The horse's pasture to the East...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Flag of Valor and the Path Ahead

I am so lucky. I worry myself sick over how to pay the bills, what to paint or draw or even if I still can. I'm worried about the political and economic mess our country is in, friends, family, my tendency to isolate myself and how to stop that. It's not an unusual list. Every person I know is dealing with something.

Somewhere along the line it feels like we've turned a corner, gone down the rabbit hole and ended up at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party (and I'm not talking about the utter coolness of Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter either). I wasn't going to be this direct. I wanted to use metaphors and stories to talk about this weird crook in the trail that's taken us in to an 'alternate' universe where a man with orange hair and skin, too much money and no experience as anything except a wealthy, privileged odd ball is taking the oath POTUS.

People all over the world are, legitimately, worried. He's said and done things during a campaign that divided a country. It was an awful process to watch. It's like being back in high school. No, worse. We've all slipped back in to some never ending junior high nightmare where everyone is whispering and gossiping about people who are different. And I was one of the 'different' kids too. It's no fun to be on the hard end of the stick. It hurts every time it swings your direction. 

But here's the other side of the coin. The alternative choice was just as bad. It was business as always; the same graft and corruption, lies and deceit. The end result was going to be a mess no matter how it came out. There's no doubt we're in trouble. 

I can't tell anyone else how to manage their fears anymore than I could when I was the 'odd kid out'. I can decide to keep looking at the other side of the coin. And I can work harder at being kind and living here, in the moment.

Things are going to change no matter what we do to slow it down or deny it's happening. So I'm going to keep looking for unexpected bands of light and color and reasons to delight in the present. A neighbor of mine lived through the hell of the concentration camps during WW2. She stayed alive by focusing on tiny weeds that grew in unexpected places or watching the clouds. She looked forward one second at a time. She gave me a gift by sharing her past and telling me, in her very hard to understand English, that love always wins. 

Do I think this is the beginning of the end? NO, most emphatically NO. I think this is an opportunity for people to work harder to understand each other, to voice their opinions. Change is a messy process at best no matter how well it's planned out. And I am hoping that I'm wrong too. I hope that Mr. Orange proves he is up to the task and does a better job than any of us anticipated. 

In the meantime I have a list of things I'm going to put in front of me. It's not so different from anything I've done before but there will be more effort going in to it.  1. Be kind.    2. Be patient.   3. Listen.   4. Keep trying.   5. DANCE (my word for 2017. I never do resolutions. I choose a word and focus on it, try to understand all of the complexities, elegance and reasons for choosing it. It's harder to do than you think it's going to be and, sometimes, has unintended consequences too. 2017 is going to be interesting!)   6. Laugh.   7. Learn.   
8. Believe.   9. Breath.   10. Help.

You can see that the list has endless possibilities. I can add new ideas whenever they strike me. #8 is an important one for me. BELIEVE. There's a bookmark the American Civil Liberties Union sends me every year. It has the Bill of Rights printed on it. I use it in one or the other of my blank books to remind me never to take my privileges lightly. My job is to be the best Nancy I can be. I absolutely believe in the ideals of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I'm going to do the best I can with what I have where I am.

One of my sons gave me a piece of Fine Art this year for Christmas. It's that Flag above the door. It's made by a group of veterans who've all come back from their various deployments with injuries; physical, emotional and mental. They came together and set up a shop to create American Flags of various sizes and designs, each representing different parts of our history, good or bad. Each one is completely unique and signed by the artist but the piece itself is put together in steps by each of them. 

Art is subjective. Each of us reacts to a piece as an individual. Some of the people who find this BLOG will react to this piece in a negative way. And for others it will be more complicated. I see it as a symbol for what I think this country has an opportunity to be. There's no doubt in my mind that our country has made terrible mistakes in the past. But I'm an optimist by nature. I genuinely think that the majority of us are good people. We are an incredibly diverse country with citizens living here from every culture in the world. 

I've hung my Flag high, the way a flag should always be displayed. There's a story that has to go with it being delivered too. The young man who brought it to the door for me, and set it inside (it's made of wood, so it has some weight to it) asked me what FOV, Flags of Valor,  stands for. 

I told him it was a work of art made by a group of veterans, a flag. I also told him about some of the veterans in our family and what going to war did to them. 

He set it down carefully, pulled himself up and saluted it. He smiled at me and told me he was a Marine. I shook his hand and told him, "Thank you for your belief in an ideal. Thank you for serving." 

He looked at the box again, and then at me and said, " Semper Fi " (Semper Fidelis the moto of the US Marine Corps meaning 'Always Faihtful'), saluted me and said, "Thank you Ma'am." and left.

I'm still thinking about that. My gift came at exactly the right time. I'll see it every time I go in or out of the door to my crooked, little redone barn. How I feel about it is for me. How you see it is the best part of a fine piece of art. It's open to interpretation and should be something that makes you view it in a different light every time you look at it. It isn't going to, necessarily, make you feel good either. Real art is complicated, messy, provocative, emotional, ugly and beautiful... like life.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, fingers and toes crossed, still believing. And smiling because I can... I am so lucky!

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