Artful Land Care

Learners Permit

In Reflections on October 29, 2017 at 10:00 am

“She’s getting her Learners Permit.”  Everyone who’s been in church during Prayers for Joy and Concerns knows the next comment, “Both a joy and concern.”  Prior knowledge didn’t matter, folks laughed.  Ever since that first day a teenage-adult got their hands on a car the community’s had a nervous laugh.

We were thirty-two with two daughters and a new Ford pickup truck, gray.  Two days after buying the truck a bit of buyer’s remorse settled in.  We had committed ourselves to another $18,000.  And I had trouble shaking the adage, You lose a third of the value the moment you drive it off the lot.  Some decisions we just learn to live with.

A few dents and years down the road the gray truck pulled out of the driveway.  In the hands of a Learners Permit.  Fourteen years of gravel roads, construction sites, and overloading the pickup bed a few too many times had taken their toll on the truck.  The truck handled the road just fine.  Though the steering wandered in an experiential way.  However, if a learner can handle a steering wheel with two inches of leeway before moving right or left and still keep the truck between the lines, they are sure to do just fine when they move from truck to car with much less metal surrounding them.  As a matter of course, I figured it best not to ask my neighbors their opinion of such wandering thinking.  For it might be something more than a nervous church laugh.

Parental justification is everything.  The truck made a left onto a reservation road lacking any notion of a centerline or fog-lines.  No lines to keep the truck between, little to no traffic on the backroads to school, daughter and community will be just fine.  Such is the thinking of a hopeful parent.

Hopeful thinking has one think our community may be better off with a few other Learners Permits.  Proving to community one has good sense in other areas of life before acting might make good communal sense.  If community thinks it a good idea to train our young folk on managing a 2000-pound vehicle, wouldn’t something like a learning to vote permit make sense?  Who doesn’t know at least one politician—school board to president—whose truck of good sense has a clanking u-joint?  Perhaps our communities would need to deal with fewer politician wrecks if they offered a Voters Permit to our young folk; say when they are fourteen and a half years old.  Before voting they might meet with a bi-partisan council and talk about policy’s and candidates.  Maybe we would not only get better voters out of the deal, but such conversation could lead to better community.  Like driving, one need not be required to obtain the permit.  No permit would mean, like it does for driving, they simply wait until they are eighteen years of age where at that time, regardless of good council and sense, they get to vote.

Fall is the time year when our young folk become drivers and voters for the first time.  How well they do is up to those who’ve driven and voted for years.  With a little patience and more conversation our community might experience fewer wrecks, of consciousness and steel.

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Setting the Plow Toward Justice

In Doctrine of Discovery, Reservation on October 9, 2017 at 8:48 am


A settling comes with Autumn.  As if restlessness is married to frosty mornings and the folding and browning of leaves in the garden.  This moment is one of settling up.  One cannot let too many frosts go by without picking the last of summers produce.  Both the over-ripe and the green recipes come out.  Salsas and relishes are the order of the day.

Initially a pause, of sorts, inhabits the landscape in this season.  Summers constant movement of irrigation, cutting, raking, baling, and repeat ends with the last haying.  The criticalness of irrigation slows with cooling weather.  Winter is a breath away though.  So if fall planting is to occur, life is all about soil preparation, planting of seed, and irrigating until plants are tall and roots are deep enough to take on winters freeze.

Restlessness often moves us toward change.  Plowing ground is one.  Yet another has been called for for years.  In the federal US, this day of October has long been named Columbus Day.  For some time, and surely a few will jump on the bandwagon today, municipalities have been renaming this day as Indigenous Day or Indigenous Peoples Day or something along that order.  Over the years I have wondered if such change is appropriate.

Arguing Columbus Day is problematic is not the hardest of tasks.  Nor is changing the name of the day into something along the lines of Indigenous Day or Native American Day all that hard either (as it is in South Dakota (1999) or in California (1968)—though on the fourth Friday in September).  However, having change become more meaningful than symbolic is hard.

In our restlessness to have life right and correct might we dishonor our ancestors with such symbolism?  That is not to say symbolism is not important, but it is to say that if the people who argue for surface change are not willing to put the time into arguing for depth, then the change is name only and surely we will lose our ancestor’s dreams and visions and damage the landscape, again.

Currently Columbus Day calls many people, if not most, to the yearly awareness of US and colonial government atrocities against indigenous people.  Columbus Day keeps the story of indigenous slaughter at the forefront in a similar way that (understanding Christians and Jews hold King David as a hero) Second Samuel is a constant reminder that King David was the rapist of Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah.  Having Columbus Day on the calendar as a reminder to the atrocities we and our kin are capable of may serve us better than a change that hides the slaughter.

Full Day Sunsets and Dreams

In Reflections, Seasons on October 1, 2017 at 10:00 am

“It’s been a full day,” is a comment of norm as fall’s setting colors settles into the evening sky.  We’ve joked that this has been a season of maintenance as one farm implement after the other begs attention before returning to the mettle of its work.  There’s been as much time on the stick welder as there’s been irrigating, baling, moving cattle, and harvesting the foodbank garden.  Then when pasture work backs into pastor work, “It’s been a full day” falls into the air as easily as boots fall to floor.

Yet, when it comes to balancing a backyard supper plate of garden vegetables and beef cooked over wood coals and watching the West’s evening color show, there is an ease to the day.  The anxious grandson takes as-little-as-possible time to eat and runs off with the dog.  As they head toward the western lightshow it seems their romp leads them to heaven.  Maybe it does.

I wonder, does the wellbeing of those “It’s been a full day” evenings last?  I like to think so.    Those elders who do not cling to societies claim of forever young and seventy is the new fifty, regularly have a good word alongside one of ache.  They claim those full day sunsets as a gift.  A type of gift that cannot be claimed by the youthful.  Fullness of age lead them to stories of yesteryear, running with the dog, the pleasantries of love and wonder, and for the sly of heart, sex.  Like grandchildren, the forever young often miss simple evening colors while the elders speak of distinctions between subtle smells of the orange sunset and its burgundy kin.

Hours after dog running the grandson will lie flat on his back and dream with the imagination that comes with three years of life.  Soon afterward I follow with a more aged imagination.  I like to think these full days will last until the end of days, whenever that might be.  There is not great necessity that either body or mind be in the best of working order as those days role in, as much as having the fullness of imagination blending yesterday’s work—running with the dog or welding a broken shaft—to the dreams of this full day.

Perhaps the mettle of an elder’s grace is no more than that: to have the imagination to dream.  Whether our age is 3 or 103, whether we run with the dog or sit and watch the dog run, whether we balance our plate on our knees or have someone feed us, as long as we dream of sunsets and full days we know pleasant stories of love, wonder, and—surely for the sly 103-year-old, sex.