Autumn 2018 vol 3, issue 2
Welcome to Turning Point! Our name echoes the widespread recognition that our planet, and our humanity, have arrived at a pivotal turning point in evolutionary history. At the center of which lies a summoning call to each of us: to nurture a vital presence that continuously regenerates our lives and enlivens the whole of life as well.
We invite you to imagine this journal as a forum for inspired conversation around how we might best envision and care for our world—and each article, simply a means to begin a conversation. Conversation that calls us to see beyond our own time yet act on behalf of the love that wants to live through us, now.
May we act in Beauty, act from Inspiration, act Together…
Earth, Our Beloved
“What we need is a great, powerful, tremulous falling back in love
with our old, ancient, primordial Beloved,
which is the Earth herself.”
We are, after all, creatures of Earth—relating from first breath to last with an incomprehensibly diverse and interdependent community of other earthborn beings. It’s one thing to live in intellectual agreement with this truth, and a whole other matter to live each day with it as an immediate, felt experience. That life regularly summons my return to the enlivening ground of this fundamental truth is a telling commentary on the persistence of my loyalty to living within the tight bounds of the human-centered story of our culture—no matter how I profess to have outgrown it. Like many of my overly civilized kin, I long for something to lift me out-of-bounds, returned to a world where words turn back, left with an utterly untranslatable experience of intimate felt contact with a more-than-human world.
We may struggle to find words faithful to this radically transformed sense of belonging and homecoming, yet it is a task that the heart is surely here to take up. Our return to a lived experience of Earth as Beloved is central to all that is struggling to be born at this moment in our world’s unfolding. I’m taken by the Chilean poet Pablo Naruda’s view that the longing for mutuality in all our relationships, from people to planet, impels us to make art. It is art that provides the language that “widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.” Read more…
Autumn Equinox: The Delicious Nearby Freedom of Death
by Gail Straub
Today is the autumn equinox, and fall wraps itself around me with a blustery wind. In the field below, grasses turn burgundy and amber. Asters dot the hillsides like violet stars. Along the lower ridges and hollows, the hardwood forests display wide sweeps and curves of yellow, as if a giant calligraphy brush had painted its strokes across the mountain range. A lone maple tree flaunts a spiral of brilliant colors: a lower ring of emerald green leaves followed by loops of yellow and orange, then a ring of fiery red spiraling to the top, bursting into the sky like flames escaping to heaven.
Here on this opening day of autumn I am experiencing the natural polar opposite of the spring equinox. Instead of spring red buds inching across this valley heralding so much green birth, September’s colorful leaves usher in winter’s nakedness followed by death. Out here on the Ashokan Way, birth and death exist in an open, natural manner as two halves of a whole circle, rounding each other out with no false separation, no clinging to life and pushing away death. I am thinking a lot about these themes as soon I will launch a new year-long training on conscious aging. And these reflections permeate my psyche as I enter the late September of my life. Read more…
A Place of Refuge
by Kathy Kaiser
When I bought my cabin in the mountains some 10 years ago, it was with some vague idea of re-creating the place that I loved most in my childhood. My family had a cabin on a lake in northern Wisconsin, where we spent two weeks each summer. Far from the suburbs of Chicago, I got my first taste of wilderness—chipmunks, loons, bears, and more stars at night than I ever imagined. It was my first glimpse into the universe, of something larger and more profound than my mundane daily existence, something that hinted of another world beyond what I had known.
It wasn’t until I was 58, when much of my work life was behind me, that I bought the small cabin in Colorado and could start exploring those feelings first stimulated by the Wisconsin woods. Growing up the eldest of seven children and then working in high-energy, deadline-driven jobs for most of my career, I had to ignore my need and desire to get deeper into life. Read more…
Escape From Binary Valley
by Mike Abkin
It was the mid-1990s. I was well settled in my long-time technical career and working as an aviation systems analyst at a small government contracting firm in Sunnyvale, California. When the weather was nice, which was often the case, I made it a point at lunchtime to escape from the world of numbers, equations, computers, and management responsibilities and venture out into Silicon Valley to eat my sack lunch at a nearby park.
Walking to and from the park each day, I would purposely avoid the right-angled streets and sidewalks, choosing instead to meander through the asphalted parking lots that flowed behind and among scatterings of tilt-up office buildings. One of the best parts of that walk was when I skirted the edge of a manicured golf course that inexorably drew my eyes through the chain link fence to my right as I passed. Another part of the lunchtime journey took me past what is typically called an “empty” lot, though it was dotted with scrub trees, filled with tall grasses, and populated by dozens of red-winged blackbirds who would greet me with their distinctive screechy, whistle-like cry. The birds became quite raucous in the springtime when that field became nesting grounds to be protected. I was saddened when, a couple of years later, the lot was scraped truly empty to make way for yet another tilt-up.
One day, as I was walking back to the office after lunch, I was startled by a sudden thwup thwup sound and the feeling of a soft brushing against my face. I looked up and saw the red-tailed hawk that had just swooped from behind over my right shoulder, its wingtip kissing my right cheek as it flew by. Read more…
by Laurie Baumgarten
By age five, I was scampering all over the island. A bit chubby, but sure-footed, I skipped around to different beaches, running full-bore along decaying seawalls, climbing over slippery, seaweed-covered rocks, and scraping my bare feet on barnacle colonies. The parental neglect, which this rampant wandering represented, gave me the utmost freedom to explore intimately this place I called home.
The island was really just a small cove on the Long Island Sound. It was connected to the mainland by an old cement bridge about ten feet long that washed out in hurricanes but provided the island children with a launching pad for summer dives at high tide. Our house was situated at the top of the hill, just past the bridge, overlooking the water. Read more…
A Whale of a Tale: A Story of Reciprocity and Resilience
by Susan Prince
When I was young I read Moby Dick and was both fascinated and horrified by the evil whale that hunted down whalers and could sink their ships. Recently I learned Moby was a sperm whale—a member of one of the most intelligent species of animals in the ocean who communicate with sonar through a very complicated series of clicks. Sperm whales are also known to attack when threatened.
Out in the middle of Laguna San Ignacio—the milky, blue green waters are calm and, as if in a dream—we float, our little boat gently rocking back and forth with the incoming tide. Trance-like, I listen for breathing from the grey whales who are now leisurely swimming northward, 100 meters away, on either side of us. Read more…
My Battles with Robins
by Carmen Accetta
I know a woman who talks to animals. “So?” you say, “I do that.” Well, she also talks to birds, frogs, insects, and plants. “I’ve done that,” you say? Yes, but when they answer, she knows what they’re saying, and sometimes they initiate the conversation. She is a professional advocate for all forms of non-human life. As a priest is an intermediary between heaven and earth, she is the same between human and non-humankind.
“Oh, all right then, what about the battles-with-the-robins thing?” Well, first let me give you some background. I was so impressed by the kindness and compassion in this woman towards all living things—including me—and by her transparency, that I was driven to “come clean” about my less-than-exemplary relationships with non-humans. I started with the robins. Read more…
The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.