Tuesday, December 14, 2010


“By forgiving, we take back the power we gave to the world to do us
By forgiving, we release ourselves—and the one who has hurt us—from the prison of our resentment.
By forgiving, we free ourselves to live in the Eternal Now, without
holding on to the past.
By forgiving, we acknowledge the Christ (the perfection) within
ourselves and the offender.”

from Ernest Holmes, “The Science of Mind”

I’m just about over an incident from last Friday that tried to lay a claim on me. One of the ironies surrounding the road rage that appeared to be aimed at me is that I was on my way to State Farm to start my auto insurance in New Mexico. Having made the decision earlier in the day to become a New Mexico driver, I had finally gone for my driver’s license and to find out what is I need to do to register my car in this state.

I guess the process makes sense to whoever sets policy at the motor vehicle division, but as an interested party, I can see some government use of tax dollars that just might be called waste. Take a number and wait, go to a window to show proof of residency and for further instructions on waiting, then to another window for a picture and then further instructions on waiting, and so on. But that’s for another story. The point is—I have a temporary paper photo ID folded around my Texas license, and once I get a copy of the title from the financial institution that holds the lien on my car, I will be ready to return to the MVD with proof of residency, proof of insurance, proof of ownership, and cash or check (no credit or debit cards accepted!).

To return to my story. I’ve seen more than a little of rude, rude drivers in Santa Fe, but on this day I was in Albuquerque, where—until this day—I hadn’t experienced the nasty attitude of entitlement that is all too common among Santa Fe drivers. Pedestrian rights? Hardly. Parking lot etiquette? Drive defensively. As I made my way north on Carlisle Boulevard, I was the first in line at a traffic light. Red changes to green, and before I can hit the gas, the Toyota 4Runner behind me lays down on the horn. I accelerated into the intersection. Obviously pissed off by my attempt to move ahead, the woman—whose vanity license plates read a fancy word for graceful, slim—sped by me on the right, raging verbally, shooting me the finger, and then hitting her breaks several times as we both moved north on Carlisle. She continued to act like a crazy person, waving her hands and shaking her head. I commented to my friend Tom that maybe she is from Santa Fe.

“Maybe her husband is from Texas and dumped her,” Tom offered. (Speak impeccably. Don't make assumptions.) Tom had already advised that I “stay back—you don’t know what she might do”. Maybe she just doesn’t like Texans, I thought. I lost count long ago of the number of times in the last three years that I’ve wrestled with the notion of giving up my Texas plates—largely because I know lots of New Mexicans are hostile toward Texans. Such attitude has a long-standing history here, in spite of the fact that Texans contribute substantially to the state’s economy. It’s called biting the hand that feeds you. But that, too, is for another story. The big factor is the cost of auto insurance in New Mexico because of the large number of uninsured drivers, in spite of a law that requires everyone with a driver’s license to also carry liability insurance. There are lots of ways of creatively, or not, getting around this law. Just take advantage of the opportunities to slip through the cracks. As it turns out, I am totally satisfied with the insurance rates offered me.

My instinct with the crazy woman sporting the vanity license plate was to find out who she is and report her. Such naivete makes me smile only a little at the same time that it confounds me. Let it go. Let it go. Remember the Four Agreements. Speak impeccably. Don’t take things personally. Don’t make assumptions. Do your best. I guess these don’t leave much room for revenge. So today I am probably 80% over last Friday’s frightening encounter with road rage. One of the burdens with which I struggle is an insistent need to understand what causes people to act the way they do—especially towards me. Don’t take it personally, I remind myself. Let it go. Don’t stay attached; bless her and send her own her way. This would be the advice of my friend Gayle. And to this, I would remind myself further to remember this experience with road rage the next time I over-react to some situation where I want to pummel someone else. Maybe she had an emergency and needed to go to the aid of a family member or a friend. I won’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Let it go.

So is forgiveness at play here? Do I need to forgive the driver of the Toyota 4Runner? Yes. I do feel a little the victim of someone else’s baggage. But that’s just it. It is someone else’s baggage, and so, just as I might want someone else to cut me slack when I act the crazy, I need to do the same. I want to want to do the same. “Bless you. Just take care of yourself,” I counsel myself to say to anyone who has failed to remember that his or her rights end where my rights begin. Forgive me for appearing to be in your way. I forgive you for putting your life, my life and the life of my passenger and friend in danger. Let it go. Don’t stay attached. Surely this is the lesson to be gained here.

Drive—Santa Fe, New Mexico (December 14, 2010)
R. Harold Hollis

Monday, December 13, 2010

Only them who look inside find it

"God just another man, far as I'm concerned, he triflin' and lowdown . . . (Celie)

"No, Celie. God not some gloomy old man like the pictures you've seen of him.
God not a man at all.
--from "The Color Purple"

Everywhere I turn, the message remains the same. Last night, with friends and a house full of theater lovers, I heard about God’s boundless ways in song. Earlier in the day, I was reminded that the only thing getting in the way of God and me—is me. I’m learning my lessons, but the process is oh, so slow, and I keep backsliding. Even though I know intellectually that I am an expression of the Divine; even though I understand that I can choose at any moment between fear and unconditional love; even though I know that whatever way the spears are pointed, they’re really about the person who hurls them; even though I fool myself sometimes by abdicating responsibility for the wrongs I see around me—I know. Sometimes I feel that I have lost direction, but I know that I'm not lost. I just have to look inside to find it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What Do I Know?

I don’t know much about birds, and I think about this every Tuesday morning when I show up for my volunteer assignment at the Audubon visitors center. Sometimes I make it through my three-hour shift without one of the visitors asking about some bird specific. I used to count this as at least a small blessing, when I was more sensitive about the whole birder thing. Now I don’t think about it so much. After all, I’m comfortable chatting it up with visitors about life in these parts—hiking, places to eat, museums and galleries, and I’ve gotten really handy using the Internet to look up information about birds that are common to our area!

Last week I took a phone call from a man in Michigan planning a visit to New Mexico. He had questions about a specific bird, and thanks to the board that the center here maintains with information on recent sightings, I was able to tell him that a pinon jay was recorded for the day after Thanksgiving. I managed to talk intelligently with him about his plans to see the sandhill cranes at the wildfowl management area south of Albuquerque. Most important to me in our conversation was the feeling of connecting. I felt helpful.

I guess most visitors here assume that whoever volunteers in the visitor center is at least a novice birder. What drew me to this place was the setting and the historic house that is its anchor, a sawmill dating to the Mexican American War that an established artist from New York made into a home for his family in the early 1920s. I had planned to become a docent in the house, but I am allergic to something that has left me feeling a little asthmatic every time I’ve been in the house. Old stuff in an old building that remains closed most of the time—an irony for sure for someone who has a long love affair with that sort of history. Though I don’t conduct tours of the historic house here, I welcome the chance to talk about Randall Davey, whose family generously donated this property 20 years after his death. And during the growing season, I’m reasonably conversant in talking about the native garden on our grounds, which is maintained by the local master gardener group.

No expert am I—not really about anything—even though I know more than little about a few things. As I used to say when I was a recent graduate of the master gardener course in Texas, I can’t really get my thumb and forefinger close enough together to show how little I do know. Doesn’t the same apply to most of the stuff most of us spend our time on? Sometimes I marvel at the talking heads on cable television, holding forth on everything from finance to human trafficking to the threat of terrorism. How does one become so smart, I ask. And would I really want to be such an expert? Not really, I answer myself. That’s fine for someone else. I’m happy knowing more than a little about a few things and handily pointing out the whole thumb and forefinger visual.

On this day, with the local dark-eyed juncos, black-capped chickadees (or is it the mountain chickadee?) and pine siskins flitting around the winter shrubbery and lighting on the feeder outside the window of my workplace, I’m celebrating my modest share of knowledge and the opportunity to grow it each day. Each time I answer the phone, “good morning,” I’m remembering the gift I’m offered of being connected, indeed.

What Do I Know—Santa Fe, New Mexico (December 7, 2010)
R. Harold Hollis