Step On The Train

May 29, 2021


It’s a brilliant graduation message. Although it wasn’t wasn’t among the speeches I heard last Sunday, it would have been perfect. It’s a piece written by historian, author and teacher Heather Cox Richardson that was published that same day the twins walked across the stage. It’s the story of Frederick Douglass’ escape from slavery.

A free black man with similar physical features gave his papers to Douglass so he could travel north to freedom. It was an act that risked the lives of both men. Here is part of what Heather wrote and there’s a link below to the rest.

To escape from slavery, all Douglass had to do was board a train. That’s it: he just had to step on a train. If he were lucky, and the railroad conductor didn’t catch him, and no one recognized him and called him out, he could be free. But if he were caught, he would be sold down river, almost certainly to his death.

Tomorrow, my students will graduate, and every year, students ask me if I have any advice for them as they leave college or university, advice I wish I had had at their age. The answer is yes, after all these years of living and of studying history, I have one piece of advice: When the day comes that you have to choose between what is just good enough and what is right… find the courage to step on the train.

The story I heard in Boulder was one of my niece Jaimi stepping on the train.

Jaimi is an accomplished musician, especially proficient in clarinet and saxophone. And her love is marching band. She had been chosen by her peers and the faculty to be the band’s drum major when the pandemic hit. Her dream of leading the band in her senior year would not be realized. However she continued to bring the band members together through zoom, encouraging them to do their best and inspiring them with her humor and optimism. She would be recognized for her leadership with awards from both the band and faculty. 

Then on the last day of school when they were actually in person and in the band room together again, Jaimi was in tears. Tears of joy for once again playing together, tears of grief for all the playing that had been lost to them. That’s when the band teacher turned to her and held out the baton. “Here, Jaimi, you conduct today.”

She was reluctant, fearing she wouldn’t be good enough. But he insisted. “Jaimi, it’s your band. Lead them.”

And so she did with tears streaming down her face the whole time. When she got emotionally choked up, the band cheered her on. She overcame her fear of not conducting well enough and her horror of crying in front of her peers and teacher. Sitting among the band members and crying would have been good enough for her but she chose what was right in that moment. She stepped on the train. No. For Jaimi it wasn’t a matter of life and death but it was life changing. She found a piece of courage she didn’t know was in her. Resilience. 

When faced with adversity and challenge, no matter the size and nature of it, may we all find the resilience and courage to step on the train.

Step On The Train Full Transcript

Judith – judith

Shifting Narratives

May 28, 2021


I knew it was going to be intense. My sister manages international telecommunications projects so I knew the weekend of celebration events for my twin nieces’ high school graduation would be managed down to the minute. It was all that on steroids with the added dynamic of detailed plans changing on the fly with a flurry of texts. My intention was to get on the plane, fly to Colorado, and just go with the flow. This graphic pretty much sums up the contrast of my rhythms here at MossTerra and the torrent of activity I stepped into. 

The days were beyond packed. With relaxed pandemic restrictions, the seniors were able to have a prom, a decorated car parade, and graduation all in one weekend. Each of these activities was of course surrounded by photo sessions, dinners, and parties. It was mad. It was wonderful. And it was all about making up for a senior year in pandemic hibernation. 

I get it. The seniors lost so much this past year. Social events, school events, and senior class traditions were all lost to them. It was good they had those days of celebration. Yet there was an underlying narrative of victimization at play in all this. 

While my circles, friends, and spiritual communities have been sitting with the questions of what gifts and lessons we received in these past months of lockdown, it was a contrast to be with people who were sitting primarily with the question of when things will return to normal. I found myself listening for a narrative that didn’t focus on being victims but rather focused on how these challenging times offered insights for shaping a new normal and stronger character. But I didn’t hear that. The graduation speeches were mostly filled with acknowledgements of the tough times seniors had survived with little mention of the important gifts of resilience and adaptation beyond being techniques for pandemic survival. 

Venturing out of my MossTerra bubble, it was important for me to see and experience this victim perspective as a significant narrative in our country as we climb out of pandemic hibernation. I continue to hope that we will navigate this time of change and challenge with a new narrative. We throw around the saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I will continue to listen for the narratives of the strength and resilience that will be essential in addressing the challenges we face as people, as communities, and as a nation. 

And in my time in Boulder, I did hear one amazing story….

Judith –

OK OK OK The Jacket

May 19, 2021


I’m finding it so funny that of all my blog posts the one yesterday is getting so much attention. Where’s a photo of the jacket? So although you may find this entirely anticlimactic, here it is. And yes, Anne, with me in it. I can’t resist also including a bit of Wavy Gravy social commentary so have added the lyrics of one of his songs. Enjoy!!!

Basic Human Needs

And wouldn′t it be neat if the people that you meet had shoes upon their feet
And something to eat
And wouldn’t it be fine, now if all of human kind had shelter

Basic Human needs, basic human deeds, doing what comes naturally
Down in the garden, when no one is apart
Deep down in the garden, the garden of your heart

Wouldn′t it be grand if we all lend a hand so each one of us
could stand on a free piece of land
And wouldn’t it be thrilling if folks stopped their killing and started in tilling the land

Basic Human Needs, basic human deeds, doing what comes naturally
Down in the garden, when no one is a apart
Deep down in the garden, the garden of your heart

Not just churches, not just steeples, give me peoples helping peoples
Help your self and work out till the stars begin to shout, thank god for something to do

Wouldn’t it be daring if folks started sharing,
instead of comparing, what each other was wearing
And wouldn′t it be swell if people didn′t sell their mother earth

Basic Human needs, basic human deeds, doing what comes naturally
Down in the garden, when no one is apart
Deep down in the garden, the garden of your heart

Wavy Gravy

Judith –

Mundane Musings & Wavy Gravy

May 18, 2021


Mundane. Any clarity I had around this word has disappeared altogether. As I peek out of our MossTerra bubble of sanctuary at the new landscape of no masks and social gathering, I am resistant to the notion of re-engaging in old patterns. I’ve enjoyed the slower rhythms of pandemic hibernation which included sitting more and more frequently with the question, in this moment, in this now, what is it right time for?

These past months of deep connection to other rhythms and realms, of seeing what was once hidden, have shifted fundamentally how I engage in life and how I show up in the world. It seems I’ve slowed down to the speed of wisdom and have no desire to go fast again. Much of what I’ve experienced has been of a spiritual nature, or what I thought was of a spiritual nature as I also thought I had a sense of the difference. 

And then this jacket happened and what was mundane became profound. I say ‘happened’ because it was soon clear in sewing this new jacket that I was not in charge. I sew a lot. With fabric, a pattern, a plan, and the technology it’s become a comfortable and familiar process. One I control. But not this time.

I’d had the fabric for over a year, purchased when I was invited to participate in the Bealtaine Ceremony a Uisneach in Ireland in 2020. The invitation was to lead a ceremony with the elders and wisdomkeepers that would attend from cultures and tribes around the world. I was deeply honored and thought I would sew something ceremonial to wear for this auspicious event. Of course with the pandemic the event was cancelled and the fabric has been sitting and waiting. I thought the upcoming graduation ceremonies for my twin nieces was the perfect reason to create something. And so I began. 

It is the most challenging fabric I’ve worked with and as soon as I started cutting out the pattern pieces it became clear that I would be stopping at every step in the process and asking, in this moment, what is it time for? And there would come an answer I didn’t anticipate. I was not leading this process. I was being led through this process. The jacket seemed to create itself, complete with a name. Wavy Gravy. If you ever have the chance to see this jacket you will totally understand why. Talk about a counterculture persona.

I love this jacket. For the look of it and the lessons in it. What would have been a mundane and perhaps mechanical creative process became magical. It was a journey of new insights and an affirmation of the new rhythms in my life. It was also a gift of reconsidering the mundane. For is any of it really mundane?

Judith –