Artful Land Care

Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

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 »

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Loosing Wildness

In Doctrine of Discovery, Theology on October 28, 2016 at 8:00 am

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If you were to go back two hundred and eleven years ago last Saturday (October 22) and stand on the bank of the Columbia River at Celilo Falls, you would watch hundreds of fishing families hoop-netting the salmon fall run.  Mid-day arrives and with your kin, you sit and eat in as unending mist rises from the falls turning waters.  The sound and constant mist is a wonder, but that wonder deepens as a group of folk portage the falls—the only place needing portage on this river of Canadian birth.  Word came weeks ago about these people headed by Lewis and Clark traveling west on the river.  However, you have lived long enough now to know what you hear, what you see, and what you experience seldom are a match.

Some two hundred miles upstream from the river’s mouth, these fishers are folk of subsistence. The falls are a natural barrier to returning salmon.  As more and more arrive on their journey to mate, lay eggs, and die in their spawning streams and creeks of birth, the pools below the falls fill.  As they leap and hurdle themselves ever forward over the falls toward embodied spawning grounds men with large hoop nets stand firmly on long-ago constructed family platforms pulling salmon from the river.  Youth gather fish and carry them to women who work carving meat away from bones and hanging it to dry.  Children help where they can, but most run about and play games as children do.  The value of those fishing, gathering, fileting, or drying is the same.  The work is natural work.  Honorable work.  The righteous work of community.

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Until the 1930’s, the Columbia did not know a dam. A century and a quarter after Lewis and Clark portaged around Celilo Falls, that all changed.  Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Bettering Structure By Stepping Back

In Reflections, Theology on April 24, 2016 at 8:00 am

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April 24, 2016

We had a busy afternoon last Sunday.  The Democrat’s came to town to work out the next level of delegates for the State and national convention.  Since we were delegates for this first round, Belinda and I figured we should show up.

I am a Hilary guy and argued on her behalf with my neighbors, for a number of reasons.  Foremost, because she is a woman.  It is a simple arguments, but one which has governed other conversations this last year.

In 2017, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will vote for a new General Minister and President (GMP)—think of the GMP of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) like the Pope for Catholics, but a much, much smaller organization.  When 2017 roles around, Disciples will have lived with their first woman (ever) for twelve years.  Moving toward the next GMP takes years and the search is on.  I find my arguments for the next GMP are the same for Clinton.

My argument begins with that calendar like poster on the wall in my second grade class.  Flowing from left to right and top to bottom were pictures of US presidents starting with George Washington.  The poster, other than with a few more presidents is the same that hung on the wall of my children’s class wall, and I assume one can be found on elementary school class walls today.  There is really only one difference between the poster on my wall and the poster today.  My day had pictures of white man after white man after white man after white man after white man, whereas today instead of ending with a white man it ends with a black man.  If Disciples had a similar church poster it would look much the same, white man, white man, white man, white man, white man, white man, ending, today, with woman. Read the rest of this entry »

Gold in Them Thar Commodes

In Reflections, Theology on March 13, 2016 at 8:00 am

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March 13, 2016

I never notice it during the summer. Well, maybe never is a little strong, but for the most part I do not. When I think of it though, how does one walk pastures and not notice it? After all, folk who know a lot more than I say that for roughly every thousand pounds of weight, a steer produces close to 9.8 tons of manure.

Let’s see now, we have roughly eight or nine thousand pounds of steers on the farm. 9.8 tons times 8 and you have…well, a lot of shit. Just imagine what must be going on with urine.

With those numbers, one would think mountains of manure would cover the farm. However, the moment manure hits the ground it begins its work of fertilizing. During irrigation season or rain season or when snow melts, cow pies break down fairly fast. The break down is best though during the growing season. This stuff is full of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—combined you get roughly twenty pounds per ton of manure—and the pasture soil and plants eat this stuff up.

Recognizing that whole circle of life thing, it is nice to know the soil gives grass the will to live, the grass does the same for the steer, and the steers manure in turn enhances the wellbeing of the soil. Makes one rethink the value of shit.

Manure is more than steers, goats, and chickens though. You would think healthy humans naturally know this truth with their daily bowel movement. However, I imagine few folk living with modern bathrooms give it much thought as they push the toilet handle. Gene Logsdon gives a reminder in his book Holy Shit that this was not always the case. At one time, the worth of human manure for fertilizer was very valuable in China. So much so, that when your neighbor invited you to their home for dinner, the neighborly thing to do was to visit the bathroom before you left. Really! You can’t make this shit up! Read the rest of this entry »

The Sentient and Soulful Landscape

In Landscape, Theology on February 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm

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February 28, 2016

She was nailing it! Speaking on how the Federal and State government were dealing with an environmental issue in northern California, she told stories of her family, earth, and water. Yet, many folk in the room of predominantly non-Indian middle (more or less) class folk were not getting it.

A problem with being middle (more or less) class in the US, is to have made it out of poverty and subsistence living, folk did it by obtaining and accepting a western education. While this education has served us well in obtaining a good money-earning job, it has done a shabby job of having us maintain relationship with the spirit of the landscape.

I grew up with an Okie neighbor who told stories. Those stories kept him in relationship with folk, told much about him, and spoke to his outlook on life, land, the future, and the past. Most often peppered with words most folk would find inappropriate for children’s ears—and many adults for that matter—they were the racy stories that kept a young teenagers attention from beginning to end. From him I learned stories spoke truth and were much easier to remember later than, say, the historical dates being taught to me in school. His stories also helped me know there is life and ways of being different from my normal. Which meant later in life I heard other stories as truthful rather than fantasyful.

Another friend, a Yakama, told me stories of her and her family’s life growing up in landscape of ancient people. Her stories walked a path that before too long intersected with a rabbit trail. Not one to walk away from an adventure, her story wandered the rabbit trail, many times finding and taking another trail. Often, but not always, a trail would be found leading back to the original path. Whether the story found the original path or not, each story found its way to a natural truth needing telling. Read the rest of this entry »

Herd Teachings

In Landscape, Theology on February 14, 2016 at 8:00 am

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February 14, 2016

The mamma cow nudged her calf away as I and the dog neared. On down the fence line another yelled at her calf for hanging out near the fence. As we walked, another pushed three calves until they followed her into the field. Mid-winter walks mean most calves are birthed and on the ground learning what it means to be calf.

Being herd critters, cows teach calves how to be herd members. While cows take care of their own, they are not above nudging another’s calf into attention. Instinctively, they know the wellbeing of the herd is dependent on knowledge gained by their neighbor’s calf as well as their own. Herds survive only if they know and engage this simple principle—the wellbeing of my calf is dependent on the survival knowledge my neighbor’s calf. When this principle is not learned, the herd suffers.

Thursday morning, I arrived at the local coffeehouse—a time to catch up with folk, meet new folk, and get a little work done. A friend shared a full-page ad in the Seattle Times taken out by The Greater Good Campaign—coffeehouse mornings mean I don’t have to read every paper to get insights from the local paper, The Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal. The ad noted that 20,000 Washington students will not graduate high school this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Fathers-In-Law

In Chores, Landscape, Theology on January 24, 2016 at 8:00 am

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January 24, 2016

A fog storm settled in around us as we worked the rail fence. We started setting posts in the last moments of autumn hoping to beat the winter cold. We didn’t make it. The cold barreled in and uncritical chores became critical and the remaining post and railing took a seat. Those chores ended just in time for winter days who freeze nose hairs as you step out of the house.

Cattle are a curious bunch. So there we were trying to lag rails to the few posts we’d set weeks ago, with steers breathing out great buffs of fog as we worked, each settling a foot above our heads. Before you knew it, it was hard to see Belinda at the end of a sixteen-foot board. You think it an exaggeration? Well, perhaps a bit. Just the same…

I could hear Belinda’s dad scoffing at us as we worked. “Four below zero? Well, let me tell you. I was returning home from school one day when mamma stopped and picked me up. ‘Buddy,’ she said, ‘Don’t you know it is 43 below!! You’ll freeze before you ever get home.’ Four below, …hmpff.” My figures numbed inside unlined leather gloves.

My response was non-verbal, Dad has been gone for nearly three years now, “Yeah, well Bud, that’s what you Swedes and Norwegians get for choosing North Dakota when you arrived in this landscape. Some of us had the good sense to head straight to warm land, like, say, south Texas and California.” The trouble with having in your head conversations is you start countering your own arguments and it is no longer Bud but myself saying, “Oh Yeah, then why the hell are you here at the end of a board in below freezing weather? Damn!” I continued bickering with Bud and myself until the last lag screw is twisted in. We packed up the tools and took them to the shed. Then headed up to the house, the woodstove, a cup of coffee, and verbal conversation—I’m sure I will pick up the conversation with Bud another day. Read the rest of this entry »

Belief of Everything

In Poetry, Theology on January 17, 2016 at 8:00 am

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barn hay debris floats
in january snow melt
string theory vibrating filaments

Sign—Post

In Poetry, Theology on January 3, 2016 at 8:00 am

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no hunting, no trespassing?
why do I assume
it was not “Welcome”