Monday, June 10, 2019

Blank Pages

Blank Pages

Following every pattern change
every streaming color 
of the mind’s kaleidoscope
sends me into vertigo

I mistakenly believe I must be true
to these fluctuations
though I am no more obligated
to trace these shapes
than I am required
to color inside the lines

Five pelicans soaring
light as clouds
spiral their languorous way
to their friend floating in the lake

There is no preset midair path
no blinking lights to guide them

They are free to close the distance 
between them and their friend
any way they choose

They remind me I’m here 
to dream and create 
on the blank pages of this lifetime


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Healing



Healing

Forgive me
for focusing on your demons
rather than my own

I have perfected the habit
of pointing to the splinter in your eye
while polishing the plank in mine

I confess 
I will do almost anything
for admiration
except for the actual work 
of earning it

Enlightenment is the end point 
of a process toward liberation
of removing what does not please the Maker
of bearing burdens patiently 
until I can shed them
and live in the light-ness

I don’t know
exactly how it’s done
but I’m open to guidance

I begin
by sliding from the driver’s
to the passenger seat

I receive 
rather than give direction

I stand corrected
rather than offering correction

I want 
to walk into the next world
demon free
without the weapons I carried into this one
without my woundedness
and its terrible power to inflict suffering

I want to be healed

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Re-Feeling

Re-Feeling

The word resent is from a late 16th-century French word resentir, the prefix re- expressing intensive force, and sentir, the Latin word for to feel.

Somewhere between truth
and the stories we tell ourselves
is memory

Memory has its way
of distorting what happened
into being better or worse

I have a habit of replaying
my life’s most painful moments
re-feeling the resentment
the injustice

For some things cannot be fixed
They can only be borne
and are improved 
only through gracious acceptance 
of the lessons each event contains

My mother taught me
to take a bite of any food
whether I like it or not
because fussing over what’s put in front of you 
not only insults the Maker
it is ungrateful
and guarantees insatiability

You are not a baby
putting everything into your mouth

You have learned the difference
between poison and nectar
parasite and ally

Most of life is lived
between these extremes
and yet 
it is no less vivid

Greet each moment 
for what it has to offer
and what it might require of you

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Hygiene of the Spirit

The Hygiene of the Spirit

I don’t want to make war with you
I don’t want to make love with you

If I could I would
make peace with you

Like war and love
making peace takes two

I can
make peace within myself

I accept
my part of the failure we share
and not a morsel more

I displace
resentment and disappointment
with commitment to improvement
of the atmosphere 
within my heart 
and within my mind

I practice 
the hygiene of the spirit
sweeping up the bitter crumbs I can see
mopping away any residue
and polishing it to a high shine
today
tomorrow
and every day

Copyright 2019
Diana Shellenberger



Monday, September 25, 2017

Why We Kneel

Why We Kneel

When strong men kneel on their stage
announcing to the world their indignation
about the deaths of unarmed boys and men of color

People with white faces
wave their flags
and close their ears and their hearts

People with angry white faces tell them
their playing fields are neither 
the time nor the place
to bear witness to injustice

People with smug white faces tell them
there are better ways to protest
Even though every other way they protest--
sit-ins, street marches, the ballot box--
they are told there are better ways to protest

People with confident white faces
tell them there are better ways
to manage their anger
which would be funny
if their own failure to manage their own
wasn't so obvious

People with irritated white faces tell them
they used to enjoy watching football
before all the protests

The millions athletes of color and their talent earn
is not hush money

The current law of the land
[White Male] Citizens United
claims dollars equal free speech

Nowhere in the law does it say
wealthy athletes of color 
must not kneel
must not speak about injustice
must not speak
must let their playing speak for itself

People with white faces refuse to see
how you use your privilege
to continually change the rules
frame and reframe every dialogue
to suit yourselves

People with white faces want to make it about the flag--
a symbol--
and whether protesters pass 
your citizenship pop quizzes
and can pay your toll to the poll

You argue
that people of color don't teach 
their kids to respect authority

Their kids are mouthy brats
their words are weapons
and when they protest their treatment
death is too often their penalty

For the quadrillionth time--
If it sounds like I'm clean out of patience I am--
We protest
the killing of unarmed men and boys of color
and the guaranteed acquittal
of their uniformed murderers

Their deaths and their families' suffering are real
not a symbol in red white and blue

I kneel
with these strong men
not only to pray
for this country
OUR country
But to show the world 
what I cannot stand for



Friday, July 28, 2017

Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

It's been a good long while since I've posted here. In the meantime, I've published a book of poetry, Thoroughfares to Love, finished another, and am digging into a third volume. The third is slower going, because it's presenting itself as metaphysical. Writing about love and nature is much easier. It's really a matter of describing from the inside what I see on the outside. This spiritual stuff is all about the inside. All indications are that these poems will emerge from depths I'm only just discovering.

As I wait for this crop to grow, my essayist voice is clamoring to be heard again. Like love and nature, politics is an obvious target.

Before last fall's election, Trump/Pence signs started springing up in the well-to-do neighborhood where one of my friends and yoga clients lives. I asked her, "What's up with all the Trump signs?" She shook her head.

"For some people, it doesn't matter who the president is."

Since 45's election (using his name only adds dignity he doesn't deserve), she and I have often shaken our heads at his antics. I'm searching for adjectives to describe the spectacle of this week's health care legislation votes. The fairest characterization is to call it a natural disaster that was forecast to impact our country in some way, and ended up being, for now, all sound and fury signifying nothing.

It seems to me that a lot of the Republican party's ideas now consist of only sound and fury and not a lot else. I'm old enough to remember the anti-tax fervor that swept Ronald Reagan into the presidency. Cutting taxes seemed like a great way to give individuals more decision-making powers. Plus, those who succeed financially would create ripples of opportunity for others.

Nearly 40 years of lower taxes are proving that individual power has come only for a few at the expense of the government's decision-making powers. It is hard-pressed to provide what all civilized societies strive for--great jobs, roads, schools, national parks, national security and healthy communities. Much of what I hear from the so-called conservative party is that the country should only be in the business of building an infinitely powerful military and further enriching already fabulously wealthy people who are still making vague promises to give us peasants good jobs. We're told we really can't afford nice things--great schools that lift people from cycles of poverty, affordable college, a fair justice system, sensible environmental regulations, and a health care system that insures people and ensures they don't lose everything because of a tough diagnosis and expensive treatment.

I see the health care debate as basically a tax argument. The individual and employer mandates that fund part of the Affordable Care Act seem to be the biggest bones of contention. This should be an easy problem to solve--invest in our businesses and our people with tax money. But taxes have become a sacred cow.

Some of the resistance is spite. Leaders and pundits object to anything the nation's first black president accomplished or tried to accomplish. Spite is a strong term. It is also the right word to use when there are so many people, included elected representatives, who publicly say health care is a privilege rather than a basic human need.

We also have lost common understanding of how insurance works. For instance, my husband and I have paid our auto and homeowners' insurance premiums for more 30 years without making more than a couple of claims. My insurance agent would laugh at me if I made the argument that I only expect to pay for what I use, because that's not how the business model works. We pay our premiums to hedge our bets--knocking on wood--against accidents and natural disasters that damage or destroy our property. There was a major flood in Boulder County in 2014, and though our property sustained no damage, many neighbors' did. Our premiums rarely decrease. I trust that our insurance company is investing our premiums wisely to take care of claims other customers make. Like a good neighbor, I also trust they'll be there for us if we need help.

I know people get this. But why in heaven's name do so many not seem to understand that health insurance works on the same principle? Surer than many of us will ever need natural disaster relief,  all of us have needed, need and will need health care.

We all need to take some deep breaths and ask ourselves some serious questions. How much do we really want this thing called the United States of America? Do we want to live in healthy, thriving communities, or have we become so tribal we care only about the health and prosperity of the people we love? Is it just too hard to fight for it and for ourselves and each other, or do we want a tough-talking president to just take care of everything for us? Or not. Mostly not.

The repeal and replace jive--and it's all been jive, and even former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor admits it--won Republicans three consecutive elections. It's a lot like the No New Taxes slogan--a bunch of bullshit. And no, the fact that our infrastructures are crumbling is not solely due to fraud, waste and abuse. Quite simply, more money is needed. That means more taxes. Those of who can afford to pay more will barely miss it. It's a small price to pay for living in great communities.

While we're at it, let's lobby for paying people more so they can pay their own bills. That's one reason why people voted for 45--he told them that under his leadership, they would not only have better jobs, but the dignity of paying their own way. Who would need Obamacare under these conditions?

After this week's legislative storms, here's what I would like to see: our representatives working together to improve the American way of life. For instance, the interstate system is the pride of our nation. It needs maintenance and expansion and gets it. I look at health care as infrastructure that similarly needs maintenance and updating. If you don't like where the ACA is going, that doesn't mean it needs to be destroyed. Repave it and add more lanes.

In the process, we might actually make America greater.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Practicing Forgiveness



 A few years ago, the youth group at our church went on an international work camp. My oldest son, who is now 24, attended every work camp when he was in high school. I trusted the youth minister and the team of volunteers she assembled to keep the kids safe and on track.

During the international trip, that my youngest son did not attend, a large group of the kids sneaked out of their rooms to party offsite. This, despite the fact that they all agreed to abstain from alcohol and drugs during work camp. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The kids involved kept the party a secret for a few months, until at least one confessed to the youth minister.

At the time, I was a member of the lay leadership council. This event was obviously a topic of discussion at our monthly meeting. Though neither of my children had attended, I knew others who had. I wanted to know how this could have happened and expressed how this damaged my trust as a parent whose child was eligible to attend future work camps.

What I wanted to hear was this: Staff and church leadership are mortified that this happened, we take full responsibility, we're taking steps to ensure this doesn't happen again, and your child and all attendees will be looked after properly.

Instead I was scolded for jumping to conclusions when I didn't really know what had happened. I was also told no one can stop sneaky kids from doing nefarious things. Those "sneaky" kids were themselves church members--and their parents were, too.

Your next question might well be, did you stay at this church? You may be surprised to read that I did. I am a woman of faith, so I finished up the last two months of my term, and took an indefinite break from the church.

During that time, I missed the church and the people there. I thought about the many, many ways the ministers and others had cared for me and my family, how generously they gave of their time and expertise to the community's benefit. Why would I throw all that away because some leaders had made some mistakes? Hadn't I myself blundered?

Two of the people involved sought me out and apologized. With their help, and God's, I concluded this was forgivable. As the minister of the church had often taught the congregation, the church is about forgiveness.












This memory arises as I watch the presidential campaign unfold. As Donald Trump's antics dominate the news, there is also discontent about Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy and record after a contentious primary campaign with Senator Bernie Sanders. Some criticize HRC for calling African-American juveniles "super predators" during a speech she gave during President Clinton's 1996 re-election, pointing to how welfare reform and policing tactics instituted during that era negatively impacted communities already suffering from institutional racism.

I won't pretend to know what it's like to be African-American or a minority growing up in a country that has not sufficiently healed from its history of enslaving Africans and the civil war fought over it, or to be a policy expert. What I did do is watch the speech in question. She spoke for half an hour, laying out initiatives President Clinton was proposing for his second term--environmental protection, education, economic inequality, health care, family issues, peace and freedom and community policing. This last was where she made the super predator comment. She made it in passing, and moved on to her next remarks.

I'm not making any excuses for the racism inherent in such a remark. I will say HRC did not invent racism. She used a regrettable term to talk about other peoples' children, children growing up in very difficult environments--similar to the terms some church leaders had made about kids in our community. HRC's remark was also made more than 20 years ago, and it seems to me that she could be forgiven, given her years of advocating for educational opportunities and health care for all children.

Because after all, who hasn't been ignorant and insensitive? On top of that, most of us don't have every dumb thing we've said in the public record. That same public record also contains domestic and foreign policy progress Secretary Clinton has forged.

Nor have most of us crafted policies that affect a lot of peoples' lives. I know someone who served on the Boulder City Council who says that nearly every policy she helped develop and implement had unintended, sometimes negative, consequences. A lot of them also never saw the light of day, because of opposition, and some did not survive beyond her terms. The same is surely true for HRC, and certainly every other public official.

I am learning not to expect perfection from leaders. What I do want to see is leaders who learn from their mistakes, who assemble advisors with wide-ranging perspectives to ensure that all decisions minimize unintended negative consequences. When these arise, they are prepared to address them.

I do my best to fold forgiveness into my spiritual practice, because I realize how easy it is to hurt others just by being me and living my life. Because of this, I can afford to be more tender hearted and forgiving with others, including leaders who really are trying to do their best to serve.