Tuesday, January 31, 2012

To Care or Not to Care





Heron at our Pond photo by MK Sandford
For most of my life I have lived in households with two women. I have been the primary homemaker; my partners were the primary breadwinners – administrators and/or professors. Although it was definitely a partnership, I was homemaker, confidant, life coach; my focus was to keep things running smoothly. I didn’t realize how intense and unremitting this felt until, this past few years when my partner was disabled, and I kept working. I was teaching, writing, and caring for our hobby farm – caring for ducks, our gardens, building duck houses and fences, but I was not the cook, house cleaner and laundress, or bill payer. In spite of all that I was doing, I felt a gnawing guilt that I wasn’t contributing to the household; for the first time, my partner was responsible for doing the cleaning, laundry, cooking as she was able.
A year ago I had emergency surgery, and although I continue to teach online, I had to let go of the continuous concern for our daily living. I felt a subtle shift within myself. There are spaces in my life that were not there before. I can actually sit quietly by the pond, and think without intrusion of thoughts of work undone. The laundry fills the laundry basket by the bed; I can ignore it, knowing that it will be done. I don’t have to consider doing it. Dishes in the sink no longer bother me. I feel a lightness of being that I had never felt before. That is not to say that I don't help out when asked, but I no longer carry the constant concern for the life sustaining work that was always with me. Now I have the freedom of the privileged who know that their basic needs, their comfort, and their wants are taken of. Is this what it is like, for men? I wonder.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Turn the paradigm on its head




Langer Chickens in Langley Community Garden
I have a vision of what a caring economy looks like. Mine is a vision from the ground. It is not a vision of the whole, it is a vision from inside the millions and billion of caring dyads  in the homes, farms and villages that populate our earth and struggle to sustain life in the ocean, in our forests, plains, lakes, and mountains.

In a family in the industrialized world, a woman gets up with the children, fixes her husbands breakfast, gets the children off to school, cleans the house, mends the clothes, bakes the bread so that her husband can go to work and bring home the bacon. The focus is on the work outside the home; jobs, they say, we need more jobs. This is how we are encouraged to see it. Children are the work force for the future. Our children are our future; they will keep our country strong.
This paradigm is upside down. We can fix this by turning the paradigm right side up.
 In truth, the jobs bring in dollars that support the work that is being done at home; dollars provide, shelter, clothes, food, creativity, ingenuity, compassion that are necessary for this family to continue to live on to have children and grandchildren. Once we understand this we can create a caring economy.
The most obvious example of the depth of desire is the men from Mexico who to their peril, sneak across our border in the dark of night to work in a place that will give them enough money that they can send it home to provide for their children. It is the women who immigrate to the US so that their children can have a better life. While we become emotionally attached to the idea of saving the children, in reality, it is so that these children can grow up and have children of their own; this is how we humans have continued to be part of our natural world. But in order to continue, we must care not only for our children but for the world that is part of them and of which they are a part, to play our part in growing the human family.

This care is passed from generation to generation and when it is denied, broken human beings who are incapable of relationship begin to destroy what is before them. Whole cultures are created based upon death rather than life. It is not our external enemies that will destroy us it is the loss of life sustaining work and relationships that will be our demise.
In the current model, Rianne Eisler identified as the Dominator Model, Woman is the helpmate unto Man. Building the civilization is man’s work, and woman is there to support it in every role. Build this great nation; progress is our most important product. However, we are finally beginning to understand that the continuance of the web of life and not progress is our most important product; then we must not only change the balance of men and women in leadership, we must fundamentally change the way work is done, assigned, and compensated. Women have made inroads into the public arena but only if they learn and are willing to play the game according to the rules in place, rules for a dog eat dog competitive struggle for scarce resources.
If we are to change to a more caring economic way of interacting, then we need to understand, articulate and make known the ways women care. Towards this end I invite women and men everywhere to reflect upon and articulate how they care for a life and how they have experienced being cared for.  I look forward to reading your stories.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Maria "Lilly" Salvador. We met her on our last visit to Acoma, and she inspired us in so many ways. Only later did I learn that she is a featured artisan in Paola Gianturco's blog and book, Women who Light the Dark. Of "Lilly" Paolo writes,
This is Mother Earth.
Maria “Lilly” Salvador is owner/potter-in-residence at Lilly’s Gallery on the Acoma at home in Indian Reservation in Acoma New Mexico. Her fine work tells beautiful stories, and she will describe each of them for you in words that may bring tears to your eyes. Her card says “handmade, hand painted with natural earth materials,” and her connection to Mother Earth is powerful and infectious.  (www.Womenwholightthedark.com, 2011)
"Lilly" indeed did bring a tear to our eye as she held a clump of clay in her wisened hand and said with the utmost reverence, "This is Mother Earth, if you take care of her, she will take care of you." It was a sacred moment when all else faded as we caught a glimps of the world according to "Lilly". It is a world view that continues to grow in me as I begin to feel our forest as my home.
Each of us is gifted with an inner knowing of what is our rightful place in the grand scheme of things. Each has her own secret and no two secrets are alike. Our Mother knows what her children need to hear and how each child will receive the message. In truth we are part of her body. Every cell, every mineral, vitamin, the air we breathe,  the fire that flows through us was first in our mother.

She has bestowed upon us, and our ancestors have developed a capacity to adapt to changes in the environment. When we have a deeply felt need for change, some how the idea creeps into our knowing. That is our secret. I have learned to listen to those whispers and to act upon them.

We each have a part to play in the ominous task of caring for our abused and aging mother, Earth. This task will take the caring capacity, creativity, and ingenuity of women everywhere working in concert doing what they do best and soliciting the aide of others as needed.This is the caring work of all women of every generation alive today, it will take all of us. We can do this, we must, for the sake of our children for seven generations and beyond.

The earth is our mother and every culture has a name for her.  She is variously referred to as Mother Nature by Christians, Mother Earth by Pagans, Gaia in ancient Greece, Tuuwaqatsi by the Hopi, Pachamama in the Andes, to name just a few. We always knew that she cared for us, what we are now learning is what our dear friend Maria” Lilly” Salvador told us, we are here to care for her.



Monday, January 23, 2012

Sweet Honey In The Rock - Sylvie - 1990 - Sydney



Listen to Sweet Honey sing this beautiful old folk song about care around the world. As yesterday's post showed, women and children around the world are responsible for providing water to their families. When we speak of care as women's work we refer to these universal cultural elements. "Bringing water once in a while" is one such task.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Care is Like Water


Like water, care surrounds us; care buoys us up. Care lets us float; care is the source of all life. Whether water means a single drop, or an ocean nourishing all life; care is the moment in time when we touch a life, and care is the heart of a nation caring for strangers suffering a great loss.

Mojave Woman Carrying Water on Her Head
 Life thrives on water and care. Water is both the drop and the wave; Care happens at the point when a  woman keeps her home, or a man hoes a row, and Care is the wave of a three and a half billion women keeping their homes everywhere. Both water and care are becoming scarce in many parts of the world as women and men move into urbana to work.


This work that women do, and have done from the dawn of our humanity is how we have thrived in times past but alas this story has been buried in infamy and disrespect.

Margaret Mead called for a retelling of the story on Earth Day, 41 years ago.
 What we need beyond anything else, is a frame of reference, a model of cherishing care for the earth and all human needs. … Have we, then, another model? I believe we have. It is women’s unremitting care for their families and homes.  Age after age, women have learned to conserve, to plan for the next day and the next season, to use carefully whatever they had and to keep a continual balance between giving and meeting the needs of everyone in the home. Women’s conservative tendencies were born out of the limitations of the household, a small, closed universe. They have always had to think: So much food to lay away for the winter and the distant spring, so many mouths to feed each day.
We are hungry for a new story but sadly it is the way of the world, a way as old as monotheism to look to the sky for answers. Many are still looking at the stars, looking toward the universe.  They look for inspiration deep in  dark matter,  black holes, beyond the space time continuum .
It was a wise old archeologist who once said of the temple mounds, “If you want to understand the temple mounds, don’t stand at the bottom looking up, go to the top and look down.” 
The new story, is not new; it is new to us. We are each here through the care of hundreds of mothers and communities of women who created resilient networks through any means necessary so that we could live today. We have been fed and clothed, sheltered and healed, in communities. Men care to be sure, but it is women's ways of caring that have been lost to us.

Come home to your Mother, the Earth,  she loves you unconditionally. Learn what women know: how to create resilient communities as they have done since humanity began. Women’s community is the original gift community. Women have always been here, just turn your head and see; really see.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What is Care?



Natures Heart by MK Sandford
Tree dies and falls leaving a stump standing.  Time passes and I walk past the stump. Bright green huckleberry, stately salal, and feathery fern grow from the decaying heart of the stump. We call her Nurse Tree; from her death, life has come anew. Is this not a true miracle?  A concert by cells playing together, shape energy into form, and Leaf, Root, Stem, Berry , Moss, Spore, and Lichen are born.

  
Rich green leaves fall to the earth while worms with their voracious appetites chomp them into bits; tiny bacteria feed them to the mushrooms. The Mushrooms lend their mycelia to Fir, Pine and Cedar to extend their roots. Roots carry whole food from the soil, to the base of the tree where nutrients are carried into Tree’s body. Tree grows taller; new needles, and cones flourish.
Everywhere we look in nature, there is an ‘I’ kindly nourishing a ‘you’, one hand washing the other. Care at its essence is a unique relationship, a partnership in which one aids another to live. Care surrounds us, it is in us, and it is how we got where we are. Where Life is, there is Care; where Care is, there is Life.  Quiet your mind. Breathe. Be still and know that I Am the Great Mystery. Open your heart you’ll be amazed at what can happen next.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Snow Falls Gently

The snow gently falls on our forest garden. 
Winter Snows by MK Sandford
All but the evergreens are fast asleep.

As we live in the dark days our world refreshes itself resting, replenishing its essential life force. It is a time for healing, for remembering who we are and what we are called to be.

The light creeps in slowly, and the world awakens slowly quietly gently. Solstice is the beginning of the time of gently awakening. Let us lean into the fire and to each other with compassion.

Care is the Sacred Melody


Care is the sacred melody, Life is the Dancer
There is only the dance. 

Care is the force inspiring life to stay awake.

Care is the process of manifestation;  Lives unfold before our very eyes.

Care is the process by which one thing becomes another.  

Are we not amazed when the bud opens, and the baby takes his first step, and the bread rises to feed a nation?

Care is all actions  for which there are only consequences.
The earth groans and trevails  to be delivered. Care delivers.

Care is complexity. Care is the sacred dance through which all things  come into being.
Care is the work of transformation. Care is a verb.

All living things care for something.  Caring about precedes caring for.
We have come full circle; Care is the sacred melody inspiring  life to dance.