This in from Molly:
I have this little game I play with myself. Several weeks ago, a feather rested gently on the path of my approaching feet while out on a run. I wanted to believe it was a blessing…an urging to pursue the Red Boot Journey and so I did.
Ever since that day, a feather appears, on the path of my morning runs.
It is August 8th.
I decide to run again at the Indiana Dunes State Park, before heading to Chicago for our next Red Boot Gathering. The day is glorious. Air heavier with humidity but nothing like what I’ve come to call my “summer normal” in North Carolina.
I’m finishing up my run, no feather yet. I’m experiencing this weird kind of anxiety that makes me want to laugh at the same time that I don’t want to laugh. I start looking…I need to see the feather. The words in my head are riddled with this kind of what happens if I don’t see it and what does it mean?
I see a path I didn’t take yesterday and take it. Winding up through woods, the path is treacherous. I almost turn around a few times when suddenly it opens into a large open grassy area…campers, tents scattered in the space.
I’m laughing at my anxiety…where is the feather? WHERE IS THE FREAKIN' FEATHER? I look on the exterior of campers, tents, cars, equipment, the things around me hoping to see something...an insignia even...that resembles a feather.
There are none.
I resign myself to the fact that today will be the day when the feather-streak ends….and I will somehow need to pursue in spite of feeling the loss of this funny little blessing.
I reach down to adjust my shoe. And there it is, literally tucked beneath the sole of my right foot. Tattered, dirty and there.
I arrive at Lisa Kaplan’s home a tad late. She is eating pizza and a salad with her two boys and another guest, Kristine Binder Nader. I feel like I’ve known these two women forever, even though we’ve only communicated via Facebook. Lisa is a life coach working predominantly, if not exclusively with women, and Kristine is a high school science teacher. She is known in Chicago as the Tutu Lady…numerous running races completed and all in a tutu!
We immediately move into dialogue like old friends, sisters even.
Guests arrive. We sit in a circle. Introduce ourselves. Many of us are moms and would define ourselves in that way. A couple of our guests are actually young women who joined the dialogue because they came along with “mom.”
The women here are extremely willing to explore their own blocks to open communication…some share their frustration with others. We chuckle at how easy it is to be intolerant of those who are intolerant.
The room is warm, open, giddy almost. An energy is here that I haven’t felt in the same capacity in other gatherings…a mother-love has joined the conversation…a kind of nurturing-want-to-do-what’s-right kind of love coupled with a kick-ass-don’t-mess-with-my-kid kind of love. I like how it feels.
A kind of Mae West strut with a Mother Teresa attitude.
Today is August 10: I run from my hotel to the Buffalo Creek Reservoir. I’ve stopped running with my Ipod altogether. The feather is there on the path as I take my first (three) steps. The trails are beautiful and I am in no rush, no hurry.
I am headed to Charleston, IL for a Red Boot Coalition meeting that evening. I stop at a Casey’s General Store just off the road.
Donna, a spirited woman, about my age, comes around the counter. She is radiant, approachable, lit from within.
I tell her I am traveling cross country and talking to folks about what’s causing all this political unrest.
“It’s not a democrat or republican thing. It’s a leadership thing. We’ve forgotten what we are really set out to do. No vision.”
Donna talks in great detail about the widening gap between those who have money and those who do not. She worked for 30 years at a local grocery store. Loyal employee, she made good money. Raised her kids by herself. People knew each other. She felt respected. She was a valued, engaged and valuable community member.
“Just doesn’t feel the same. We don't know each other anymore. "
We talk like two old friends, for several minutes. She is spunky…alive…sassy even!
I asked her if she has that special someone in her life now.
“Nope…but doesn't matter. I am loving life in my 50’s.”
I laugh. "Me too," I shout as I head out the door.
Not long after my departure, I receive a “comment” on the Red Boot Coalition blog.
It’s from Rachel…Rachel is another clerk at the store…younger and more reserved…she remained quiet throughout my entire exchange with Donna.
"I meet you today at Casey's and I was telling my mom about you. She agreed on what you were talking about and you inspired me today . I started thinking and your right on so many levels. Thank you for stopping in and keep doing what you do. I’ll help pass your message on."
Right there it is. Tucked in and often not seen...but it is there. Why do I ever doubt?
Tonight’s gathering is in Charleston, IL. Beth Gillespie and her husband Michael helped coordinate the meeting. Beth is involved with Girls on the Run and is full of life, vigor, joy. She is curious to her core…child-like even. I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t like to spend time with Beth.
We begin with introductions.
College professors, single mamas, student life professionals, married folks, students.
We laugh at ourselves. How much easier is it to judge those who label and box us in…than it is to look at ourselves and how we do the same.
Ashli, a brave woman in her 20’s, talks from the heart about the challenges she has had trying to remain open…to really listen when confronted by those who do not "listen back." This is especially true when the exchange is between family members.
We dig deep…what’s underneath all that unwillingness?
We decide it's fear. Fear of not mattering, of not being seen, of going through life without being loved. Because isn't that we all want deep down? To be loved? To matter?
We close with how we are feeling.
“Inspired.” “Hopeful.” “Willing.”
We get to Erika. She is quiet, emotional and oh so real.
“I feel challenged.”
Silence, the space to be with it.
We all could see the wheels turning. The letting go. Her willingness to let go of something that's been holding her back. The movement into something new, wonderful, life-changing.
I’m beginning to wonder if all this polarized talk isn’t giving us a chance to uncover something bigger and more beautiful than we could have even imagined existed.
I’m driving to St. Louis. I stop at Eagle Creek State Park to run. I feel like I am the only person in the world. I like how it feels.
The feather…it is down by the water’s edge…
"There you are. I've been waiting for you!" ... it calls to me.
I’ve never noticed so many billboards. I feel like they are yelling at me. The words are in big, bold and block print….shouting. I want them to go away. Frustrated by all the noise, the billboards, the engines of vehicles as they pass me…I turn up my music.
Mary Lennard is a Red Booter in Cincinnati. She is a poet. I asked her to send me some of her work. She does and it moves me.
Make visible the images,
Make audible the words.
A path to common good appears
When dreams are seen and heard.
A multilingual dialogue
Addressing heart and soul
Draws forth what is best from us:
The strengths which make us whole."
My mother was a poet. I feel her presence now, as I write, and I miss her so much. To feel both within the same moment. I think this is what it feels like to be alive.
I met Joe Borer in Alaska back in the Spring. I wrote a piece on him entitled Joe Dirt. He is a man of the earth,…a construction worker who easily smiles, waves, loves….lights up the world around him. I receive a photo from him today….outta the blue.
I pull over the car to read his text.
“Hi Molly. Sorry it took so long to get these to you. Thank you and extra tuf for everything. Hope your trip across the country is successful and fun. Go The Red Boot Coalition.
My heart delights and I do not know why the tears come.
The top is down on the convertible. I turn off the music and drive on.
Next Stop St. Louis.
Posted on August 12, 2014