I am the ruler of all that I see!”


From down below, Mack pleaded for mercy! He and his stacked friends were very hungry, in great pain, and afraid their shells might crack under the weight! In a last-ditch effort, Mack tried to convince the self-absorbed leader that every turtle in the stack should have rights.


“You hush up your mouth!” howled the mighty King Yertle. “You’ve no right to talk to the world’s highest turtle! I rule from the clouds! Over land! Over sea! There’s nothing, no NOTHING, that’s higher than me!”


Yertle continued to rant from his throne on high, until evening when he noticed the moon rising in the sky.


“What’s THAT?” snorted Yertle. “Say what IS that thing that dares to be higher than Yertle the King? I shall not allow it! I’ll go higher still! I’ll build my throne higher! I can and I will! I’ll call some more turtles. I’ll stack ‘em to heaven! I need ‘bout five thousand, six hundred and seven!”


Now Mack at the bottom was feeling so bad, which finally made him a wee fightin’ MAD! Then this plain little turtle did a plain little thing.

He burped! And his burp toppled the throne of the king!


King Yertle, no longer that Marvelous he, now lives in the mud, which is all he can see! Once again, all the turtles are free as can be, living together in sweet harmony.


All this had happened because plain little Mack, when faced with a crisis did not turn his back. He fought for peace in the face of injustice with a burp, though simple, was packed with Love Toughness!


Original story best told in Dr. Seuss’s words:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmuvLqYenc0&t=303s




People Power in Pink


“Women are like teabags. You don’t know how strong they are

  until you put them in hot water”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt




The millions of people who participated in the Women’s Marches throughout America and around the globe on January 21st gave the world powerful images of what our forefathers meant by ‘We The People’. Most importantly, these marches launched a global Resistance Movement to counter the tyranny now coming from the White House.


On that day now two weeks ago, my three daughters and I marched alongside 50,000 others in Philadelphia, Pa. Marchers were an array of every possible color, creed, class, age, ethnicity, gender, orientation, and ability. The crowds were entirely peaceful, and the atmosphere was filled with an abundance of camaraderie.


For me, the weeks leading up to the march were surprisingly meaningful as I knitted seven pussycat hats, one for each of my family, one for a friend, and a few extras to give away to others that might want them. While knitting, I became aware of being part of a vast energy I can only describe as Love. I could feel a connection to past hard-fought resistance movements for which countless people had given their efforts and too often, their lives. Though the hats were pink, cuddly, and mildly humorous, I envisioned them as our battle helmets as we marched into The Resistance.


Along with handmade signs, we carried a simple puppet I’d put together using a paper mache’ head I found stored in my basement. A young girl with special needs had created it a few years back in one of my classes. Because of illness, she hadn’t been able to finish her puppet. It seemed a most appropriate image to use as an ambassador for all the wonderful special children I’ve been privileged to work with over the years, both as a nurse and an artist. I felt proud to dress this child’s puppet with a pussycat hat, matching pink stuffed gloves for hands, and a shirt emblazoned with the words “Love conquers Hate”.


The commuter train from my town in New Jersey to Philadelphia was packed to the max after standing in a very long line outside the station door just to get inside the ticket area. Once inside, I overheard a conversation of a family standing next to me. Both the Grandma and her granddaughter were wearing pussycat hats, and all three were expressing disappointment that the child’s mom didn’t have one. Apparently, she had ordered one from the knitter, but it hadn’t arrived in time. Smiling, I reached into my backpack and offered her one of the extra hats I’d made. She was delighted, and then she asked how much I wanted for it. I replied, “Just keep marching”.


We arrived at Logan Circle in central Philadelphia where the crowds were gathering and the excitement was palpable. Pink pussycat hats of endless varieties gave the crowds the look of a soft patchwork quilt. Thousands of colorful signs turned fierce words, powerful truths, concerns, and sayings into visual delights that sparked conversations among groups and individuals.


The crowds became increasingly dense as we marched down the Parkway. Had it not been for the Puppet held high atop the people, it would have been close to impossible to find all my family members as well as my 4ft. 9in. tall friend to whom I had previously promised a hat. Though we’d planned to text, it was quite challenging to hear cell phones ringing over the amplifying speakers along the way. 


I lost count of how many people took pictures of our Puppet, and the many kids and adults that accepted the Puppet’s offers of hugs and high-fives! Slowly, we advanced to the front of the Art Museum at the end of the Parkway. There, drummers and other performers, surrounded by large crowds, were creating a party-like atmosphere. Our Puppet joined in and danced to the electrifying rhythms, rendering my mildly arthritic hands stiff and my arms numb!


Caption: Sculpture of Eleanor Roosevelt- (adorned) Sculptor- Penelope Jencks


The weeks before and since the Inauguration have brought dramatic and most alarming changes to our country and the world at large. The path ahead for today’s Peaceful Warriors is unchartered, and it seems clear to me it will require each of us to be strong, resilience, vigilant, and the best versions of our selves.


That said, I’ve noticed of late, some subtle changes within my own family. We seem to be keeping in touch with each other a bit more often. Our conversations tend to gravitate toward current events, and what we can each do to defend and fight for justice, equality, and inclusion for everyone, along with respecting and defending our planet. Naturally, we each have our own particular concerns, challenges, and points of view. I think we all agree that the solidarity we experienced with so many others on January 21st gave us each a good measure of comfort as well as a boost of courage and determination to keep this Resistance alive and growing.


Inspired by the above-quoted words of Eleanor Roosevelt who exemplified the life of a Peaceful Warrior, I invite everyone to jump en masse into the hot water and find out just how strong we are together!




New Year’s Reflections on “Charlotte’s Web”


I recently watched “Charlotte’s Web.” For years, it’s been one of my favorites, but now, as we step into a most uncertain 2017, it has taken on a deeper meaning, and given me a bit of comfort and guidance for the days ahead. 


Many are likely familiar with the story, so I am not going to retell it; rather, I prefer to focus on its symbolism through the four words Charlotte spun in her webs.


The story can be read as an archetypal life journey, and the animals seen as various psychological archetypes within the human psyche. For instance, within each of us there is a ‘Templeton’- that grumpy, self-centered, sarcastic, loner rat that lives in the shadows and thrives on others’ waste. Similarly, we each carry an internalized ‘Ike the Horse,’ who looks strong and mighty, but faints from fear at the sight of a spider. The cows, Betsey and Bitsy, demonstrate blind naiveté about their own lives, but are fatalistic and gossipy about others’ lives.


Charlotte spun four webs containing four specific words to describe, celebrate, honor, and ultimately protect the life of her piglet friend, Wilbur. The title chosen for the story, however, is not ‘Charlotte’s Webs,’ but ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ My guess is that this choice is not simply descriptive of how many webs she wove, but rather symbolic of the entire web of protection Charlotte was able to build around her friend through her words.


She did this because she valued the open hearted, loving, and innocent behavior Wilbur displayed toward everyone. As Charlotte stated before she spun the first word web, “The right words can change the world.”


SOME PIG


Like Wilbur, Charlotte had once been shunned by the barn animals. This made her determined to show everyone that Wilbur’s life mattered! To that end, she spun the words ‘SOME PIG’ into her web. Because of this, Wilbur became known far and wide, and all through summer the farm flourished with visitors and sales of their produce. Even the barn animals began to take pride in their resident pig. Wilbur’s example of caring and positivity toward everyone brought new life and enthusiasm to all the farm’s residents. Little by little they began to be kinder to each other as well.


TERRIFIC


By late summer, the public excitement over Wilbur was fading. Charlotte, though, remained determined to make Wilbur such a celebrity that he would not end up in the smoke house. All the animals, including Templeton, offered assistance to Charlotte in her search for the right word that would best describe the feeling she observed looking at Wilbur’s smiling face. She then spun a new web with ‘TERRIFIC’ written in it. Once again, crowds gathered and news stories spread of the now famous pig. Wilbur’s gratitude for life was, at least for a time, infectious to all who were touched by this second word web.


RADIANT


Inevitably, though, public fascination over Wilbur was again short-lived, but Charlotte continued to keep up the momentum. She noticed how Wilbur’s loving energy seemed to glow, so she spun a third web with the word ‘RADIANT’ in it. The biggest crowd ever gathered around Wilbur and the magical web spun by his friend Charlotte.


By this time, Charlotte’s life was languishing. Her belly was full with hundreds of eggs, for which she would soon create a chrysalis to incubate them until hatching time the following spring. Once the chrysalis was built and her eggs deposited in it, Charlotte’s life cycle would be complete.


HUMBLE


Reluctantly at first, Templeton agreed to assist Charlotte in finding a fourth right word. Even risking life and limb, he brought Charlotte a scrap of paper with one word on it.  She said, “Yes. This is the perfect word.” (quietly, and to herself)- “the last one I shall ever write.”


The next morning, Wilbur woke to Charlotte’s web that had the word ‘HUMBLE’ spun into it. Looking puzzled, he said, “Is it true? I don’t really think I deserve any of the things you’ve written about me.”  Charlotte replied, “Then it’s the perfect word!”


Charlotte was now dying, having finished her chrysalis and placed her eggs in it. Wilbur was heartsick as Charlotte said her loving goodbyes to him. He promised to care for her unborn babies until their hatching.


Life on the farm had ceased to be just ordinary. Everything seemed extraordinary now because one runty, innocent pig had shown everyone how to appreciate, care for, and treasure each other. Even the hardest of hearts had softened a bit.


Charlotte’s story came full circle the following spring when hundreds of her newborn babies took to the breeze to start their own lives. Happily, the three smallest spider babies decided to stay and build their webs on Charlotte’s doorway.


Wilbur said to them, “You’ve chosen a hallowed doorway in which to spin your webs. This was your mother’s doorway. She was loyal, brilliant and beautiful, and she was my friend. So to you, her daughters, I pledge my friendship forever.


Wilbur knew it’s not often someone comes along who is a true friend and a writer. Charlotte was both. He missed her, but also loved his new friends. He had learned that being friends means that no matter where life takes you; you carry a piece of that friendship with you. Then you can pass it on to others who may need it in the times ahead.