Poetry, essays and other musings by Cathy Standiford
Author: Cathy Standiford
Cathy Standiford writes “activist poetry,” essays on social justice and issues affecting women and girls, and the occasional song. A retired city manager and local government consultant, Cathy is also a volunteer mentor for WriteGirl, a non-profit community of women writers that promotes creativity and self-expression to empower teen girls. She is a long-standing member of Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization committed to advancing the economic empowerment of women and girls through access to education.
In addition to writing and volunteering, Cathy enjoys reading, knitting, cooking and walking with her husband, John and their dog, Buddy.
The extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas allowed me to settle on goals for the upcoming year a little earlier than usual. And now that I’m committed to them, I kind of want to get started instead of waiting for January 1 (or 5th, the day after my birthday). The motivation and inspiration I’m feeling today, says maybe I should just get going. Do you feel the same eagerness to start working on something new?
To change calendars before making yearned for change
For the crowd seeking new in a new year
You can blaze your own trail
Deep wells of resolve are ready to burst forth, eager to start
Sometimes another writer’s work is so close to my own thinking, I can’t help but wonder if they have been secretly hanging out inside my head. This week’s “WRighteous” column by Amy Ferris is one of those pieces. I envy her boldness, her directness, her ability to capture the multiple contradictions so evident in our divided America, speaking truth to power in such a creative, articulate way. I sometimes hesitate to share my more powerful poems, worrying too much about whether people will think they are too strident, or too “political.” But a wise woman once told me, “Change comes when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.” Our country is in so much pain right now. An effective way to ease the pain is to find our voice, find our courage, and be as bold in speaking truth to power as Amy Ferris is. I’ll try to be bolder–and I hope you will try too.
Seasonal changes are subtle in southern California, but they do exist. Cooler evenings have finally arrived–there was even a bit of rain this morning. The most reliable sign that summer/fall is transitioning to fall/winter is the growing number of liquid amber leaves falling onto the patio. Fallen leaves signal changes to come as we close out one year and anticipate the next. Gandhi challenged us to “be the change we want to see in the world.” The leaves remind me there is much work to be done–personally and collectively–to create a better world for everyone.
They lie silently
Edges turned upward
Like ballerinas waiting
To be lifted back up
Tawny, amber, ruddy chorus
Rusty with age
Brittleness belies their former supple, verdant hue
Once moving in time to windy beats
They will move again today
Raked from slumber, beautiful autumn debris
Clearing the stage
For new, gracefully falling dancers
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of my annual “season of reflection.” From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, I spontaneously start evaluating the past year and planning for the year ahead. I think about what brings me joy, and start letting go of the things that don’t so I have more time for the things that do. I assess progress on the past year’s goals, and if the progress is underwheming, determine whether the goal is still important enough to keep pursuing. I debate with myself over whether to make New Year’s Resolutions or not. (I inevitably do.)
I usually start my season of reflection by counting my blessings. (Thanksgiving provides the perfect reminder.) This year I have so many blessings, it will take most of the weekend to tally them all. But I’m willing to give it the old college try. Today I am grateful for:
dear family and friends
almost full moons
financial security and a home with no mortgage
butchers who don’t laugh when I ask them to spatchcock the turkey for me
small kindnesses like my neighbor’s willingness to walk my dog because my hip is acting up
the taste of fresh Meyer lemons plucked from my own tree
warm fleece jackets to ward against the cooler autumn nights
finding the perfect joke gift to give my husband for his birthday
plenty of books to read, and more being written for me to read in the future….
And most importantly, I feel blessed that you have stopped by to read my blog today. Thank you! May your blessings be too many to count. Happy Thanksgiving.
I’ve been so overwhelmed lately. Overwhelmed by the violence. Overwhelmed by the hate. Overwhelmed by both the “ends justify the means” political rhetoric of the man who sits in the White House and the complicit silence of Republican leaders in response. I’m an introvert, so my natural tendency when overwhelmed is to retreat. But as Amy Ferris wrote so eloquently last Friday, “…these are not times to hide.” Thank you, Amy, for helping me break free of my little cocoon. Next Tuesday is Election Day. May decency prevail. May democracy prevail. May we all break free from our little cocoons and raise a ruckus to make it so.
Darkness surrounding, enveloping
Ensuring security, safety in being alone
Black walls block distractions
No judgements, no shaming
Nothing inhibiting penetrates
Breathe in courage, building
Breathe out fear, releasing
Emergence is coming
Dimness yielding to light
Inner power too much to contain
It’s Friday and I’m tired. On days like these it’s hard to write, hard to do anything except (a) think about when I may be able to fit in a nap or (b) find a quiet place to watch nature do its thing. When I take the time to be still, I experience some pretty amazing things. Like this….
A hummingbird sits
One bird of paradise on another
Before the day’s whirring begins
Longing to rest and be still as the bird
But the bird is not still
It shifts its gaze…left…right…up…back and forth
Alert for potential threats and opportunities
Wings ready for flight in response to either
One last sip of coffee
One last sip of nectar
As both take flight into the promise of the day
I learned to suppress my emotions at an early age. My mother was a master at such suppression and I was determined not to replicate my father’s explosive temperament. For too long, women have been criticized for being “too emotional,” as if passionate feelings are a bad thing. Such criticism continues to be a primary weapon used to maintain women’s oppression. That’s why men in power resort to labeling women protesters as an “angry mob,” then turn around and praise each other’s anger as being “strong and forceful.” Such double standards enrage me.
“Well behaved women seldom make history,” said Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Perhaps overcoming our fears and releasing our rage is the best way for us to make history now. Although I wrote this poem in February, it seems particularly relevant today.
Hot steam billowing up
Smashing against lids of self-control
Teary droplets unable to fall
Opening would bring needed release
Afraid of being scalded by her volcanic emotions
Afraid of being burned by others all over again