Category Archives: Soil

End Government Days of False Honor and Reclaim Soil’s Family


October 11, 2015

Funny (in a non-funny way) how many people and State governments have learned a flag (Confederate) has the ability to destroy justice and people and that there is integrity of removing it from the public life, but continue to hold on to and honor a day ruin—Columbus Day. Some are going to talk about this day of history that honors humanities quest of exploration and adventure. I would not be surprised to see the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria compared to Friendship 11, Apollo 11, and Space Shuttle Columbia. Others will speak of the day as a day of conquest, subjugation, and genocide. While others will move for a governmental name switch to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, like the City of Seattle did in 2014.

Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day, I am not a fan of either. I find governmental days of recognition little more than fluff when it comes to justice. Few folk give them serious thought. After all, there is already Native American Day—just a few weeks ago (September 25). What special events or education opportunities were in your community on that day? What did you attend? (Really, feel free to post!) Alongside, Native American Heritage Month is all next month! What might your congregation, non-profit, or business have planned? What event do you plan to attend? (I’ll give two suggestions found in the Northwest: JustLiving Farm is screening of who are my people a film Emmy Award winning filmmaker Robert Lundahl on November 05. And Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is offering the Collins Lecture in Portland on the Doctrine of Discovery with Robert J. Miller, George “Tink” Tinker and Kim Recalma-Clutesi on November 19.)

Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Day is but a symbolic move. Does it matter? Well of course it does, but it benefits the government much more than people. Does anyone believe the City of Seattle is going to make substantial change that would have governance structure become accountable to American Indians? Or fund better education for American Indian children? Or fund better American Indian health, mental care, spiritual care, or care for family structure? What I am getting at is while Indigenous People’s Day sounds good, it is a day of governmental structure, which allows governments like Seattle sound and look good while maintaining oppressive policies against American Indians. Meaningful insight is not going to come from the government, but from the people. I’ll take Idle No More or #BlackLivesMatter any day over one more government holiday (that does not honor a person of resistance). Continue reading

It’s All A Little Foggy, But Let Me Remember


February 01, 2015

As January slips away so does my patience with fog. After weeks of fog, along with knowing a sunny blue sky is a hundred or two feet above, and because February can hold more fog ahead, my patience is normally wanting.

So I am surprised to find my patience fairly intact at the end of January. I have had enough, little doubt about that, but I have found the winter fog talkative. Walking back to the house the other night I watched the crescent moon barrel through the fog and backlight a bare tree. The tree stood full, chest out, nakedly proud in the showering mist of fog. Lovely how a cold foggy winter night brings out the ampleness of life lodged in water of air, tree, and moon.

I miss the fullness of life too often. I find it easy enough to think a tree as living, and when creek water tumbles or fog loiters, living water. Yet my secular and religious teachings have taught me to give little credence to the notion of life in rock, soil, mountain, or moon. When it comes to soil it’s okay to give life to the rhizomes and micro-critters living within, but the dirt itself? Not a chance. Moon shimmering through a night fog calls forth another story.

Some folk mindfully walk. Such walking allows awareness of grounded relationship. A relationship the ground has always known. Ground is fully aware of the feet who play ball, run, hike or swing a child in the air. The stories of twisting, heavy breath, and laughter become grounded. While we—our partners, our parents, our children, ourselves—may forget such moments, they are not lost, but embedded. If one listens, the ground has stories to tell. Continue reading

Autumnal Memories of Northern Sun

October 20, 2010

moving being through ancient cosmos holding life, giving life,
nudging, stretching, pushing darkness, beginnings and endings not known
not knowing this walk
not knowing this journey
first light, imagined,
imagination speaks the never known
and known is unimaginable
light, light, light, light
ground of being held warmth,
light warmth fully engulfs being
rising up, growing up, running ahead, there is no time
moving, jostling, shouldering neighbor, reaching after light,
light, light light, light
pushing, reaching, grabbing, stretching
full life grasps for light
opening to full light, engulfing warmth, presence, energy
birthing seeds
seeds of self birth
one, two, three, four
again and again
leaning towards cool southern light
resting head, then neck,
shoulders hunch towards beginning
warm afternoons are memories
yesterdays run toward light
cool evenings speak change
cool mornings reach deeply
holy unstructured thought
imagined unimaginable
© David B. Bell 2010

Finding creative calmness in the Labyrinth

September 2, 2010

Leading up to a wedding, it doesn’t hurt to search for and find a little calmness.  Weddings have their own way of creating energy unlike any other.  This energy doesn’t only arise within those emotionally close to the event, like the spouses to be, but also those who physically come within proximity of the ground on which marriage has its first blessing.  It is an energy heard in the voice, observed in the distant look of an eye or the placement of feet in a conversation, and felt in the touch of a hand on ones shoulder.  It isn’t bad energy, but rather more like the dragged up energy of shuffling feet across carpet shocking both sender and receiver bringing both surprise and laughter.  This energy only gets better with thought, reflection, and inner calmness.  One way to bring greater richness to such energy is through walking the labyrinth.

The labyrinth is an ancient way of walking into wholeness.  Unlike a maze, the labyrinth is not a walk of problem solving.  Rather the labyrinth walk gathers up the walker’s creative center and allows it to flow throughout the body, promoting reflection and spiritual wellbeing.  Ones intuition molds imagery allowing the walkers energy to spark reflection and calmness.  Because there is only one path, one way to the center and one way out, the labyrinth allows for a spiritual journey by centering ones energy.  Walking the labyrinth brings focus, but unlike focusing the lens of a camera, this is like looking at a pebble in a clear flowing stream—all that matters, the pebble, the water, the reflection of the sun, thought, and observation are keenly in focus, yet clarity is found in the art of one’s intuition.  Somewhere in the midst of artful clarity arises calmness which enriches the energy one brings to the labyrinth walk.

So it is with weddings in the air and the search for a little calmness the first labyrinth is mowed into a pasture.

© David B. Bell 2010

Oil Spills from Farm to Gulf

June 25, 2010

All it took was a damn $.27 cent lynch pin, and that’s if you buy only one.  Most of the time I buy them five for a buck.  When I think of that, it makes me feel worse.

There’s not much to a lynch pin.  A quarter inch round piece of metal stock about two inches long, with a piece of spring wire that snaps into place.  The lynch pin’s job is basic.  It holds a hitch pin in place or like yesterday, it holds the tongue of the swather onto the tractors draw bar.  That is, it holds the swather in place if you snap one on.

Early afternoon and I hooked the swather up to the tractor.  The swather is about a quarter mile from the shop and when I got to it I found I didn’t have a lynch pin the make the connection.  No problem, I thought, when I get to the shop I will put a pin in place.  In the meantime, the swather is heavy enough to make it to the shop without a problem.  Yeah, not a problem as long as I remember.  As I rolled up to the shop a few folks arrived who were interested in looking at and possibly buying a few goats.  We walked out to the pasture; looked at goats, and talked about the attributes of their mothers, weight gain, and overall confirmation.  Once they picked out a half dozen goats, we ran them into the barn, and then loaded them into a four-horse trailer.  Forty minutes or so after they arrived they were headed back down the drive with a trailer of goats.  Hmm, you think I remembered the lynch pin?

I went back to the swather, checked it over, greased joints, oiled some chains, and then drove out to open up the hay field.  I figured I would make a couple passes around the perimeter and then cut the remainder of the field the next day.  Second pass around the field I made a tight turn over some rough ground.  Tractor, swather, and I bounced.  One little bounce, that’s all it took, and the swather jumps off the draw bar and the hydraulic hoses rip away from the swather.  No hose means one thing, hydraulic oil—two gallons of oil—pours onto the ground.  Forgetting one little $.27 lynch pin and I create quite a mess and hours of fixing.

Looking at hydraulic oil on the ground, flowing and mixing with the vegetation, I couldn’t help but think of the gulf and oil.  Like the gulf spill, this spot of ground will never be the same.  Vegetation is sure to die, and the number of dying microbial animals is probably uncountable.  Who knows how long it will take the soil to recover?  Sure, I will pick up contaminated soil and move it out of the area, but the soil will only end up somewhere else.  The plants and animals may come back to the ground of the two-gallon oil spill, but the soil taken from the ground of its being, will never be the same.

Spills are spills, I think, and when I look at mine, I have to think of my complicity in the gulf spill.  As long as I continue to use oil for heating, transportation, or food production, at some level I support offshore drilling, whether I protest it or not.  I’m not all that sure what this means for me, but a $.27 lynch pin has me thinking.

© David B. Bell 2010

Land Appeals to Wholeness

June 10, 2010

The land is much more than a bit of soil, some water, a plant here and there, and a few animals running around.  The land invokes awareness, an openness you might say, to the incredible places of interlinking relationship.  Such awareness never allows loneliness or thoughtlessness.  Such awareness does not allow hurt.  Rather, the land prays compassionate caring for any aspect of the land is the caring for all created land.

© David B. Bell 2010

When Dirt Reconnects with Ground

April 12, 2010

Water now flowing in the mainline, we could finally “jet” the ditches where we place new mainline this last month.

Every time I back fill a ditch I find it amazing that the dirt I dug out of the ground is more than will go back in.  I’ve dug enough ditches to know why, but knowing why does not stop me from remembering the first time I learned, why.

Years ago, when I was much younger, I worked alongside my dad and younger brother backfilling a ditch.  I don’t remember who asked the question, Don or I.  We didn’t ask a lot of questions, but when we did, they were always important, at least to us—important for two reasons.  One was that need to know the why behind the common every-day-stuff.  There are those somethings, that occur in our landscape so often, they are simply normal though we don’t have a clue as to the why they occur.  And isn’t it true that as we get older, and maybe question the WHY to these somethings, we don’t ask the question for fear of looking foolish?

The second reason to ask the question is common among all children, I think, certainly rural children who work and do chores with their father.  Questions are a chance for a break!  Dad was one of those fathers who after a long life of working in the sun knew how to keep a steady pace throughout the day.  Don and I would tire long before him.  A question, if we could get Dad to respond, would often allow for a respite (Of course, there were many times Dad would respond, not lift his head, and not miss a lick.)

“Why is it, when we put back into the ditch the same dirt we dug out, there is so much more?  The pipe we put in wasn’t that big.”  The dirt above the ditch, best I recollect, was a good foot above level ground as we backfilled.  The answer was slow, as answers often were from Dad, and went something like this.  “The ground has been here a long time.  It is compacted and tight.  When we dug it up, it loosened and lost its compaction.  It only seems to grow, but really, it is the same amount we dug up in the first place.  However, because it has expanded, we will put many more shovel fulls back into the ditch than we took out.”

I don’t recall if that was the first time I saw a ditch “jetted,” but it is the first I remember.  Once the ditch was backfilled, we took a six-foot-long pipe with a hose connected to it, turned on water, and shoved the pipe into the ditch.  Slowly, as water saturated the loosened soil, the gaps and voids were eliminated as the soil turned to mud.  We stood above the ditch, and watched as the mounded dirt slowly sunk back into the land from which it came.

We didn’t always jet ditches.  When they were out away from the house, or roadways, we would let them be, and allow them to recompact over the course of time.  So often, there is no hurry, and often, Dad was not in a hurry.

Nothing like Mud

April 8, 2010

A broken irrigation mainline sent me to town yesterday.  My plan was to pick up a small backhoe, bring it to the farm, and dig up the lines.  Good plan, I thought, but when I reached town the backhoe the rental agency thought would work for me was more weight than worked for my trailer.  Of course, with the weather as it is these days, everyone in the county is working ground and there was not another hoe for renting.  That left one option.  Dig up the line myself.

Two feet in the ground isn’t a long way to dig.  At least not in ground dug in the last month.  It is a long way though when that ground is saturated with water.

Mud has never been my thing.  Really, working in mud, lines up much closer to one of the things I hate than love.  Digging in mud means you have to bang the shovel against the ground on most every shovel full.  That’s a lot of banging.  Another problem with mud, especially mud so inundated with water it seeps out of the mud, is about the time you have portion of ditch dug, more mud slithers into the ditch.  This results in a lot more digging and banging.  If that isn’t enough, when the ground is as soaked as this was, a fair size hole below the pipe needs digging to store all the water that continues to seep into the ditch (this is also critical because when the pipe is finally cut for repair, all the water remaining in the pipe flows into the ditch as well!).

As I said, mud isn’t my thing.  I always start as if I can get this job done without ending up full of mud myself.  Well, that just isn’t going to happen.  Nope, instead, when I lean over to clean the mud out from underneath the pipe, a nice slimy, muddy, chunk of what once might have been called earth—that I didn’t throw quite far enough away from the edge of the ditch—falls back in, on my neck, and oozes down my back.  Then when standing in water that is more mud than water, sooner or later, when cutting pipe or reaching out of the ditch for a can of glue, you slip and plant your shoulder and cheek into the muddy sidewall of the ditch.  And if that isn’t enough, without fail; you slip and find yourself sitting in the bottom of the ditch, in a pool of watery mud—which is pouring into the back of your britches—looking up past the dark walls of the ditch into the blue sky, and you don’t know whether to laugh or just be good and angry.

At the end of the day, the repair is finished, and that does feel good.  Before backfilling, though, I figured I would leave the ditch open for the night, let the pipe set well, and then start the pump the next day and test the pipe under pressure for any other leaks.  I’m figuring, the fewer times I dig in the mud the better it is for my mental health.  And come to think of it, when I think about that pile of muddy britches, shirt, and socks in the wash room ready for the washer, I bet the fewer times I live in the mud, the better off it is for my marriage.

Water, Mud, and Digging

April 7, 2010

The wheel lines were finished yesterday.  Sprinklers, levelers, and gaskets are in and ready for water.  This led to greasing the pump, checking line for winter damage, and starting the pump.  Everything went great until water started flowing—not such a good time for a problem!  I like to think I have a good handle on piping and most of the time there isn’t a problem, not so this time around.  I had broken into the mainline to run a lateral when I added to the mainline a while back.  Well, right there, the ground began to boil and water started to flow freely out of the ground as if it were a little artesian well.

You can imagine where that leaves me this morning.  I’ve hooked up the flatbed trailer to the truck and I am off to rent a backhoe for the day.  A little digging, a lot of mud, and a bit of fixing pipe is ahead.  Oh well, great sunrise this morning!