Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autumnal Equinox and The Waxing and Waning of Things

We’ve just passed the Autumnal Equinox and thus begins the dying of the light. Days grow shorter; nights grow chilly. In the garden, tomatoes and squash put out blooms that may never mature into fruit, and petunias stretch their scrawny necks, extending one final bloom toward the sun.

In our family we’ve experienced another kind of dying back. David’s first wife, mother of our two sons, Eric and Michael, died on September 16th. During this past weekend, the entire family, hers, his, her second husband’s, and ours, all came together to celebrate a life just passing and the continuance of our individual and communal existence. Such events, old as humanity itself, are as much a part of the cycle of things as the movements of the Sun and stars.

On the international level, Kenyan Nobelist and environmental leader Wangari Maathai died Sunday of ovarian cancer, at 71. Founder of the Green Belt Movement that pioneered the planting of trees in Africa, and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, her movement, by paying poor women a few shillings to plant, led to the planting of an estimated 45 million trees.

An environmentalist, feminist, politician, member of the Kenyan Parliament, professor, rabble-rouser, human rights advocate and head of the Green Belt Movement she founded, she was comfortable in the gritty streets of Nairobi's slums, the muddy hillsides of central Kenya, or hobnobbing with heads of state. On world tours Mrs. Maathai spoke out against environmental degradation and poverty which, she was among the first to point out, are intimately connected. A radiant, joyful, positive and powerful presence, Wangari Maathai never ceased in her efforts to better the situation of the poor and their environment.

When we think of a Commune of Women, we should remember both the humble, like our boys’ mother Cheryl, who was a skilled and caring Registered Nurse, and the glorious, like Wangari Maathai, who burned like the summer sun in its full and fertile passage. Together, each in her own particular and passionate way, we form a community of caring that circles the globe and, while it may have its dark times, eternally renews itself in the dawning of hope, the cycling of the seasons and the eternal radiance of the human spirit.
PS: As proof of the cycle of renewal, please take five minutes to listen to "The Girl Who Made the World Silent for Five Minutes:" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg8MsAx3TVE&feature=related

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