Category Archives: Present

Inauguration Day

Today we are witness to a sea change–not just for the American people but for everyone and everything else that shares a planet with us. It’s just hard to say whether this New Republic will end it all or be the saving of us.

This much I know is true: We have been in need of change. Vast, sweeping change. But I do not believe that the kind and level of change we need can be solved by the passing of a baton between political regimes. Nor do I believe our government or their corporate keepers will save us. Why would they even want to when so often their interests don’t align with ours? Especially when every year we seem to move further apart. We need instead to start thinking about what we can do to move closer as a people, even as our leaders forget or ignore what it’s like to be sick, to be hurt, to be afraid, to be poor.

The rallying cry for those whose candidate did not stand on today’s podium to be sworn in, is RESIST. But resistance can only take us so far. I believe we need more than resistance. We need a REVOLUTION. Not the kind fought with guns or bombs. That kind of force may be effective, but at what cost?

The revolution I propose starts with us–not the part of us that blames or fears or hates, but the part of us that the best dreams of our then young country were founded on:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Freedom
  • Hard work
  • Community
  • Collaboration
  • Ingenuity

And of course we can’t forget Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.*

We need a groundswell from the grass roots. From the deepest part of our humanity. Resilience is about creating what we need for ourselves, in spite of what anyone tries to take away from us. And I do mean us– not every girl for herself like so many survivalists preach. We can’t do any of this alone and why should we want to? Life is better when shared. Obstacles are easier to overcome. Grief easier to bear. Work goes by faster and is more fun (at least according to Mark Twain). And perhaps most importantly, we are infinitely stronger together.

Already, lists of threats to our ways of living are turning up everywhere. Which are true and which may be rumors or pipe dreams remains to be seen, but we can use them as a starting point. ACA threatened? How can we care for and protect each other? NEA abandoned? How do we find ways to keep making, sharing, and supporting all forms of art anyway? The security of our food and water threatened? How to we grow and source what we need locally?

Seeds of Victory

There are already precedents for such things, for example, the 20,000,000 Victory Gardens created in backyards and windowsills and school grounds. By 1944, they provided 40% of all produce grown in this country (source) all without the 16.1 million Americans who were away serving during WWII (source).

There is, within each of us, a Victory Garden. There is, within each of us, a piece of the puzzle. And once we put all those pieces together there’s no telling what we can do.

Meditations for the New Republic

It has been five days since one of the most divisive, contentious, and baffling elections in the history of America came to a close. Even people on the same side of the fence continue to find ourselves at loggerheads over what happened and what to do next.

Superpower: FREEDOM!
Superpower: FREEDOM! © Lauren Ayer 2014

Since that day my mind has been turning over the results and what they might mean for the world, and what my responsibility will be in our uncertain new republic. Our country has survived the unthinkable many times over and I believe with all my heart that, once again, we will find our way through. Here is what I plan to do:

  • Choose the one thing that matters most and the the most important tools and allies to create, defend, or support it, then devote myself tireless on its behalf. Yes, only one thing–ideally something very specific (think solar power accessibility not global climate change). Otherwise my energy will be divided and i may falter over time. Trust others will attend to what I cannot.
  • Attend to my body’s physical needs. Sleep. Eat nourishing foods. Exercise. Our bodies and minds are the most important tools we have, and this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • I will do my very best not to be led by pain, hate, or fear. Instead I will follow hope, compassion, and my dreams of a better world. We cannot know what will happen until it does. It is important to recognize and prepare for the worst, but equally important to work toward the best. Fear will not sustain us over the long haul. Only love can do that.
Superpower: LOVE!
Superpower: LOVE! © Lauren Ayer 2013

As for me, this overgrown, neglected garden is the hill upon which I will stand. My tools are ink and paper, needle and thread, this voice, and the art and stories I create with them. My Quest, to sow hope, cultivate resilience and positive action, and inspire others to do the same.

Superpower: GROWTH!
Superpower: GROWTH! © Lauren Ayer 2014

But no one of us can do this alone, and so I invite you to join me. What will your one thing be? What tools will you need? How can I help?

Mourning the Living

RIP Great Barrier Reef
Illustration: Andrew Holder

I have a confession to make. A few days ago, I came across an article that made me lose hope. According to an obituary published on Outside Magazine’s website by writer Rowan Jacobsen, the Great Barrier Reef has died. And though other sources have argued that it still shows some signs of life, even they imply that hope for recovery is slim.

It took me a while to find words to talk about this. One of the most beautiful and important environments on the planet, teaming with life and color, has gone cold and gray. It is a loss so great that I can’t get my head around it. I almost can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. It is so horrific and terrifying that I would rather believe it’s a lie trumped up to scare us into changing our ways. It makes me understand how people could consider climate change a conspiracy theory despite the overwhelming data all around us proving that it’s true.

I won’t ask how we got here. That part is glaring and obvious. The more important question is what do we do now? As for me, the answer is get back to work.

This is a time of mourning, but we can’t let it stop us from doing all we can to prevent future loss, to reclaim all we can of the beauty that seems to be fleeing this world at ever increasing speeds–before it’s all gone.

Even if some part of it survives, the reef will never again be what it was, but there is still great beauty in this world of ours. And there are so many ways to protect what we still have. And so many ways to add more. If not a reef, a painting. If not a crystalline blue sky, a poem. If not a rain forest, a song. Because I believe, as I have said before, that the only antidote to the hatred and fear and destruction in and of this world is to create. Make art. Make love. Plant a tree. Believe.

Don’t mourn the living. Fight for them.


On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American, was taken into custody by the Baltimore Police Department for possession of a switchblade. While being transported, Gray fell into a coma and was taken to a trauma center with injuries to his spinal cord and larynx. Gray died on April 19, 2015.
— “Death of Freddie Gray,” Wikipedia

Since his death, beginning with an organized protest on April 25, Baltimore has erupted in violence. At least that’s what the media would have us believe. There has been little coverage of the peaceful protests–one of them 10,000 strong.

But it’s the violence that people are talking about. The violence that people are condemning with words that underscore the root of the problem.

It is easy to say that violence is never justified, but that assumes that there are always alternatives–the most common of which is that these people should be working within the system to change their circumstances. But that judgement contains a number of fallacies:

  • That these protesters have a voice
  • That they have the means to make a voice heard
  • That it is possible to have any impact on a system that they do not, in any real and meaningful way, belong to

It is easy to judge when we come from a place of privilege–white, male, straight, educated, employed, financially secure, safe in your neighborhood, community, and home, having access to resources like libraries, healthy food, health care, a roof over your head. Even if we are only privileged in a couple of ways, we are still a vast distance removed from what it means to live without it.

It is easy to believe that the victims have brought these deaths on themselves. After all, they were breaking the law. Or at the very least, ran when they saw police. But when an interaction with police is fraught with risk of death, running only makes sense.

There are times when peaceful protests are not enough, and those times are when people without power find their lives, homes, communities, freedom, and children threatened by the people in power, and when their attempts to address these threats by other means have failed.

The biggest misunderstanding that exists of nonviolence is that it means simply to “not be violent.” You can watch someone get beaten and killed right in front of you and not do anything to help, and you would be “not violent.” You can watch police get away with murder after murder and not take a stand, and you would be “not violent.” However, true nonviolence is about taking a stand against violence and trying to transform unjust situations. A riot, as inarticulate as it may be, is an attempt to transform unjust situations. It is the cry of a people who have been unheard for generations. And it’s time we listen.
— The problem with wanting “peace” in Baltimore, by Kazu Haga, Waging NonViolence

No, I don’t condone violence, but there is violence on both sides of this fight, and until we address both the physical and institutionalized violence that precipitated the riots, they will continue. And turning away, doing nothing, makes us complicit.

Earth Day

Today’s Facebook feed is filled with admonitions, chastisements, calls-to-action–all ostensibly in support of Earth Day, an event designed to inspire our growing human population to take care of our planet so it can continue to take care of us. A noble cause, but one that, like so much else in a consumption-driven culture, feels like it has take a wrong turn somewhere. So instead of bullying you to sign petitions, cut your resource usage, buy logo-emblazoned “green” merchandise, I want to offer you an invitation:

Let’s each of us take five minutes (more if you have them), go  outside, and have a look around. Look for something from nature–even in the thickest, most urban city, there’s a good chance you can at least see the sky. Once you find it, let’s take a few slow breaths.

Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.

Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.

Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.

Then, from that space of calm, imagine your most precious experience in nature. Perhaps it’s  a childhood trip to Yosemite, standing at the base of the falls, hair dampened by the mist. Maybe it’s sitting on a balcony watching the sun set in crimson, purple and gold. Maybe it’s a meteor shower, a full moon, mornings by the lake, the first time you saw a wild pitcher plant in a Minnesota marsh, the first downhill run through virgin show. Or maybe it’s a place–one you visit from time to time that always feels like home. Whatever it is, live in it for a moment. Feel what makes it so memorable, so valuable. Give it a name if you can.  Call it freedom, mountain, connection, water, discovery, red-tailed hawk, wonder, sky, dirt, joy… Once it’s named, write it down on a piece of paper, put it in your pocket, and carry it with you for the rest of the day–or longer. And if you get a chance, share it. In the comments, on Facebook, face to face. With  written words or paintbrush or photos or voice.

Our strongest moments and most meaningful actions come from this place of love, joy, reverence. Let these things be what guide us as we hold these memories, and let us be open to any quiet voice inviting us in our own way to care for and protect what we love.

Yosemite Valley, 2014
Yosemite Valley, 2014

Feature Friday: PopUp Forest Times Square

Today, instead of the usual featured film, we invite you to do more than just watch–we invite you to act, thanks to an innovative, thought provoking, and potentially impactful Kickstarter program. PopUp Forest Times Square presents a temporary nature exhibit designed to draw attention to NYC green space, hoping to inspire  conservation efforts. Bonus points for one of the best taglines ever.

“If a forest can make it in Times Square, it can make it anywhere.”

Because if their proposed forest can make it in NYC, maybe it will inspire other acts of urban greening everywhere.