Hopkins
Hopkins

When we left Seattle on Sept. 30, the Kavanaugh situation was in full swing. Emails pummeled my inbox. The news kept it front and center, friends talked about it incessantly and, added to the general political storm we have been subjected to since our current president took office, the barrage was beginning to feel violent.

On a road trip to the Southwest where we are seeing national parks — sights and scenery that my husband and I have longed to experience – some of the stress of daily life was left behind. But the political stuff followed us down the road, through Oregon, Idaho and into Utah.

I tried to scale back by scanning headlines and skimming instead of reading entire articles. I began deleting emails asking for signatures and action. I heard from friends who were marching or in some way supporting their position on various situations and did my best to empathize, knowing that had I been in town, I would have been right there with them.

As I get further away and immerse myself in new surroundings, I have begun to let go of the obsession. I am not burying my head in the sand by any means. Anyone who knows me will agree that that is not something I have ever done! But travel is working its magic and giving me the opportunity to see the bigger picture.

In Arches National Park, I was awed by the amazing scenery, the sculptures carved by time and nature, the wonder of this part of the world. In Sego Canyon, I saw remarkable rock art left by three native tribes who lived there thousands of years ago. In Mesa Verde National Park, I viewed ancient pueblo cave dwellings, built under impossible (to us) conditions by people whose work was survival. Building dwellings, gathering food, hauling water, raising families. Some of these dwellings date back to 650 A.D. And earlier!

I’m sure all of them had social and political challenges such that they were. But what began to dawn on me was what a small speck we are in the continuum of time. We think we are important and that what we are dealing with today, right now, is critical. And it is. But the lessons of time are important to heed and can provide a soothing salve for our frustration.

In Taos, we stayed at the former home of a woman named Mabel Dodge Luhan, a woman who marched to her own beat many years ago and drew artists and independent thinkers such as Georgia O’Keefe and D.H. Lawrence to Taos. At breakfast one morning I met two women and, as is inevitable these days, politics came into our conversation. These two women work with indigent children and families, and stress the importance of early childhood, pre-kindergarten education. They work to make a better experience for children who might not otherwise have the advantages that many of us from Queen Anne and Magnolia have.

One of them expressed her feeling that the only way to combat the things that dismay her, is to continue to work towards the things she believes in. To stay with it. To live her life in a way that keeps her conscience clear and enables her to sleep at night. One expression I’ve heard is, “Think Globally; Act Locally.” It makes sense. Otherwise, we can get lost in a sea of confusion and helplessness and ineffectiveness.

The second woman told us that her current mantra is, “Be politically active and spiritually calm.” She freely admitted to the need to remind herself of this regularly! The words rang true for me.

If we let the things that we disagree with and have no power over upset us, eat at us, possess us, then the damage being done is even more dire. Because it is changing us and preventing us from being peaceful people living good lives.

A yoga teacher of mine once told us to resist thinking about people who are troubling us. People we don’t know and have no control over. People with vastly different goals than ours. Stop thinking about them to the point of obsession and you take away some of their power — at least over yourself.

I’m not suggesting that we disengage. I just believe that we must stay calm. Have faith. Believe that good will triumph. And do what we can to make the world around you a bit better. That’s really all we can do.

Irene Panke Hopkins is a freelance writer (irenehopkins.com). She is currently blogging while on her road trip and would love you to join her at Lifeontaboga.wordpress.com.