Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cynthia's Observations

I saw Cynthia stop still and bend down to pick something off the dirt drive at the meetinghouse. She straightened up with a smile and noticed me watching.  "Isn't this a fantastic rock?" she beamed as she held out a smooth, small white granite stone streaked with shining bits of black mica.

It was lovely, I agreed as I handed it back to her. Still smiling, she turned it over in her hand for a bit, marveling at the random distribution of the grains within it, before she pocketed the stone and continued on her way.

My head had been full of rushing thoughts, about almost being late and shopping to do on the way home and generally bracing for the week ahead. Now I was standing in the parking lot, looking at the pebbles on the ground, and smiling.  It was the first time that Cynthia's focus on the beauty around her caused me to share a mindful moment with her. She has a gift that way.

Sometime later, Cynthia learned that my family lived quite near her and asked if we'd mind giving her a ride to Meeting. She said that she did not want to become one of those people who needs to be told when it is time for them to stop driving, she wanted to do the "wise thing" and cut down now, especially in the winter. She also didn't want to be a bother. We were delighted, of course.  In our short drives to Meeting I've had a chance to get to know a little more about her and the things she's done.

She's a strong, sharp, mindful person. At one point, we stopped by my house and she admired a fern that is doing quite well by the driveway. When I confessed ignorance about most of the plantings which had come with our property, she explained that it was an "interrupted fern, see here where the spores are growing along the stalk and have interrupted the normal frond pattern? They have a very interesting, three-part reproductive process."  I told Cynthia I'd have to have her come over and walk me through my yard.

Just last week, Cynthia and I had another mindful walk. It was in the woods and along the shore by the Sheepscot River, a place I'd been going to for almost 30 years. Cynthia bent down and found treasures again. She appreciated the impossible number of organisms in just the area we walked in, she regretted that she'd not learned enough about the lichens, and she pulled the cap off a tiny plant fruit and tapped out the finest green powder.

The next day, my husband and I sat down in the afternoon and felt rather at loose ends. Then he looked at me and said, "That was a great afternoon with Cynthia." I agreed. He reminded me about the two magazines that Cynthia lent us. So, I sat down to read.

Cynthia had been a teacher, and then the Director of the Massachusetts Audubon's Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. She was a "pesticide activist," described as a "formidable advocate for environmental causes and a mine of information" and even given an award from the EPA for her work in environmental education.  ("Taking a Stand at Stony Brook" in Sanctuary: the journal of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, vol. 26, no. 6, April 1987).  In the article "Baytex at Bay" of the Society's July 1977 Newsletter, "almost single-handedly, through sheer perseverance, Cynthia ... was able to halt at least temporarily an indiscriminate spraying program that had been in process for more than 20 years" (p.5).

Cynthia's life speaks.

Let Your Life Speak

"Let your life speak."   

I know many Quakers whose faith shapes the choices and decisions they make in their lives. Not just in their activism and engagement in the world but in the less obtrusive undertakings of everyday life.


“Letting” their lives speak sounds almost passive, and it is true that it's not the Quaker way to impose beliefs or proselytize.  But "lives that speak" are not passive. They are active and powerful, because they are pointing the way...  as they work for peace, understanding, equality, justice. They lead, by following their Inner Teacher. Quakers witness. 

Many of the people at Midcoast Meeting are inspired people whose lives are active and whose stories are awesome. We're hoping to have some of them share about their lives and work at the Meetinghouse. I'll try and share some of their stories here, too.