Blasting Zones

blast

I had never been in a blasting zone before, nor had I even heard of them. But on a recent road trip through six states, I traveled through five blasting zones that were strikingly marked with orange warning signs.

The blasting zones are created to clear grass, trees, hills, and other earthly formations to make room for highway expansions. It is the process of permanently removing lush, lovely goodness to promote, in theory, movement, speed, and economic progress.

Similarly, we often blast away parts of ourselves to move forward in our lives. We suppress our feelings, we settle for less than we deserve, we overlook our values, and we try to transform our personalities. These little blasts, while not permanent like those by the roadside, cause long-lasting damage. While it might seem like we are removing roadblocks, we are actually creating superficial limits on who we are and our potential for fulfillment in all of its forms.

Intentionally letting go of feelings, activities, habits, rituals, thoughts, and things that no longer serve us or reflect our true nature can be a healthy practice. In order to grow, we need to make room. But when we remove, diminish, or hide our inner and outer beauty, we are instead creating a gap that will continue to suck out all of the love in our lives. Rather than discovering fulfillment, we will find ourselves empty and unsettled. Changed, but not for the better.

It is not always easy or simple to discern what should or should not remain a part of our lives. Whether or not we choose to remove the right things, the gentle process of letting go is far more forgiving and loving than that of blasting away with anger, frustration, or desperation. When we let go of things, they may float back to us — and we can then decide whether or not to welcome them back into our lives or to continue releasing our grip. When we blast away, the process of reintegration, should we choose this route, is far more difficult.

All Animals Have a Name

lion

I often have ideas about things that I would like to do, but I don’t always act on those ideas. That is a good thing, as many of my ideas are not necessarily constructive or useful or even interesting.

But one of these ideas, which I had in high school but more than 20 years later have still not gotten around to doing, was to print labels with names on them and stick them on packages throughout the meat department of a grocery store. This action would raise awareness that all animals have a name, are capable of giving and receiving love, and deserve better than to end up anonymous and grotesquely displayed under plastic wrap in an open, public refrigerator.

When it was first reported that Cecil the lion had been murdered, I did not join with those who found this act extraordinarily offensive because Cecil had a name and was specifically known and protected by a group of people. All animals have a name, a name in the heart of their mother which is too often not communicated as animal babies, when exploited as part of an economic scheme, are taken from their mothers too young. I found this act extraordinarily offensive because we are meant to love and protect our animal friends, not to kill them and parade their carcasses for pleasure.

So while I was deeply saddened by Cecil’s death, I did not feel more sympathy for him than I did for the animals I saw in a safari display at a textbook nouveau riche home not too long ago, or for those animals that I see every week at the grocery store. Cecil deserves our attention, because he was a beautiful and sensitive animal who was unjustly taken from us. But his legacy is much greater than his own life; such is the way for all who sacrifice themselves willingly nor not. His unfortunate death is a reminder that all creatures on this planet are precious and deserving of our love, attention, and protection.

All animals, like people, have a name. Whether or not we take the time to learn that name, or anything else about each person and each animal, is up to us.

40 for 40 #1: Joan Osborne

Last summer, when listening to various tracks on my MP3 player while on a road trip, my mother mentioned that she loved Joan Osborne’s Right Hand Man and One of Us which she had never heard before. When I first heard her Relish album at 20 years old, I fell in love Joan’s almost paradoxical combination of soulful stirring and playful irreverence — something with which I could deeply relate. So this spring, I decided to see Joan in concert, and I took my mother with me. It is interesting that there comes a time when it is acceptable, even desirable, to share remnants of youthful rebellion with a parent.

There we sat, in the front row of the balcony in a small, intimate venue, after nearly another 20 years of my life had passed. Needless to say, she was amazing as was her musical partner Keith Cotton. It was there that I was introduced to Raga (inspired by Dorianne Laux’s equally beautiful poem, The Shipfitter’s Wife), the best working class love song written since Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, during which I broke down and wept — and to my second favorite new song on her newest album, Work on Me. I felt as though I had neglected an old friend with whom I grew up, as I had not listened to her music much in those almost 20 years, and was so grateful that we had the chance to become reconnected. My appreciation for her work has truly blossomed as much as I have over the years.