Big Small Things, Like Voting


It’s mid-term election season.  Also known as do-not-answer-your-phone season.  Or my-yard-signs-cancel-your-yard-signs season.

This year promises to be another ‘voting against’ year, like the 2016 presidential election, when everyone I know was voting against a candidate and not for someone they really respected.   At this point I know a lot of people, maybe including me–not sure yet–who are voting with the hope of creating a critical mass in state or national legislatures, enough to move things along in another direction, or to maintain the current policies.

Even if your “side” won both contests, you know the danger of bringing up politics at Thanksgiving dinner this year.  The gridlock in Washington right now has everyone distressed.  We used to think that if we can just get more of our side elected, sanity might return to our system.  But it hasn’t proven true, not at all.

It’s enough to make you throw up your hands in despair.


Your vote might not count that much in most elections, but voting accomplishes more than selecting leaders for public office.  We have stop thinking that unless we can do something substantial or measurable, we might as well do nothing.

What does that felt-tip pen in your hand at the voting booth accomplish besides filling in little ovals that seem to disappear into a giant hopper of abstraction?

I could remind you that it is an action worth dying for, as in our military fighting for freedoms such as this.  I could wax eloquent about the democratic form of government.

This time I want you to think of what it does for you.

Voting makes a statement that you not only exist as a name on a voter registration list.  You inhabit a body that needs care, whether the way you are treated comes through Affordable Care or is maddeningly controlled by third party payers (insurance companies).

You have opinions about the candidates because you grew up in a particular place and time, in your family, in your circumstances.  You read and pay attention. You have experience that affects the way you perceive people.  You know what kind of people you trust as leaders.  Voting is a statement that you matter.  Sometimes you have to do things to remind yourself that you care.

Deep down, you know that small things—like your single vote—matter.  You know how to hunt because your dad got up early on fall mornings and not only took you along, he asked you what kind of sandwich you wanted him to pack.  You love to read because Mom read to you , at least when she wasn’t too exhausted from work.  You hunt mushrooms every year because a friend asked you to try one just once.  You have brown eyes because of a tiny gene contained in an embryo that grew into the person reading this.

Link and Wyatt Raking

Do you want your vote to matter more?  Back it up with more votes you get to make every day.  Smile at the young person who puts the groceries in your trunk.  Write a check to support your church.  Pick up your neighbor’s branches when you’re in the yard working anyway.  Make the choice for restraint instead of reacting once or twice today.  Listen to your cantankerous uncle—be curious—instead of arguing, just this once.

The little ovals we fill in on the ballot (the format where I live) are as small as seeds.  But seeds grow into life-giving plants that actually bear fruit.  It is remarkable what comes from such a small thing.



The Existence of Other Things

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Art by Candice Hartsough McDonald. Used by permission.

I am Deborah.

Named after a woman who lived

thousands of years ago.

Sage, prophet, tribal mother.

Her tale anomalous,

her voice a string Yahweh strummed

undeniably in desperate times.

The impending story unfurled before her

as familiar as the line on her palm,

insistent as the blood of afterbirth.

She was not your typical judge.


Deborah means “little bee”

and “seeking one.”

Some bees are social,

form hives, assign tasks,

share the burden of re-creating the world,

flower by flower,

tree by tree,

driven by hidden forces

to seek the sweetness of many kinds and

participating in the alchemy

of a deeper, richer sweetness

that blesses the world.


The bees I was not taught to admire

or even honor

are solitary,

burrowing deep for dwelling,

free of the hive,

bound to the quest,

independent in the

interdependence that

sustains everything.


There are many kinds of transformation.


I used to settle for nectar

from the closest blooms.

It was sweet enough,

and everyone was happy with

the abundance I labored to offer.

But as I made my flighty patrol

I often caught sight of

flashes of color beyond.

I could feel the low hum

of kindred seekers

and I wondered at the

wideness of the fields

the profile of the horizon

the existence of other things.


One day the wind caught me unawares

and I was buffeted

not unwillingly

to another meadow where

there were new colors

and the old ones too

and although I have a bee’s sensible

sense of direction

I lost the way back anyway.


This nectar, this sweetness has an edge

that cuts through the newfound wonder

to something more earthy and elemental.

I find myself manufacturing less while harvesting

more, at least for now,

noticing what is underneath and unblooming

and reliable, what has died to give new life,

what has been killed and is only loss.


My other namesake is calling me with

her sage fierceness, her stage whisper,

her tragic warrior spirit.

She has turned my gaze to others

living parallel questions,

producing a collective, insistent hum.

They are not hive bees either.