July 26, 2015
I watched as folk went to the microphones and spoke. Over a few days, they spoke on a number of issues and resolutions at the assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Many who spoke were pastors or folk who held some role of publicly speaking in the Church. Many were eloquent. Many others like myself were passable in getting across their thoughts. There were others though, who were fearless.
The fearless were the folk who are not pastors, who are not professionals, but rather folk who stand at the edge and outside the rooms and places of Church power. To hear another pastor or church leader is to listen to so many passionate, God called, Pharisees and Sadducees (don’t hear this as a bad thing, but rather folk whose life is fully embedded in the church). The others though, the folk who listen to those folk, who hold great opinions, but seldom publicly speak, well they are the fearless, the heroes.
The voice of the non-pastor matters because too many who find themselves in the places of church power (those Pharisees and Sadducees), who first came to their work because of their prophetic voice, now find themselves navigating the space between the prophetic and the “how to keep the greatest number of people united and conversing with one another,” or “how to keep my job—or how to keep doing the work I believe I am called to.” These are folk who can use a bit of extra care and one more prayer.
It matters greatly there are the folk who stand at the edge and in places outside of power, who fearlessly raise their voice. When these folk arrive at such assemblies, with a sense of wonder and hope, a want to listen others, who have no intent to raise their voice, but who do when a matter of justice or injustice twists a gut, the assembled people experience a moment of fearlessness. (Fearless does not mean the speaker is not terrified or on the edge of panic, but rather they speak their truth while remaining in that space of horror.) Continue reading
May 31, 2015
“If a panhandler comes near you and you are fearful, call the police.” The statement is not exact but it is close to what I’ve heard on the radio once a week for a number of months.
I don’t so much find this statement bad as I do evil. Built into such a message is “you ought to fear those folk you see on the side of the road.” My guess is, if folk did not fear panhandlers in the City of Yakima yesterday, they will tomorrow. Like too many messages we hear in our communities, this message is not one of peace and wellbeing for one’s neighbor, but one of, if you don’t look, smell, and think like me, you are questionable at the least and a danger at the most.
It would seem this announcement lead’s toward one path—the imprisonment of panhandlers and homeless people (Homeless folk are a small percentage of panhandlers, however, I’d guess most folk think the opposite). The hope, it would seem, for those supporting and funding this announcement, is to eliminate those who struggle greatly within our society—under the guise of justice.
The absurdity of such an announcement is not only hurtful to those who have little societal voice, but damaging to the whole of community. To make our sisters and brothers on the street, who struggle to make a dollar, as something other than ourselves—into folk to be feared, we damage our sense of justice, of peace, and our spiritual wellbeing. To lose our brothers and sisters, whose lives are so different from our own, to our fear and possible imprisonment is to jail our own created self.
*KIMATV.com: File photo
May 10, 2015
The kitchen is a favorite room of mine. Hard to imagine it isn’t everyone’s. Good food, good company, and good talk roll over the counter top and fill the house. Not a big room, but open with movement between kitchen and dining is hardly noticeable.
Our home is a back door home. That is, it is one of those homes that a knock on the front door means someone has arrived who has not visited before. After the first visit folk come to the back door. The back door leads straight into the kitchen, so it naturally the homes main room. Which suits us just fine. Folk soon learn that when we are expecting them to give a quick knock, walk in and walk in and grab a cup of coffee or tea—if we’re out in the pasture we’ll show up before too long. The kitchen/dining space is space where friends and neighbors sit laugh, argue, converse, and eat good food.
Spring break groups often have a stint or two in the kitchen. Spring means March, which means wind that blows so hard an outside conversation is next to impossible. During the summer, groups hang out in the barn and converse, but the barn is full of hay and equipment in the spring. So the kitchen fills up with thirty folk and we talk about justice in the landscape.
Every once in a while a group leader contacts me and together we will work to develop a unique spring break. A few years ago a pastor in Watsonville, California called and we developed a spring break where the kitchen stimulated the weeks conversation.
Each day the community baked or fried a cultural bread. Each bread: Wheat bread, fry bread, tortillas, etcetera promoted conversations on culture and we folk carry have different worldviews. The type of bread, its ingredients, and its making helped folk to think about how bread is reflective of a people’s poverty and prosperity. Continue reading
March 29, 2015
(The media is deliberating if this weeks tragedy of Germanwings Flight 9525 is a suicide. Having written prior to the crash, I don’t deal with the tragedy. However, I will say at this early moment after the crash, I believe when one takes the lives of others along with their own, it is not an act of suicide, but something very different. What that difference is, I don’t know.)
A friend of mine, Daniel, sent me a note soon after Robin Williams’ suicide last August. The note has nagged me ever since. He gave a few of his thoughts on Williams and suicide and asked if I might have a few of my own. Schooled in a Catholic high school, Daniel received an earful on the sin of suicide from a particular perspective. Gaining the wisdom that comes with living life, he is now a young adult who has allowed the idea of suicide as a Cardinal sin barring one from heaven to go by the wayside. As he puts it, “how can a truly all loving God turn his back on someone who is filled with so much dread, torment, and affliction that in their greatest time of need his love would not be shared?” Fleshing out his thoughts, he answered his own nagging questions. Good for him, but that did not get me off the hook.
When it comes to suicide, there is little difference between my protestant upbringing and my friend’s Catholic high school. The elders and pastors of the Christian church of my youth were clear suicide is a sin and if you choose such you’re going to hell. No much slack on this one.
Suicide didn’t come up much in my young life. Once, in the preteen years, a friend headed home from a day of hiking Iron Canyon and came across a pickup truck parked at the end of road that was hardly more than a trail. Continue reading
January 18, 2015
Last October I picked up a number of weaned steers. They came from an Angus herd, raised on grass, and certified natural. Just the animals I look for to bring to the farm.
I trailered them to the farm and unloaded into the holding corral where they would stay for the next two weeks. Giving them a chance to settle down and get use to the new landscape and people (and giving us a chance to see if the new animals are sick before turning them out with the herd). I kept my distance from the corral, other than to feed, figuring the trailering and new space is enough stress for a day. Figuring out humans could wait a day or two. Just the same, I keep an eye on them with binoculars in case something comes up.
I noticed one steer in particular kept its tail in the air and its head raised all day. While a high sense of alertness might serve well on the high range, a raised tail is not a good sign for our farm. An hour after arrival, where the others have their heads in the hay trough, he is moving about and edgy. By the end of the day, the others are well fed, watered and quieted down—not him.
After two weeks everyone continued to look healthy and mostly settled in. Not as settled as I’d like, the one continued to have its tail in the air every time I fed. But I figured once they were on pasture, with acres of space to roam, his tail would drop and everyone would claim the calmness of the existing herd. Continue reading
January 11, 2015
Sitting, at the southwest table.
The Cougar Den is the only
gas station restaurant in town.
First bell rang ten minutes ago.
He sits, black cap backwards, at the opposite
wall table, two in front.
She walks in,
shawl dances around her, as
wind gusts through shutting door.
A glance across the room,
she strides to counter, orders,
then coffee in hand fringes soar as birds.
Black bill rises, like duck of water
after eating in the shallows,
head drops and hides.
Shawl spreads like hawk wings,
her stride summons the wind.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”
The bill is still, the air is quiet.
Elder voice shivers blue and green fringes,
duck quivers as hawk circles.
Shawl hand rests on bill shoulder,
ducks bob on water,
feet dangling in trauma.
December 28, 2014
5:15am, the morning after Christmas, and I am standing outside a McDonalds. Waking this morning in a home away from home, I negotiated pass bodies scattered on the couches and floor finding my way to the kitchen. I figured I would have a cup of coffee and write for a while. Looking at the coffee grinder though and glancing into the family room, I thought some of those scattered bodies might not think too highly of my grinding a pot of coffee at this hour. Then it came to me, I’m in the city! I’m not thirty or forty minutes from a coffee shop. I should be able to jump in the truck and have a cup of coffee in less than five minutes! I sneak out of the house, stepping on remarkably few bodies, start the truck, and head down a Christmas light lite road.
The off-the-beaten-track local bakery is only two minutes away, but it is closed. As they well should be—after all, should anyone really be out this morning away from family…can’t coffee be given up until a bit later, just once? The question comes and goes from my coffee deprived noggin; I’m not to be deterred. Two choices remain, Starbucks and McDonalds. I don’t like the thought of either, but my high minded virtues slipped away when I slipped out of the house. With sorry justification, I choose the closer of the two and turn into the McDonalds parking lot.
Some guy stands just outside and to the right of the entrance doors. Near him is the only car in the parking lot and I assume it is his. Shutting the truck door behind me, I quickly judge the scene. Continue reading
December 21, 2014
Sitting at a table in the southwest corner of the Cougar Den I watch youth arrive. The Cougar Den is as close as it gets to a restaurant in White Swan—a gas station with a grill and a few tables. Across the street from the middle and high school, youth get off the morning bus, walk through the school and across the street to grab a mable bar, sit down, and hang out until first bell.
The last week of school before the Christmas break is like no other. Unlike the week before summer break, everyone knows their back in a few weeks, but unlike a three day weekend, there is plenty of time get in trouble, both small t and big T, both innocuous and obstinate. Many of us recall school days leading up to Christmas break. The energy, the excitement, and the making of big plans—that mostly never came to fruition.
Tuesday morning with a cup of coffee and opened book, I listened as girls laughed a couple tables in front of me and boys prattled and cussed (bouncing between whispering and almost bellowing) a table to my right. The level of noise had me wondering how this week before Christmas break is shaping my teacher friends.
It was 7:20 am when five high school girls walked into the Cougar Den. Excited and talking up a storm they moved toward a table kitty-corner to myself. Two of the five had on jeans, with holes. I don’t know when holey jeans became popular, but it’s been some time. Now holey jeans are natural. Continue reading
November 30, 2014
Driving down the Columbia Gorge, Belinda and I searched for a radio to pass time. We came upon an interview with an American Indian woman. She was in the middle of making a point that Native Americans know their heritage better than non-Indians, and this has a lot to do with traditional story telling practices. In making her point, she said that while Native Americans could go back generations, Americans can seldom tell a story beyond that of their grandparents.
I turned to Belinda and commented she had missed on this one. Not on the idea that many Americans can no longer tell a story beyond their grandparents—I think that is true enough, but in saying “Americans,” she included folk she did not intend. As she went on, it was clear her comment was focused on white folk of European heritage. However, in saying “Americans” she includes all folk of the America’s: American Indians, First Nation peoples of Canada, Indigenous of Mexico and Central America and South America, Greenlandic Inuit, and Alaska Natives. Belinda pushed back saying well you know what she meant. Yes, true enough, however, we need to claim inclusive language that honors both heritage and the reality of the landscape. With neither of us backing down, we had just enough to drive a conversation for the rest of the journey.
This last Sunday of Native American Heritage month I am thinking to honor heritage, place of birth and/or place of adoption must be distinguish and honored as well. Continue reading
November 16, 2014
All great music is country music. From Handles Water Music to Guy Clark’s Homeless, music that matters is music of landscape.
The landscape sings. Not metaphorical nor exacting music, rather the song of landscape rises from the mystical space of experiential and Déjà vu, from space known and unknown. Landscape singing tells stories, ancient and current, of creation; and great music, well, great music comes from those who listen well. This is why great music is genre-less. The best of the Blues or Native Folk, or Rap or Powwow or Western or Jazz or Native flute and whistle or Classical, comes from those who have tuned into the landscape, listened, and interpreted that song so the rest of us can hear—the nature of Creation, I think, is to hold on to her valuables until a caring ear or eye or hand comes along, gently leans in, and asks if they might interpret his voice so others might awaken.
Hearing the fullness of the landscape is to become whole. To sing well, in key or not, is to know the voice of place. The song of landscape is unique, but then, every landscape is uniquely its own. No other voice, no other sound can come out of her than that which is his own. Jazz, the Blues, ancient stick and drum, and Western sing of place. Classical does the same, but in human’s eagerness to classify, the songs of many landscapes have been bundled together and place of origin too often lost. Continue reading