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Tag Archives: Lloyd A. Meeker Author

I’ve been writing winter solstice poems for close to fifty years. Not every year, but this profound solar event seems to present itself to me over and over as a moment to take seriously, in reverence. It’s become my year-end, and the morning after my new year’s day.

I haven’t written a solstice poem for a few years, and with all the discordant forces at work in our world it seemed a good time to ask if there was one this year, to close out a year that has been filled with creativity, growth, pain, loss and disillusionment. This poem pretty much wrote itself in a few hours.

Winter Solstice 2016

Time to strip naked again,
be empty and innocent.
Pile actions, belief, hope, vision
onto the Solstice fire.

Trusting the furnace is hard.

Burning the wreckage
of insufficient dreams is easy,
pieces of broken furniture
not worth mending, discovered
in the wistful dim attic of my soul.
I’ve done it before.

But the other dreams?
If it’s insufficient, it will burn.
Trial by fire.

I risk losing the good dreams,
the ones I might fix up one day and re-upholster,
the dreams beloved people now dead sat in at night,
settled in their warm comfort and imperfections,
dreams I’d rather keep — losing them
hurts long before I let go.

The last gift
of an insufficient dream
is essence, light
set free as it burns.

Throw everything in.
Then climb in and trust,
like the three men in Daniel.

Search in the morning, as the sun rises,
with a heart knowing ash
as well as fire,
find what remains
untouched among the bitter ashes:
a small obsidian goddess;
seeds cracking open with new life;
a pen that still works.

Find what remains
in the light of day.

Lloyd A. Meeker

“US Exceeds all Expectations in Rio” crows a headline here in the US today. Um, maybe not so much.

This is my second Summer Olympics to offer a different way of looking at Olympic glory.

This post is not a commentary or criticism of the training, dedication, sweat, pain, and success of the  individual athletes themselves. Every bit of praise to them, each one, even if their post-competition behavior was reprehensible. Each one earned her/his right to compete in the Olympics through bone-deep commitment, and earned whatever victories they achieved. Good for them!

Instead, this post seeks to serve as antidote to the bombardment of chauvinistic posturing that overlaid the TV coverage. This country seemed to crow about their athletes’ medals as if the country somehow could claim the glory of its athletes. I don’t mind a little ego attachment: the Icelandic soccer team in the Euros created a phenomenon that is very rare, and beautiful. But the jingoistic posturing of the US press was embarrassing to me, and I suspect many other countries had their own tiresome version of it.

Folks, it’s not about how many medals a country “won”. No country won any medals at all. Individual human beings won those medals. No country sweated for them. No country ran a step, or performed on the rings. No country broke a bone. The Olympic oath is to “the glory of sport” and not to the aggrandizement of national ego.

So here’s a different way of looking at the medal count, one I feel is more true to the spirit of the Olympics: medals by population. I took the medals won and divided by a multiple of 100,000 in the country. The results are eye-opening! Forget about the massive training programs and the most expensive coaches and the best technology available.

The winner of the Olympic medal race, just as in 2012, turns out to be — drum roll — Grenada. One medal, won by an athlete from a nation of 107,000 people. USA won 121 medals, which with a population of 324.1 million puts its medal accomplishment at 43rd in the world, not first. Interesting. To achieve the equivalent Grenada’s one-medal-in-100k people, the US would have had to come away with 324 medals. Not even close.

What big-power, big population, big investment country would openly admit that the top ten Olympic countries are all quite small in population? It says something extra about the dedication of their athletes, I think. Additional praise to them for their grit and excellence.

Below is my full spreadsheet. I think the top countries on this list deserve national praise, if any is to be doled out.

2016 Olympic Medal Rank by Population

A week ago I returned from a trip to Argentina. I’d never traveled to South America before, and since it was the only continent (not counting Antarctica) I had yet to visit, I was excited. Even though I know South America has far more to see and experience, Iguazú Falls will remain the highlight of my trip — a profound spiritual experience.

On landing in Buenos Aires we took a shuttle to the other airport and flew directly to Iguazú. In planning the trip we’d learned there was a moonrise trek every full moon to the Devil’s Throat, the most dramatic section of the falls, and we managed to get tickets our party of ten. After a briefing by a park ranger we took a little train to the beginning of the walkway across branches of the river. The moon rose, and after a kilometer or so we came to the lip of the falls. I have no photos, but it was spectacular. We stood dripping and awe-stricken in the jungle night, and I’m glad we did it. But the following morning I realized how little we had actually seen.

IMG_0758Nothing prepared me for the sheer size of the cataract. A million gallons a second, I was told. 275 distinct waterfalls across almost three kilometers, the brochure said. Identified in 2011 as one of the planet’s seven wonders of nature, a plaque said. Data became meaningless. It was overwhelming. Over the next day and a half, I evolved through three ways of experiencing what it was.

The first phase was the most obvious: Spectacle. Immense, breath-taking. Every few IMG_0718steps I encountered a new vista to photograph. I was one of dozens recording the spectacle.

IMG_0738As I hiked the trails and catwalks, I gradually adapted to the magnitude of the spectacle. The falls became a kind of New-Age Inspiration. To my amazement and profound embarrassment I caught myself thinking psychobabble banalities and projecting them onto the natural beauty surrounding me. “Even this tiny rivulet is part of the massive river.” “We spent IMG_0726thousands of dollars to be here, but this tiny orchid lives here for free.” As I said, embarrassing. When a sophomoric slogan with Biblical overlays, “bloom where you’re planted,” came spewing out of my old ministerial subconscious, I had to turn away from the water in shame. Fortunately, that one also broke the spell which had me believing I was in charge of what my experience meant.

I abandoned my desire to project petty human IMG_0743“lessons” onto whatever this immense force of nature was doing. I finally stopped taking pictures to simply stand still and be open. It seemed to be roaring at me to listen. So I did. It became my teacher. I can’t put what it taught me into words, but I did feel its message enter my IMG_0738body, which shivered and swayed to receive it. It changed me. That is its enduring gift to me.