Grandmother: “Bring gladness”

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

{as promised to dharmasyd}

Okay, enough with the doom and gloom for me, for a little bit at least. (Snap out of it, LL!!)

Sanjay Khanna at YES! Magazine writes “Stories That Light Up The Dark, The experiences of our ancestors offer us wisdom for surviving today’s crises. “:

In August 2008, at 91 years old, my grandmother participated in the first official Khanna family reunion, which my aunt organized and held at her and my uncle’s Mill Valley home.

I was feeling depressed at that family reunion. When you spend most of your time writing and researching on climate change scenarios and the downward direction of the economy, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

One afternoon, I sat down with my grandmother when almost everyone else was on an excursion.

She saw straight through my unhappiness. She peered into me, smiled calmly, and said two words: “Bring gladness.”

In spite of the specter of rising seas, increased drought, human displacement, and inundated cities prognosticated by climate scientists, I needed to find ways to inspire gladness in myself and other people. It’s that simple.

Now I hope the inner strength I witnessed in my grandmother remains a seed within me. As times grow more difficult, I pray that her ability to heal mind and body is a quality I can develop and call on.

The changes wrought by peak oil, climate disruption, and economic instability will affect all of us. Yet, those who gather strength from stories of beauty, courage, love, kindness, generosity, and good will can, in a social environment of growing uneasiness, store and spread the seeds of human welfare.


Pomo Indian Woman Gathering Seeds, 1924 by Edward S. Curtis source

I never knew my biological grandmothers.  They both died long before I was born. P/Grandfather too, and M/GFA was a crabby old man who I didn’t really know much before he died when I was pretty young.  My Mom and my Mom-in-Law, however, have/had much wisdom to offer, having come up during the 1920’s, 30’s, & 40’s (“interesting times”!).

The stories, and messages, of the grandmothers and grandfathers, biological or otherwise, resonate still. Whatever your personal history or heritage, it’s those stories that I believe we keep, and nurture. And edit and re-create as needed. And evolve from and with.

Khanna talks about one of my favorite topics here:

As a faithkeeper, Chief Oren Lyons, 78, formally upholds the traditions, legends, and prophecies of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation in upstate New York-one of the Six Nations.

Lyons recounts an oral history of the Six Nations’ historic spiritual guide, the Great Peacemaker, who instructed the Haudenosaunee to “work with nature and be thankful.” Hundreds of years ago, perhaps even prior to the arrival of Columbus, the nations had been at war. But the Great Peacemaker “laid down the whole process of confederation,” urging them to eliminate conflict among themselves and be unified.

“He said our duties as leaders [are] to … protect your relatives, your nation,” says Lyons. “Protect all life, in other words, [the] flower as well as the trees, as well as the people, as well as the animals. Everything, he said, we’re going to put into your hands, the welfare of all life, that’s your duty.”

The Haudenosaunee confederacy was based on three principles. Lyons explains:

 The first point was peace and health. You can’t have peace without health. The names are interchangeable to us. Our greeting is “thank you for being well, thank you for being who you are.”

   Number two was equity, equity for the people, because you can’t have justice if you don’t have equity. Equity is first, justice comes after. So, the Great Peacemaker said, equity for the people-be fair, work for their interests.

   The third was the power of the good minds, unity, to be united. He said, ‘This is going to be your strength.’

In Sweden last year, I heard Lyons speak to a group of young leaders. He said that today, amid “a lot of abuse of positions of authority” among politicians, real community leaders need to emerge. New leaders, he said, need to be courageous and capable enough to help people organize and remain strong as the environment and society change.

But this section was the part I really liked, and sparked me to bring the piece here to DD. Some great tips!:


Reseed your Own Stories

Indigenous stories offer us enduring wisdom, but Hykes Steere, Lyons, Edwardson, and many other indigenous elders have insisted to me that each of us needs to draw on our own ancestral cultures for guidance. When people learn their own cultural and family stories, they gain a deep respect for their origins and for future generations. They can then “know who they are and be who they are,” says Edwardson.

Over the past few years, I’ve distilled five tips for personal resilience from conversations I’ve had with indigenous people:

  1. Seek guidance from people who have overcome suffering with dignity.

  2. Learn from those who have maintained a sense of humor through difficult times.

  3. Converse with grandparents and great-grandparents about their stories of hardship and the lessons they’ve learned.

  4. Reflect on what’s necessary for you to develop more inner strength than you have. If this is hard to do, learn techniques, such as mindfulness, to help you listen to your heart.

  5. Connect with your own culture by developing an understanding of, and sympathy for, the experiences and stories that your ancestors handed down in your family. [bolds mine]

I don’t know if it’s the Irish thing (Mom) or what, but my  family’s generational reboot is slower than most. Heh. Mom was 40 when she had me (her fourth and last child) and I was 40 when I had my daughter, my only. But, as “Real Americans”, my families have lost touch with much of our Old World memories. Elements of those Cultures, however, persist in the strangest ways. That might be another essay.

This source, YES!, dedicated an entire issue to A Resilient Community. There’s several good articles there that might appeal to a few of you. The Editor’s Intro is here.  

But, as you may’ve noticed, I’m none too keen on having people yell at me to ride my bike more, or grow my own food. Heh. I’m sometimes torn (like some other tortured souls!) between wanting to go forward within my own little rippling circles, quietly, steadily, … and  … YELLING LOUDER at the pol’s (and the people who promote them) to wake the fvck up. It’s a little schizo at times.

Many of us live with a sort of schizophrenia as we try to reconcile our lives with what may lie ahead.  {snip}

For a while yet, we may be living in a dual world. In one, business as usual continues, punctuated by increasingly turbulent weather and social breakdowns. In the other, we rebuild our communities and begin to build the foundations of a new world.

In the business-as-usual world, reactions to these changes may get increasingly bizarre as people blame everything from gay marriage to immigration for their insecurity.

But there are responses far better than blame. We can ground ourselves in the hands-on work of growing food, becoming energy efficient, generating green energy, and fostering relationships of respect and appreciation.

We don’t have to wait for an election or a petition to sign. We can just get on with the community work that will allow us to live better, whether or not a systemic collapse happens in our lifetime. ~Sarah van Gelder, YES! Editor

Phew, thanks, I needed that. Okay. If you say so. I know she’s right. Like many, I’m just trying, still, to find my way. Grappling with balancing those multiple dualities.

And … germinating.

So nice to have your company along for the ride… and listening.


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  1. a favorite saying in my family!

    My people were from upstate New York, and migrated some to Massachusetts(Mom’s side) and Ohio (Dad).

    This is Grandma Pearlia, with my cousin Shae who is now 65 or so. In front of their family store in Warren Ohio. On her side, we have a geneology that goes way back. I could qualify for memnership in the DAR if I wanted to. Weird huh. PS, Don’t tell everyone.


  2. Not from my specific family, but from the human family.


  3. But we live in a society that looks on LGBT people as weak and in the case of men effeminate — effeminate being a synonym for “weak”.  (By the way, if you were to meet me in real life, I’m not effeminate at all, inasmuch as I don’t really see that as a “bad thing”).

    Yeah, sigh, I get it.  

    Just, all the wisdom of your words is leached out by those who mouth the words and don’t believe, or behave in ways inconsistent with what you believe, while also saying it.  I don’t expect kindness, inasmuch as I believe in kindness to others.  This society doesn’t believe in what you say.

    They create darkness.  They believe in nothing.  They answer to no one.

    So, I guess, there’s this duality for me.  Again, not you, but there’s a preachiness I perceive in the general social order — people preach to those they despise and throw away as trash.  People want unity?  Laugh — then the first step is, for them, acting in ways consistent with what they say.  Otherwise, they’re just echoing into a blackness, in which they’ve equipped certain people to survive, but not themselves — paradoxically — by hurting them, under the “whatever does not kill makes you stronger” rules.

    I believe in kindness but I also believe that certain people have to be hard in order to survive.

    So, yeah, I believe in bringing “gladness”, heh.  I laugh at tornadoes.

    People think LGBT people weak — while they kill us off, one by one.  Lord knows what they think of those they have not managed to kill — and why.  But I laugh at the perceived weakness and mockery up against a wall of cold steel.  I do not wish suffering for people.  But I will always remember what a teacher, one time, told me which is “most people are soft on the outside and hard on the inside.  I prefer to be hard on the outside and soft on the inside”.

  4. “Do we LGBT people leave America to its fate?  Do we let them stand alone?”

    I go back and forth on that one.  Yes .. no .. no .. yes .. like plucking the petals off a daisy.  That’s not a good thing, heh.

    • Edger on October 7, 2010 at 21:11

    both emigrated from Romania and met each other after they arrived. I have no idea whether they arrived legally or illegally. I never asked them. I never cared. Neither did anyone else who ever met them. It just plain didn’t matter.

    My grandmother was a Romanian Jew who hid her Jewish background because of her memory and terror of the Romanian Holocaust. We did not know she was Jewish till her death. We found a letter after she died that she had written to her family and hid explaining that she did not want anyone to know she was Jewish, for fear that her children and their families would be persecuted.

    But they got here, walked a hundred miles into the woods, picked a spot they liked, built a shelter in a riverbank, rode out the winter there, and in the spring walked back that hundred miles to get some horses, led the horses back that same hundred miles, then built the farm where my father was born. They were true pioneers.

    They didn’t come here to support laws that would have blocked or made it more difficult for them to get here or criminalized anyone else for coming here.

    If my grandmother was alive now I suspect she would have, and probably did in spirit, march with the demonstrators in L.A., Chicago and elsewhere, and would have called not for censure or impeachment of Bush, but for impalement. She was one who could see and smell a seig heil coming from a hundred miles… and if you gave her any crap she would mercilessly smack you down so fast you’d never see it coming.

  5. to go into no outer space to find some “advanced” life. I’ll take that old time rock, and roll with it without any misgivings. True their technology advanced slowly, but at least they had real social security.  

    • melvin on October 8, 2010 at 03:28

    Rock it like President Nasheed:

    Now there is a cool head of state.

  6. …so that the present and future may thrive:

    The Ancient Way’s Of The Lakota Grandmothers

    The Grandmothers were and are a very important part of the Lakota culture.  The wise Grandmothers are the teachers who remind us of the past, and show how it is the guide into the future. They teach us of their wisdom, and then guide us to the Grandfathers to complete the teachings. They are the watchers of children for they know that information must be passed on, for someday these children will be the keepers of the earth. Some say the old ways are gone, but through time the old ways have shown that there is only one way of life.  In the ways of our culture we stand by Honor, Integrity, Respect and Love for all people.

    We are on a pathway that was foretold by the Grandfathers. The old ones know that it will never be like the time of their elders, but a time of new awakening of the old ways. The Grandmothers know that time is short and their work will be hard for they are the last to be close to the ancestors of the ones that lived the ways of old. Their Grandfathers and Grandmothers experienced the great buffalo herds and the grandness of nature as it was meant to be. In that time you took what the people needed for every day life, cared for mother earth, and thanked her for the abundance. A different time…

    more here.

    Thanks for this LL.  Sorry I couldn’t get here yesterday, just want to tell you I appreciate your offering.  We must remember to keep sight of the sacred truths even if, while, though it may look like we are going under.


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