Artful Land Care

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The Dark of Being Them

In Peace & Justice on December 11, 2017 at 9:19 am

6:15 in the morning and it is winter dark.  The calendar say autumn, but autumn left the landscape weeks ago.  Was it summer “outside,” work would have commenced an hour ago. Visioning of lighted mornings is lost in this dark of near solstice.  Dark thinking replaces visioning on these unlighted mornings.  Thoughts of vindictiveness, “I told you so,” and the brutality—I try hard to hide—bubble up like the foul gasses of childhoods landlocked ponds.

The downfall of so many in so little time: Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Kevin Spacey.  The list goes on.  To place a name at the top of the list is impossible.  The tearing of women’s bodies, emotions, intellect, spirit has gone on so long no one remembers the first.  One might choose an ancient event, such as David and his rape of Bathsheba.  Or one go with modernity and the boastful recording of sexual violence of one, whom like David, so many preferred to lead a nation.  And in the midst of so much, who would be surprised—after having presidential support hung him like a medal of honor—if normal, everyday, Alabama folk elected Roy Moore to office tomorrow?

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Heavens Cry

In Doctrine of Discovery, Landscape on December 4, 2017 at 8:02 am

We have become people who can live without the wild.  We will watch The Reverant and imagine and talk about the wild 1800’s.  We will ride a ski lift, look across vast lands of wild and imagine being wild as we ski alongside hundreds on the downslope.  We day hike in refuges and National Parks and think we are one with the wild.  But we believe we can live without it.

As President Trumps emasculates Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments today, it is hard to imagine him having ever backpacked the high country or the low country.  Though carrying all argumentative swagger boasting style of Teddy Roosevelt, he brings the modern dream of timber rather than trees and oil-copper-fracking rather than landscape.  Though the act is deplorable, the reduction of wild fits the US mindset of a growing-building economy rather than a maintaining-healing-imagining economy.

The loss is more than a loss of wild in favor of land development.  The loss tears at the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of people and animals and plants and soil.  Life, in all forms, live better when the imagination allows for the unknown around the next corner.  Vision of the unknown is something American settlers and American Natives had in common.  Read the rest of this entry »

Daybreak

In Doctrine of Discovery, Theology on November 30, 2017 at 8:57 am

Dawn.  Sage and I finish feeding cattle.  We turn our attention to loading hay for tomorrows morning feeding—she keeps guard from atop the trucks toolbox while I load bales.  The cold morning holds little of what will come in the winter months ahead, just the same the cold is doing well holding forth a frosty morning—Sage chooses to stand more than sit on the trucks cold toolbox.

Predawn.  When life goes well in the short daylight hours of late fall I begin catching up on the suggested reading friends have recommended since early spring.  Seasonal reading has me reading multiple books at a time.  Doing so is not a preference.  However, going with what strikes me best in the moment allows for reasonable listening.  This morning I chose Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between The World And Me and Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.  Neither, at least at the point where I am currently at, can hardly be called “uplifting.”  Both speak of children to young men who lived in landscapes and conditions different than mine.

Dawn.  Cattle follow me as I drive through the field.  Because pickup, hay, and food are one in their eyes, I left the gate open as I drove through.  They can’t help themselves but to follow the truck.  Every once in a while a steer will look at the open gate, but the pickups draw is too great. With a jump and a cow-kick they turn and follow. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

White and the Need to Advance Beyond White Culture Mythology

In Peace & Justice on September 3, 2017 at 10:00 am

Mythology

Willian Kittredge wrote, “Mythology can be understood as a story that contains a set of implicit instructions from a society to its members, telling them what is valuable and how to conduct themselves if they are to preserve the things they value.”  In the US, a settling people clung so deeply to a mythology it became sanctified.

If one has been educated in the US school system, as I was—it matters little if it was public or private, they were taught to accept the sanctified mythology of…

There were a people who believed in freedom, not for one but for all, and who had a penchant for justice.  They came to this land on the eastern seaboard and after a few mishaps with local people and turning away from the controlling empires of the old land, they began moving west.  They were a rural people who worked hard.  Full of awe as they crossed a continent of beauty and wonder.  They were not without fear, but they were a people who bore down and created a land of peace and riches for their children, regardless of danger.  Yes, they displace the people who were already living in the land, but they also filled an unbroken land with the splendor of agriculture and Christianity.  The plow turned native soil and the land answered with an abundance of wheat, corn, and apples.  And where the plow could not turn soil, native plants allowed cattle to prosper.  These were a people of vision, faith, and wonderment.

Though mythical in nature, the story was sanctified in churches across the land as preachers spoke of them opening the US landscape as if they were the Israelites moving into Canaan.  There were some folk who spoke to the vile nature of the myth (and many fought and died to change it—writers, preachers, Freedom Riders, sages, marchers and protestors,) but a sanctified myth is hard to erase. Read the rest of this entry »

Arguing the Doctrine of Discovery’s Impact on LGBTQI Folk

In Doctrine of Discovery, Peace & Justice on May 7, 2017 at 10:00 am

During this last decade, the Doctrine of Discovery has become the underpinning on which to build an understanding of Indigenous history and modern reality.  Long in the coming—Vine Deloria Jr spoke to the need of academics and theologians to engage the Doctrine of Discovery nearly 50 years ago—the Doctrine of Discovery is a rubric to apprehend past genocidal practices and current Indigenous tragedy.

The full impact the Doctrine of Discovery (DoD) on the worlds Indigenous people is complex.  However, when it comes to the United States and Canada, the DoD caused a spectrum of hurt which effects Indigenous and non-indigenous people alike.  Recognizing the DoD impacts non-indigenous people raises the complexity of the DoD and alters the conversation.

While it is important to have a conversation on how the DoD has and does impact non-indigenous people in the United States (US) and Canada, it is equally important to say no group has known DoD caused hurt to the extent of Indigenous peoples.  Recognizing that reality is important to say when exploring DoD inflicted hurt upon non-indigenous people because some folk prefer to find arguments that might allow a community to ignore and forget past atrocities.  Developing such amnesia weakens and conceals the impact of the DoD in today’s context and ignores any though of Indigenous racism.  One such path toward forgetfulness is to create a construct where the DoD damages White non-indigenous people to the same extent of Indigenous peoples.  Therefore, it needs saying that while this writing explores the DoD’s damage to a community of people who are both Indigenous and non-indigenous, it is equally important to remember the genocidal impact inflicted by the DoD on the Indigenous people of the Americas is like nothing else.

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »