Why volunteering is not enough

MOUNTAIN MEDITATION

JULY 11, 2018

Why volunteering is not enough

By Marguerite Jill Dye

A family friend of 60 years responded to my open letter to Pope Francis, printed in last week’s Mountain Times. She sent me a beautiful message in response to my comments that “America has lost its compassion for the suffering” and that my hope is “nearly gone.”

She offered a way of regaining my hope: to “Be the difference” through volunteer work to help alleviate suffering. Mountain Meditation_WEBShe shared that her volunteer work and that of her family and friends reinvigorates her hope through action.

I agree that volunteer work is important and can fill a role. I, too, am inspired by faith through good work. But, as other Catholic friends have commented, “no matter how much we do to ‘Be the difference,’ if there are those in power (or government) who are working at cross purposes to the good so many people are trying to bring about, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to right the wrongs inflicted on innocent people.”

At times in the past I’ve also felt lifted up while volunteering in various roles. My friend suggested volunteering with children, which I do love to do. I’ve helped and taught children in orphanages, shelters, and schools. I loved serving women and children in Buenos Aires slums and Argentina’s rural indigenous communities, but working under a military dictatorship and living under constant fear did anything but lift us up.

I feel enormously frustrated by the lack of compassion demonstrated in our own government and society of exclusion. At a time like this, feeding the homeless doesn’t make me feel better or more hopeful. What I want is action for change: for the world’s richest nation to eliminate homelessness and hunger. What I can see more and more is that our individual actions, as good as they may be, only meet the tip of the iceberg of needs.

When government services have been cut down to the bone or completely slashed, volunteer work is a drop in the bucket. For example, while Habitat for Humanity may build 100 houses, government-funded affordable housing programs may contribute more than 10,000 units for low income families in need. The amount of needed funding has been significantly cut over the past 20 years. Millions of low income families are on waiting lists.

Studying injustice and educating on behalf of people in need is truly a full time (volunteer) job. Normally I’m happy, enthusiastic, and filled with faith and hope for the future. However, there are many reasons I feel discouraged, along with most of my friends. I chose to share my innermost feelings and fears with the pope because:

Migrant, refugee, and asylum seeking children have been forcibly separated from their parents at our border and held in mass cages on mats on the floor.

The human right to affordable, available healthcare is threatened and lost, and many have suffered, even perished.

Environmental protection laws have been eliminated or compromised.

Public education is being manipulated to cater to rich kids, to the detriment of the poor.

Tax cuts have been orchestrated to benefit the rich and result in cuts to basic human services for the poor.

Cheating and lies have become commonplace to benefit an oligarchy based on power and greed.

My own government’s policies are triggering my fear from living under Argentina’s military dictatorship, along with the fear of our immigrants, and nearly all of my Jewish friends.

I say volunteering is not enough.Our government must honor the values we once shared as a democratic nation and as a beacon of freedom and hope in the world.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

Advertisements

My Letter to the Pope

MOUNTAIN MEDITATION

JULY 5, 2018

Open letter to Pope Francis

By Marguerite Jill Dye (Her 100th Column!)

Your Holiness,

Although I believe we’ve never met in person, I feel as if I know you. Our lives overlapped for a time in Buenos Aires when you were the Superior of the Society of the Jesuits and I served as a mission intern for the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. I worked with women and children in the villas miserias with Adelina Gonnet and the Centro Evangelico de Acción Social during Argentina’s brutal dictatorship.

Mountain Meditation_WEBI am enclosing a column I recently wrote in the Mountain Times entitled “On which side of history do you stand?” I wrote about the film, “Call Me Francis,” and how it revived memories of my Argentine experience, a fearful, traumatic, painful time that threw me into a clinical depression. Upon my return, a psychologist said I was “trying to deal sanely with an insane situation.” I can imagine your time in Augsburg after the junta’s fall, grappling with the aftermath, and praying it would never recur . . .

Of late, at home in the U.S.A., similar feelings have returned. I feel as if my optimism and idealism have been stolen—perhaps America’s optimism and idealism, as well. It’s tragic because those were two of our greatest strengths: giving people hope around the world, living up to our morals and beliefs (for the most part), standing up for what’s right on our earth, and taking a stand against what’s wrong. Those were values for which we were loved and known. We gave hope to those overcome with despair. We offered self-determination to the oppressed. We provided the belief that justice existed for sufferers of injustice—whomever and wherever they were. But these promises, we no longer make.

In spite of my country’s secret, now open, support of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, I remember the hope Jimmy Carter’s vocal stand for human rights gave our friends in the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. (My deepest condolences for your friend Esther’s death, your parish priests, the French nuns, and all who were lost in the Dirty War).

We shamefully turned away boats of Jewish refugees during World War II, yet people have continued to come, risking their own and their children’s lives, crossing dangerous borders and perilous seas, for the hope of finding refuge and safety. Their situations in their home countries left them no choice but to flee.

The other quality America has lost is its compassion for the suffering. Truly, it’s breaking my heart. To see outcries against the weakest, poor, and most oppressed, without care or concern for their welfare, and to see heartless leaders padding pockets and power, with some “God fearing Christians” among the followers, has repulsed and sickened me.

So, Your Holiness, what might you say to restore my hope and faith in the future, for my own country and that of the world? Goodness and decency have taken a hit. Children have been torn from the arms of their parents, placed on a mat to cry out their tears. “Shock events” are more brutal each day, all for the purpose of power and greed. It seems as if lizard brains are leading us back to the dinosaur age, when survival of the fittest reigned, while neo cortex human brains are trying to act with kindness, in good faith. But what good is faith when leaders spew anger and hate, appealing to humans’ very worst instincts? I am anxious to know what you think.

I pray, and pray, and am not alone. But my hope has waned and is nearly gone. Uprisings help, seeing people who care, but I’m disheartened, feeling powerlessness, too. “Vote!” people say! Believe in the democratic process! But it’s been undermined. Our democracy has been kidnapped and compromised by people within our own ranks and billionaires who fund special interests without any limits, thanks to Citizens United. I fear another election with Russian infiltration, illegal intervention, and corruption far from ended.

Your Holiness, I’ve shared this letter in the Mountain Times of Vermont as my 100th column. Con permiso, with your permission, I’d like to share your response, as well. We await your message with great anticipation, for the inspiration you’ll surely send. Each talk and proclamation I’ve read or heard that you’ve given has rung very true in my heart, renewing my faith and belief in good works.

One last thought I’d like to mention is that we have a common friend who studied Cannon Law beside the Vatican. I was walking the Camino de Santiago and met Father Pambo Martin on retreat at the Benedictine Monastery in Rabanal, Spain. Following his studies, he directed Benedictine missions worldwide from Sankt Ottilien, Germany. Since then, Father Martin was called home to serve as Tanzania’s Abbot of Mvimwa. If he’s any indication of your flock, I’m impressed! He gives me hope!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you give and have given.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

On Which Side of History Do You Stand?

MOUNTAIN MEDITATION

JUNE 28, 2018

By Marguerite Jill Dye

Butterflies danced among blackberry bushes, reminding me of the butterfly effect used by shamans worldwide to transport themselves to other places as a healing tool. Robins passed by with nest-building materials and a Mountain Meditation_WEBhummingbird perched above my head. Then the world came to a stop when a goldfinch flew into our picture window. I laid it carefully on a soft cloth and prayed it was only in shock. But the poor tiny creature never awoke. It reminded me of life’s fleeting nature. I realized I’ve become stronger for not having dissolved in tears, but I was mistaken. It didn’t last long.

Then my close artist friend in Sarasota sent an email about a film about Pope Francis; I was thrilled to see the Netflix film, “Call me Francis” on the pope’s early life. The fact that she’s Jewish and I grew up Methodist demonstrates the pope’s universal appeal. His heart is big and includes us all. The film impressed me with his good works and ability to conciliate but flooded me with memories of the constant fear we felt.

I served as a mission intern through the United Methodist church for about 2 ½ years, working as a social worker in the slums of Buenos Aires on behalf of the poor. This work was dangerous under a military dictatorship. General Videla’s junta was trained in the U.S. Dept. of Defense-funded School of the Americas. It was implemented as Operation Condor, a secret policy of political oppression and state terrorism carried out by our CIA.

Neither the Jesuit leader and future pope, Father Jorge Bergoglio, nor I were among the 30,000 kidnapped and killed in Argentina’s “Dirty War.” We had friends in common in the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Courageous mothers and grandmothers demonstrated each week in front of the “casa rosada,” Videla’s palace, to protest the disappearance of their loved ones, hoping for their release or to know their whereabouts at the very least.

In the film I learned about his mentor and dear friend Esther, who was taken away while protesting her daughter and grandchild’s disappearance. Years later, Esther’s remains were found.

My friend Carmen survived, but her daughter, son-in-law, and toddler grandchild were never found. When families were taken, children were also torn from their parents, often given to childless junta couples, reminiscent of the kidnappings in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Ironically, it was the Year of the Child, and the welfare of children was the focus of my work, based on the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

As I sit on my deck, safe and sound, children have been torn from their mothers in Texas. I feel the terror the children are now feeling and the desperation of their parents. The trauma of even just being a witness to the horror has remained deep inside my subconscious and cell memory where trauma is held. Reliving that trauma from 40 years ago, resurrected at this time by events taking place in my own country, has added a new dimension to my understanding of human suffering. The human cost of using children as political pawns is unimaginable and abhorrent.

Now I see on our border and in these “tender” detention centers and cells the face of a Honduran child or a Guatemalan toddler of Mayan descent whose family has barely survived extreme poverty, prejudice, and violence. After leaving the living hell of fear and hopelessness at home, they’re being further subjected to inhumane human rights abuses here.

An immigration pediatrician said the trauma of a child being separated from her parents and held under these circumstances will have lifelong health and mental health consequences. These children are being stressed to the point of no return.

For children to be pulled from their mothers’ arms, screaming and crying until silenced by drugs, exhausted immigration workers, or the trauma of despair, I ask: what is our nation is doing? For what do we stand?​

As I was typing, another tap hit the window and a mother bird was stunned. Beside her was a chick whose neck had broken in a first flight. I was so devastated I sobbed, inconsolable. Duane strung ribbons from each window between stained glass ornaments that have hung for many years. And I realized the source of my tears: the birds, the families, the children. We are one.

Blessings and may God bless the children  

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Springtime Decluttering and the Tapping Solution

MAY 30, 2018

By Marguerite Jill Dye

Perched on the deck this shimmering hour, hummingbirds hum and songbirds sing. Pico and Killington peek through the trees as sunlight illuminates chartreuse spring leaves.

The peace on the deck contrasts sharply with the chaos I’ve created inside. A decluttering tornado has just passed through. Plastic bins’ contents of keepsakes and lace, seasonal clothing, fabrics, and linens lay piled atop every flat surface, awaiting decisions as to their fate. Letting go of family treasures (some are precious, others are “junque”), isn’t as easy as some might think.

I’ve always felt guilty letting things go. I hear Mom’s voice with each object’s tale, although I can’t recall the exact words. Did Nana or Granny crochet this shawl? Who wore this delicate christening gown? How many dinners would it take to employ each one of these hand-embroidered napkins? (They’ll always have wrinkles because I don’t iron.) We have tablecloths coming out the yazoo, ample bedding and towels for the U.S. Army Corps.

We’ve definitely got more stuff than space! And have I mentioned the boxes of papers that are awaiting me downstairs? Each time we moved, I stuffed papers in bags, then stashed bags in boxes and bins galore. Not only my boxes of papers await me, but also Mom’s boxes of poems and notes.

Clutter is an indication of other things going on. It protects us from the world like a buffer zone or extra weight. We may build clutter walls to distract from reality and keep our minds focused on our immediate surroundings. Sometimes clutter feels more like a prison. Some objects hold sorrow and grief – only distance and time help us deal with them.

In Feng Shui, tackling clutter has powerful effects. It clears stagnation in our energy fields, benefits health, and makes space for new ventures. “Old ways won’t open new doors,” it is said, and according to the Tao of Dana, disorganization has many forms. Piles of papers (my specialty), stuffed drawers and closets, feeling overwhelmed, lacking money or time are all ways that clutter can impact our lives.

Another frequent symptom of disorganization is lacking a purpose or plan. Knowing where we’re going helps us stay on course. Envisioning how I’d like to live the next two decades of my life, I ask myself, “Does this fit my plan?” Designer William Morris suggested asking, “Is this object really beautiful?” and “Do I truly love it?” If not, perhaps someone else can enjoy and benefit from it. So I’m assembling lovely things for family and friends, based on their interests and tastes. Little by little, I’m beginning to fill boxes to donate, keep, or sell.

I’ve attempted a major decluttering for years and made little dents in the past, but I credit my current progress to the “Tapping Solution.” It’s helped alleviate my guilt and change my attitude. It’s unblocked the dam that was holding me back. One year ago, I tried tapping when I found myself overcome by anxiety about traffic and accidents while riding in the car. It definitely helped me until recently, when I simply repeated the easy process.
People use EFT, the Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping Solution, to reduce chronic or short-term stress, tense muscles and joint pain; decrease headaches and fatigue, boosting energy levels; cope with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem; and improve sleep quality, also concentration, coordination, and athletic performance.

The mind-body method of TFT, Thought Field Therapy, was first developed by clinical psychologist Dr. Roger Callahan in the 1980s. He discovered it helped people self-manage symptoms of anxiety, phobias, and stress-related problems. His students refined it into EFT in the mid 1990s. Neuroscientists have tested and proven its effectiveness in releasing disturbances in energy pathways and eliminating negative emotions. It’s now used to treat PTSD, depression, anxiety, addictions and other unwanted behavior, fears, and phobias. You’d never imagine something so simple could be so effective.

Five basic EFT tapping steps are:

One, name one specific problem or emotion in a short reminder phrase, i.e. “I feel afraid when riding in the car.”

Two, before beginning, note the intensity of the negative emotion or thought on a scale of 0 to 10. It should decrease with each tapping repetition.

Three, create a phrase that includes the emotion and problem with a powerful affirmation, i.e., “Although I feel afraid while riding in the car, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” Repeat your personal phrase as you tap four fingers several times on the edge of your palm, alternating with tapping just above the wrist.

Four, perform the tapping sequence with two or four fingers, using firm, gentle pressure over eight key meridian points. Continue to focus and repeat the affirmation as you tap four times at the following acupressure points: on the top of the head, above the eyebrows’ start, outer edge of the eye socket, cheekbone indentation below the eye’s pupil, indentation between nose and upper lip, just below the bottom lip, indentation above the center of the collar bone, and a few inches under the arm.

Five, check in to re-evaluate your problem on a scale of 0 to 10, then repeat the process until you no longer feel stuck. You can change your affirmation as needed.

Many people have experienced relief from this simple technique. It’s certainly worth a try. I didn’t realize it can help with muscle pain and sleep, so I’ll see if it can help my husband’s back pain and send me into more sound, restful, and uninterrupted sleep.

It will be exciting to see just how far this spring’s decluttering will go. I have the will and, at last, found a way. I hope to let go of old ways to open new doors. Care to join me on this springtime journey?

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

On Bears and Quests

MOUNTAIN MEDITATION

JUNE 8, 2018

On bears and quests

By Marguerite Jill Dye

Those of you who grew up in the Green Mountains of Vermont or other wilderness areas may take certain things for granted, but when I found bear poop just outside our bedroom window, I was excited and beside myself. As a Jersey girl and weekend Vermonter, I grew up helping Dad build his dream ski lodge. We contended with porcupines, raccoons, foxes, and mostly mice, but never did we encounter a bear until a few years ago when black bears began to appear in our yard. I rubbed sleep from my eyes the very first time when a big one emerged from the woods in early morn. The following year, a mischievous fellow rolled in the yard with our garbage can. He retreated behind a pine tree when my husband Duane scolded him. Last summer, a bear family came through weeks apart, to our excitement and delight. I spotted them from the upstairs deck, and immortalized the young one in my book illustration when he passed by my studio window. The grand finale was a mother and two cubs in the brush just below Roaring Brook Road. Her cubs scurried hurriedly up the tree as she stood at the bottom, scrutinizing me.

Finding bear poop in our yard felt like a black bear blessing, and coincided with our first spring hike up Killington’s Bear Mountain. We hiked to the first lift station with our little grandson, where he feasted on picnic fare he’d refused at our dining room table. A few days later, Duane and I passed trail and snow making repair crews at work. Otherwise, we were completely alone. Mountain bikers hadn’t arrived. The views were stunning, the sunshine, brilliant, and the lovely breeze kept the bugs away, mostly. We picnicked, perched on the mountaintop, awed by the majesty of the place we so love. Looking around atop Bear Mountain, I envisioned spending one full day, from sunrise through sunset, in my own gentle version of a vision quest. Perhaps I’ll hike down to dream under the stars atop the mound in our own back yard. But, of course, there’s the matter of bears, and where there’s bear poop, there are bears. So, we’ll see how courageous I am in my spiritual search for inspiration.

I’d hoped to join a sweat lodge last month but it was canceled due to wind and fire danger. My spiritual counselor was relieved and said, “You’re too sensitive to attend a sweat lodge. You’d absorb the negative emotions others release in the spiritual purification.”

So, instead, I’ve worked with feng shui to clear attic boxes of clutter. They say it makes room for new opportunities, and a “vision quest” keeps coming to mind. I’d like to gain clarity on how to fulfill and better live my life purpose. Young Cree Indians on the cusp of manhood were sent on an arduous vision quest to turn gentle boys into strong men and warriors. The original vision quests are extremely rigorous with fasting and little or no water for days. It facilitates dreams, direct revelations, and visions, sought by shamans and other seekers. A blanket provides the only protection, although a stone or wood semicircle or rectangle was sometimes built on a mountain overlook.

“It’s very important for people to realize that this is not fun and games. Going into the spiritual world is very serious,” Cree Indian William Walk Sacred cautioned. “If the intent isn’t clear, the spirits will not give the vision. The most important thing is being clear in your heart as to what you are seeking for yourself and the people of the world.” He prayed for a year and a half in preparation for his vision quest (native-americans-online.com).

“Slow down. Gaze into the fire for our inner message. The answer is inside of us. Sit on the earth. Walk bare footed. The helping spirits and elements want to help,” counsels Sandra Ingerman, renowned shaman, author, and teacher. “Release feelings of unworthiness and decide what kind of a person you want to be in the world. Shamanism is a process of direct revelation. Open up to the magic of the spiritual journey. We learn these ancestral traditions from indigenous cultures . . . Honor your spirits. Call blessings into your life . . . Know that you are blessed and life is a gift. Everything is a sacred gift . . . It’s a rebirth that leads to illumination.”

This is my 96th Mountain Meditation column and in a month it will be the 100th! To celebrate the milestone, I’d like to invite you to a party in the Killington Dream Lodge. I promise to make Mom’s famous “Marguerite’s Ooh La La Hot Fudge Sauce” for ice cream after we share a pot luck supper, mainly of salads, so we can afford the calories. Tentative date: Saturday, June 30 at 5pm. Everyone is invited! Please bring your ideas and requests for columns. I’d like “Mountain Meditation” to be a blessing in your life.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

Mother’s on the Move

MOUNTAIN MEDITATION

MAY 10, 2018

Mothers on the move

By Marguerite Jill Dye

After a big family Mother’s Day Dinner,
Mom started to scrub lots of Corning.
Said the children, “It’s your day. You shouldn’t wash dishes!
Just rinse, and do them in the morning.”
From “A Smile, a Chuckle, or a Loud Guffaw or What Happened When I Wasn’t Looking?”

This poem in Mom’s book of humorous poems about senior citizens always brings a laugh because, I’m afraid, it’s universally true.

Mother’s Day makes me think of my mother, whose legacy is longlasting: a brilliant woman with a ready laugh, whose (rather scandalous) jokes, hilarious poems, and music always livened things up. She was strong and courageous, with a trace of pioneer blood. Roughing it in Vermont while building Dad’s dream lodge was more a nightmare for Mom, but she jumped right in with diligence and zeal, and fully rose to the occasion. In work clothes from head to toe, you wouldn’t have guessed she descended from the kings of France. She was a lady in all of her senses, and a perfectionist with high expectations – not always easy to live up to for my brothers and me. But she also inspired many people who knew her, in music, writing, and the fine art of living. Her enthusiasm and bright ideas were in sync with her great joie de vivre. She was a student of Norman Vincent Peale and believed in the power of positive thinking.

Too many live without adequate care, in unsafe, deplorable conditions. We can help a child we know or through programs like Guardian ad Litem to advocate for and protect a child in court. Our action is also most desperately needed in caring for Mother Earth.

As my husband and I participate all May in Walk Your AS Off, we’re especially aware of the chasm between man’s progress and the preservation of nature. Toxins and chemicals released in the air, spewed into water and soil, from digging, drilling, dumping, and burning, have undermined, not only our health, but also our Earth Mother.

Immune system damage is spiraling out of control: there are nearly 100 autoimmune disorders and diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and related forms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, and diabetes. On average, AS patients alone spend 10 years searching for a diagnosis! Those lost years without proper treatment can cause irreversible spinal damage. As health regulations to protect our wellbeing are being defunded and undone, a greater number of people will fall ill.

Once we’ve experienced immobility, we no longer take walking for granted. Walking and stretching, with doctor’s approval, can help chronic pain and limited motion.

By increasing the distance in steps each day, we’re becoming firmer and fitter. We want to lose a few pounds on our waists, to decreasebody mass index (BMI) and to make ankylosing spondilitis better known. Let’s walk for those unable to. Join a team at walkyourasoff.com or walkasone.org. Happy Mother’s Day, one and all!

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Let’s Go for a Walk!

MOUNTAIN MEDITATION

MAY 3, 2018

Let’s go for a walk!

A little poem I wrote in my 20s still holds true today:
A Walk, Just a Walk
A walk, just a walk, without destination, not hampered by unhappiness, or pressured by time.
A walk, just a walk, that exercised thought, shared a smile, and amused a pup.
A walk, just a walk, that awakened memory, revealed reality, and nourished budding dream.
A walk, just a walk.

By Marguerite Jill Dye

Hippocrates, the Greek physician widely regarded as the “father of medicine,” was right: “Walking is man’s best medicine.”

Walking is one of the few pleasures in life that is also very good for us. It lowers stress and bad cholesterol, strengthens and enlarges the brain, enhances creativity, and helps to lose weight. Walking tones muscles, including the heart, improves breathing and lung function. It lowers blood pressure and the chance of encountering a stroke or diabetes risk. It increases serotonin (which elevates mood), as well as HDL (good cholesterol). Walking just 21 minutes per day cuts the risk of heart disease by 31 percent and saves over $100 billion in America’s health care costs, according to Harvard Medical School. After age 40, 75 minutes of brisk walking per week extends life expectancy 1.8 years; 150-299 minutes per week adds 3.4 years; 450 minutes of vigorous walking per week adds 4.5 years and up to 7.2 years for those with a healthy body-mass index, according to studies by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (consumer.healthday.com).

Interval walking – alternating between a normal and faster pace a few times during a walk – burns more calories and helps build cardiovascular endurance. A University of Virginia women’s fitness study found that three shorter, fast-paced walks each week burned five times more belly fat than five strolls a week. Another important benefit of high intensity exercise (which includes walking at a fast pace) is that it burns three times more visceral fat – the dangerous fat around vital organs that’s linked to heart disease and diabetes.

Every May for the past seven years my husband Duane and I have joined the Walk Your A.S. Off Walkathon, a virtual walk all over the world. My niece Jennifer Dye Visscher helped create this endeavor, where participants walk wherever they are, improving their own health and raising awareness of a little-known disease that 33 million people suffer from.

Ankylosing spondylitis (A.S.) is so little-known that people spend years without diagnosis or proper treatment. It is a progressive, inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spine primarily. Movement is essential to help slow the progression.

Should you accept the challenge to Walk Your A.S. Off, you’ll improve your own health while helping others. Join a team or form your own at walkyourasoff.com. Each step you take in the month of May will be tallied with other walkers from across the globe. A pedometer or iPhone health app measures your steps quite easily. Just submit your weekly steps online to add to the global grand step total. Your dog’s steps count too on Team PAWS for Our Cause.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking,” said Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher.

There’s nothing quite like taking a walk to change a perspective or create a distraction. Walking is so very versatile. It comes in all speeds and sizes: a tailor-made walk can stretch out the back or lift a human from gloom. An added delight is to walk in Vermont, most certainly a feast for the senses: crusty snow crunching beneath snow boots, splashing spring puddles of mud, soft carpets of moss and purple vetch, and flamboyant fluttering leaves in the fall.

“Above all do not lose your desire to walk every day. I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one can not walk away from it,” said Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.