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An ABC of INTERCULTURAL IDENTITY

ENDURANCE

ENDURANCE


This reflection was written in the fall of 2020, shortly after my move to Elk Horn

 


Yesterday and today, I worked at reclaiming a very neglected flowerbed, if it could even be called by that name. The wonderful black earth of Iowa had been covered in black plastic and packed down by a load of gravel. I couldn't understand it. We do this in the desert Southwest to avoid water waste, and if we landscape the area with drought tolerant plants, it's known as xeriscape. If we only use gravel, it can't go by that name, but it does save water. Here water normally falls from the sky, so it makes sense to plant vegetation. This was heavy work––moving the gravel, cutting away the plastic, digging up the hard-pack. Yesterday, I petered out after 45 minutes, exhausted. Not great endurance.


Today, I took things at a slower pace, and there was less gravel to move in the spot where I planned to plant crocus bulbs. Still, it was hard work. About halfway through, I unfolded my camping chair and sat with my face to the sun, listening to the sweetness of the birds. Thoughts came to me, thoughts about where to start this piece of writing. After ten minutes or so I got up, planted 24 bulbs, cleaned my tools, moved fallen leaves over the plantings as mulch and called it a job well done. There was a lot more to go but not today. In track, I was more of a sprinter than a distance runner.


One of my favorite books is God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet. One reason I love it is because of the author's use of etymology to introduce ideas. So here I go with endurance. It's a hard word. Literally. Because it comes from the Latin indurare, meaning "to harden," which in Late Latin transformed to mean "to harden the heart against something." The word endure made its appearance in English in the late 14th century, and at the time it meant "to suffer without breaking." Endure replaced the Old English word for drudge. Thus, endurance may carry some heavy, less than positive connotations. In the 15th century, though, endurance meant simply "continued existence in time," and it can still be used that way. For this reflection, endurance was suggested by a Danish friend, and the Danish word is udholdenhed, which I roughly translate as "the quality of holding out."


Even though I'm not a distance runner, I think of endurance as a positive word. Endurance requires stamina, which in fact, is offered as a synonym for endurance. But stamina, rather than suggesting suffering, emphasizes power and strength––ability, not drudgery.

 

There is an element of time in endurance—how long can a person hold out? How long are you willing to suffer through something to get to the other side? Or to achieve a goal?

 

Endurance requires some faith—faith in oneself, faith in one's support system, faith that bearing with the travail will be worth the prize. I was concerned that today's gardening would be like yesterday's, that I would give out before I enjoyed the pleasure of putting those fat Dutch bulbs in the ground. Taking a break can be essential to endurance. Knowing that somewhere there will be an end when the muscles are burning can grant the necessary stamina. Sometimes, as with the endurance required in giving birth, there is no choice but to carry on to the finish. And there is the great feeling of accomplishment, all the sweeter when we've struggled through the hard parts.

 

 


The word endurance was brought to you by Tina Kragh Rusfort, who is a sea kayaker from the Danish island of Fyn, and I assume but don't know for sure, that endurance is a valuable quality to embody when kayaking the sea.

 

 

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CALENDAR

Calendar


I measure my weeks
in Fridays
 
one thing happens
every Friday
 
I write an email
to my friend
 
it is about my week
and about her week past
 
what we ate
what we wrote
what we cooked
and what we thought
where we went
though less often now
 
what was easy
and what was hard
what matters
and what doesn't
 
the people in our lives
and not in our lives
 
she writes me
every Friday too
 
I wait for these
for mine and hers
 
I measure my weeks
in Fridays

 
The word calendar was brought to you by Janet Mason, my friend whose path and mine kept crossing in work places where we measured our lives in day planners. And we took lunchtime walks in a very old part of town. We are still good friends.

 

 

Comments are always appreciated! If you'd like to see YOUR WORD become a story, poem or reflection, send me one in the comments. Or send it privately, using the "Contact" tab. Or maybe you'd like to offer a guest post. Just let me know!
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KEPT

KEPT


 
That king known for wisdom
(and some other things)
once wrote,
Go to the ant.
 
When my world grew small
in the summer of our discontent,
some days it was hard to go on.
I went.
 
I bent and watched.
 
One two-tone ant,
Red and black.
 
She pulled and pushed
one round elm seed,
Trying to get over
a tiny
(to me)
lip above a crack
in the walk.
 
She couldn't
with her load.
She tried.
One.
Two.
Three times.
She backed down.
Perhaps to judge
the height of it.
To calculate logistics.
I don't know.
 
She came back
and pushed again.
 
She didn't make it.
She backed down.
Perhaps to rest.
I thought she'd given up.
 
But she kept on.
 
Up and up.
Back and down.
Stop. Start.
She kept on.
 
She kept on.
 
And then
 
She and her seed
crested the ridge.
 
She kept on.
 
 
The word kept was brought to you by Connie Dryfout, a Canadian friend who has been kept in the hand of the Holy Mother and who has kept on.
 
 

 

Comments are always appreciated! If you'd like to see YOUR WORD become a story, poem or reflection, send me one in the comments. Or send it privately, using the "Contact" tab. Or maybe you'd like to offer a guest post. Just let me know!
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QUIET

QUIET

 


My favorite sound of all is this. Quiet.
 
To illustrate: I have owned my present vehicle for a year and four months and have yet to learn how to operate the complicated radio or use the sound system in any way. And I have used my RAV4 for two lengthy and several shorter road trips. One of the ways my daughter is very unlike me is that she almost always has something to listen to while she works, cooks, drives, takes a bath—pretty much for every activity.
 
It can be argued that we don't see with our ears, but I'm certain I see more and better in the quiet than when there is noise going on—whether it's the noise of conversation, music, or a sound book. This is in part because I'm a One Thing At A Time woman. I'm not able to focus well on more than one thing at once. And when I'm driving, I want to take deep note of the sights around me. It's one reason I drive the back roads instead of the interstates as often as I can.
 
When I drafted this piece, we were in the season of colors—crimson, gold, copper, rust, platinum, and still some greens to set off the richness of fall. Next to these are the red barns and the weathered, abandoned outbuildings, which I love even more than the brilliance. I am a woman drawn to the subtler themes. I relish lines as much as colors. Now the golden cornstalks have been razed and the fall plowing begun, so the colors are varied browns––beige, peat, some ochre. But the lines of the hills themselves and the traces left by the columbines and the plows are a work of art. All this I see so much more fully in the quiet.
 
There are different kinds of quiet. When I studied at the Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School, I spent more than three months in silence, a little over a month, each of three times. But the silence was not complete. Our voices were not to be used to communicate, but we chanted and sang, the teachers and school staff talked to each other and to us students to give us instructions and assign karma yoga. Music might be piped into the dining room during a meal sometimes. Silence in this context is what I would call spiritual practice, though I know my teacher, Swami Janankananda, might or might not identify it as spiritual. Many inner things can happen, transformation can happen, and personal demons may be confronted during that kind of silence. In certain meditations there is utter silence, so if there is a slight rustle of movement, the instructor will say (breaking the silence further), "No moving."
 
But quiet. Maybe it's not quite the same as silence. I want quiet when I'm writing, but I also welcome now and then the woodpecker's hammering, the blue jay's scold, the wind whipping by. But mostly quiet is what I need. A person at the other end of the house can be making no audible sound that reaches my end, and yet I feel the noise of another being, their energy in my space.
 
I feel for my writing friends who are surrounded by the noise of their ever-present children during quarantine. Because what quiet may mean most is peace. And, much as those small beings are cherished, their presence does not, most of the time, bring with it the peace of quiet.


 
The word quiet was brought to you by Jody Keisner, herself a writer and professor with children at home, all trying to survive and thrive during quarantine.

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