Neighborly Wisdom For Stressful Times

Neighborly Wisdom For Stressful Times


Contributed by Sally Balmer

“Lead a listening life. Order your outward life so that nothing drowns out the listening.”  —Thomas Kelly


There’s a shift these days of ‘stay-at-home.’ “That’s right, this is a long haul” feeling arises. My guess is most of us haven’t a clue what to make of it: how it will feel, what it will look like in some weeks. Likely impatience. Sorrow. Tenderness. Prayers and goodwill.


The heightening wave of urgency from the news can be hard on the soul. So can all the words— whether read online or from meaningful loved ones— offering an overflow of ‘how to.’ I’ve sensed this often, with some of it resulting in that odd tiredness that can come in a new culture. So much of this is new.


Decades ago, Quaker Thomas Kelly articulated something slowing, and simple. The ‘listening life.’ For me, it’s (finally) meant no checking online news until…later. Allowing time itself to breathe. To hear, then, with an ease: of calls to make, or an email, or a walk among trees, or something new like sending a postcard to ‘a special someone’ in a care center. The listening is a part of doing, being…a kindly Holy Pause.


Contributed by Jon Prescott

Hello daily newscast. I welcome you into my home because I want to know what’s happening. But all these pandemic predictions just make me want to rush to Costco and buy 200 rolls of toilet paper!
Instead, I’ll turn off the TV and breathe.
All around the world, people are ill and afraid, unable to breathe freely. Someday, I too may have this experience.
But now, in this wonderful moment, right here on this couch, I breathe in peace.

Across the vineyards of Bordeaux, the plazas of Rome, and the meditation halls of Zen monasteries, bells ring out and recall us to ourselves. These bells of mindfulness remind us to stop whatever we’re doing in order to pay attention to what is beautiful, nourishing, and healing.
Could COVID-19 also be a bell of mindfulness? Can this pandemic remind us to stop and touch the preciousness of our fleeting lives? Our island community, our fresh air, the budding spring flowers and returning Robins are easy to overlook without bells of mindfulness.

COVID-19, I hear you. Thank you for reminding me to stop. Thank you for reminding me to notice this precious life.


Contributed by David Wertheimer

As I have adopted the need for "social distancing" during the current times, I have increased the amount of walking I am doing on the island as my primary exercise. Whether on the roads, or in the woods, or on the beach, I have come to appreciate that, if we must be more physically isolated from the larger world, Guemes is a pretty magical place to have to do this. In addition, I have consistently enjoyed interacting (at a safe distance!) with the other Island folk I have encountered on my walks, and the sweet, gentle nature of our ways with each other that reinforce the specialness of our life on the island. May we appreciate one another even more in the present crisis, and share our appreciation for each other and this unique island, even as we are called to remember and assist those in other places that may face greater challenges than we face here in our own spectacular isolation from the world.


Contributed by Sarah (Sibley) Banning

At some point, we all shared the dream of living on this island (save for those who were lucky to be born here). We craved the open space, the connection to water, the surroundings of nature. We yearned to leave the busy, crowded city. Now, here we are. We’ve manifested and created the life we wanted. We got what we asked for! We are living the dream.


Perhaps now we are being given the opportunity to dig even deeper into our island lives. Simplify. Forage. Explore. Slow down. That’s what island living is all about. We (most of us) can’t go to work. So, that leaves us time to just be, here, on our island. We can appreciate this life we wanted. We can appreciate all that surrounds us. We can breathe in (cautiously allergy sufferers) all the green, lusciousness of the forests and the saltiness of the sea air, and breathe out the stress of life on the other side of the channel. We’ve got all we need right here. Our loved ones, our community, our animals. We can cultivate whatever situation we want in our lives. Right now.


Contributed by Deb Strathman

Recently, while walking the Tommy Thompson Trail, I discovered a plaque that had been placed along the shore on Samish lands as a memorial to the 7 who lost their lives in the Tesoro Refinery accident of 2010. The title on the plaque was, “Communities Heal Together.”


The plaque revealed that the Samish people believe the cedar tree to be a source of healing as well as a symbol of community. The story on the plaque told how cedar trees rarely survive alone in Nature; each individual relies on its neighbors for strength and survival. Seven cedars were planted near the plaque to honor the 7 lives lost and to provide a special place for reflection and community healing.


This touching memorial gave me pause as I realized how relevant its message is to the challenges we face today. It prompted me to reflect on the wisdom of the Samish people as well as the lessons we can learn from Nature about how to be there for each other. It reminded me, also, that Nature is there for us - to share her beauty, to lift our spirits, and to help us thrive. Ultimately, I believe I was guided to this special place of reflection to be reminded of how fortunate I am to be part of a “community of cedars” on Guemes, where neighbors support each other and help each other stay strong and continue to thrive, especially in challenging times.


Contributed by Barb Ohms from the Holstee Reflections

Support each other. In difficult times, it’s easy to think we are alone, especially with the currently prescribed “social distancing.” Reach out to those you care about — but instead of just trading fears and anxieties, try bringing a positive element to the conversation. Let your loved ones know you are thinking about them and tell them something you appreciate about them. Spreading the love is a great way to feel the love. Support others and you will feel supported.