GNL number 56

a report of doings at meeting #56, Sunday, January 8, 2012
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
—–Hal Borland

Do one thing every day that scares you.
—–Eleanor Roosevelt


No surprise, our subject — Looking Back and Looking Forward — stirred up lots of memories and lots of thoughts about time and life.

Nancy said she’d learned in 2011: what it’s like to live in a nursing home, what it looks like to do the kind, the right, the loving thing—as a dear nurse’s aide Alicia did, as Chris’s Paul did, as 100’s of Schoharie County people did after the flooding for each other and are still doing, as 1000’s of people did and are still doing in the Occupy movement.  And she cited things she wanted to do in 2012. Many toward  a healthier daily routine, like getting out/walking every am, writing every pm, singing/dancing, giving thanks before rising and sleeping, and like ER said, doing the scary thing. (And yes, she really wants to organize all those photos, and yes, spend more time with other people!)

Ann started with some noteworthy items from newspapers, first from the Times Journal, on what should have been the event of the last year or century, and a couple from the Christian Science Monitor, one of which was an essay on memory-making. (We include the TJ’s and an excerpt from the CSM essay in AFTERWARDS.)  Then she gave us some history on Janus, the 2-faced Roman god, which was inspired by the memory of her old study hall and Latin teacher who used to read Winnie the Pooh aloud in Latin in SH!

Anna said this topic did indeed bring back very early memories, and though she joked about her remembering little of current events, her recall of those early events was almost photographic. For example, she described her 3 year old self sitting on her family’s front step in Brooklyn with a kid friend who was cutting A’s hair, and then looking up to see her mother in the window laughing at the scene. (She also actually recalled the names and addresses of a couple of these long ago friends.)

Sue’s turn had several aspects; she told us more on Janus, e.g., the name’s root meaning doorway, and cited two books from Christine she’d been greatly moved by.  The first, My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, was the source of an excerpt she gave us describing a beautiful ritual she’s now doing to open and close each day. The other book, on Dreams, gave us our topic for next time.  (See AW for her notes.) Sue also spoke of wrapping up longtime efforts, as with the ACCORD group and the local anti-bias committee, finding new homes for Chris’ books on Judaism; and the work she’ll turn to, like organizing and annotating old family photos.

Gail spoke frankly of her family’s difficult times in the past year due to Cliff’s illness and growing disabilities, which are necessitating major changes, and prompting hard memories of when he was so able to do everything on the farm.  She also spoke though of the satisfying moments of managing to work together, e.g., to put up the tarp wall in the barn. And she reported planning knee surgery soon, before recovery would be too problematic.   Gail also described and recommended a play that had moved her, about traumatic brain injuries. (For more information, see AW.)

Cynthia recalled several vivid early scenes—first, she as little girl with her dad, and how his whiskers felt on her young cheek, then later as teenager, getting her first glimpse of the blue-eyed, golden-haired Greek god/football hero who would one day be her husband.  And then, of course, images of her Tina and Michael as little guys.  She said what was also much in her mind now was the trip she and Tina were about to make next week to visit Michael in Florida; and that this would begin a year of preparation, as M’s case comes up for review later in the year. Cyn also cited a story in the Remen book, where Dr. R gives a despairing client 3 questions to ask himself each day, which ended up making a real difference:  What surprised you, what moved or touched you, what inspired you today?

We agreed after hearing the House of Flowers School in Kabul was in dire financial straits and in danger of closing, to send today’s offering there.


(provided by our hostess Sue:)

When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.
—–Alexander Graham Bell

(and a second one forgotten at the meeting:)

Every choice we make can be a celebration of the world we want.
—–Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe


Sunday,  February 12, 2012, (1030) at Cynthia’s house on North St., Cobleskill.  The subject: DREAMS.


from Nancy:

We spend January 1 walking though our lives, room by room, deawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the last, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not only looking for flaws, but for potential.
—–Ellen Goodman

Making resolutions is a cleaning ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and ultimately, reinforces humility.  Breaking them is part of the cycle.
—–Eric Zorn

And some resolution ideas ? (from signs at OCCUPY sites:)

  • Fight the rich, not their wars.

  • Do it Yourself

  • Do it Together

and from Diane Ackerman

I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace.

and from Walt Whitman

What you shall do

Love the Earth and Sun and the Animals
Despise Riches
Give alms to Everyone that Asks
Stand up for the Stupid and Crazy
Devote your Income and Labor to Others
Hate Tyrants
Argue Not concerning God
Have Patience and Indulgence toward the People
Take off your Hat to Nothing Known or Unknown.

from Ann

From the TJ’s Sum-Up of the Past Year, buried in a long list of important items, this stunning newsnote:

Bent against the weather and a steep hill a lone shoveler was spotted going up North Street in Cobleskill after winter’s latest gift dumped 15 inches of snot on the village, and more in surrounding areas.

From Christian Science Monitor, (12/5/11)
RU there, Marcel Proust?
by Gabriella Brand

Memory triggers, a la Proust, are going the way of the daguerreotype.  Or the Polaroid.  Even as we marvel at technology, we might wonder about the future of “madeleine moments.”  So much of our world appears in the same resolution in the same format on the same screen. What unique stimuli will grab us and take us back in time?

I looked at one of our old family photo albums recently. Maroon leather, black pages, and those little paper corners to hold the photos in place. Just touching the worn cover, I am brought back to a day when I was about 7 years old. I had tiptoed into the inner sanctum of my mother’s bedroom, where the album was kept in a trunk at the back of the closet.  My mother is sitting in front of a mirrored vanity, toying with an atomizer of Shalimar. She gets up.  I can still hear the creak of the hinge when she opens the trunk and takes out the precious album. She folds me into the crook of her arm as we turn the pages. (Read the rest on line.)

from Sue:

Wikipedia-Etymologies of Janus

#1—connection to Chaos—to be open—therefore his place at the origin of time,

#2—Sun/Moon, Apollo/Diana,

#3—Beginnings and transitions—(Cicero, Ovid & Macrobius) from latin verb to go , ire—indo-european root =transitional movement (yana, yah)
presides over all transitions, beginnings, –movement and change are bivalent—he has double nature, two faces, his place is the doorway of dwellings, covered passages, the gate of the city. As God of transitions, movement, change he presides over time and its passing. To Romans—the first of the gods and therefore FATHER. but also Babylonian God, Sumerian, Greece,

Janus’ Powers: to open and close doors, gates, passageways, protector of roads.

Quotations re: Looking Back and Forward

  • If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, you haven’t done much today. ~Author Unknown

  • Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. ~Cherokee Indian Proverb

  • The past is a good place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. ~Author Unknown

  • The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post. ~L. Thomas Holdcroft

  • Forever is composed of nows. ~Emily Dickinson

  • I always knew looking back on the tears would make me laugh, but I never knew looking back on the laughs would make me cry. ~Cat Stevens

  • The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see. ~Winston Churchill

Notes: dangers of looking back:

  • Lot’s Wife looked back and became pillar of salt

  • Orestes looked back at Eurydice following him out of hades and lost her

  • But those who are always gazing into a fantasy future also trip themselves up

My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge & Belonging, by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, Riverhead Books, 2000, “Breathing in & Breathing Out,” pp216-17 describes the Tibetan nun’s ceremony of filling a bowl each morning with water while reflecting on the particulars of your life—and place it in a special place after dedicating all that it contains to the service of life. At the end of the day, right before you go to sleep, you take the bowl outside and empty the water out onto the earth, letting go of everything the day brought and did not bring to you.

And The History of Last Night’s Dream: Discovering the Hidden Path to the Soul, by Rodger Kamenetz

from Gail:

The play I mentioned about TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) is Make Sure It’s Me by Kate Wenner. See you all again for Dreams.



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