Seeking Middle Ground

I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground.  I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate.  We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me.  I’m hopeful that we can shift course.  I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.

MIDDLE GROUND; a standpoint or area midway between extreme or opposing positions, options, or objectives (Merriam Webster)

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We are living in unprecedented times.  A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work.  My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home.  We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day. 

I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising.  Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs.  We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.

I grew up in a very conservative family in the South Dakota.  I have deep knowledge of how political beliefs are shaped from both sides of the political aisle.  My paternal Grandfather, Louis Lillibridge was an intellectual and a moderate—in my estimation anyway.  Grandpa could consider a lot of competing ideasHe studied other religions and ideologies.  He read constantly.  I adored him for many reasons, but mostly I felt heard by him.  Don’t we all want to be heard even if people don’t agree with us?

We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.

My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988.  For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier.  My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/.  My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating.  I actually met the King of Tonga.  I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences.  This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs.  Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.

I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen.  My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices.  It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990.  Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.

My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim children, many who spent time in refuge camps).  They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates.  This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont.  I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful.  I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue.  I’m only speaking from my own experience.

When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.”   I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.

 

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Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY.  Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding. 

The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground.  It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about.  Uncomfortable, but really necessary.

America, our democracy is calling.

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Let’s get curious about each other.

ego vs. heart

Somehow folks, photographs of Herrick, South Dakota struck at the heart of many people…actually WAY more people than had ever read my blog before.  So, at first it fed my ego.  I was obsessively checking the number of viewers I had for those Herrick photographs.  (Obsessively is almost too small of a word for my behavior.)  I kept thinking about the comments of people who grew up in Herrick and moved away.  A former babysitter of mine wrote and people were connecting about their love of Herrick and rural South Dakota.  That was a blast for me.  Thank you.

This morning in my NIA dance class we did a move that protected our hearts and then we gave them out to the world.  Arms closed and wrapped in protection across our hearts then opened wide. It made me think about EGO vs. HEART—protecting the way the world sees me vs. vulnerability & social risk.  I was thinking about the volume of traffic I had to my site and then it all went straight to my heart.  Arms wide and then crossed.  Try it, it’s kind of a cool way to get a sense of vulnerability and protection in your body.  I’m not surprised that my pictures of Herrick, South Dakota sparked so much interest and dialogue.

I think the geography of our upbringing is in our bones.

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“…voluntary settlement to a frontier area tends to produce individualism.”  Geographical Psychology; Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior edited by Peter J. Renfrow.  Cool, huh?  I often think about the freedom and spaciousness I was allowed growing up on the prairie. It was awesome AND I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Burke.  To quote Joni Mitchell, “I got the urge for going”.

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My settlement in Burke was involuntary at my birth, however, it did produce a sense of individualism in me.  I suspect in many others too (judging by your response to my photos, shut up ego, let the heart take over).  In the book I referenced it suggests that people in frontier areas are naturally more suspicious of outsiders because of the potential to spread disease.  Fascinating lizard brain stuff, huh?

For many reasons “pioneer & frontier thinking” has been bouncing around in my head a lot lately.  Last week a relative sent me this article about my Great Grandfather, Lowell Stanton Lillibridge, pioneer banker. These few paragraphs tell a great story about pioneer life in South Dakota at the turn of the century.

I’m grateful I have a different lens to view the landscape that informed who I am.  I’m not wild about some other middle aged issues, but I do appreciate the wisdom.

I haven’t lived in South Dakota since 1989.  I moved to Vermont on New Year’s Day 1990, and yet an image of a South Dakota two-lane highway is my constant muse.  Funny how different things look with a quite few more years in the rear view mirror.

I encourage you to think about what specifically speaks to you about the geography you experienced growing up.  What’s your “South Dakota two-lane”?  That image got me through some rough dental work last week.  You might want to consider a landscape as a sort of meditation…a “go to” place when you need to settle your brain down.

Thank you for reading.  I’m truly grateful for your time.

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life…

and I feel like it needs to be acknowledged.  I actually had a moment where I told my husband, Jeff “this is one of my favorite days of my life”. They don’t roll around all the time and they deserve to be savored.

I have to tell you about mine—July 22nd, 2015.

We got up early (6am) and went to the Sandwich, Massachusetts Flea Market to hunt for treasures.  After a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee with our friend, Christie we began our quest for the odd and collectable.  I found a gorgeous bowl and this tablecloth that I may use as part of a piece for the STRUT fashion show in Burlington, VT in September. Both cost me 9 bucks.

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http://www.thesandwichbazaar.com/summer-market

Then we lathered on sunscreen and took our kayaks to Bourne, Massachusetts.  We wanted a light lunch before we peddled (we have peddle kayaks, not a typo) so we stopped at one of our favorite places; The Lobster Trap for a stuffed quahog and a beer. I ordered a Leinenkugel Summer Shanty (low alcohol, lemony & refreshing) and the rep. for Leinenkugel was seated next to us so our beers were on him.  A nice surprise.

If you don’t know what a stuffed quahog is I have to share with you.  This seafood item is one of the reasons I married my husband.  That was about 25 years ago.  It’s a clam, cooked, chopped and mixed with stuffing, chorizo (a spicy Portuguese sausage that goes beautifully with seafood), celery, onion, garlic and then put back into the shell and baked. You then cover them with butter, a squeeze of lemon (and for me TABASCO sauce) and enjoy.

Jeff wrote this story about them…funny how a stuffed clam can loom so large in our lives.

http://springtideleadership.com/2012/06/09/how-to-make-the-perfect-stuffed-quahog/

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http://www.lobstertrap.net/home

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http://www.sturgisboatworks.com/ (Where we got these boats.)

Next we took our Hobie peddle kayaks to Monument Beach and unloaded them.  They are fast so you can cover a lot of territory.  I personally couldn’t paddle as far as I can peddle.  We’ve never been boaters and we never have the right gear for anything we do, but I have to admit that these boats have been a blast.  I love seeing the world from the vantage point of the water.

We watched young osprey about to take their first flight (the parents were encouraging them in a tone not unlike mine when I’m trying to get my teenagers to do something). Sorry kids. It wasn’t a pretty birdsong, but watching them was fascinating.

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We heard people laughing on the beach, zig zagged between moored sailboats, saw amazing houses and got to the rough seas at the start of the Cape Cod Canal channel near Mashnee Island…we quickly turned around though to explore calmer waters. I like a little danger in my kayaking, but I’m not stupid.  We went into the Eel River which was stunning.  We saw cranes, oyster beds and homes right on the water that gave it that swampy feeling and with the canopy of the trees it was really cool.

The beauty of this day—alone with my husband on an adventure, free beer, a stuffed quahog, seeing wildlife, getting exercise, fresh air and learning how to read the sea was pretty wonderful.

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After a swim to cool off and loading up the kayaks we headed home to shower and take off for a Neil Young concert at the Xfinity Center.  It was a great show—amazing people watching.  Neil Young is probably the musician that informed my young life the most during my freshman year of college in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (University of Sioux Falls, formerly Sioux Falls College—back in the day). Oh, and we didn’t know they were coming but Jeff’s brother, Joe and his wife Gretchen were there too…another fun surprise of the day.

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I’m not writing this to tell you how awesome my life is.  I’m writing this to encourage everyone to really take notice of those special days and moments in our lives.  We need them to call upon during our darker times.  Honor those days.  It makes life sweet.