Artful Land Care

Water Holes

In Reflections on February 12, 2017 at 9:00 am

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“A man that travels horseback needs to remember where the water holes are, but a man that rides in a train can forget about water holes, because trains don’t drink.”  Woodrow Call on attributing Charles Goodnight’s bad memory to his riding of trains—from Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry]

I returned to the rental car after having supper.  Belinda and I were visiting her mother.  Though we knew this landscape well some thirty-five years ago, the population is three times greater today.  My landmarks are gone, so I chose to use the GPS on my phone to get us to the restaurant.  As we loaded in the car after supper, I pulled out my phone to use the GPS to get us home.  I tried to do that without bringing attention to myself—I didn’t want to admit I had only listened to computer spoke directions and hadn’t paid attention to how I got there.  However, my mother-in-law is not one to let much go and way too attentive.  She asked, “What are you getting that out for?,” with that smirky smile she saves for when she knows she’s got you.

“I need it to get back home,” I said.  That gave her the fodder she was looking for.  From parking lot to home, I was on the receiving end of ribbing concerning phones and a society that no longer knows how to pay attention to the world around them.  I looked in the rearview mirror a few times, but Belinda gave no shrift either, she smiled and laughed all the way home. My ribs hurt by the time we got back.  Not so much from the poking, but because I agreed.

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A few days of good mountain weather opened up toward the end of the summer.  I grabbed hiking gear and headed to the Goat Rock backcountry.  While Mount Rainer and Phato get most of the attention from the lowlands, the Goat Rocks are a dynamic, assessable land that speaks to the everyday.  The Pacific Crest trail gives wonderful mountain(s) views around one bend or another, but off trial you are sure to run into elk, mountain goats, and more than a chipmunk or two.  One never has to go far from the trail though to find an outcropping view of a lower valley that gives the feeling the Creator made this place just for you.

The Tussle of Blankets

In Reflections, Theology on January 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm

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A dozen folk journey this Tuesday to gather at water’s edge.  Each have their own “why” to stand on the Missouri River bank at the border of the Standing Rock Reservation.  Their whys are as broad as their ages—teens to seventies—walking an expanse of personal to spiritual.  As vast as those reasons are, the bedding of most are in Creational relationship.

When it comes to engaging the tussle of blankets under which Creation playfully crafts relationship and imagination, it is apparent we Church folk have failed to aspire high enough.  Rather than birthing wonder, we people of this era have segmented creation.  In that segmentation, we have separated ourselves from creational wonder in as real a way that the 1896 Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson segregated people.  Unlike our (great) grandfolk at the turn of the century who knew a deer track, the turn of soil, the back of a horse, walking a mile to visit a neighbor, or the location of the countryside’s water holes, our children seldom know the taste of dirt, and afternoon of catching pollywogs, or spending a night under the stars with only a sleeping bag.  When one losses the taste of dirt or the feel of a tadpole squiggling in hand, so do they lose the imagination and the revelation that one is not alone.

To lose the earths saltiness is to know loneliness and loss of community, which only leaves the air of individualism.  Mindsets settle into believing “I am the only one who can…” and the absolute need of neighbor is relegated off to some bygone era.

Life is much easier when putting the idea of rugged individualism off to the colonial settler rather than this era.  However the rugged individual was of books and folk lore, which served the power structure of government, business, and Church well.  But seldom true.  Rather than fools of individualism, settlers were families of communities.  However, their lives might have served the wealthy and powerful, they were not wholly unlike their ancestors or the people on whose land they were occupying—these folk were far from individualistic in nature.

A Cold Landscape

In Doctrine of Discovery, Landscape on December 30, 2016 at 8:29 am

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In five days I visit a landscape different from my own.  Belinda’s folk hail from North Dakota and the landscape is something of her own.  For this southern California boy though, walking into a winter place that locals call cold is likely an understatement.  When I visited the Dakota landscape in the past I found much of it in line with the stories of Belinda’s folk.  Today though, there is something different about the south-central landscape along the Missouri River.  From a distance, it speaks of change.

A landscape of change interests me.

In this season, when US Christianity struggles to speak and act in favor of Creational justice, there are people in a rural landscape who have placed it front and center and have garnered attention for doing so.  Some folk, both local and global, believe they have achieved justice if the current refusal to issue DAPL a permit to cross the Missouri remains in effect come February.  At the surface, my interest lies with the people who believe that as untrue.  For they seem to be the folk who understand care of people without care of land and water and wind may well be a form of mercy, but not justice.  Below the surface, my curiosity lies in the water, land, and wind itself.  There is little action of substance in my home landscape that comes about through people alone.  Any inkling of justice seems to arise only when humans ally their voice with the voice of the landscape.

I wonder, what justice does the water and the land and the wind of this landscape of Belinda’s folk have to speak?  A question, I think, worth a journey.  Why does this landscape call for justice in this this season, in the life of my children?  A question I believe that is worth a pilgrimage.  Yet maybe most important, what if my landscape is calling for the same, but because it is mine, because I see the same ridges each day, because the ridges’ changing shadows amuse and mystify me, I am not able to hear her cry for justice?  What if a visit to a landscape not my own has a word that fractures the barrier between my ears and my landscape’s voice?  Can one not risk journey?