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Grandmother’s Compass

FDL is a great site. The diaries, the analysis, the points of views as expressed in comments… all keep me busy. But sometimes, it is good to put down our impassioned hearts and minds. And to give things a rest, letting our hearts and minds work in a different way. To that end I offer but a story. A story about a woman, my best friend’s grandmother, and her words to me so many years ago.

All transitions have phases, and where we find ourselves, as a culture, is not that much different than where we might have found ourselves once, as individuals.



One day my friend and I, sitting up amongst the branches of our favorite climbing tree, noticed her Grandmother on the other side of the garden. She was busily working on drawing something in the dirt there. She had been working for awhile upon this, while our attention wandered from the squirrels to the birds; from the sun dappled leaves of the tree to the wildflowers we could spy in the meadow beyond the garden fence. Grandmother’s back was towards us, and thus we could not make out exactly what she was up to. Then she stood up, and stepped to the side, apparently assessing her handiwork. We too, looked at what she had drawn from our vantage point above the ground.

At first glance it seemed to be just lines, and then those lines began to resemble the constellations we had been learning about. My friend and I, for many months, had been going on midnight picnics in the garden with her grandmother. One day Grandmother had declared that my friend and I were old enough to begin to find our “night eyes”. This was necessary, she had told us, in order that we be as good at seeing in the night as we were in the daylight. She had also told us that travelers had always used the  night sky, with all its stars, to plot their course. It didn’t matter if they traveled by land or by sea. If we knew the night sky and how the stars moved with the change of seasons, we too, could find our way.  And thus did our midnight picnics in the garden, as well as our basic astronomy lessons, begin.

My friend and I, having abandoned our perches in the tree, crossed the garden to sit outside the circular drawing of all the stars that Grandmother had made. Grandmother told us that just as one could find their way using the stars at night that are outside of us, so too, could we find our way and navigate through those times of “darkness within”.  As she made a few adjustments to her drawings here and there, she went on to say, that no one ever had a life that was all sunshine, everyday. That everyone would come to an experience, or a time in their lives, sooner or later, when they would feel like a dark night had settled upon them on the inside. We would know that such a time was happening for us, she explained, when everything that used to work stopped working and when we felt filled with fear and all alone. Maybe we would lose a job, or suffer an accident, or perhaps a divorce. It didn’t really matter what the event on the outer was, because the darkness we would feel would be inside of us. That was when, she said, our knowledge of the stars would be needed the most.

She pointed to the drawing she made of Orion, specifically Orion’s belt, with the three bright stars that are so easy to find in the night sky. She told us that just as finding these stars in the sky above us was the first step to finding the North Star, so too, were they the first place to begin on the inner. These three stars, she continued, pointing to the drawing in the dirt of Orion’s belt, stood for three things within us that would we need: the first was Courage, the second was Truth, the third was Time. She squatted down in the circle before us so that she was closer to our eye level. Courage, she went on, was always necessary if we were to find the truth of a situation within us. That without courage we would be overwhelmed by the darkness and unable to find anything but our fears. She told us that truth was important,  because if we want to make a trail to lead us out of the darkness, that trail would be unreliable if it was built out of  lies or distortions. She also said that lies and distortions would only keep us going in circles. And time was important, she said, because it takes time to gather our courage and to collect our truth. Time was like a magician, she went on, that could strengthen and grow one’s courage, as well as hone the accuracy of one’s truth and one’s truthfulness She cautioned us about wasting our time lamenting the dark, as well as being too impatient and moving without all that we needed.  In this way, she told us, could we walk into the direction the North star indicated with confidence in what we knew and in our own abilities.


Just as Grandmother, all those years ago, likened the stars of the night sky, to attributes within us that  can assist us as individuals, so too, can this be likened to us, as a culture. We are in a time of transition and the light of our day seems to be fading. Some of us have been waiting for years, maybe decades, for others to see that we have lost our way. Some of us, as a culture, are only now recognizing that nothing is working. Only now, as the light fades and darkness approaches, do they see how lost we really are. Only now do they understand how broken things have become. There are others who are busily denying everything. Others,who are claiming blindness to it all and deriding those who can see it, as still others attempt to deceive and distort the truth of things.

But every night has its navigators, just as every morning has its sun rise. This is the time of gathering what we need to find the star of the North and thus our way. We are gathering numbers, whether online or in the streets, and as those numbers increase, so too, does our courage; so too, does our perception; so too, does the volume of our voices and the passions behind them. As each new event unfolds and reveals to us the truth of things, we gather that as well, no matter how ugly. We gather the truth and we hone our methods of speaking it, as well as of listening to it. We gather our understanding, as we gather our strength and our validity grows. We gather our ideas as we gather our beliefs. We gather our organizations as we gather our collective values. In order that we may call for a better world based not upon credit scores, or race; based not upon religious affiliation or gender, but rather, a world based upon human connection. Human need. Human brilliance. Human beauty. Human diversity. A world that honors, as well, the planet itself and its needs: its brilliance, its beauty, and collective diversity of life. A world that does not see greed, isolation, and aggression as a laudable or even a sustainable way forward.

Time has great power. Like the wind it is unseen. Yet time can reshape landscapes, our lives, and our cultures. In this gathering, do we give time the space needed to work its magic. On the one hand, to waste our time railing at events or at others, is folly. On the other hand, we need patience, in order for perfect timing to be part of our actions when we begin our trek out of this mess where nothing is working. This mess, where fears rule and where we feel abandoned to a fate not of our making.

Just as travelers or individuals need to orient themselves to the stars, above or within, so too, do we as a culture, and as a collective upon the planet, need to orient and to gather. It. Is. Time.

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