12 Days of Kindness
“What goes around comes around”. Like most people, I receive posts on Facebook that are often pictures of animals. Being an animal lover, I revel in each one. One of my favorites, though, is an oldie but goodie. It is a picture of two dogs, German Shepherds, sitting side by side. Both dogs have a sign around their necks, respectively. The first sign states “Don’t let karma bite you in the rear.” The dog sitting beside that dog has a sign that reads “I am Karma”.
The old idiom I quoted at the beginning of this has a great deal of truth in it, both in nature as well as our treatment of each other. I first heard it as a definition of karma when doing a religious presentation to a group of first graders. An overly-active young lad who was not prone to sitting still and kept jumping up and playing with non-playful objects in the room like the light switch or window blinds cord suddenly stopped his actions and looked directly at me when I asked if any knew the meaning of the word “karma”. His response was quick and to the point: “What goes around comes around.”
Celtic culture described the areas of grass affected by a common fungus as fairy rings. This circular spots of grass contained grasses that grew a deeper green and often thicker. It was believed that the fairies made them and that they were a sign of good luck. Depending on the mythology and the culture, fairy rings were thought to be made by fairies dancing, used when illustrated by mushrooms growing as dinner tables with the fairies eating off the mushrooms, or places for spirits to gather and sometimes be free to release their powers within the circle.
Mushrooms are associated with fairy rings and not just because eating certain ones can produce hallucinations that might make one believe he/she really had seen fairies dancing. A common sign of a fairy ring is a necrotic zone, an area in which the grass and other plant life has died. Fungi associated with mushrooms, mushrooms themselves being a fungus, deplete the soil of nutrients and the plants growing within the circle often die. Similarly the area adjacent to such fungus can grow thicker and deeper in color.
There is also evidence that rabbits are an important part in the life cycle of some fairy rings. Rabbits eat grass, cropping it very short while their waste products contain nitrogen-rich droppings. Mushrooms need more soil nitrogen than grass does and a fairy ring can be started from a single fungus spore. Subsequent generations of the original spore will grow outward seeking more nutrients since the parent fungus would have used up all in the immediate area. Rabbits eat only the grass and not the mushrooms so the mushrooms soon grow taller than the grass which the rabbits keep low. This can create rings inside of rings.
It is said to be bad luck to enter a fairy ring and even worse luck to destroy or disturb one. Superstitions abound in almost every culture based upon such. From the thirteenth century writer Raoul de Houdenc to the modern-day romance writer Nora Roberts, fairy rings have played a prominent role in the literature of the world. They are also found as subjects of art and were a favorite of Victorian art.
The roundness of fairy rings is repeated in the Native American Indian culture in the form of medicine wheels. These stone man-made circles were thought to harness the healing power of nature and used to benefit man/woman. Also known as “sacred hoops”, medicine wheels were found in areas of different tribes and are one of the common aspects found throughout the tribes of all such peoples within North America. Alberta, Canada hosts at least seventy medicine wheels that survive today. Archaeologist John Brumley notes that a medicine wheel consists of at least two of the following three traits: (1) a central stone cairn, (2) one or more concentric stone circles, and/or (3) two or more stone lines radiating outward from a central point. The lines of stones radiating outward from the center appear as spokes in the directions of east, west, north, and south.
The medicine wheel was not a set pattern, though. The number of spokes differed from wheel to wheel and some spokes were not evenly spaced out in the design. One of the oldest remaining wheels dates back over forty-five hundred years. Some are aligned astronomically with the horizon and others reflect the position of the sun on the four seasonal equinoxes. How their power was utilized is a subject of much debate but it is clear that they held power and served purpose of healing and living.
While many fairy rings are found throughout Europe and the medicine wheels of the North American aboriginal people known as American Indians seem to be found only on the two American continents, there are other such rings. The landscape of Africa also hosts fairy rings. The explanations for them in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and Ireland seem to lose validity when comparing that topography to the land of Africa.
Often described as a “thousand blinking eyes in the desert”, the fairy rings of Namibia are considered one of the world’s great natural mysteries. In a place called “The Land God Made in Anger’, the Namibian circle number in the millions although such circles are also found where the grassland transition to desert, from Angola to the Cape province of South Africa. The Namib Desert is a remote and harsh environment. Reasons for the circle abound but then, just as plentifully, are found without backing. Biologist Walter Tschinkel was certain the circle were the work of termites. “They are really neat places, these little clean patches. They are like little satellite dishes. I looked at them and thought ‘this has to be termites,” Tschinkel remarked. “It is the sort of things termites do.” However, his theory proved false and while others still believe in the sand termite as the cause, that theory also fails to justify all aspects of the circles.
More recently a scientist took a holistic approach. Many theories have focused on the underground gasses believed to be affecting the soil and grass formation. Folklore of the region mentioning underground dragons whose breath create the circles. Stephan Getzin, an ecologist from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, in Leipzig, Germany decided to consider all theories but from a different perspective – a bird’s eye view. He took to the air to examine the Namibian circles and discovered something very interesting. The circles not only appeared as eyes in the desert, dancing across the landscape, they were evenly spaced and had an organization to them. His findings have revealed only that there is still we do not know and that all previous theories might have some validity although none would be the entire story. “I’m sure this is not the end of the story,” summarized Getzin.
These circles, these evidences of unknown karma upon the environment, whether natural or man-made, are excellent examples of the sacred in our own lives. Sometimes it is what we do to ourselves and sometimes we are simply the victims of another’s behavior or choices. The fact is that we can learn and heal from everything. Life is a series of lessons, a process of acceptance. Not all of life’s lessons are pleasant or invited. Healing occurs when we learn. What we choose to eat and drink affects our living and how we live has just as important an affect. Selecting to live graciously with respect to all gives us a greater chance of being treated the same. Even when we are not, we can find the lesson and move on to greater things.
My thanks to you the readers who have accepted this blog and read it. You come from forty-three countries world-wide and much of this particular post came from my most popular post in the last two years. Those of you who have taken the time to comment have taught me and I accept those lessons with gratitude and joy. Life is not for the faint-hearted. Life takes courage and is seldom “easy”. Your acceptance of these posts has been a blessing and I thank each of you.
Eventually, good will go around the world and encompass it and us. The best karma will be found in the acceptance we give one another. Today’s world is one of name-calling and inciting terror. Sharing kindness by allowing people to be, accepting them for their differences in spite of them, opens a door for a better tomorrow and a brighter, safer future for everyone. The sacred part of karma is in learning from the painful and spreading joyful kindness and acceptance to all.