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

15.10.11

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

Elk Parts

15.10.04

October 4, 2015

Elk parts. They come once a year. Archery season opened a few weeks ago and rifle season follows it up. My bow hunting friends are saying this is a season unlike any other. The elk are not traveling normal trails or hanging in their normal high country valleys. Maybe there will be few elk parts this year.

I never imagined elk parts growing up in the rural canyons of southern California. Our deer are small in stature and when it comes to meat, they are little more than a big rabbit compared to an elk. Though small is size, being of a landscape of canyon sage, the flavor of their meat rivaled any Cascade elk. The black-tailed deer of sage country may not be the biggest of deer, but they are right up there with the smartest of deer—and a hair coat the blends beautifully with the sage landscape. The cageyness of these deer meant many hunters spent their time enjoying the landscape and returning home to eat beef. That might be why I never saw another hunter in the ridges and canyons around home, and why “I’m going up north to hunt, these deer are to small and not worth the time,” was often heard leading up to hunting season.

I knew I was not in the landscape of my youth when hunting season rolled around my first fall in White Swan. Growing up rural, forty minutes from town is one thing, living in a rural town is something different. The proximity of folk to one another in town (even a town of 500) leads to a different way of thinking than the open country. The old adage that everyone knows everyone in a small town carries a bit of truth. One of those truths is folk have a very good idea of which neighbor struggles economically and who does not—including their dogs.

When the first elk came out of the hills, that first fall, and after they were quartered and cut into steaks, roasts, and jerky, many hunters went about town giving their meat to the elderly and families who struggled. The knowledge being, the hunter is capable of hunting again and many others are not.

Two events made me notice how this new place was different from back home. One, two hunters showed up at the parsonage and offered us meat for no other reason than placing value on the community’s spiritual leaders. Place matters. When two elk roasts were lifted out of the back of the pickup, there was more meat than any one deer I hunted as a youth. My place was no longer the landscape of canyons and sage. Continue reading “Elk Parts”

Considering the Purple Cow Pill

15.08.09b

August 09, 2015

Soon there may be a new solution for problematic burping. A Purple Pill, of sorts, except for cows rather than humans. Folk might have heard it said that cow farting contributes to high methane levels, which depletes ozone. However, the cow methane problem comes from cow belching rather than their farting.

Being a ruminate, cows have a four stomach digestive system (actually a four compartment stomach). Ideally suited to grazers (cows) and browsers (goats), the rumen (the first stomach) allows cows to eat a lot of grass at once, not chew it, and store it. Later, when they are relaxing, they cough/burp up a cud (a mouthful of that non-chewed stomach stuff) and properly chew it. Thus, a cow does a lot of cud chewing and burping.

Figuring the United States alone has roughly 40 million cows, about 30 million beef cattle and 10 million dairy cows; there is a whole lot of burping going on. Like humans, cows digestive system have a complex community of microbes in their stomach helping break down food. One of those beneficial microbes creates methane in the process. To counter this methane development, some folk are proposing an additive to cattle feed to reduce the microbe’s ability to produce methane.

Hmm, it isn’t enough that pharmaceutical companies have convinced us humans to take a pill so we can ignore our bodies normal warning sign of when to lay off some foods. Now we are going to give cattle a little purple pill as well.

Contrary the popular stance, the methane burping problem is not a cattle digestive problem, but a human digestive problem. Consider the 30 million beef cattle. The 30 MILLION CATTLE who exist on American soil exist because the U.S. population is having a problem eating meat sensibly. All it takes to eliminate the methane problem is for U.S. folk to eat less beef. An easy solution if it were not centered on changing people’s gastronomic normal.

Life is much easier for humans if they place blame on creation other than themselves. Cattle, after all, are doing no more than being cattle. Humans, though, have to go a long way to justify eating double and triple decker hamburgers rather than single patty burgers or eating16-ounce steaks rather than 4-ounce steaks. The production of 30 million cattle is not a cattle problem, but one of human over consumption. Continue reading “Considering the Purple Cow Pill”

GMO And Cardboard Food

15.05.24

May 24, 2015

Folks in Jackson County, Oregon are having a fit. The people of Jackson County voted last fall to ban GMO (genetically modified organism) crops. Alfalfa growers are ticked off. Lawsuits are filed. Having planted “Roundup Ready” alfalfa, a perennial plant that is productive for years, GMO farmers claim a potential devastating income loss.

Roundup Ready crops like alfalfa allow farmers to spray their entire field with Roundup (imagine a crop-duster plane), killing the weeds while leaving the resistant crop alone. Some folk argue there are problems with the GMO plant itself and they don’t want it fed to the livestock of they eat or provide their milk. Others question what widespread, non-specific spraying (of any type really) is doing to the soil, water, and air. Interesting enough though, is in time the arguments may mean little because weeds are developing an immunity to Roundup. Which might mean that about the time GMO alfalfa is normalized, Roundup will not be effective, and chemical companies will have developed a new herbicide.

There are alternatives though and I hope folk begin to recognize them. I’m not wholly against herbicides, however I am against wholesale use with little regard for tomorrows folk who must use this same land. Farmers could decide to quit large-scale herbicide use and accept a few more weeds and a little more work, and the consumer could pay a little more for their food. However, this would call farmers and consumers alike to change their practices. Alfalfa wise, farmers would have to learn old practices of allowing weeds to go as far as developing a seed head and then cutting their crop before the seed ripens. Done well, the plant (often) thinks it has reproduced and does not therefore put another seed head on. Continue reading “GMO And Cardboard Food”

Sageness in the Canyon Landscape of Prickles, Songbirds, and Sunlight

15.02.22

February 22, 2015

When I am in southern California I take a few hours and walk a canyon. On the backside of two weeks of traveling and meetings, I finally found myself walking a southern California canyon on a Saturday morning. Entering the north-south canyon before sunrise, I hoped to hear the canyon awaken as the sunlight made its way from ridgetop to canyon floor. Also, its being a southern California canyon just outside of Camarillo, I hoped to have it all to myself for a little of a while.

I hiked this same canyon in September. Showing the effects of the ongoing drought, the canyon was dry and brittle. Normally, hiking these canyons in the fall, there are the jewels of prickly pears hidden in the crevasses of northern exposures. Pears make hiking a wonderful taste. This particular canyon has an abundance, ripe for the picking. They also have an abundance of hairlike prickles called glochids, near impossible to see, covering them. Should you pick a pear, the prickles from the fruit detach and leave you with a handful of stickers. You can get around this by lighting a match and burning the prickles off. However, it being a brittle dry fall, it did not seem wise to start any fire, even if it was only a match, so I did without pears.

15.02.22b Continue reading “Sageness in the Canyon Landscape of Prickles, Songbirds, and Sunlight”

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

15.02.01

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

What Is In A Name?

14.01.11

January 7, 2014

Blue Eagle asked me to consider “What’s in a Name.”  It wasn’t so much a specific invitation as it was a question to anyone following the Facebook page Landscape Mending: Restoring Harmony, Terminating the Doctrine of Discovery.  The crux of Blue Eagle’s question is, what language or terms do we or should we use when talking about folk whose ancient heritage is of the American landscape: Native American? American Indian? First People? Indigenous? NDN?  He jump starts the conversation by giving a link to Christina Berry’s article, What’s in a Name? Indians and Political Correctness.

Obviously, I enter the question as a non-American Indian white guy.  And doesn’t that sentence get at what Blue Eagle is questioning?  Is non-American Indian a term I should use?  Well, let me wonder with you about this for a bit.

I make mistakes.  My friends will be the first to tell you that!  One I made when I came to the Yakama reservation was to use the term Native American with a friend.  She quickly let me know, to my benefit, that she was not Native American but Indian.  Turned out many in my community are Indian.  Yet, I have found that not the case throughout the Americas.  Which leads me to understand the issue of naming is much more complicated than folk would like to think.

Dominate culture prefers simple language where it concerns American Indians.  Since, like it or not, most all of us are informed by dominate culture, we too have become comfortable with the simplification of language.  Simple means we don’t argue the edges, we don’t challenge the norm, and most of all, we don’t have to think.  Simple means we no longer converse with one another Continue reading “What Is In A Name?”

A Moment Prior to Solstice

13.12.20

December 19, 2013

This morning, two days before the longest night, I walked the creek.  I came to the place where the creek widens into a large pond.  A Great Blue Heron stood on ice protruding into the pond.  I covered a frost covered boulder with my coat and sat.  She paid little heed as she looked my way.  I left well enough alone in the morning sunrise.  The southeastern sky walked from morning mauve to just before the sun crests the ridge yellows and a Mallard drake and hen floated in with the current.  They paddled just off ice edge, necking with one another as ducks do.  Together, the Heron in its stately posture, the ducks paddling, and I—just this side of shivering, watched sun cresting ridge and lights slow walk toward the pond.  One step and the sun entered the small notch just west of the ridge’s buckle.  Instantly we were in sun light.  A moment and all was quiet, contemplative, and well.  Then the Heron lifted wings and moved into the frosted air, the ducks floated on, and I picked up my coat.

With creation as our teacher, hope of amazing harmony is the season’s gift.

Wild Horses of the Yakama Nation

By Tamalyn Kralman

April 27, 2012

Last Saturday the JustLiving Farm and Yakama Mission hosted Spring Horse.  Spring Horse brings amateur and professional photographers together to experience the wild horses of the Yakama Reservation and to enhance their gift by developing ongoing relationships.  These photographers give us their unique perspective of the landscape.

Spring Horse 2013: April 20

By Roger Lynn
By Roger Lynn
By Doris Steeg
By Roger Lynn
By Tamalyn Kralman
By Roger Lynn
By Roger Lynn

© David B. Bell 2012

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