Persisting on a Monday

It’s Monday. We are heading into another week of predictable disasters: politics, war, devastation in the natural world. A list of sorrows runs rusty as dried blood onto my journal pages and rivers into daily conversations, along with the ever-present question— “what can I/we do about any of this?”

I’m home alone a few hours— laundry, vacuuming, drifting in a state of dis/courage/ment. I will not stay here—but it seems a necessary emotional state to admit is in me. And perhaps it is instructive, though I find myself tongue-tied: wandering in a fog without sun breaks of insight.

I feel obligated to excavate insight. I expect myself to find words that uplift my spirits, and then communicate such possibility to you–oh beloved community of strangers, former students, writers, friends and colleagues. But this Monday my well runs dry, my tears run wet. Maybe you, too? Where shall we turn?

I turn to Nature. There is beauty outside my window. The beach/bluff is half a block away. Mountains at my back and in the far vista… and scenes of winter’s edge/spring’s determination.

I turn to poetry. I flip open familiar verses from Mary Oliver, and choose a line to start my journal page anew. How will the day be different if I take seriously her statement, “My job is loving the world.”

Or her prose: “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins….Whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”

I turn to community. What acts of kindness, outreach, neighborliness, texting, chatting, writing can weave me back into place? Open my heart? Be of service? Like a hug: what I offer is what I receive.

I invite you. This reverie will not change the course of disaster we seem to be on: but I hope it will offer en/courage/ment to help us keep standing together in the great story we are living and to rest in the larger realities that endure and hold us.

Snowshoeing near Galena Lodge, Ketchum, ID in Feb. 2024

48 replies
  1. Meredith Jordan
    Meredith Jordan says:

    I too float between hope and discouragement with almost every piece of news from the outside world. It’s a very difficult time to be on this planet, and yet…here we are. The question becomes what are we going to do with it (this human experience)? One thing I’ve hit on for me is to do a minimum of one thing each day to better the lives of someone else. I knit hats for the children of Ukraine who are suffering through a bombastic winter. I donate to a politician who speaks truth or, today, to the family of a doctor in Gaza whose small children are trapped in the catastrophe going on there; he wants help to get the little ones to safety even as he decides to stay even if he doesn’t survive because he can, at least, help stem the suffering to some degree. I smile at a neighbor and actually stop to listen when I ask how he/she is doing. I take some dinner to the 90 year old neighbor down the hall. I know these things seem inconsequential in the face of such enormity of distress and suffering. In the past, I have sometimes exhausted myself trying to save the world. Now, at 77, I speak the truth as I experience it, I add a bit of kindness in my wake, I plant seeds of compassion where I am able. I know you do all this too, Christina, and probably every other one of us reading this. We make our parts of the world a little better, day by day. I send you great love, my sister-friend!

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      I love the phrase, “I add a bit of kindness to my wake”–and to your wakefulness. Thank you–we are knitting woolen mittens and caps for the world.

  2. Audrey B Denecke
    Audrey B Denecke says:

    Thank you, Christina. I so appreciate all you’ve written here.
    I too am trying to find a path in the face of such darkness around us.
    I find myself on long walks or volunteering here and there … I love your framing of it as “turning to community.”
    I will print out what you’ve written here to help me reflect on what the appropriate response might be! I know from your generosity to others will bring you a flow of heart soothing (physical or energetic) hugs!
    Peace, Audrey

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you–for all I know you are doing. The little gestures can be the biggest help.

  3. David Rozell
    David Rozell says:

    Thank you, Christina. I find myself asking similar questions about the state of the world. I cannot find an answer within myself, however. So I ask inquiring questions of friends, associates and the universe….but find I am not alone in my quandary. The only answer that seems to give me solace is to be in nature, be present to and love those in front of me in any moment and offer random acts of kindness when I can.

    I really appreciate these posts from you. Perhaps this community you’ve created is part of the answer?

    Blessings to you and Anne.

    David Rozell

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      I love that you brought the word quandary forward–yes. And as for this community–stay tuned, I am hatching a plan for us to say hello to one another.

  4. Anne Stine
    Anne Stine says:

    Your words come into my inbox. They are filled with loving care, kindness, an outreaching heart, wisdom, honesty and more. A gift to us all, being you and sharing that. We hold our hearts together, in a huge circle that embraces it all. Thank you dear Christina. Always the carrier of words needed by us all. Keep them coming…. please. love you….. Anne S.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      I shall keep the words coming as long as the verbal river flows to/through/from my heart and mind. And always love that you are rafting the river with me. love back.

  5. Bonnie
    Bonnie says:

    Oh, Christina. I feel this one at my core. It’s so hard not to feel discouraged by the current state of things. In trying to treat my own unease I’ve started writing a letter a day to someone I care about and dropping it in the mail. Early in my nearly 34 years of sobriety, a very wise woman told me that the best way out of a funk was through service to others. She didn’t describe a grand gesture, but small acts every day. Each simple kindness can generate it’s own wave, and I am already richer for it.

    The other thing I’m trying to remember is that those things and relationships I give my attention to will thrive. It’s up to me to build a safe loving circle. The hardest lesson for me lately has been in realizing that negativity can thrive too. I am becoming much more mindful about where I spend my emotional capital. I’m glad to hear you’ve been outside. I just love the photo in the snow! Away from the noise, our real work and worth come into focus. Sending love and a big hug 💕

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Beautiful thoughts–and deep wisdom, and I consider myself “mailed”–one of your beautiful letters. Keep your eye on the beauty of the world, I love all your nature photographs and often wish I had your camera in hand when standing on the porch oogling a sunset.

  6. Gina Hietpas
    Gina Hietpas says:

    Thank you Christina for this honesty confronted with the onslaught of violence and despair throughout the world. I try to trust that if I practice loving kindness in my attitude and interactions I am planting positive change in some small way. Immersing myself in nature always lifts me up.

    Lost

    After the storm, everything familiar is buried
    beneath a shambles of broken limbs and leaves.
    Wandering unsettled, I glimpse tiny white spindles
    -clavaria fragilis—delicate saprophytes rising
    through the debris. They create compost magic
    which feeds everything in the forest, bright candles
    to illuminate a new way though darkness.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Oh Gina, I know where you live and how you live, and I give great thanks for that and for your poem. Shall we become saprophytes then? Candles in the darkness… illuminations for one another. Thank you.

  7. Suzanne Thurlow
    Suzanne Thurlow says:

    Oh Christina, your first words brought tears rolling down my face. I live in the South Island of New Zealand. I feel so sheltered and so far away from the harsh reality of all that is happening on our fragile planet and so helpless. Then I remembered John Roedel’s words about tears ‘you are crying because you haven’t let your heart go numb. you are crying because you let yourself be vulnerable and that is such an act of bravery. you are crying because you are still fighting to stay alive. you are crying because you have accepted your humanity ‘. This made me wonder if our honest tears may make a difference and contribute in a tiny way. Thank you Christina for your words and beautiful images.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      I am crying because I am alive to what is happening… and I thank you for bringing John Roedel’s words to this reading community. blessings to your day.

  8. Katharine
    Katharine says:

    Your words, our words – excavated and offered here, in the comments from friends, and in the places and spaces where some of us write – are like stones dropped in the water, creating those rippling circles. And when yours touch mine, touch ours, touch unseen others – what a beautiful web of “en-courage-ment” and love. Thank you and for MO’s m.o. that we make loving the world our job and eat heartily of its joy.
    Much love to you in the early dark of a new snow filled day…I imagine you sipping tea while I sip my Americano…

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      We are the other “inter/net” that weave the narrative threads into the web of life. Carry on–I raise my teacup… on a Tuesday morning. Big dipper overhead watches us both.

  9. Jana
    Jana says:

    Thank you from a heart filled with gratitude to be standing together with you and those like you, and the readers here, as we live our piece of this great story. Letting the feelings of discouragement and encouragement ebb and flow.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      yes–we are standing together–here a thousand readers… but we are millions, mostly unknown to one another, yet together. that holds the world.

  10. Anne Peek
    Anne Peek says:

    Thank you for your words Christina, and the words of all the others who have so beautifully commented here. I resonate with all of it, and usually I trust that the small things I do to create the world I want to live in will help. But after a nonwinter here in MN with 50 degree days and no snow and tulips wanting to emerge already, my grief is enormous because when I go outside to commune with my dear natural world, I feel it confused and suffering, weakening from years of drought and inability to rest this winter. I’m witnessing a loved one in constant pain, a loved one that has always supported me but that I am unable to support now. I hope that in going deep into this grief I can emerge with a greater sense of how to companion and love this earth as she changes.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Beautifully spoken, Anne. With family in MN I have been tracking this winter of “unrest”–concerned and watching for the upcoming fire season. I deeply appreciate your comment that you are witnessing a loved one in pain… It raises in me a spector: when Nature is my primary solace, how/where do I/we find that solace when the Natural world is suffering because of us? No answer…just offering our companionship and admitting our culpability. Blessings to you.

  11. Brenda Peddigrew
    Brenda Peddigrew says:

    Oh Christina, nature and poetry -and my dear feisty cat – they too bring me into the present moment, anchoring in the now, and not the “everywhere” that seems to be the news. We watch only 15 minutes of the suppertime news and that’s it. The lovely river and forest in which we live, with their tree companions and thick silence ground us every day. Sending it onto you too, and Joan and I often mention the time when you and Ann visited here – one of our very treasured, anchoring moments. Thanks so much for your reflection…

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      I remember the thick silence of your visit and the sweet ripples of our presence. Blessings to your day.

  12. Alicia Vennos
    Alicia Vennos says:

    Thank you, dearest Christina, for always doing what you can to circle the chaos. To try and make sense of that which refuses to make sense. Even as you vacuum! Your words bring me back to Marsh House and the safe space that you and our beautiful writing circle created. You said to us that the rule of a good village is to “ask for what you need, and offer what you can.” Today, in my own small village, i will offer what I can and trust that the ripple effect is powerful and real. Sending you love and gratitude always…xo

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you for the phrase “circle the chaos…” That is what writing does for me, and obviously for many in this community. When I think of all the times I called a circle in the Marsh House I know that sanctuary exists.

  13. Tenneson
    Tenneson says:

    Thx Christina. I appreciate your naming. Nature for me too. Sometimes it’s a walk around the block. Calling friends, me too. Usually an impression to reach out to say hello. Or sometimes an “I need some help.” Silly as it sounds, baking bread helps too. Flour. Salt. Yeast. Water. The basics for this moment. And sometimes it is just laying on the floor — cause that’s the best I can do for that 10 minutes. And asking my deceased grandparents for some help. This day. Then the next. Sometimes they string together. Sometimes they don’t. A wave from this Utah version of all of that.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you for adding to this conversation with your own list–and for reminding us to call in our ancestors. I count on that influence which often shows up as intuition… or what I call “a voice from somewhere.” Bread and honey–also helps.

  14. Ben Roberts
    Ben Roberts says:

    Thank you for these words, Christina. You are expressing something that so many of us are struggling with these days. There are no easy answers, of course. I found the book “I Want a Better Catastrophe,” written in 2023 by climate activist Andrew Boyd, to be one of the best efforts to grapple with these challenges I have come across of late. In it, he takes inspiration from interviews with Joanna Macy, Robin Wall Kimmerer, adrienne maree brown, Tim deChristopher, and others. There is also a wonderful flowchart (!) summarizing the thought processes he goes through as he asks himself and others how bad things might get, what we can still do about it, and how to source the will to take those actions when hope so often seems like a fairy tale. On the website he created to go with the book, he narrates is way through the flowchart, so you don’t have to buy the book to get a good idea about what he has learned. Highly recommended! https://bettercatastrophe.com/

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you Ben. I will look into the book, and I went to the website… the flowchart narration is upbeat and helpful even when talking about intractable issues. We need to collapse, and then we need to rise up. As my dear activist/acotr friend, Naomi Newman, says, “Fall down: get up. It’s one motion.”

  15. jerome kerner
    jerome kerner says:

    Christina, I cannot offer solutions just solace in the knowledge that we have been here before . I guess we will have to hit the wall in order for change to happen. If change does not occur our extinction would mark the end of this grand experiment but planet earth will survive, somewhat less for the wear but survive it will. That is some consolation as we prepare to let go.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Ah Jerome, yes I find some solace in knowing the planet will survive, adjust, and heal in geological time. One of the places that offers me this perspective is southern Utah… where I am reminded this is the planet of the stones… that they endure all weathers. Take care and thanks for checking in.

  16. Gretchen Staebler
    Gretchen Staebler says:

    I tried to respond to your honest heart words last night, but just couldn’t think what to say in the face of it. A wise woman once passed on to me the words, “The world needs your hope, not your despair.” Thank you. I try to live with them when the world seems so stuck in the depths and I feel hopelessly small. It’s actually comforting to know that sometimes you can’t quite stay out of the hole either. And you, and we, and all of us, will rise again, both personally (soon) and as a nation and a world (eventually). I believe that. Most days. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Hopefully before it folds in on itself. Sending love.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      We shall stand together under that rainbow–the arc of the moral universe. We shall bend toward justice.

  17. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    Home alone, ahh so sweet.
    Jobs to be done, upkeep
    Emotions to feel, wheel, reel
    At some point heal
    But first must ooze and scab, crust + peel
    I hope to be at ease and pleased at 77 (which is not too far off)
    Like MJ, as I share her initials
    with mySelf
    reaching twords the heavens with feet planted firmly on earth
    Even if they’re schorched by fire, smuhugged by embers

    Thanks, CB, for keeping it real. I often read you and Ann’s articles, but never comment. I haven’t written in quite, quiet some time and have only been periphially involved with your circle(s), having met at a WOW conference with a few follow up workshops and book signings. I am but a ripple on your sleeve, a gentle breath mouthing words
    who/that sighs alot
    and is learning to laugh
    as things fall apart
    as I break things slipping from my grip
    because I cannot hold it all, nor do I want to
    so I collect the pieces
    shards that need to be rounded before being walked upon
    or else put into a mosaic

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      oooh Maureen thank you for these most real words! We are all ripples on one another’s sleeves. keep polishing the piece to carry, to walk on, to put into a larger design.

  18. Jeanne Guy
    Jeanne Guy says:

    You and yours are our mentors, our guides. Your words help stabilize us as life as it is moves forward. We shall bend toward justice with you.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      The best part of Jeanne’s response is the “and yours…”we are a community of some sort–stayed tuned and let’s explore that together.

  19. Sapphire
    Sapphire says:

    En/courage/ment.
    Thank you, Christina, and to everyone, for the power of your words and emotions.
    Words are what bring joy and strength and balance to my life, and I am thankful for what you share that en/courages me. Blessings.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      On behalf of this lovely community–you’re welcome. I love the multitude of voices and inspirations and confessions that all bear witness to who we are.

  20. Sharon Fabriz
    Sharon Fabriz says:

    Dear Christina,
    Thank you for the power of lament, the shifts from words to images, the call for community. I’ve found music (especially new music from younger artists) gives me a sense of hope, the understanding that our grief can be made beautiful in the art that calls us to self-expression of the “all ways” of hearting and hurting. Last week, when the new Beyonce song (“Texas Hold ‘Em”) played in a set on my public radio station, I stopped my chore and danced with the dogs looking on and laughed at the joy of shaking loose. So, here’s to dancing!
    With gratitude for spacious horizons,
    Sharon

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Music, yes. And dancing definitely helps! Also dogs. Be well and keep shakin’ it up.

  21. Roslyn Duffy
    Roslyn Duffy says:

    You have been much in my thoughts the past weeks. I would love to sit with you over a cup of tea and simply be-together. Soaking up some courage from our shared presence. I do the three deep breaths often throughout the day. Being present is improving but divine enlightenment – not so much.
    Thank you for the blessing you are.

  22. Kathy Solberg
    Kathy Solberg says:

    Christina,
    It was a joy to connect with you last week at Sarri’s book reading and to read your most recent communication. I am a student of whatever the problem, community is the answer as taglined with Berkana.

    I love the image of “excavating insight”! Surely if I keep digging deeper, it must be here somewhere. Buried next to peace and hope? Connection does remind me of the greater purpose and that we are far more together with our excavators than sitting alone with plastic shovels digging one small scoop at a time.

    I look forward to connecting and thank you for your perspective and the breath of fresh air that came with it!

    With Gratitude and All that is Good,

    Kathy Solberg

  23. Cherri Ann Forrest
    Cherri Ann Forrest says:

    Dear Christina –

    So good to see you up at the farm. Which had me thinking again I hadn’t seen any of your writing for a spell. And then to find this in my inbox!
    Yes – these are particularly challenging, important times. I find it is so imperative to practice my morning meditations and my vow of being mindful of this precious planet to the best of my abilities.
    I understand the “dream of our regeneration” to be intimately personal – it is like a thirsty little tree that lives in my heart – as well as a symbolic one that blesses the center of community.
    There have been occasions when I felt sad and the highlight of my morning walk was to smile and wave to a complete stranger and them back to me. A moment of exchanged light.

    And then there’s the *discipline* of setting the intention to participate in a (yes – service oriented) creative day.
    Which makes me think of another useful medicine – Group hugs!

    And we who are in service to the “next 7 generations” (long-term planning) – it’s not surprising that your grandson’s peeps are scouting around for wisdom and experience. Good on them!

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Cherri, Thank you so much for these thoughts and little tips for hanging onto the good side of life. I like seeing you at the farm, too, and value your presence on the island. Carry on!

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