Welcome to the second essay of Love Month, and my ongoing contemplation of Love as a Verb. I continue to welcome your comments here and your willingness to share my essays with your friends. At the end of this essay is a gift for you, a love letter to Mother Nature.
Earlier this month, the New Moon essay was about the Love that is Friendship. It may or may not have reached you due to my less than excellent technical skills. I apologize for any confusion that may have caused. So if you didn’t have a chance to enjoy the essay and the gift it contained, here is the proper link.
Fall 1972, The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), Uptown Chicago
I’m on the Grassroots Development team assigned to create a new fundraising piece for the holidays. I propose we pair the Earthrise photograph by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders with a quote by the French Jesuit philosopher/mystic Teilhard de Chardin. The team agrees. A talented colleague superimposes the quote onto the compelling photograph. Mind you, this is eons before Photoshop! The final product is an elegant one page full-color 1973 calendar.
We throw one of our all-night mailing parties, featuring all the (flat) beer and (stale) popcorn you can consume! Soon mailboxes overflow with hundreds of grassroots donor envelopes stuffed with checks, cash, and notes of appreciation! We’re thrilled and stunned at the response.
Like countless others who’ve witnessed the Earthrise image, a profound shift occurs within my soul. Forty-seven years ago, I had no capacity to pause and reflect on the image’s meaning or to comprehend the implications of that soul shift. I was consumed with what I perceived to be the immediacy and the immense (self?) importance of “the mission—of building the Earth.” Ahhh, how earnest and driven I was... As Jung says, “We are fools to our future self.”
To be fair to my younger self, it was the seventies! The horrors of Vietnam, multiple assassinations, corrupt government leaders, the injustice of civil rights, environmental poisons, racism, sexism, and corporate greed were the stuff of the nightly news. The world that our parents had worked so hard to build since surviving the Depression, World War II and the Korean Conflict was being challenged by their children. Many of us born into prosperity, had the luxury of rejecting our parents’ worldview and following our ideals, at least for a while…
All over the world, the ICA staff successfully pursued its mission through community organizing and leadership training programs. We lived and worked with the poorest of the poor, teaching new methods for creating grassroots prosperity and empowering self-governing tools. It was an exhilarating, exhausting and significant part of my journey that gave me a foundation of skills I continue use professionally and personally.
“Love every leaf…Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.”
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov
PRACTICING LOVE AS A VERB
Paired with my 2019 Watchword of SIMPLIFYING is Rumi’s Guiding Quote:
“This is a subtle truth: whatever you love, you are.”
Good old Rumi! I can always count on him to reach across eight centuries and beckon me to dive below the surface of my life! To prepare for writing the Love Month essays, I’ve been rumi-nating for weeks (sorry, just couldn’t resist) on this quote. Here are the Three Simple Steps I took to reality-test Rumi’s thought that “What you love, you are.” I invite you to test it out for yourself.
First, I asked myself, WHAT do I love?
In November 2018 I had the pleasure of attending Jamie Ridler’s 2019 Planning Day. There Jamie led the group through a useful organic process that resulted in our identifying Focus Areas where we’d like to spend our energy in 2019. I came up with 7 Focus Areas. I put them in order of importance to me at this time.
Looking at the Focus Areas closely, I recognized them as relevant, not only to 2019, but as seven lifelong, essential Values. They include my commitment to connect deeply with my body/mind/soul and to connect with All My Relations; my need to serve Life through expressing my spirituality and creativity; and my need to make a home that is a restful haven for all who visit. Yes, definitely, these 7 Areas represent what I have devoted my life energy to for decades. In different years, the Focus Areas/Values have shifted in priority but they have endured over time.
Second, HOW am I that which I love?
This question challenged me to define my Focus Areas. Let’s call them that which I love, or my Values. Then it asked me to honestly answer: “Exactly how do I embody these Values and how do I not embody these Values in my daily life?”
I noticed the 7 Values fell across a kind of spectrum, ranging from “Easy to Embody” to “Damn Difficult to Embody.” On the Easy end were the Values related to tending to my relationships and to my soul. On the Damn Difficult end of the spectrum was the Value related to caring for my physical well-being. Nothing new there!
Third, keeping in mind that Love is a Verb, how am I ATTENDING TO that which I love?
Like some Septuagenarians, I’m hard of hearing. Yet it’s interesting just how loudly this incarnation’s clock is ticking in my ears! I am grateful for the increased urgency that gives me. It’s a kind of laser focus now I have on attending to what I love.
Starting with the principle that Love is a Verb, the inventory identified areas where I need to gently tweak the embodying/attending to what I value and love. For example, I’m finding Helpers to support me in manifesting radiant physical well-being. And I’m gathering a Wisdom Council to support my quest to teach my Walking the Beauty Way course online.
The tick-tick-tick sense of urgency supports my daily practice of documenting if/how I’ve attended to that which I love in my art journal. Procrastination, its sister Perfectionism and their cousins the Critic of Self and the Judge of Others are loosening their grip on me. Simplifying is getting a little easier! Then the new day dawns and it’s “create and adjust” time. And so it goes…
Most days, I’m grateful to know I’m awake and able to spend my precious life energy attending to that which I love. For, what else is there? As the marvelous SoulCollage® Trainer Catherine Anderson says, “Time is how you spend your Love.”
The Gift by Mary Oliver (from Felicity 2015)
Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.
So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.
February 19, 2019 Naperville, Illinois
Forty-seven years pass and I circle back to the Earthrise image that shifted everything for me. Truth be told, it was engraved in my consciousness. I remember how my heart melted with love the day I first beheld the image of our precious planet Earth. With all my youthful fervor, I wondered how I might be part of building a better world for all humanity. No exclusions, no exceptions! I know now that the Earthrise image launched me onto a beautiful, rewarding path of continually expanding my Horizon of Awareness. Thank you, NASA! Thank you, Apollo 8! Thank you, Bill Anders!
Recently, I had the utter joy of reading Michelle Robinson Obama’s moving, compelling memoir, Becoming. Her story is all about the power of being lifted up by love and of having her horizon of awareness expand beyond her wildest dreams. The beautiful Earthrise image and the quotes by de Chardin and Rumi shimmered brightly in my heart throughout the book. Especially while reading the last pages where Mrs. Obama wrote:
“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”
While witnessing the Earthrise image that long ago day in 1972, these two questions made their home in my heart:
“How big is your‘We’? and How big is your Love?”
In tribute to the love he’s received from his Mother Earth, here is a Love Month gift for you from Harry H. Hitzeman, Jr., my darling husband. https://hitzemanphotography.com/contact/
May you find joy in the giving and receiving of love, dear Friends of my heart. May your WE and your LOVE continue to grow!
May you continue to walk in Beauty, today and all the days of your life.