GNL number 86

a report on doings at meeting #86, Sunday, August 10, 2014

including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving: it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.
—–Yann Martel, Life of PI

Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long. not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.
—–May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude


Virginia had done a bit of research again, so she opened this meeting on Surviving by reading three definitions she had found online for the word (and we paraphrase): remaining alive, living on after the death of someone, continuing to live after an ordeal.

Then Sue picked up on these, saying she was the survivor of her late mother and father, and that much of them survives in her. But this topic also made her remember her strong sense that she, and each of us, is the carrier of millennia of ancestors—their history, genes, traditions. She also brought several wise and heartening quotes, from Aristotle to Bill Cosby. For these, please see AFTERWORDS.

Louise, our hostess out by the beautiful falls at her Falling Water farm, said she wanted to foster eating real, non-GMO food and living/working in community, and that both her houses/farms were doing this, producing good food, with the help of a community of workers, and with renewable energy too. So she was feeling both, Sky Hill and Falling Water, were “survivable” because of all of this, and that, she said, feels very good.

Gail spoke of the way her Dad, suffering with several health issues for years, had lately been losing his will to do something he always loved, bird-watching and recording. But, she added, while she was visiting recently, she witnessed his return to engaging with the birds, and life, and it seemed, surviving. (And no doubt, we thought, her encouragement helped.) She also brought a sheetful of little poems and fine 6-wordies (See AW), and said when she suggested Virginia do the 6-wordies too, V said slyly something like, “I don’t want to do that.” And when we asked V since she wasn’t so crazy about school, how did she survive in it, she also slyly said, “by looking like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” (appreciative laughter.)

Anna said she came unprepared for the topic, but when we asked her what it was that had helped her survive to the age of 84, she was able to grant the importance of her simple life out in the Carlisle countryside, close to nature, including her dear fuzzy friend and companion, Tailless the cat (and other small animals and birds that she helps her daughter take care of). We would add her sense of humor has helped a lot too.

Ann, recalling that key ingredient in survival, adaptability, voiced her recent concerns about her and Elliott’s elderly friend, whom they have for years been visiting regularly. Now in a nursing home, Gertie appears not to be adapting well to nursing home life, and has said she just wants to be taken by God. Ann and Elliott feel unsure how to help, and hope with a little time she will find some friendship; but meanwhile they are her dear friends, and they’ll keep visiting.

Nancy said what came to her mind first, was how she spends much of her time merely surviving, maintaining health and home, and probably even more since moving. But another sense of the word struck her after Julia Smith’s death and memorial service. As Julia’s daughter said, her mom “lived simply and loved lavishly”. Nancy felt though Julia didn’t “survive”, maybe she did something better: she lived a life that passed itself to others, and that survives. (See AW for quotes.)

We decided today it was time to again direct our offering to the House of Flowers Orphanage and School in Kabul, Afghanistan.


My mission is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
—Maya Angelou

Life is warped. I’m just in sync.
—Margaret Atwood

NEXT TIME Sunday, September 21, 2014 (1030), at Gail Sondergaard’s in Worcester. The topic is WILDNESS.


from Sue

  • “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” —~Bill Cosby
  • “Humor is one of the best ingredients of survival.” —-Aung San Suu Kyi
  • “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” —~Charles Darwin
  • “The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” —~Aristotle
  • “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” ~—Doug Larson
  • “Brotherhood is the very price and condition of man’s survival.” ~—Carlos P. Romulo
  • “We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome.” —~Isabel Allende

from Gail

poem by Belle Folie

To Be a Survivor

Is to live without pain

Is to live without those

Many buckets of rain.

To Be a Survivor

Is to live through your nights

Is to live through your

Two-sided personality fights.

To Be a Survivor

Is to live with the desire to live,

Is to live with the kindness

To forget and forgive.

To Be a Survivor

One must stay alive,

To be a survivor

One must continue to strive.

(Author’s note: I will be a survivor. Dear reader of mine, won’t you join me?)

And some 6-wordies:

  • Challenges with parent existing to survive.
  • Enjoying helping surviving parents enjoy life.
  • Learning to help people their way.
  • Learning from the young, relishing it.
  • Eating brownies together and loving it.
  • Pulling cattails in the pond: surviving
  • Keeping the farm working with pride.
  • Surviving making new friends enjoy the day.
  • Living is surviving day by day.

from Nancy

The law of evolution is that the strongest survives! “Yes, and the strongest, in the existence of any social species, are those who are most social. In human terms, most ethical………There is no strength to be gained from hurting one another. Only weakness.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin

for Julia Smith, who loved the Mad Farmer too
“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.


And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.


When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.


So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.


Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.


Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.


Listen to carrion – put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap

for power, please women more than men.


Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?


Go with your love to the fields.

Lie down in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.


As soon as the generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go.


Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.

—Wendell Berry


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