Category Archives: Soul to Soul Blog

Where Have All the Mexicans Gone?

Workers on the landscaping crew look different this spring. They’re typical American guys now – overweight, sporting baseball caps and tattoos.

The Mexicans used to bug me somewhat – they didn’t speak English so it wasn’t possible to communicate with them as they worked in neighbors’ yards. But they were very friendly and polite. And everyone vouched that they were meticulous, hard workers: “Try to get them if you have a project,” I was repeatedly advised. One neighbor used to let them use his cell phone on their breaks, so they could call across the border to speak to loved ones. They wept in gratitude, it had been so long since family contact.

Five Mexicans used to jump off the truck in years gone by to tackle spring clean-ups. Today three Americans have arrived instead. Probably for the same price.

“Looks like a whole new crew this year,” I commented to the three rakers as I walked past.

“Yup,” one said. “Sure is.”

“Where’d the other guys go?” I didn’t slow my pace, just kept walking my dog, trying not to act all that interested.

One stopped raking and started to say, “Well….” and was immediately cut off by the other shaking his head and saying, “We don’t know. We don’t know.”

The third was on his cell phone.

As I walked away, I heard them laugh. Snigger, maybe’s more like it.

I don’t know if the Mexican workers were fired due to lack of documentation, are in hiding, or have been rounded up by I.C.E. I do know that I could never understand how Germans could have allowed their neighbors to simply disappear and not ask more questions, not demand that it be stopped.

Yet now, I flounder not knowing the best course of action to stop this madness in my own country.

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Anger on the Shore

White caps crash
Waves slam the sandy shore
Surf chases meandering feet
Back away, she roars
Back away

You’re angry, I say
And why not?
You offer bounty
And we dump plastic
Spill oil
Explode bombs
Poison creatures
Bring on your fever

Back away, she warns
Or I’ll melt my ice caps
Bust your levies
Flood your cities
Kill your food source
Deny you life

I’m angry too, I confess
My planet is being destroyed
My water, my air, my land
My life force

Back away, I roar
Corporate polluters
Over-consumers
Climate-deniers
Military forces
Frackers and drillers
Back away
It’s my ocean too

White caps crash
Waves slam the sandy shore
Surf chases retreating feet
Is the ocean fighting back
Or just reflecting my own anger?

© Patricia A. Nugent
Earth Day 2016

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A Mothers’ Day Visit

I went to see my mother early this morning. She was sitting in a chair, all dressed up, trying to figure out which of three scarves to wear to adorn her outfit. She thanked me for being such a good daughter, for helping her out so much. I helped her stand, a challenge due to her creeping paralysis. Once she was upright, I pulled her close and wrapped my arms around her, taking in her scent. Her frail body leaned against mine, surrendering control.

“Thank YOU, Mom. For staying around. I know this is tough on you, still being here, but I’m glad you’re with me.”

Then I woke up. And remembered that it’s Mothers’ Day.

I didn’t go see my mom this morning; she had come to see me.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mom. I love and miss you so…

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Lucretia Mott: Lioness of the Convention

This amazing woman conspired with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to organize the first Women’s Rights Convention that kicked off the women’s suffrage campaign. In this 95th anniversary year of the 19th amendment, get to know the women who risked everything for their right to participate in the democratic process. Click to read the article I wrote for Ms. Magazine about Lucretia Mott. And give thanks.

http://msmagazine.com/blog/2015/03/02/lucretia-mott-the-lioness-of-the-convention/

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Today, I Fast

On this first day of a new year, I fast. For 24 hours, I am only ingesting water and green tea.

There are documented health benefits of fasting. It flushes out toxins that have accumulated in our bodies and jumpstarts our metabolism for potential weight loss.

But today I fast in remembrance and in solidarity.

In remembrance of those who do not have enough to eat on a daily basis, for whom fasting is not a choice. The pangs of hunger I feel are nothing compared to what starving children feel. Missing three meals today won’t kill me, but it can kill a baby and, in fact, does every day, even in this Land of Plenty.

In solidarity with those for whom refusing to eat is a form of civil disobedience. Alice Paul, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Nelson Mandela are among those who chose to sacrifice their own comfort and well-being for a cause bigger than they: Liberation from oppression.

Today, I fast. For a few hours, I will be hungry. More significantly, I will feel a connection to those who need our intervention to survive and to those who were determined to claim social justice as their birthright.

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Don’t Compare

It’s hard not to notice that many in my yoga class are more limber or better balanced than I am. Some can bend at the waist and touch the floor with their palms, their knees only slightly bent. Others can stand on one leg seemingly forever. Not me.

“Don’t look around,” Mana intuitively instructs the class. “This isn’t a competition. Honor your own body and your unique abilities. You’re perfect just as you are. Don’t compare yourself to others.”

Don’t compare myself to others. Easy to say, hard to do in this ego-ravaged world.  So the lesson keeps presenting itself to me. Prior to a cranial-sacral session with Mana, I tell her of a friend who is not conscientious about his health habits yet is seemingly healthier than I am. Where he definitely has the edge over me in healthful lifestyle is that he doesn’t worry. And that makes me wonder if my stress and anxiety are canceling out my good health habits.

I tell Mana that I want to be more like him, that I need to change.  She immediately responds, “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Neither is better than the other. You’re just different.”

I nod, not fully embracing the again-repeated lesson. My blood pressure is high; his isn’t.

She continues, “Self-compassion is important. Otherwise, you can end up feeling guilty for who you are.”

Feeling guilty for who I am. When seen in that light, what a shame, and how debilitating, to carry such guilt around. Of course I could do better. But I don’t need to be like anyone else.

Later that night, I have an unexpected good cry. And then fall into a wonderful night’s sleep. Thanks to the wisdom of my 82 year old yogi.

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Would You Really Have Helped Me?

Leaving my yoga class in the dark last winter, I was hesitant to proceed through the walkway to the parking lot with what looked like a homeless man walking his bicycle in 20 degree weather. I was relieved when a young woman fell in step behind me.

We were headed toward two sets of stairs, and the man continued to walk his bike toward them.  When we reached the bottom of the first set, he hesitated.

“Do you want me to help you carry your bike up the stairs?” I asked.

He ignored me while easily picking up his bike and ascending the stairs. I felt embarrassed, mostly because the young woman was witness to my naïve offer that he blew off.

We climbed the stairs in silence, side by side. “That’s a lot of stairs,” I mumbled audibly to myself, primarily for self-redemption and justification.

When we reached the top of the stairs, he put his bike down and turned toward me. “Would you really have helped me?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded. “I just got out of yoga class, and I’m feeling nice.”

What a stupid answer – no wonder he ignored that too! Feeling “nice?” Does that equate with taking pity? Does it suggest I’m not typically “nice?” Does it accentuate my bourgeois life style (attending yoga) versus his poverty (riding a bike over ice-lined streets)?

I headed toward my car; he just seemed to vanish. But he lingers in my consciousness as a lesson yet to be examined.

******

The following week, I read this story to my yoga class. Mana followed up with a phone call to say that the word for how I felt after yoga wasn’t “nice;” it was “spacious.” She told me I was feeling larger than myself after yoga, willing and able to give to another. I felt open, and that felt “nice.” She pointed out that my self-recrimination was undeserved; rather than focusing on my generous offer, I had criticized myself for the words I chose.

“You set something in motion,” she said. “That bicyclist had to process that someone offered to help him. And that someone was you! Feel good about that!”

Now that Mana is gone, I will have to listen harder for that voice of loving kindness. But I’ll still hear it.

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