Tag Archives: Celebrations

Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism?

15.09.04

August 04, 2015

The folk of the African American Methodist (AME) community are dedicating this Sunday “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism.” Others (congregations, pastors, and Sunday morning preachers/speakers), are being asked to speak up, write up, and liturgy up alongside.

If 1960’s civil rights and power movements prove anything it is a country cannot legislate racism away. While housing, schools, health, and jobs are better for some, much is not and for many there is little discernable change. Though legislation can put a dent in systemic racism, real change comes about by putting an end to traits racism has embedded in the way people think, live, and act. The end of racism comes with the embodying of anti-oppression values—values which are yet to become normal in US schools, churches, businesses, and politics. This systemic reality is what makes the AME call so hard. Being raised in the US means all US people embody the roots of racism: white, black, brown, young, middle-aged, old. Moving toward an identity of anti-oppression and working to end racism is to know I am the hurt, I am the problem, and I am the solution.

This Sunday’s call is Wisdom shouting at the gates of the city; it is a call to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, heritage, or sexual orientation. It is a call to know I, you, we, the people, have one aspect or another of racism embedded in our being and it is tearing at our health, our wellbeing, and our relationship. For the hope of a day when our children’s children will know health, wellbeing, and good relationship we are called to confess racism.

There has been a fair amount of talking on the Doctrine of Discovery (DoD) in this space. If the DoD speaks anything, it speaks to the subjugation of landscapes. The base of this subjugation is the extraction of landscapes resources. These resources are the landscapes soul, water, minerals, timber, wind, soil, and people. US Chattel slavery of 1830, farmworker slavery of 2015, Oak Flat copper, Ferguson, Canadian Tar Sands, coal removal, and Surinam mining are historical and current instances of US people, all US people, benefiting from one aspect or another of racism. The people are called to know the benefits they accrue from racist copper, natural gas, coal, gold, and food, and to repent.

Sunday is more than a call to recognize the racist reality folk live and benefit from, it is more than a time of regret and sorrowfulness, it is a call to change. Moving beyond confession and repentance is about engaging, acting where we can, and supporting the actions of our neighbor. Continue reading

Protecting the Young

14.01.04

October 04, 2014

Protecting the young. Most species are inclined to shelter their young. From the individualness of tree top hawk nests and haystack mouse nests to communities of goat herds, duck flocks, and seal pods, creation cares for its young giving them their best chance to for tomorrow.

Great fear comes in protecting the young. A fair amount of can I do it and do it well settles in as bellies swell. Yet fear of letting go and allowing the young to enter life’s struggle is just as great. Whether it is mother hawk with nestling at nest edge readying for flight or mother human holding a hand waiting for first day school bus, the tension between letting go and protecting, shelves fear in the heart.

Finding the time or place to ease up on protection and allow the young to make their mistakes, and too often know hurt—intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually—are hard questions for parent, herd, and flock.

I don’t know how many times an eighteen-year-old at the farm has said, I don’t feel like an adult. As I heard a young man say it again this summer it struck me how the lack of balance between protection and letting go is damaging our young and our community—think of the injustice of an 18-year-old signing up for military service, or voting, or having a beer, who do not think of themselves as an adult. Continue reading

Eating Locally, Artistically

14.09.13

September 13, 2014

Belinda and I were asked to join a ten-day program to eat locally. Folk were hoping to get some statistics on how hard it is to eat food from within a 100-mile radius of our home. We didn’t join in, but it is harvest time and what isn’t grown in our garden is by one of our neighbors. This is our vegetarian time of year and local eating is easy.

The local movement has asked us all to consider eating locally for a while now. The local idea is moving along, but one needs only to drive through town and see the cars at Applebees, McDonald’s, Outback, and the slew of non-local eateries and know it has a long way to go.

Perhaps more folk could enjoy local foods if they understand locally does not mean never eat non-local foods. Rather local eating is about honoring non-local food by knowing food is sacred and relational. Relational meaning one knows their food and the landscape of origin—soil, farmer, weather, rancher, water, fisherwo/man. Such knowledge brings forth an intimacy that binds one to their food and its relations. This bond creates better tasting meals and a reason to share.

There is not a farmer, rancher, fisher that does not want to share the fruits of their labor. Sharing enriches those who labor and those who eat. Most of the time there is no reason for meals to be non-local in origin, but there are times when everyone becomes richer by eating from the landscape of another.

An example that comes to mind is artistically given in the 1987 Danish film Babette’s Feast. Babette, a refugee from the Paris Commune (during the French Revolution), arrives in a small village on the western coast of Denmark. Worn out she arrives at the doorstep of two sisters with only a letter from Achille Papin, a renowned French singer. Having little money the sisters take her in after she agrees to work for free. Continue reading

Just Dropping In For Christmas

12.12.25

December 25, 2012

(Heads up.  Consider this a PG-13 Christmas reflection—for language not nudity!)

We were sweating when he showed up.  Donald and I thought we were hitting it pretty hard, but it was daddy who did the hard work.  Daddy, like so many men who’ve spent their working life out-of-doors, sweated freely.  We kids wondered how he could let sweat would run down his nose, ready to drip off at any moment, and go on working as if it were not there.  Hard physical work mattered for daddy.  He clearly knew the men who worked day in and day out with their hands and body were folk to be respected.  He also understood the importance of education.  Education was important for daddy for a couple of reasons.  One reason, knowledge matters to the wholeness of a person.  Knowledge allows the mind to break through the edges of wondering to fields of questioning.  Daddy didn’t make it beyond high school.  The war came along and like thousands of other young men when the war ended and he came out of the service he went straight to work.  However, I grew up seeing the daily newspaper read end to end each day, an ear-marked  monthly farming magazine, and books on math and science.  The second reason was he understood what respect there was for those who worked physically was quickly waning.  Soon society would hold those who worked a fenceline, placed concrete, framed buildings, or  grew food would be financially displace in favor of those who worked in an air conditioned office.  Though the physical work of daddy’s life was hard, he didn’t act as if it were.  Rather, while he knew there could be too much of it for any person, hard work mattered and was good.  But I digress…we were digging fence postholes in ground full of rock that summer afternoon, when he showed up.

Best I remember, Don and I always enjoyed Mr. Morton dropping by.  A depression era Okie, Mr. Morton had known a hard life.  A kind man with a hard edge, he made his way from Oklahoma to California after serving in the Korean War.  He was and is the only man I’ve known who fit the saying, “He made millions, lost millions, and made them again.”  Unlike daddy who made his thoughts known, but was quiet, Mr. Morton was loquacious and rowdy.  I’d never known any adult before who could cuss six ways from Sunday, be serious, and laughing in the same sentence.  He came up with some of the best off-color rural phrases, many of which I enjoy using to this day; though my community in which I can use them is getting smaller by the day.  And it is from him I learned the word fuck could be used in most any sentence and can be as endearing as it is aggressive.  Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Mr. Morton had a fair disdain for societal norms.  He was also a man who lived in a manner that one never knew his wealth, except, for the generosity he showed his children, his boots, his hat, and his Mercedes.  Yet, these boots, hat, and Mercedes didn’t fit societal norms.  His purchases were practical; they might have cost a fair penny, but they were practical.  His boots, for instance, may have cost a bit, but they didn’t stop him from walking the cow pasture, stepping in a pile cow shit, cussing out the cow for shitting in that particular spot, and go right on telling a story and laughing without giving those shit cover boots another thought.  The same held true with the Mercedes.  More than once Don and I found ourselves in the backseat with his boys bouncing across a pasture after one cow or another with Mr. Morton cussing both the potholes and the cow he was trying to corral—For Mr. Morton, leather is leather and it made a lot more sense rounding up a cow sitting on a leather seat than the leather of some persnickety horse.  On this particular afternoon as Don and I watched him drive across the dry dirt field, we smiled because we knew this rambling freewheeling Okie and our restrained west Texan daddy would shoot-the-bull for a while.  This meant we’d get break from the work, and maybe, a story that would put mamma on edge—should she know!  Worst case, we’d get time to kick-back, talk about whatever ten and eleven year-old boys talk about, and throw stones at the rock beneath the sagebrush.

Mr. Morton never called before he came by the place; he just showed up.  Of course the same held true when daddy visited him.  This was a relationship, which, though both homes had one of those black rotary phones, with a handset in the cradle, and a dial with black numbers, there were few phone calls between daddy and Mr. Morton.  I think it had a lot to do with being depression era children.  Being a time when of few phones in rural homes, neither daddy nor Mr. Morton had home phones.  This lack of phones meant, neighbors just showed up.  Not all visits were a surprise though.  Folks often arranged a visit the last time they were in town or at church on Sunday.  But so very often, visits occurred because a neighbor was walking, riding, or driving by the place and they had a minute or two to drop in and say hi.  Those spur of the moment visitations created relationships and communities that, for the most part, are lost—After all, unique relationships develop when folk just show up, because, there is little telling what you might be in the middle of…maybe fence building, but then again, those rural farming families of eight, nine, or ten were not all created at night!

Any longer, though, few folk just show up.  In our rural landscape, we watched the rotary phone with its curly tail plugged into the wall, become the push-button phone, which then became the cell phone.  By adulthood, my generation was very adept with the phone and it became normal to call your neighbor before just dropping by.  Unlike Don and I, our children seldom got a break from chores with daddy because by the time Mr. Morton showed up we’d already had a phone call and had arranged chores they could get done without us.  “Just the changing times” one might say, but I think this lack of just dropping in is affecting relationships of neighbor, family, and community.

The fear of just dropping in before calling, I see this in myself.  There are times I find myself driving down Fort Road with a spare moment on my hands and I think about dropping in on a neighbor.  Then I remember today’s etiquette of calling ahead before visiting, so, instead of just dropping in I just stay on the road.  One might say, “Well you have a cell phone, you could call!”  True enough, but what do you say, “Hey, I don’t have anything better to do and I thought I’d drop by?”  Now, that’ll make ‘em feel good!  And what about my friends in their twenties who’d a whole lot rather have you text before you call before you drop in?  Yet, as I see it, folk and community have a great need for the unexpected drop in.  You get a hint of the need in most any coffee shop on most any day.  Sit and listen, sometime, to the conversation at your neighboring table (if it isn’t a business meeting).  More often than not, these folk are not talking about world changing events, rather, they are shooting-the-bull, laughing, talking about family and, most of all, enjoying one another’s company.  There is a great need to be with others without having any agenda and no time to prepare thoughts, and just be neighbor—kinda like two boys throwing stones at a rock under the sagebrush.

Certainly cell phones and to social networks like Facebook have their upside, but they shouldn’t get confused with a face to face conversations over the fenceline or across the coffee table.  There is something about having your neighbor show up without any notice, calling you away from your work, and bestowing a surprised blessing upon you of shooting-the-bull.  Best of all, because of the unpreparedness of the visit, you and neighbor become known to one another for your screwy thoughts as well as the insightful ones, and that truly enriches relationship.  And on a good day, your neighbor steals you away from work, places you in the backseat of a Mercedes and rockets across a hoof-dented, gopher-infested pasture leaving your butt as much in the air as on the leather seat.

In this time of short days, when neighbors are tucked in their home against the long cold winter night I like to imagine what might happen should neighbors, cell phone be damned, just drop in on their neighbor.  Probably an interesting story or two…Like the one of three or four old boys who just dropped in one day on newly birthed parents.  They gathered them up and invited them onto the backseat of a bouncing Mercedes.  Inside, they gave them three gifts—two of which were nice smelling oils…always a good thing with a baby in the car—which lifted their newborn spirits.  Then real fun began as they bounced their way across the landscape, for with each bounce the parents captured a glimpse of life with baby beyond the front windshield.  The clarity of life ahead was questionable from that bouncing backseat, but clarity mattered little for in the front seat was an old Okie cussing, laughing, and spurring life on across the landscape!

© David B. Bell 2012

Walking With Dead In A Landscape Of Art

November 23, 2012

This month began with a Field Trip for a few of the My Future students.  Many of their artwork made up a Dia de los Muertos alter presented in downtown Yakima.  Like with other artful students, My Future youth helped create an alter asking and answering questions of life and death.

Being present and intentional with Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) calls an artist to consider the rightness or wrongness of their art.  For one whose ancestral culture is that of Dia de los Muertos there is a normalcy to participating in a long tradition of art that plays at that edge of death and life.  But for those of us whose culture is of landscapes other than that which birthed Dia de los Muertos the question must be asked, can we be artful and not disrespectful?

Many American Indians remind non-Indians their participation of Indian practices is a fragile one.  From sweats to sage smoke, flutes to the four winds, American Indians recognize many non-Indians appropriate their practices—Such appropriation not always for financial or social gain, rather, acts, such as the use of cleansing sage smoke, are done without embodying the fullness of the sage’s landscape.  Due to centuries of appropriating bodies from sacred burial sites for scientific study to decades of claiming religious and social practices for non-Indian events and ceremonies, American Indians rightfully question when non-Indians produce Indian-like art.  Such history calls the artist to carefully question their participation in cultural art that is not their own.

So it is fair to ask why does Dia de los Muertos have such a large presence in the art of My Future?  Fair and important, because the directors of My Future, Belinda and myself, are white, non-Indian, non-Latino/a, and Dia de los Muertos is nothing if not indigenous and Latino/a.

Not appropriating culture art is tricky for artists, because an artist’s being is wrapped around the constant wonderment of landscape.  Wonderment often leads to eternal questions of life and death, hurt and joy, love and rejection.  One instance of art where an artist found life and wonder outside his culture of birth is Starry Night.  In painting Starry Night the Dutch artist Van Gough beckons the observer into an intimate relationship with the French landscape.  Van Gough presents a landscape of swirling cypress, mountains, and sky, which calls the observer to open the door of finitude, walk out the angular home, church and steeple in favor of entering the cosmos of mystery and wonderment.

Another instance is Woody Guthrie’s song This Land Is Your Land.  Guthrie moves beyond the landscape of birth and asks the listener to consider the landscape of a continent.  Similar to Van Gough, Guthrie calls the listener to an experience of wonderment so large the listener must become fluid where tactile and emotion become one.  In this context of grandeur sky and land, plants and clouds, and water and voice, Guthrie destroys concepts of ownership and No Trespassing signs.  Artists, by nature, reach into the landscape in which they find themselves to mold and breathe life as to beckon us into creations texture.  Such reaching in, though,matters because embedded in the landscape is culture, and it is this life of the ancients which calls the artist to enter into a landscape conversation which strives for art to jump the chasm of appropriation and become an appropriate reflection of culture.

The landscape of My Future is one of America.  Not the nationalistic U.S. america, but peoples America of North, Central, and South America.  This is landscape of an imagined borderless continent where youthful artists walk freely because walls fade and land speaks freely.  Such a landscape does not assume, but speaks the voice of teacher.  This relationship, when done well, allows the student artist to awaken to their place in the culture of landscape.  This place of learning helps the student become a non-assuming artist who embodies the landscape’s voice.

Doing our best to listen to landscape does not mean culture is never appropriated, but rather, My Future staff and students hope their Dia de los Muertos art grasps to reflect their conversation with the landscape, presenting art that is reverent.

Dialect: Life, Community, Landscape

 

April 24, 2012

Belinda and I will spend much of the day placing irrigation mainline and backfilling trench.  That is all of the day except for a few hours this morning.

Not that long ago I read an essay on funerals.  The writer compared funeral services he experienced back east to those of the west.  He spoke to a belief of eastern funerals having a higher degree of ritual and communal comfort than western funerals.  In part, he supported this line of thought saying the ritual of spreading ashes (a western ritual in his estimation) did not provide the community groundedness as, say, occurs when the congregational family comes together and provides food and comfort in the fellowship hall after a burial service.  When I finished the essay, I could not help but to think the transplanted eastern writer missed the values and richness of culture—east or west.

Landscapes speak to individuals and communities with their own unique voice.  The landscape of forested Arkansas simply speaks a different language than an arid western landscape lying east of the Cascade mountain range.  More so, the dialect of the arid eastern rain-shadowed Washington Cascades is different from the twang of the arid eastern rain-shadowed California Sierras.

This morning the twang is apparent.  Belinda and I have the afternoon to place irrigation line because there is no My Future after-school today.  There is no after-school today because a community member died and school canceled.  Instead of school today, the whole community is invited to the school gym for funeral services.  For this community, in this landscape, the end of life is so important it is okay, even supported, to close school and businesses so everyone might gather, remember, and grieve together.

So, this afternoon, when Belinda and I gather to place pipe into the earth, there is a fair chance our groundedness is more than standing waist deep in the ground, but also that we have become entrenched in the deep care of our whole community.

© David B. Bell 2012

Epiphany

January 8, 2012
JustLiving Farm
Yakama Mission

Epiphany.  There are no other days like the days of epiphany.  The Christian church holds today a bit more special than others—Jesus’ Baptism.  There are many others.  Hopefully each of us experiences epiphany, sooner or later, time and again.

One who speaks to epiphany well is Wendell Berry.  Below is a poem I had the good fortune to recently be turned on to is Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front found at In Context.

The photo is a mosaic of the “Baptism of Christ,” created in the mid-12th century. Found at the Cappella Palatina di PalermoI in Palermo, Italy.

Is possible exists between a modern writer and an artist of the 12th century?

Manifesto:
The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.