Tuesday, April 5

The Pain of Awareness

Off Kilter

Layers of Perception


“And must I then, indeed, Pain, live with you
all through my life?-sharing my fire, my bed,
Sharing-oh, worst of all things!-the same head?-
And, when I feed myself, feeding you too?”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay, Mine the Harvest

Oh, that empty, chewed-up feeling has seeped in with the Covid-19 fear and loathing.  People are tired of the tasteless residue of our deep-fried existence over the past few years. The numbness is wearing off along with our Trumpian outrage and disgust while our familiar friend, pain, has parked herself right in our zero-gravity living room recliner. She's moved in permanently.

For me, this transition out of the doldrums costs a lot. I've become a slug, ponderously dragging myself toward basic survival, not particularly caring about good health, connection, enlightenment, joy. Everything seems to be bare minimum, basic, enough-to-get-by, and hardly worth this small effort. I try to keep connected with family and friends but wind up feeling the dry scratch of awkwardness.

One beautiful loved one seems especially vulnerable right now. He's isolated in an impermanent and exhausting place. No matter how often I reach out my sticky tentacles to connect, reassure, nourish and support, he tells me that bedtime is more necessary and blows me off. I accept this pain caused by the awareness that I've become an ineffectual irritant like that grit in your shoe or the eyelash inside your eyelid. One thing about pain: you know you're alive. If you're not too far along the road to despair, she brings you warnings and maybe even a crash barrier or two if she's feeling protective. As the numbness needed to live in this thuggish world ebbs and flows, awareness of the space I inhabit, its brightness, and its shadows become sharper, critical.

My nightmares are filled with scenes of untethered moments when down seems up and what I know is authentic slips out from under me. I must meditate more.

May all beings know love, peace, and balance.

Monday, February 28

Life in the Time of Darkness

Sister Sadness

“Since when did politics become a blood sport?” I remarked.

At a recent family gathering, I had been asked about what I’d been doing since retiring and responded with a shortlist of what I considered benign activities, including working as a precinct committee person for the Democratic Party in my town.

“You’re a liberal!” gasped my horrified host, who appeared to be winding up for a contentious ideological battle. In the few seconds it took for others in the room to ban any political, religious, financial discussions going forward, I felt a decided cooling breeze of disapproval waft in my direction. At that moment, I realized the depth of anger and resentment most of my family feels toward supporters of the opposition, meaning democrats, progressives, liberals. Snippets of conversation expressed anger and resentment over “cultural” problems such as the “trans” bathroom debates, liberal school boards, black activism, and how beleaguered conservatives must constantly combat the creeping rot of socialism. I left the gathering feeling sad that the Rush Limbaugh, Fox News propaganda machine had penetrated so deeply into my life and the lives of healthy, prosperous people who have nothing to fear but live in fear anyway.

Another family member expressed disgust with the outcome of the 2020 election, believing that unimaginable voter fraud defeated Trump. He was and probably still is so angry that even an authoritarian regime is preferable. In his mind, the violent insurrection of January 6, 2021, is understandable, and its failure to install Trump, the man willing to rid us of liberals and communist anarchists, is a tragedy.

Ironically, many in my clan worked for unionized companies or organizations that negotiated a living wage and benefits for their workers. The most virulent critic of the democrats has been treated for cancer and other ailments paid for with Medicaid benefits. Several clan members hate President Biden because of the pandemic shutdowns and masking mandates initiated by former President Trump in 2020. The “irony” is head spinning.

The latest head-spinner is the republican claim that the invasion of Ukraine is Biden’s fault because he is weak and not responsive enough. Where were these critics in the summer of 2019 when Ukrainian President, Zelenskyy asked Trump to release the $400 million in military aid approved by Congress to combat imminent Russian aggression? Trump withheld these funds for months, weakening Ukraine's defenses at a critical time. He demanded that Zelenskyy investigate Hunter Biden’s involvement in the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings, a dirt-finding mission to help Trump win re-election in 2020. These actions resulted in Trump's first impeachment for "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress." To be clear, Trump, not Biden, weakened the defenses of Ukraine, and republican short-term memory loss doesn't mean everyday folks have forgotten this.

Because of Trump’s quid pro quo approach to foreign policy, the US lost influence and trust among traditional allies. The Biden administration has had to repair fractured NATO and EU relationships and firm up a fraying overseas coalition opposed to Russian aggression. He has done this despite the solid mass of republican obstruction. The weakness republicans complain about is a ploy to divide the USA and delay, obstruct, and damage a focused response to a credible threat to our nation. Personalizing and trivializing these threats is part of Putin’s strategy to gain world dominance. Aligning with China, a Trump and MAGA enemy, further threatens unity among democratic nations. Meanwhile, republican pawns of authoritarianism promote the glories of Putin bullying and declare Biden as “weak” because Russia invaded Ukraine. These destructionists create the weakness they rail against and expect us not to notice their blatant dishonesty. Sickening!

So, how are family relations, these days? Cordial, limited, and, while there are gatherings and brief texts/emails here and there, I remain bewildered and gun shy. As far as religion, politics, and culture are concerned, what seem like apparent truths are lies to magaverse inhabitants. I am not part of this bubble, nor do I want to be. So the common ground I once took for granted with family and friends is whittled down to the basics: love of family and service to the community.

Meanwhile, I continue to endure unsolicited “discussions” initiated by non-family, anti-maskers/vaxers, Biden-haters, liberal-haters, trans-haters, women's rights haters, chemtrail haters, outrageous (fill in the blank haters). Simply standing in a grocery line wearing a surgical mask makes me a target for these angry, loud-talkers who bray about their freedoms while disrespecting the freedoms of others who aren't goose-stepping to their ideologies.

Self-quarantining has its advantages in these alarming times.

“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering” – Carl Jung.

May all beings be surrounded by love, light, and blessed peace. 

Saturday, October 16

Days of Cloud and Snow

Angry Winter Sky

Peace in the Valley

Crater Lake Blue

Days of Clouds and Snow
- Kathy Mackey

Low sky presses mist then rain
into red hillsides, arroyos, and dry
channels intended for wet weather.
Soon frozen air, fresh from Alaska,
whirls and breeds sleet then snow.

Gentle cold drifts of tiny crystals
cover red tile roofs of houses,
whitening abandoned gardens,
piling fluff onto decks and porches.

Fireplaces, hot chocolate, down comforters
ward off frigid dampness inside warm rooms
 where climate is just a word, tamed and observed,
 not an experience, wild, unbound, surprising.

Sunday, August 29


It Ends in Fire and Blood

Grateful for Their Unconditional Love

Into the Light


How wretched you must feel
to agree to be interviewed and
asked incendiary questions about
the sudden loss of your young soldier son.

How searing is the pain that
causes you to blame and berate
the commander in chief for whom
your son proudly sacrificed his life.

How useless is the love of a mother
who publicly insults the very people
her son willingly protected from harm,
giving her a minute of attention at his expense.

Where is my compassion for a suffering soul?
Where has my dwindling store of kindness gone?
Why am I embarrassed for this woman’s blame?
Why am I mad that she instead of he will be remembered?

The unrelenting pain of loss felt by the loved ones of those that serve the nation as soldiers is sharp. Twenty years of war in Afghanistan and almost as long in Iraq to protect us from terror attacks such as 9/11 has cultivated a defensive, warrior mentality in our culture.  Now, every aspect of our lives is a political battle between red and blue, republicans and democrats, cons and libs. Every aspect of of our death must symbolize failure and blame, including the death of an enlisted soldier deployed to protect American interests in Afghanistan.  Accountability and "getting to the (unknowable) bottom of things" has enraptured the political minority. These are good goals, and require research and analytical skills, not to mention a willingness to accept facts. So the US exit from Afghanistan ... what an avoidable debacle. Right?

Now wait a minute, though. What kind of unicorn thinking insists that a withdrawal of troops from over twenty years of  occupation of an historically contentious Asian country can be anything but terrible.  Huge demonstrations decades ago, and on-going protests pointed out the original sin of fighting wars thousands of miles away. Both republican and democrat administrations ignored the wisdom of these protests. You want blame - plenty of it on all sides of the political spectrum. However sloppy and dangerous this surrender is it was instigated by Trump and carried out by Biden who has the balls to put his career on the line to end this vulture fest. Only the military industrial complex folk are shedding tears and realigning their corporate bottom lines until the next "conflict" arises that needs their bunker buster bombs, drones, and mountains of gear.  

To politicize this horrifying moment in American history is what our media has been trained to do. Slant, spin, drum up "donations", " subscriptions", "likes" ad nauseum. Keep the brainwashed masses incensed, agitated, entitled to spew their vicious opinions like Pavlov's hungry dogs. Ring the bell and get the latest update on social media. Don't think. Don't accept. Don't feel the pain of loss in quiet dignity. Maybe we can get lucky and some blogger sticks a mic in our face and off we go, giving a piece of what little mind we have left to the yawning void of public opinion. The terror and sorrow of this moment is diminished. We are once again observers and avoid the bad feelings of being participants in the disaster. 

May we break this disaster porn cycle of addiction sooner rather than later. May we face the facts of American mistakes with clarity and courage. May we boycott the death merchants in our culture whether they be arms dealers or the New York Post. Finally, may we all find compassion and kindness and find the good and honorable in each person we meet. It's time.

Tuesday, July 13

Impossible Task


In the Shadow of Trees

Dangerous Delusions

This task I’ve been given is impossible. No question. As baffled as I am about my mission to be a positive influence in this man’s life, I realize that all the assignments before this one were doable. Each one tore down, or strengthened, or illuminated a core belief about humanity, exposing the messy truth, I suppose some would say. Despite hundreds of years of pain, sorrow, boredom, surprise, complacency, joy and now this, I'm supposed to enlighten and ease ignorance. Sigh. Not sure if there are enough brave beings to work with to create an antidote for what passes as a leader these dark days.

He’s about my age according to these times. Large. Odd looking. All fine with me. I’ve worked with lepers, the maimed, the diseased, well, let’s just say their outward appearances were awful and I suffered nightmares trying to devise ways to brighten their days. My success rate has been a little over fifty percent. What a joy it was when I convinced Damien of Molokai to help the lepers of Hawaii. Before he died of the disease, he even eased my own sorrow. It was a difficult but satisfying assignment! This one, though. Despite his appearance of flashy normality, he is festering with secret fears, hatreds, desires, and such a thin skin.

Right now, he’s in his happy place. For most people, this room would evoke dungeons or medieval torture chambers with its matte black mirrored walls enclosing blood red floor tiles. At the opening near the door panel there is a wardrobe of costumes. This closet of delusions is my most surprising and revealing discovery about this man.

Let’s see, it was over a year ago when I discovered this room, one of many hidden behind jumbled facades of opulence. Everyone was at one of his rallies. So I took time to really examine the larger-than-life sized portrait of him, hanging in the family suite. It had an oversized frame, almost industrial but with gilding, of course. I felt around it and snap, the portrait swung out oozing a dark, airless gloom into the sun drenched gold of the family sitting room. I expected to smell sweat and sex thinking this might be the S&M element of his warped desires. Once I entered and found his costume closet complete with military dictator uniforms and even a pathetic santa clause outfit, I realized that he had metastasized beyond the mundane efforts of sex which require too much interaction with humans and does not focus enough on worshiping his godlike self. Despite this demoralizing discovery, I have endeavored to steer him away from his unhealthy obsessions. I thought helping him improve his golf game might unlock an appreciation of nature and simple skills, but he has found ways to ignore any hint of fair play and fun. Every game is practice for beating something, anything, including the greens.

Today, I realize that my task to positively influence this creature is beyond my abilities. I watch him preen in his favorite incarnation of World War II German, Otto Skorzeny nicknamed Scarface, a slippery fascist who assisted in the rescue of Benito Mussolini from his mountain top prison in 1943.  I listen to him mumbling about “loser prisoners of war” inconveniencing those valiant leaders of paratroopers and commandos. Like magic, this trash talk opens his spleen and releases an outpouring of braying to the spirit of Scarface. "Fix the steal," he chants as he crouches and leaps, barring his yellowed teeth, snarling, whipping his shaggy head from side to side while a thin stream of spittle sprays across the black mirror. I hide behind his mangled, life sized cardboard likeness of Barak Obama. I feel the malice embedded in this room, the curses and malicious fantasies made real because he wills it and his fear of losing his power to make wishes come true. This feeling has a taste: stale, ancient, bloody.

I’m embarrassed to admit that watching him and trying to find a tiny crack of human feeling in his faΓ§ade of impervious selfishness is boring. I know I’m an alien on this slowly imploding planet. Is he? When asked why I failed to bring light to this person, my only excuse is that he is not a person according to one of earth’s most well respected philosophers, John Locke, who wrote in 1690 that person is,

“A thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself the same thinking thing, in different times and places.”

As I watch him cavort in his hidden dark room, I see him vary his fantasy selves from a vicious killer to a benign giver of gifts – no consistency, no conscience, no goodness, just unrestrained impulse and lack of impulse control. This more than anything else in his fun house of a mind gives me my biggest excuse. Impossible to find an opening for light and even more daunting, he is unpredictable and undisciplined – not really a person, more earth animal or insect?

Actually, I’ve found animals and insects to be much more receptive to positive influences. My absolute favorites are trees and plants, those efficient and generous engines of photosynthesis. The old 6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2 formula created by one of the first of my kind still works today. It was given to earth way before humans evolved to plague paradise. Such a magnificent way of positively influencing this place and what has the human race done with it? Stupidly, they are cutting down all the trees and devising poisons to alter even the air! Another excuse for my failure: people fear and hate their own species and anything else that lives.

I am told by the old-timers who came here to offer light to earth that the ancient humans were closer to living things back then, making it was easier to elevate them with positive incentives. The job became harder with the invention of money and almost impossible with the proliferation of marketing. I am miserable reporting my time with this Scarface impersonator to the One, but It needs to know that he is not unique. He and those like him are not close to the living things of this world, or to anything remotely positive. Today’s headlines about thrill seeking billionaires blasting off of the planet toward phantom space sanctuaries proves my point that malicious aliens exist even those with human DNA. Well, I should back off the hyperbole and stop making excuses – so many of them these days.

I become one with shadows as I shove the Obama standee to the ground. Scarface pauses, lifts his arm and points to the black ceiling, yelling a verse I recognize from the popular chronicles of Jesus Christ called the bible.

‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.’

Gulping air, he stamps his jack booted foot on the cardboard head of the standee growling, “kill Obamacare.” This usual obscenity laden rant is routine, a wind up in preparation for the latest rally or golf game with Rudy, Junior, McConnell – any punching bag will do.

I take advantage of his distraction and slip out of the dungeon into the mellow, tropical sun. This earth is so amazing. I become delirious the closer I get to the trees, so miraculous. All darkness shimmers into brightness and I vow to try harder to get him outside, maybe an alligator pond might be an incentive.