Oh, American elections.

The Baha'i House of Worship this morningI’ve made my opinion on partisan politics known. I spent the evening last night doing errands (best night to do them, no one was out!), and tried to stay away from the pundits & coverage (though I DID vote). Many of my friends have commented on the madness that has overcome this country in the election…$2 billion dollars spent, not to mention all of the other baggage than comes with the way politics works in the US. I was sick of it before this year, and it is obviously a broken system. So we’ll leave it at that.

Yet all I can think about this this:

If love and agreement are manifest in a single family, that family will advance, become illumined and spiritual; but if enmity and hatred exist within it destruction and dispersion are inevitable. This is likewise true of a city. If those who dwell within it manifest a spirit of accord and fellowship it will progress steadily and human conditions become brighter whereas through enmity and strife it will be degraded and its inhabitants scattered. In the same way the people of a nation develop and advance toward civilization and enlightenment through love and accord, and are disintegrated by war and strife. Finally, this is true of humanity itself in the aggregate. When love is realized and the ideal spiritual bonds unite the hearts of men, the whole human race will be uplifted, the world will continually grow more spiritual and radiant and the happiness and tranquillity of mankind be immeasurably increased. Warfare and strife will be uprooted, disagreement and dissension pass away and Universal Peace unite the nations and peoples of the world. All mankind will dwell together as one family, blend as the waves of one sea, shine as stars of one firmament and appear as fruits of the same tree. This is the happiness and felicity of humankind. This is the illumination of man, the glory eternal and life everlasting; this is the divine bestowal. I desire this station for you and I pray God that the people of America may achieve this great end in order that the virtue of this democracy may be insured and their names be glorified eternally. May the confirmations of God uphold them in all things and their memories become revered throughout the east and the west. May they become the servants of the Most High God, near and dear to Him in the oneness of the heavenly Kingdom.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith)

 

Recent Things

1. Discovered the Skokie Lagoons a few weeks ago. The animals there are a bit odd…a heron that dove underwater and never seemed to come up, a squirrel that seemed rather fearless and acted a bit too human…but it is beautiful! Of course, now it is getting cold and isn’t nearly as much fun.

The famous entertainment center that I fit in my car.2. Found an entertainment center in an alley the other day. Managed to get it into my Honda Fit…after many contortions, laughter, and sore muscles. Emily had the back end and I had the top, and I am proud of us for wedging it into my car. I had been looking for something for our local Baha’i community’s  sound equipment, since the old setup had wires and all sorts of stuff sticking out and it looked messy. Re-wiring everything took some time (I have never claimed to understand this system), but now it looks a lot cleaner, and it was free. Double points!

3. My FB newsfeed is an odd mixture of lonely political posts (which I ignore, or that give me a reason to finally hide a person from my feed), photos of some friend’s amazing vacation to some island (which I also try to ignore because it makes me hate the coming winter even more), and links to articles that I sometimes read because a lot of the people I’m friends with have good taste in cool stuff.

Every other photo is of babies. Babies everywhere. Excuse me while I go find a baby to squeeze. There are plenty around, I just have to go pick one.

4. Saw a documentary a few weeks ago at the Wilmette Theatre (which is now a non-profit), and the director was on hand to answer questions. It was a beautiful, thoughtful look at Burma, a country which the director obviously loves. They Call It Myanmar…see it if you can.

Scary, at the Oriental Theatre5. Explored Open House Chicago on Saturday, which is “a free public event that offers behind-the-scenes access to over 150 buildings across Chicago.” It was awesome. The trick is to start out early in the day, because as it got later the lines got longer to get into some places. Even though it was rainy and dreary outside, I had a fantastic time. Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited and has fascinating architecture. It was fun to interact with the tour guides at various locations and learn about the history of some of these locations. I’ve decided that Art Deco is one of my favorite design styles.

6. I recently joined a Ruhi Book 8 Baha’i study circle (The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh), even though I’ve done part of this book before, it feels good to get back into organized study. I read Baha’i books all the time, but this kind of thing is different. It is a good group of people and it is in Wilmette…local is so good.

7. Can you tell that I like lists? I’ve never been a storyteller, I am more of an…information-sharer. Because I want to share my life with my audience (within certain parameters, or course), I have to find the easiest way for me. This is what works right now. I’ll share other stories in a more subtle way.

Coat shopping with @elimyp on Sunday. "It's perfect for you. You look like an astronaut." That is all the encouragement I needed. #latergram #winteriscoming8. Winter is coming. And I am not pleased about it. But I am prepared. Bring it on, cold miserableness. I’m ready for you.

The Power of We

Blog Action Day brings together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day.” 

The idea of “service” has been on my mind a lot recently- how do we serve others? Do we try to find out what people truly need from us? Are treating people with so much love and respect that they feel comfortable talking to us without fear of judgement? Are we being kind? Why do we sometimes see service as one-off actions or events, rather than as a way of life?

Ceiling detail, Oriental TheatreI truly believe that if we make conscious decisions about how we treat people, a certain power comes out of those interactions that has the ability to change our world. It isn’t about changing minds, but reaching hearts.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed at all of the things going on in the world. I often hear people make the excuse that “I am only one person, nothing I do will make a difference.” But when we are mindful of our actions, when we take part in the process of building our community on an everyday basis, we have a far greater impact than we can imagine.

Do something today: try to inspire yourself or someone else by showing compassion, standing up for someone, or even just taking a container of food to your neighbor who just had surgery. Take the small steps, and the larger ones will come naturally. When each person interacts with others in a way that acknowledges the necessity of caring for our fellow humans, we can be part of a force for greater good.

listen

The skies look ominous. #houseboundI can’t stop thinking that this is something I should pay attention to. I haven’t written in what seems like years…thought it was because I was happy but happiness doesn’t stop the flow of words that spill out of me in a roaring cacophony.

I was silent for far too long.

I have been dreaming the strangest things, some are far too dark to share and some are far too sweet to bare to the world…

and so.

I will just tease you with the promise of things to come and the fact that I am dreaming again after far too long and that my silence right now only means that there are moments to be shared with the ones I love.

Standing on stages was something I did when I was 19 and fearless. 22 and alive in a city that was far too big for me and now it is far too small. Now I am 29 and standing on stages is something that seems normal, but the stages are different and the people are more jaded and the city is too small and cold to contain me.

Let us escape together, we will build things and explore, sleep in the sun and leap across mountains. Words will leap off our tongues and we can laugh again, and we won’t wait for life to happen to us.

Officially Autumn

not many left

I am trying to accept that cold weather is coming. I am shopping for a winter coat, switching my wardrobe, and throwing myself into fall cooking (pumpkin pancakes, anyone?). I went apple-picking with some friends last weekend, which is more about the experience of wandering in an orchard than actually picking apples.

Changing leaves.

I love the outfits in autumn (hellooo, hats, scarves, & boots!), but I get very cold very easily. Living in Chicago for 20 years has been a bit of a test, needless to say. The summers make me forget how truly miserable I feel in the winter. I know that not everyone feels this way, but this is my blog, so I’ll be open about my hatred of the gray, dreary winters.

My next fall venture is figuring out what to do for Halloween (my favorite holiday).

Strange warehouse in the suburbs. It's where estate sales go to die.

A few weeks ago I was doing errands in the suburbs and saw a sign for an estate sale that was pointing toward a giant warehouse building.  I was curious and had time on my hands, so I pulled over and wandered around inside for a while. It was organized into sections…chairs, dressers, dishes, suitcases, etc. I don’t run across stuff like this very often. As I mentioned to a number of people, it felt like the place that estate sales go to die.

The only thing I ended up buying was a brand new 80s-era Kodak drink cooler for picnics for $5 (now that I’ve looked at similar items on Ebay, I’m pretty sure I got a good bargain). Part of the reason was that my condo just can’t fit much stuff, and part of it was that I don’t tend to carry much cash on me. It looked like it was a family-run operation, and while it felt a bit strange, it was a fun experience. There were prices on most of the big items, but I think you could probably easily negotiate.

As winter comes and as I get older, I find myself retreating into smaller groups of friends at a time, trying to have deeper relationships with people. I’m also cooking and baking a lot more, but that is par for the course.

Hope

Perfect day“O ye friends of God! Show ye an endeavor that all the nations and communities of the world, even the enemies, put their trust, assurance and hope in you; that if a person falls into errors for a hundred-thousand times he may yet turn his face to you, hopeful that you will forgive his sins; for he must not become hopeless, neither grieved nor despondent. This is the conduct and the manner of the people of Baha’. This is the foundation of the most high pathway!”

-‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas

 

Attempting to trust, to forgive, to be open to everything.

If thou hast in thine heart one desire for thy life…

Back porch view in the sunlight.

A friend shared this poem by Baha’u’llah with me, which I had never heard, and I wanted to post it here.

——————

The following was told by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to the friends at Abu-Sinan in 1915.

Whilst at Baghdad many learned mullas and others came into the Holy Presence, several of whom became His devoted friends; one of those was Kayvan Mirza, grandson of Fath-‘Ali Shah. This gentleman came and asked Mirza Muhit to obtain permission for an audience at some midnight in secret.

The reply was:

“When I was in the wilderness of Kurdistan I composed this poem:

If thou hast in thine heart one desire for thy life, then come not hither!
But shouldst thou be prepared to sacrifice soul, and heart and life,
come and bring others!
Such is the path if thou desire to enter the Kingdom of Light,
If thou art not of those able to walk this path —
Begone, and trouble us not!

Mirza Muhit conveyed this reply to Kayvan Mirza. He chose to “Begone,” his heart failed him!

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 55)

Figs, honey, & Brie

A few weekends ago I visited my parents, and my mother had purchased several varieties of figs. This has become my favorite fruit, & the seasonal window is so short that I eat a lot of them when they’re available.

Fig season!

I decided to make a dish that I had pinned a few months back. I gathered the ingredients: figs, Brie, & honey. I cut the figs into small sections, and placed them in an oven safe dish. I put them and the cheese in the oven at 350 F for about 15 minutes.

Ingredients

Then I drizzled honey over the whole thing, though I didn’t drown it. The figs are sweet enough! I finished off most of this creation by myself, with gluten-free crackers.

Finished product, fresh out of the oven

2 years, dear friend

me and Gavin

“In His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh says that were we able to comprehend the facilities that await us in the world to come, death would lose its sting; nay rather we would welcome it as a gate-way to a realm immeasurably higher and nobler than this home of suffering we call our earth. You should therefore think of their blessings and comfort yourself for your momentary separation. In time all of us will join our departed ones and share their joys.”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 13, 1932)

“The Master has told us that gifts and good deeds done in memory of those who have passed on, are most helpful to the development of their souls in the realms beyond…”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 10, 1952)

 

Last year, remembering. And 2 years ago. Last night, as I drove past the House of Worship on my way home, I was able to share a prayer with a friend on the phone in Gavin’s memory. Thinking of you today, dear one! We love you so much.

Abdu’l-Baha in America

by Sholeh Loehle

(originally posted at Nineteen Months)

Over the last few months I read Abdu’l-Baha in America by Robert Stockman. I enjoyed the little details that were obviously meticulously researched, as well as the focus on historical context around `Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit. This is a good book for those who may not be familiar with the Bahá’í Faith, as the author has attempted to write to a wide range of audiences to make the subject matter more accessible.

I have also been using the book as a reference guide, to see where `Abdu’l-Bahá was on certain dates, and which cities He visited. There are excerpts from the talks, to give some perspective, but there is a nice balance of talks and information about His travels. I liked having more information about the types of people that attended talks, why He may have spoken on certain subjects, and His experiences in different cities.

Reading it straight through was a bit challenging for me, but it has been nice to go back here and there to read highlights. As the author himself states, there will be more research and information in the coming years regarding `Abdu’l-Bahá’s travels, but this is a good addition to the existing material that is already out there. A good companion book would be Promulgation of Universal Peace.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Baha’i Publishing Trust through its Bloggers Network book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Updates at the Baha’i National Center

These are my coworkers. 🙂

Life of Your Contribution part 2 from FUNDamentals on Vimeo(Part 1)

There has been progress on the building of the new Welcome Center for the Baha’i House of Worship. You can check out drawings, photos, & updates on the progress at the Facebook page for One World Architecture. I stopped by today and got a photo from one of the gardens:

photo.JPG

Also, the new north entrance is finished, but I haven’t had a chance to stop by in daylight. You can see the drawings and images of the entrance that are much better than mine.

New north entrance (also known as the back door or tunnel) last night. Soooo nice!

Hope

Nineteen Months - Names, Davison USA so sweet and quiet. i’ll take the mosquitoes at dusk and the green grass, the park as the sun sets. i will close my eyes as the waves wash over me…i can’t look straight at the sun.

i’ll take starlit nights, laughter, and peace. i’ll let the honesty and the fear stand in their place, they will act as they are needed.

i will take these things and place them in the parts of my soul that are trying to be brave and happy.

29 years.

So much going on

This weekend I’m at the Conference of the Association of Friends of Persian Culture, which has mostly entailed spending time with friends and talking so much that I’m losing my voice. I’ve attended a couple of sessions that are in English, but I do not have the attention span to sit in long sessions in another language. Mostly it is an opportunity to be overwhelmed with thousands of Persians in a convention center.

So I’m trying to get through this weekend, survive long enough so I can get into September and leave the chaos behind a little. I’m looking forward to the beginning of autumn, the start of things, the end of summer (as sad as that makes me). This time of year has always held important changes for me, throughout my life.

Everything is good.

Timely utterance

Trying to remind myself of using wisdom in speech, and in all things…

“Know assuredly that just as thou firmly believest that the Word of God, exalted be His glory, endureth for ever, thou must, likewise, believe with undoubting faith that its meaning can never be exhausted. They who are its appointed interpreters, they whose hearts are the repositories of its secrets, are, however, the only ones who can comprehend its manifold wisdom. Whoso, while reading the Sacred Scriptures, is tempted to choose therefrom whatever may suit him with which to challenge the authority of the Representative of God among men, is, indeed, as one dead, though to outward seeming he may walk and converse with his neighbors, and share with them their food and their drink.

White flowersOh, would that the world could believe Me! Were all the things that lie enshrined within the heart of Bahá, and which the Lord, His God, the Lord of all names, hath taught Him, to be unveiled to mankind, every man on earth would be dumbfounded.

How great the multitude of truths which the garment of words can never contain! How vast the number of such verities as no expression can adequately describe, whose significance can never be unfolded, and to which not even the remotest allusions can be made! How manifold are the truths which must remain unuttered until the appointed time is come! Even as it hath been said: “Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it.””

– Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

I like…#11

Fields of grass, even though I’m highly allergic.
resting

the sand washing away from my feet

laughing with old friends & retelling the stories of our past

bright colors
love the trim

photoshoots

honesty

the way I feel after a long day in the sun

long walks with no destination
purple flowers

(I Like: #1,#2,#3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10)

Travel

The last few weeks have been marked by suitcases, last minute travel, sunsets, children, friends, sleep-deprivation, laughter, learning, and family.

First ice cream cone I have had in 9 years. For the 4th of July weekend, I drove to Minnesota for 6 days to visit my mother’s family and some friends. It was extremely warm, so I spent as much time as possible out of the house. I went swimming once, in a small lake, which made me really appreciate the warmth, since Lake Michigan is almost never warm. I also ran into my cousin at the beach, who I thought wasn’t even living in MN anymore. Minnesota is my home state, as I was born there, and I love visiting when I have the opportunity.

 

perspective In June and July I went to Starved Rock State Park on two different occasions. There are “18 canyons formed by glacial meltwater and stream erosion. They slice dramatically through tree-covered, sandstone bluffs for four miles at Starved Rock State Park, which is located along the south side of the Illinois River.” Highly recommended day-trip activity for Chicagoans, since it is only 2 hours outside the city. We took picnic lunches and enjoyed the greenery and canyons.

 

Perfect day at Louhelen.

Louhelen

I was at Louhelen Baha’i School for 5 days, August 3-8. I have been going there for years, but it had been a long time since I had attended a session and it was wonderful to be back. It is incredibly peaceful there, and I needed a break. Mr. Nakhjavani and Kathy Jewett-Hogenson gave such great presentations, I’m still trying to process what I learned.

I also got eaten alive by mosquitoes, which hasn’t happened in years, and made for a very uncomfortable few days. But it was totally worth it.

 

Another view from the room.

The view from our hotel room!

I flew to Montreal on Wednesday, after the session at Louhelen, for the Association for Baha’i Studies Conference. I have never been to this particular conference, and enjoyed it thoroughly. On Wednesday night my sister and I went to the Baha’i Shrine, which is the only shrine in the Western Hemisphere. It was beautiful and peaceful. The conference was great and I saw a lot of wonderful people (and made some new friends). I’ll have more photos soon, I just haven’t had time to process them!

 

The next few weeks will be just as busy, and I’ll try to keep up with updates as much as I can.

Alive

Tonight I felt alive for a moment, a rush of adrenaline as one of my closest friends and I drove down 94 with the windows down, singing along to the radio at the top of our lungs. It is a warm, sticky summer, a thunderstorm loomed overhead tonight, and everything is going to be ok.

As I neared home, this song by Real McCoy came on the radio. It reminded me of awkward school dances, of the 90s, and of things that are good. I remember when Chicago had a techno station, and my friend and I would crank it up in the summer and sit in her front yard. I remember driving hours to see friends, listening to music and dancing just because we could.

August is going to be a very busy, intense month for me, both for work and travel. I can’t wait.

Take joy in the small things, in the biggest thing of all…that we are here and full of life.

Emerging

After nearly a week of illness, I am trying to emerge from being a hermit. If you have spent any amount of time with me, you know that for me, being cooped up and non-productive is one of the most difficult things. I had to force myself to rest for the last 6 days, which has made me a little loopy.

This is the fourth time that I’ve gotten a serious cold this year, which is incredibly frustrating, especially during the summer.

My blog was down for a few weeks, so now I am trying to get back into things as I’m recovering, catch up on everything. Here we go! Right now, it is time for laundry and getting everything in order for this coming week.

The value of these days

Hydrangeas at the House of Worship“The doors of the Kingdom are opened. The lights of the Sun of Truth are shining. The clouds of divine mercy are raining down their priceless jewels. The zephyrs of a new and divine springtime are wafting their fragrant breaths from the invisible world. Know ye then the value of these days.

Awake ye to the realization of this heavenly opportunity. Strive with all the power of your souls, your deeds, actions and words to assist the spread of these glad tidings and the descent of this merciful bounty. You are the reality and expression of your deeds and actions. If you abide by the precepts and teachings of the Blessed Perfection, the heavenly world and ancient Kingdom will be yours—eternal happiness, love and everlasting life.”
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

I have been reading Rob Stockman’s new book on my lunch break, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in America, and this talk was quoted in the book. I have become more and more conscious in recent weeks of the precious value of these days, trying not to waste any moments, trying to take action and move forward with my life. The distractions are many, and sometimes it is hard to focus.

One day at a time, trying to be inspired.

Happy Father’s Day!

Dad and I caught a toad each!Dad, you always taught me to be independent, to do all the things guys are expected to do, but to do them in my own way. You encouraged me to climb trees, taught me how to paint and which kinds of tools to use, patiently waited when I couldn’t decide which outfit to wear, and signed me up for business classes in high school…which sent me on a path that I couldn’t even forsee then.

You still catch frogs with me, you still listen when I’m having a bad day, and you still tell me what kinds of trees we are passing when we take a walk. You’re the only father I know that dares his kids to jump into a freezing river in the Appalachians, or who knows how to explain a complex scientific paper in terms that his 12 year old daughter will understand.

me and dad

Thank you for letting me be your little girl but helping me to grow up, for being an example of what good men should be like. Thank you for working so hard to make sure I got an education, for putting food on the table and for taking care of our family. I know that I am lucky to have you as a father.

 

Is it time to be personal?

Untitled I don’t pour my heart out on my blog, and if I do, it usually comes out in some kind of creative writing exercise. I am unlikely to write in any sort of detail about my everyday activities…that is what my Twitter account is for, and Facebook provides a measure of connection with the thousand or so “friends” that wish to know the happenings in my life.

I have several drafts of posts that I keep meaning to get to. Things that I keep meaning to share here. And while I have had time here and there to write, I honestly have either been uninspired, exhausted, or not inclined. I try to respect my need to wallow once in a while, but right now it might be time to force some writing.

Another problem has been that Google Reader wasn’t picking up my blog posts until I updated WordPress, so you’ll see a flood of posts if you read my blog through Reader. 😛

My recent acquisition of an iPhone (and with it, Instagram & a whole lot of other apps that have changed my life) means that while I continue taking photos with my Canon DSLR, I’ve added more phone pics to my Flickr page, and am happy to have something with me in my purse all the time. I carry the Canon a lot, but there are some times when it just isn’t practical.

So…here I go.

Too quiet

These days, sunset is the best and worst time. The way the light wraps around everything, creating the best moments to capture photos…this is the most wonderful thing, the only redeeming time. But the gloam can hold onto me if there is silence and I am alone, the almost-dark suffocating me with reminders and memories. I fill the space with music, with television, with cooking or baking or making…

I’m waiting, slightly paralyzed, but moving in some kind of direction. Making decisions.

I would like my sunsets back.

the imaginary conversation

You’re right. None of us are meant to be alone. It gets us into trouble in so many ways. I mean, if you choose it, that is one thing. But to choose solitude, or at least be content with it…well.

-I imagine that this process is a lot easier when we’re honest about what we’re looking for.

Would you have been this honest 10 years ago? Or even 5?

-No, but we delude ourselves into this journey that has taken years, and now we find ourselves successful in some ways, but all seeking this connection that we still haven’t found. Finding the connection doesn’t fix everything, but then we can focus on other things.

So I guess it comes to the fact that we are here, in this time and place, and we have a choice to make. We never found our way before this, and we’re surprised to find ourselves in the dark, holding on.

-It really is a choice. We choose our life, our love, in the infinite confusion that is now. We can’t stop running from things that make sense. We have been doing it too long, it is almost an addiction. We are afraid to make mistakes, to make the wrong choice. But we’re running from what could be the easiest choice.

I am not going to get an answer to this, am I?

New things

We have some new articles and photos up over at Nineteen Months, so check it out! Dar is writing a series on Abdu’l-Baha’s journey in the West, and we are looking forward to more contributions soon.

Photos are starting to come in from the Chicago and Wilmette Centenary events! Go to the links to see slideshows. I’ll post more about the whole thing at some point, but I’m still recovering from it all.

“…the world of existence may be likened to this temple and place of worship. For just as the external world is the place where the people of all races and colors, varying faiths, denominations and conditions come together, just as they are submerged in the same sea of divine favors, so likewise, all may meet under the dome of The Mashriqu’l-Adkar  and adore the one God in the same spirit of truth. For the ages of darkness have passed away and the century of light has come. Ignorant prejudices are being dispelled and the light of unity is shining.” -‘Abdu’l-Bahá