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4 days ago

Mary Pipher

Early this morning I watched a squirrel attempt, by a variety of acrobatic moves, to reach the seeds in our squirrel-proof sunflower seed feeder. I enjoyed it as much as a Charlie Chaplin movie. Then, from over the top of the house, clouds from the north opened up and poured rain down on our place. The sun was just rising and Holmes Lake was still golden and pink. The rain drops were incandescent as they splashed onto our deck. Even now, the sun shines through the rain clouds that cover it. What a hopeful sign.

These are the pleasures we have now. Let’s celebrate every one of them.
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2 weeks ago

Mary Pipher

This morning I walked on East Campus with my friend Twyla. We visited the five statues on campus, all men but good men, and the arboretum. The lilies, primroses, crepe myrtle, and hibiscus were all in bloom. Suddenly we were caught in a downpour. We were a long ways from our cars and, as we dashed toward them, I found myself delightfully happy and carefree. Somehow, I was a child again, out in the rain by choice. My shoes filled with water, my clothes were soaked and I felt like dancing. I told Twyla, “This experience may be the most exciting thing that happens to us all day.”

I am home now, in dry clothes and ready for the serious work of the day. But I am still exulting in the pleasure of feeling ten-years- old, playing in puddles in Beaver City, Nebraska.
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3 weeks ago

Mary Pipher

On Friday night, an hour after dark, Jim and I drove to a country road just north of Pleasant Dale to watch the NEOWISE Comet. (I considered that a profound name for a comet that arrived just as we are all searching for new wisdom for ourselves and our planet but, in fact, the name is an acronym for a NASA explorer.)

We parked by a field of tall corn, just ready for de-tasseling, and brought out our lawn chairs and binoculars. The air was thick and dusty. Far in the distance we could see the lights of Lincoln and the capitol building. We could hear the whine of trucks on I-80, a mile away.

We looked north towards the Big Dipper and then dropped our eyes toward the horizon. We located a fuzzy-looking celestial body and pointed our binoculars towards it. There was NEOWISE, a bright circle of light trailed by diamonds. She reminded me of the select guppies my father raised, only the comet was a silver guppy with an enormous diaphanous tail.

At the sight of NEOWISE, I inhaled and held my breath. A muscle deep in my heart contracted. It was magical the way Hale-Bopp was magical and the Harmonic Concordance, the Harmonic Convergence and the full solar eclipse, all celestial events I had been privileged to see in my life time.

What does it mean to watch a comet that last appeared 6800 years ago? That was before the wheel was invented and the great civilizations arose in China and the Nile Valley. Our ancestors were living in caves and foraging for roots and insects.

When NEOWISE comes again, what will our planet be like?
Who will be here to feel her heart muscle contract when she sees it?

Events like this ground us in deep time and infinite space. They allow us to see our lives and the lives our species in perspective. They remind us that we are a small part of an enormous universe and also that we are extraordinarily fortunate to have a life and a point of view on the cosmos.

Especially in times like these, perspective reminds us that life has never been easy and people have always suffered. Yet still, we have always had each other and the gifts of a bountiful universe. We come and we go. Our lives are as fragile as the lightning bugs that flash in the cornfield. But NEOWISE, the Big Dipper above it, Cassiopeia nearby and Scorpio in the Southern sky. These will remain.
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4 weeks ago

Mary Pipher

On July 4 at dusk, the full moon rose over the lake and the pines. As the sky grew darker, fireworks saluted the moon. The fleeting lights of the moment hailed the eternal. No matter how showy the fireworks, they could not touch the moon. I was grateful for that. Grateful I could find in the night sky something beyond this moment in time. (Photo credit: Heidi Piccini.) ...

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2 months ago

Mary Pipher

Lately, I have noticed that even my most careful friends are growing weary of the stay at home orders. Most of us are much more cautious than governmental guidelines, but we are doing things such as seeing our friends, getting haircuts and hugging our grandchildren.

Many of us haven’t really been out in three months. When we first sheltered in place, we were fearful of death. Our brain stems or lizard brains had us on high alert. Many tragic stories kept us that way for several weeks. However, it is not physiologically possible to stay on high alert for three months. By today, we are careful because our forebrain reminds us this is the right thing to do. However, our midbrain, the mammal brain, is telling us something different. We want to see our friends and family, go out to eat, or shop at a farmers market. We want to be the social humans we are designed to be. This is a simplification, of course, but essentially our lizard brain is exhausted, our mammal brain wants company and our forebrain, which is the weakest force field, orders us to be logical.

During the bombing of London during WWII, at first almost everyone ran for the bomb shelters, but after a while, many people ignored the signals and slept at home and worked through the raids. They no longer could respond to fear. We may be reaching that point. However, if we do loosen up our restrictions, let’s do it as safely as we can. Wear masks, stay outdoors at gatherings, keep up with social distancing. Right now incidence and death rates are decreasing almost everywhere. If we relax a little but do it properly, perhaps we can start interacting face to face with our people again.
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