Artful Land Care

Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

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 »

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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.

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 »

Of Cornfield Surprise

In Landscape, Reflections on November 27, 2016 at 10:00 am

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Sage and I were walking toward the refuge.  Only a mile from the farm, the distance is just enough for the dog and I to have worked the kinks out of the legs before settling in for a good walk—that is saying more about me than Sage who is not quite of two years yet.  We were a quarter mile from the farm, walking along our neighbor’s cornfield, when visited.

The harrier is not one of the largest hawks in the valley, but for its size it has a rather impressive wingspan.  Males, gray in color, have a rounded shape tail with an unmistakable black band.  Unlike many other birds, it is the female who is more colorful and attractive—to my eyes not the birds.  Common to the farm, harriers like the low vegetation landscape that allows for a weaving pattern of low flight hunting.  They are a great benefit to managing the vole population in the hay fields.

We walked the cornfield’s west end keeping fifteen feet between the nearest corn stalk and us.  An early cool morning, the distance allowed us to walk in sunlight dropping off the cornfield’s edge.  Sage kept her nose to ground picking up scents of last night’s nocturnal critters.  She dashed in and out of cornrows, returning now and again questioning why I would not join in on the fun of following scent.

It was during one of those visits when a harrier dove off the cornfield edge and almost ran into us.  Sweeping hard to the south, the hawk was close enough to detail feathers on its gray belly.  I don’t know if hawks jump, but the waggle it made in it tough southerly turn seemed akin to the jump Sage and I made.

He quickly leveled out a few feet from the ground.  Sage watched him for the full length of a moment and then ran off nose to ground.  I took a breath.

In seconds the hawk was over the wild area it would take our non-flight legs to make.  Banking to the west he circled to the north, crossing the winter feeding ground of a neighbor and a disced wheat field before heading south.  Keeping five feet above the ground, he flew by a few feet off our right.  As he slid by, there was the slightest twist of his owlish face.  Perhaps it is a stretch, but I think not, we looked each other in the eye.  Meanwhile, with nose to ground Sage was busy checking out a pile of crusted over coyote crap—with little less wonder than my own.

Morning Walk

In Reflections on October 16, 2016 at 4:57 pm

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Hay is in the barn.  Baled, hefted on to the flatbed trailer and into the barn less than an hour before the first fall drencher.  Though we have had a few weeks of fall per the calendar and roughly the same per seasonal coolness, it has been summer work all along.  Now with last hay baled life feels like autumn.

The dialect of the early morning fall sky is different from that of summer.  One last watering of the hay field calls for a 5:30am walk to move irrigation line.  Summer speaks of light and long morning shadows as it rises above the eastern horizon.  With a flashlight in the back pocket, a sliver of moon in the dark morning sky and a milky star mass, between southern Orin Belt and northern Big Dipper, settling just out of reach, it is surely fall.

Morning dew soaks leather boots in the morning hour and darkening leather assures damp feet.  It seems it were only yesterday when one could walk barefoot at this hour without a hint of dampness.

Animals who were feeding a month ago at this hour are lying in the field.  After resetting the irrigation line and starting the pump, a few have raised their head and are chewing cud.  No one is in much of hurry to rise.

Returning to the house on a fall morning is worthy of celebration.  Prior to leaving the house, beans were ground and water placed in the coffeemaker.  The walk from field to house is an eastern one.  A hint of sunrise red in the dark sky cause eastern stars to vanish.  Yet it is as if those same stars have visited the house and their illuminance is beckoning through the kitchen window.  The square widow of light welcomes one home.

Tavern’s and Beer

In Reflections on July 10, 2016 at 5:38 pm

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July 10, 2016

I sat across the table from a social worker as she told her story.  She had been at a nursing home early that afternoon.

“I spoke to the sister of the woman who is living in the nursing home.  She told me her sister was a little agitated this day and wanted to get out of bed.”  (Her sister had dementia in addition to an illness she was no longer fighting.).

“As we talked her sister was trying to get out of bed again.  She turned to me and said, ‘would you watch her for a minute while I go get the nurse?’  Sure, I said.”

“As she walked out of the room I asked, ‘why do you want to get out of bed?  Where are you planning to go?’  She said, ‘to the Tavern.’  About that time her sister returned with the nurse.  ‘Why do you want to go to the Tavern?’ I asked.  ‘To get a drink.’”

“The nurse smiled and said, ‘no problem.’  I finished my conversation with them and left, oh, maybe twenty minutes later.  A few hours later, I called to see how things went after I left.  The patient’s sister said, ‘very well.  Not long after you left the nurse went to the store, bought a beer, brought it back, and give it to my sister.  She LOVED it!’  That was all she needed, to be heard and to have a beer!”

Paying close attention to the landscape speaks to the need to accept there is much to hear, even when socially developed sensibilities say there is nothing to hear. You might say the songbird’s song is often more than a song.

The same holds for our human kin whom seem to live on the other side of what society might think of as presence.  The other sided is seldom what it appears.  Often there is a fullness of life even when it seems not.  For the spirit of this existence is rich, even in the hardness of an individual not seeming to be who they were yesterday.  Knowing such richness is accepting the change of life from the cognizant to dementia is as valuable and meaningful as a toddler moving from single words to full sentences.  While it is certainly a struggle, at times, to be present with kin who live on the other side of what was yesterday’s normal, great joy is possible in the simple act of hearing and having a beer.

Fair Day

In Animals, Reflections, Theology on June 5, 2016 at 6:00 pm

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March 27, 2016

Each fall we take time off and head to the Central Washington Fair. Less than an hour from the farm, it is a great place to have a family day. There is a little something for everyone. You cannot go to the fair and not meet a neighbor or two. And we’re always sure to take any visiting friends; it is a nice way to get an overview of the farming and ranching in the county, all in one place.

If nothing else, you’ll get your daily walk in at the fair. From barns to the commercial building, we make our way from one end to the other. All the while being astonished by how gifted our county people are. Not far into the walk and it soon becomes clear folk across the county have many interests and they learn them well. A favorite of mine is the quilting barn. Quilting is something I have no interest in learning or taking up, but you have to give it to quilters. Quilts are where art, mathematics, and skill combine to expose just how wonderful and detailed our imagination is. Quilting is also one of those crafts which bring the elderly and the young together. Hanging from walls is the most carefully stitched quilt of an arthritic elder next to the first quilt of young smooth faced girl. Quilting is certainly family-neighborly art.

It isn’t a fair without visiting the canned goods barn. Just as artful as quilting it is good to know canning is making something of a comeback these days. I hope to trend continues to increase and there is some evidence of that in the barn. Bottles of pears, peaches, rhubarb, apples, strawberries, string beans, peas, and corn line one shelf after another. 4-H and FFA Youth, as you might expect, have their jams and preserves on display for folk to wonder over. Yet there are also jars from children and youth who are not in an organization. It might be conjecture, but I believe more grandparents are finding canning with their grandchildren a time to expose them to the wonders of good food and good storytelling. Whether it is prepping beans or slicing peaches or water bathing, canning is a time to tell the old stories and develop a few for tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee & Microwave 2

In Reflections on May 22, 2016 at 11:17 am

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May 22, 2016 

My first recollection of coffee is at the kitchen nook table at my folk’s home in Granada Hills.  Three or four at the time, my image is a little fuzzy.  However, I figure my first awareness of coffee were during my wombed days.  Mamma, on the other hand, was three or four when her folks began allowing her a spoonful of coffee each morning.  Little wonder that by the time of my wombed days coffee was not only normal but embodied.

Until the microwave came along, I figure daddy’s enjoyment of coffee was questionable.  Morning coffee met mom’s standards.  Being a coffee drinker since the age of three meant her coffee standard was just this side of chaw—coffee poured sluggishly from the pot.  Using the word miracle for the microwave seems a little over the top, but only for those whose coffee lacks the consistency of mud.  For those who live with mudders, but prefer drinking to chewing, miracle is an apt term.  The miracle lies in the microwave’s ability to allow for one pot and two different cups of coffee.  One cup filled to the brim with coffee.  The other half filled, topped off with water and placed into the microwave for twenty or thirty seconds.  Two cups, two consistencies, two different ideas of coffee.

One can hardly turn around any longer without stepping on another coffee shop and barista.  The choices of having ones coffee either black or with sugar seem archaic.  Meetings and conversations with friends over an Espresso, Macchiato, Latte, or Frappé, in a coffee shop, are today’s norm.  Yet there was the liminal time of the microwave, somewhere between the twelve-cup coffee pot and the individual barista cup.  That was a time, when the miracle of the microwave allowed two people to sit across a table and talk, contemplate, and laugh, while taking in a breeze swaying tree leaves outside the window.

 

Coffee & Microwave 1

In JustLiving Farm, Reflections, YCM on May 8, 2016 at 8:00 am

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May 8, 2016  

Morning coffee has me thinking about giving up the microwave.  Our maker of electromagnetic radiation gave up the ghost about six months ago.  However, having returned from Ireland to a grant-based job—meaning the job could go away as the grant wrapped up—our daughter, Katherine, stayed with us until she obtained a non-grant job.  Which meant, we used her microwave.  It was bound to happen and sure enough, Katherine moved out with a non-grant job in tow.  As the Volkswagen bug headed down the driveway with an outstretched arm waving out the driver’s window, I saw the last of the microwave through the bug’s back window.

I figured I knew how often we used the microwave.  However, I never thought about how the microwave effected contemplative life.

When I finish chores in the morning I make a pot of coffee.  Then sit and read or write.  Inevitably, I forget my cup sitting beside me and the coffee turns cold.  Not a big deal, I put the cup in the microwave, set it for 20 seconds.  Hot coffee!  One does not need to pay much attention with a microwave on the counter.

No microwave and my like for hot coffee have led me toward drinking coffee thoughtfully.  Spring mornings allows for sitting at the outside table and listening to early birds sing as the eastern sky brightens.  A transitional time arrives each morning when rabbits leave the pasture and head back to the safety of the wild landscape.  Some mornings the owl arrives late to the roost and her swooping image is more than a silhouette.  Sipping coffee, watching, and thinking and may not be the way of the traditional contemplative, but it does lend to a quietness. Read the rest of this entry »