Artful Land Care

Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Cookies, Conversation, and the First Day of School

In YCM on January 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

13.01.07

January 7, 2013

Belinda cooked up a batch of chocolate chip cookies this morning.  That doesn’t happen often, at least not early morning.  But today is the first day back to school after the Christmas break and Belinda wants the day to be special.  However, Belinda’s morning is full of hospice visits and expects a morning living with those who are dying will run well into the afternoon, which means, it is up to me to bring the cookies to this afternoons after-school program.

I will bring them, but when to give them out is up for discussion.  Sometimes, these early morning conversations Belinda and I have are both funny and sad.  After all, who would imagine giving cookies out during an afterschool program would generate such passion?

Every time cookies or candy (or pizza for that matter) shows up afterschool, there is always a few youth who take handfuls.  While someone right in front of them may take one and then come back later, they will take half-a-dozen.  At some level, we have all experienced this.  Everyone, at one time or another has taken a handful.  We don’t need it, but occasionally, two or three, rather than just one seems to do our soul well.  But there is something else going on when someone takes a handful every time.

It might be the handful is simply selfishness.  We too, know what that is all; we are all guilty of a bit of selfishness at times, aren’t we?  But the crux of this morning’s conversation was what if it is something more than that?  When a youth walks away from the table with a handful of cookies, might it mean something more?  Could it be they did not feel the gift of abundance, of peace, of a full stomach at any time during the last two weeks?  If not, why?  If not, do we have a responsibility to do something about it?  And if we do, what is it?  Are we called to talk to them about their lifestyle or their family situation?  Or are we called to question if society is structured so that it enhances the possibility they will become a young adult, an adult, and an elder who are dependent upon others?  And if we find that to be true, are we called to do something about it?  Should we speak for changes in democracy and capitalism that might lead to awareness that food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters are indicators of society’s failings rather than successes?

Neither of us had answers this morning.  Rather, meaningful answers seemed to wander the edges as one question led to another.  Are a handful of cookies due to selfishness, the hoarding of others, or both?  Well, it is hard to say.  What I did notice, though, was that while I reveled in the conversation Belinda made another batch of cookies.

© David B. Bell 2013

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Just Dropping In For Christmas

In JustLiving Farm, Reflections on December 25, 2012 at 9:05 am

12.12.25

December 25, 2012

(Heads up.  Consider this a PG-13 Christmas reflection—for language not nudity!)

We were sweating when he showed up.  Donald and I thought we were hitting it pretty hard, but it was daddy who did the hard work.  Daddy, like so many men who’ve spent their working life out-of-doors, sweated freely.  We kids wondered how he could let sweat would run down his nose, ready to drip off at any moment, and go on working as if it were not there.  Hard physical work mattered for daddy.  He clearly knew the men who worked day in and day out with their hands and body were folk to be respected.  He also understood the importance of education.  Education was important for daddy for a couple of reasons.  One reason, knowledge matters to the wholeness of a person.  Knowledge allows the mind to break through the edges of wondering to fields of questioning.  Daddy didn’t make it beyond high school.  The war came along and like thousands of other young men when the war ended and he came out of the service he went straight to work.  However, I grew up seeing the daily newspaper read end to end each day, an ear-marked  monthly farming magazine, and books on math and science.  The second reason was he understood what respect there was for those who worked physically was quickly waning.  Soon society would hold those who worked a fenceline, placed concrete, framed buildings, or  grew food would be financially displace in favor of those who worked in an air conditioned office.  Though the physical work of daddy’s life was hard, he didn’t act as if it were.  Rather, while he knew there could be too much of it for any person, hard work mattered and was good.  But I digress…we were digging fence postholes in ground full of rock that summer afternoon, when he showed up.

Best I remember, Don and I always enjoyed Mr. Morton dropping by.  A depression era Okie, Mr. Morton had known a hard life.  A kind man with a hard edge, he made his way from Oklahoma to California after serving in the Korean War.  He was and is the only man I’ve known who fit the saying, “He made millions, lost millions, and made them again.”  Unlike daddy who made his thoughts known, but was quiet, Mr. Morton was loquacious and rowdy.  I’d never known any adult before who could cuss six ways from Sunday, be serious, and laughing in the same sentence.  He came up with some of the best off-color rural phrases, many of which I enjoy using to this day; though my community in which I can use them is getting smaller by the day.  And it is from him I learned the word fuck could be used in most any sentence and can be as endearing as it is aggressive.  Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Mr. Morton had a fair disdain for societal norms.  He was also a man who lived in a manner that one never knew his wealth, except, for the generosity he showed his children, his boots, his hat, and his Mercedes.  Yet, these boots, hat, and Mercedes didn’t fit societal norms.  His purchases were practical; they might have cost a fair penny, but they were practical.  His boots, for instance, may have cost a bit, but they didn’t stop him from walking the cow pasture, stepping in a pile cow shit, cussing out the cow for shitting in that particular spot, and go right on telling a story and laughing without giving those shit cover boots another thought.  The same held true with the Mercedes.  More than once Don and I found ourselves in the backseat with his boys bouncing across a pasture after one cow or another with Mr. Morton cussing both the potholes and the cow he was trying to corral—For Mr. Morton, leather is leather and it made a lot more sense rounding up a cow sitting on a leather seat than the leather of some persnickety horse.  On this particular afternoon as Don and I watched him drive across the dry dirt field, we smiled because we knew this rambling freewheeling Okie and our restrained west Texan daddy would shoot-the-bull for a while.  This meant we’d get break from the work, and maybe, a story that would put mamma on edge—should she know!  Worst case, we’d get time to kick-back, talk about whatever ten and eleven year-old boys talk about, and throw stones at the rock beneath the sagebrush.

Mr. Morton never called before he came by the place; he just showed up.  Of course the same held true when daddy visited him.  This was a relationship, which, though both homes had one of those black rotary phones, with a handset in the cradle, and a dial with black numbers, there were few phone calls between daddy and Mr. Morton.  I think it had a lot to do with being depression era children.  Being a time when of few phones in rural homes, neither daddy nor Mr. Morton had home phones.  This lack of phones meant, neighbors just showed up.  Not all visits were a surprise though.  Folks often arranged a visit the last time they were in town or at church on Sunday.  But so very often, visits occurred because a neighbor was walking, riding, or driving by the place and they had a minute or two to drop in and say hi.  Those spur of the moment visitations created relationships and communities that, for the most part, are lost—After all, unique relationships develop when folk just show up, because, there is little telling what you might be in the middle of…maybe fence building, but then again, those rural farming families of eight, nine, or ten were not all created at night!

Any longer, though, few folk just show up.  In our rural landscape, we watched the rotary phone with its curly tail plugged into the wall, become the push-button phone, which then became the cell phone.  By adulthood, my generation was very adept with the phone and it became normal to call your neighbor before just dropping by.  Unlike Don and I, our children seldom got a break from chores with daddy because by the time Mr. Morton showed up we’d already had a phone call and had arranged chores they could get done without us.  “Just the changing times” one might say, but I think this lack of just dropping in is affecting relationships of neighbor, family, and community.

The fear of just dropping in before calling, I see this in myself.  There are times I find myself driving down Fort Road with a spare moment on my hands and I think about dropping in on a neighbor.  Then I remember today’s etiquette of calling ahead before visiting, so, instead of just dropping in I just stay on the road.  One might say, “Well you have a cell phone, you could call!”  True enough, but what do you say, “Hey, I don’t have anything better to do and I thought I’d drop by?”  Now, that’ll make ‘em feel good!  And what about my friends in their twenties who’d a whole lot rather have you text before you call before you drop in?  Yet, as I see it, folk and community have a great need for the unexpected drop in.  You get a hint of the need in most any coffee shop on most any day.  Sit and listen, sometime, to the conversation at your neighboring table (if it isn’t a business meeting).  More often than not, these folk are not talking about world changing events, rather, they are shooting-the-bull, laughing, talking about family and, most of all, enjoying one another’s company.  There is a great need to be with others without having any agenda and no time to prepare thoughts, and just be neighbor—kinda like two boys throwing stones at a rock under the sagebrush.

Certainly cell phones and to social networks like Facebook have their upside, but they shouldn’t get confused with a face to face conversations over the fenceline or across the coffee table.  There is something about having your neighbor show up without any notice, calling you away from your work, and bestowing a surprised blessing upon you of shooting-the-bull.  Best of all, because of the unpreparedness of the visit, you and neighbor become known to one another for your screwy thoughts as well as the insightful ones, and that truly enriches relationship.  And on a good day, your neighbor steals you away from work, places you in the backseat of a Mercedes and rockets across a hoof-dented, gopher-infested pasture leaving your butt as much in the air as on the leather seat.

In this time of short days, when neighbors are tucked in their home against the long cold winter night I like to imagine what might happen should neighbors, cell phone be damned, just drop in on their neighbor.  Probably an interesting story or two…Like the one of three or four old boys who just dropped in one day on newly birthed parents.  They gathered them up and invited them onto the backseat of a bouncing Mercedes.  Inside, they gave them three gifts—two of which were nice smelling oils…always a good thing with a baby in the car—which lifted their newborn spirits.  Then real fun began as they bounced their way across the landscape, for with each bounce the parents captured a glimpse of life with baby beyond the front windshield.  The clarity of life ahead was questionable from that bouncing backseat, but clarity mattered little for in the front seat was an old Okie cussing, laughing, and spurring life on across the landscape!

© David B. Bell 2012

Jesus vs. Pilate: Empowerment From The Loss of Voice

In Doctrine of Discovery, Reflections, YCM on November 24, 2012 at 11:14 am

November 24, 2012

The end of Native American Heritage Month and a conversation with a friend has me considering one way of thinking about this week’s lectionary reading from the Gospel of John.

Something came up years ago when I was engaged in undergraduate work that I have never forgotten.  I no longer remember which business class it was, but the teaching I do (an idea, I imagine, most of all of who majored in business remember).  The class instructor presented a case study: Protestors are at the gate leading up to XXX Logging Company, as well as at a number of log deck.  They are protesting XXX’s logging practices of cutting old growth timber.  The protestors actions have reached a point where they are damaging the company’s public image and its financial bottom line.  The instructor then lays out the question, “What should the company do?  After a fair amount of small group processing, the instructor continued.  XXX asked for a meeting with the group representing the protestors.  After a number of meetings, it became apparent one individual was the group’s leader.  (After a fair amount of time)  This individual was asked to meet with the CEO of XXX Logging Company.  Once at the table, the CEO said something along the lines of, “While I am not in agreement with all of your demands, I do believe changes are before us that we cannot avoid.  Because of this reality, I want XXX Logging Company to become known as THE environmental logging company who deeply cares about the environmental conditions of our forests!  After all, the wellbeing of our forests and trees is our wellbeing.  To make this happen, I am instructing the board of the need to develop a division that will focus environmental issues, such as those you have raised.  And I believe there is no one more capable of making this happen!  You, more than anyone else, understands the needs, pitfalls, and benefits of such a venture.  Would you consider coming on board with us, leading this division, and help us become a logging company like no other in the world?”  After a fair amount of discussion, the protestor came on board with XXX Logging Company.  In the coming years the protestor helped improve XXX Logging Company’s public image, however, true structural change of company logging practices never changed.  Bottom line, the company gained public goodwill, without ever changing company giving up structural change within the company itself.

We can go into the problematic structural and systemic morals the college instructor taught to a roomful of future CEO’s; but that is probably best left for another time.  Instead, in the context for this week’s lectionary passage from John, we do well to recognize one core aspect to the case study is the logging company’s CEO created a space that gave the illusion the protestor had voice (a sense of power), when in reality only the CEO had voice.

The writer of John gives us,

33Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  34Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”  35Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me.  What have you done?”  36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”  37Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?”  Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.  For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  38Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

Similar to the CEO and protestor, Pilate creates illusionary space where Jesus has voice—and where the audience to John’s gospel believes Jesus as an equal.  Pilate does this by asking, “Are you the King of the Jews?.. What have you done?.. So you are a king?,” as if Jesus’ voice matters.  However, that last question is critical to revealing the true state of the Pilate-Jesus relationship.  For Jesus’ response, “You say that I am a king.  For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Sounds as if he has voice and power, but…Pilate has the last statement, as power often does, “What is truth?”

As with the CEO-protestor study, the truth bares down at that moment.  Like a cat and mouse, Pilate only gave the illusion of voice to Jesus.  While the audience has been playing along, the writer of John throws them a jolt and they quickly find Jesus has no voice in this room, rather the room is the center of the structure which gives Pilate power.  As Jesus says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice,” a pall shrouds the room, Pilate’s tone deepens, and sarcastic smile slides across his face as he says, “What is truth?”  In that moment, Jesus’ voice is obliterated and John’s audience is shattered.  For in that moment everyone learns the Truth is the truth of Pilate’s power; evil reigns, John’s audience find they have been duped, and their hero’s voice is distinguished and his power is blown away like so much smoke.  It is in this boiling turmoil, this thrashing of the people’s hero, that the story becomes powerful.  For it is at this point John’s audience must take a step back, lose their passivity, become critical thinkers, review the Pilate-Jesus conversation, and re-consider an earlier response they so easily passed over, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

The first time around the comment comes across as some otherworldly response—of things as it will be.  The second time around though the audience finds the comment calls them into the here and now.  Now they must enter into relationship with a Jesus who has no voice and no power within the structure of this world.  Yet in this space, they find they have all the power needed to change this world.  In that moment of reality, when Jesus loses voice to the truth of Pilate, Jesus’ life is clarified for John’s audience.  For now, John’s audience learns Jesus has lived a life, in action and voice, as if the structure of Pilate has no meaning.  He doesn’t ignore Pilate’s structure, rather he lives as if his community of care, compassion, empathy for those who struggle and are held aside by societal structure is the realm—the kingdom of this world.  This realization is the second time John’s audience is shaken, for now they learn the power of the realm of God lies within themselves: their thoughts, their actions, their voice.

The people’s voice is what arose from the conversation my friend and I had concerning Native American Heritage Month.  It seems as if having a month designated Native American Heritage Month matters to the structures of our world and out of it American Tribes gain voice.  And yet the reality is something very different.  Like the voice of the protestor, like the voice of Jesus, Native American Heritage Month has U.S. folk believing American Tribes have voice.  Yet their voice is as lost in the landscapes current structure as that of the protestor and Jesus.

Since we are playing with the story of Pilate and Jesus, we might as well consider the structure of the Christian Church in considering the above argument.  And it is probably best to begin by observing my own denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (DOC).  From a structural perspective, there is caring for the people of American Tribes.  The denomination gives a bit of money to native ministry, and time to time a sermon uses Tribal history, story, or myth as an example to make a point.  Kinda seems like voice.  But where voice matters, in the midst of decision-making, the DOC has created a structure—congregational—where any people who do not have a critical mass of congregations do not have voice.  Since the creation of American Indian congregations was never a great concern for the DOC, there are no more than one or two American Indian congregations (Honestly, I know of none, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt.)  This means, while the DOC chose to believe American Indians have voice within their structure, the voice is non-existent.

What if we look outside the DOC and consider a bit more of the Christian Church.  Let’s consider two denominations who had a fair impact on American Indians: Methodist and Episcopal.  Both denominations created a good number of boarding schools and churches for Indians over the last two centuries.  This resulted in many congregations who have a critical number of American Indians in the community.  It has also resulted in each having a community of American Indians who have voice within the denomination.  But these voices, like Jesus’, are only given enough leeway to have the people of the greater denomination believe they have voice.  However, the denomination is not accountable to the American Indian voice.  In other words, the denomination is not giving the American Indian voice the power to change structure, nor follow this voice with the understanding that American Indians will take the denomination’s best interest at heart in their decision-making.

Which leaves us, the people, in the same situation as John’s audience (Appropriately so, for are we not the audience of the gospel as well?).  Like John’s audience, we are called to be fully aware of the structure of power around us—governmental, business, and religious, throw off our passivity, and live, in action and voice, as if structural power doesn’t matter.  In doing so we work toward creating a realm where people who have been pushed aside, placed outside, and given their own month, are given the power of determination.  This is a call where the people of Christianity become a people who believe abundant care for the displaced is care for themselves and by becoming accountable to the voice of the displaced they become accountable to God, which invites the realm not of this world into our midst.

© David B. Bell 2012

Girded Language

In Reflections on November 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm

November 5, 2012

I never gave homosexuality much thought until 1982.  Until then, like many folk, I allowed others to define homosexuality.  Best I remember it was always through derisive language.  Such language seemed more the norm than not, in those days.  Then 1982 came along and the language become so disdainful it called for new and deliberate thinking.

The intolerable language came from a surprising and not so surprising group folk: Christian pastors.  “AIDS is God’s wrath on homosexuals,” became the Christian mantra.  It’s not that all Christian pastors held this viewpoint, but rather the lack of a public Christian voice speaking the opposite led much of society to believe this rhetoric as Christian.

The 1980’s naiveté is mostly gone now and thinking is more just; AIDS is a human rather than Gay epidemic; biblical criticism endorses Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Inter-sex, Questioning/Queer (GLBTIQ) folk as naturally and wonderfully created; And what is right for straight folk is right for GLBTIQ folk.  The naiveté is mostly gone, but not entirely.

In Washington State, Referendum 74 (R74) is on the ballot, (Approving Referendum 74 means the State and the law would approve the marriage of all people, including GLBTIQ folk.) and with it a bit of 1982 is back.  Language, spoken by those against R74, is not the in your face ’82 language of “God’s wrath,” but, to be sure, it is just as painful for it separates family, neighbor, and community.  It is possible to say “I don’t have a horse in this race” and stand to the side, but if next week comes along and we, as a whole, as a society, continue to hold people apart, separated and segregated from the rights and joys we (straight folk) ourselves enjoy, then we are the cause of their hurt.

Hard language, “we are the cause.”  Yet, we are one people whether we like it or not.  If those of us who wholly and fully accept our GLBTIQ sisters and brothers as created, if those of us who have married our GLBTIQ sisters and brothers outside of State and legal approval, do not speak, do not act, and do not convince our straight brothers and sisters that we are called to radical and open equality, then we, ourselves, have also missed the mark.  Only when we hold ourselves—in my case a Christian Pastor—accountable, do we begin accepting the reality that when another hurts, so do we.  Such accountability breaks through the illusion that we are alone and on our own, and that our faith is individual rather than communal.  Instead, such accountability brings us into awareness that salvation is ours rather than mine and it is possible now rather than tomorrow.

A hundred years from now—ten more decades—we are all hanging out with our ancestors.  Our actions of today will tell a story we can no longer speak.  It may be another story of segregation, but imagine if it is a story of a people who gathered their wits, girded their loins, and entered into the fray because this was the time to bring forth a radical equality serving to better the lives of their community’s children and their children’s children.

Fluid Repentance Digs Up Wholeness

In Doctrine of Discovery, Reflections, YCM on April 29, 2012 at 6:35 am

April 29, 2012

Below is a post made yesterday on the Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church site.  You can find the original post at
http://www.pnwumc.org/gc2012/fluid-repentance-digs-up-wholeness/.  The site moderator included the image.

A part of Rev. TInker’s presentation is found in a 4 minute Youtube found at
http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.5898953/k.A4B3/Youtube_pop_up.htm?videoId=v-DoOCp5XA0

Fluid Repentance Digs Up Wholeness

The Rev. George Tinker helps lead an April 27 “Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples” at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

So, Rev. Tinker calls us to repent and restore balance to the world; does he?  A frightening call, for such balance calls for awareness and change and change does not come easily.  Tinker’s are hard words, for the Church struggles with interpreted theology that calls for change and bucks the traditional, the historical, and what is perceived as the normal – Think of today’s struggle with accepting marginalized LBGTQ folk into the fold, into leadership, and into having ordain authority to speak of their God created  life and theology to us.  Hard work, because, as Tinker notes, the Church—the people have to “dig it up, spade the ground” and find what Church and community structure historically and currently conceal from us.

Repentance can only arise and become meaningful through awareness.  The importance of Tinker’s thoughts is the challenge that the act of repentance is not a moment in time, but rather an action of ongoing awareness that is fluid.  Like a river, as we float around the next bend we experience a new willow or a new rock telling us a story we did not know before.  Tinker’s words are a call into unending repentance that comes with each new, but often old, story.  It is a call to struggle with our atrocities and the grief we’ve caused to the marginalized, to people of color, to American Tribal people.

We are called to claim history such as Methodist Col. John Chivington’s ordered killing of elderly men, women, and children at Sand Creek in 1864.  We are called to become aware and question how Methodist President Grant’s 1870 “Indian Peace Policy” supported the subjugation of American Tribal land and people by way of government-supported Christian Boarding Schools.

If we accept Tinker’s understanding of repentance, then We, the Church, must become conscious that we have a past that has been carefully “concealed” from us, that we must dig through layers of privilege to find “a lot of history to be owned,” and that with each new revelation, we must repent again.  For, as Tinker reminds us, it is only through this repetitive act of repentance that we will participate in the restoration of balance.  A balance that allows Us—the Church to one day, again, become reconciled with our marginalized sisters and brothers.

From Plow to Repentance

In Doctrine of Discovery, YCM on April 28, 2012 at 6:07 am

April 28, 2012

Below is a post I made yesterday on the Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church site.  You can find the original post at http://www.pnwumc.org/gc2012/from-plow-to-repentance/.  The sites moderator added the two images.

From Plow to Repentance

The Rev. James H. Wilbur . The image on the right shows a reed-mat covered tepee in a grassy field near Yakima, Washington. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b45839.

Having served on the Yakama Reservation for thirteen years, my interest is peaked with this evenings worship service.  The service will lead the church into a consideration of its relationship with indigenous peoples.  The Rev. Dr. George E. Tinker will give a word titled “No Apologies. Just Repent. Seriously.”  An important word for the church today because apologies have become trite and outmoded because they lend themselves to statements without action.  Apologies allow the apologizer to feel good about him or herself without entering into a relationship calling for change.

Listening to Dr. Tinker matters because the church has lived, accepted, and apologized for its past with American Indians without engaging its past in a manner that calls for a new mindset and a new structure within the church itself.  Why might this be important?

In 1860, Rev. James H. Wilbur came to the Yakama Reservation as pastor and Indian agent.  During his tenure, he ruled the landscape with a heavy hand modeling and claiming the standard of “The Plow and the Bible.”  Wilbur’s goal was to civilize and Christianize the Yakama by having them work as white men and become redeemed by accepting Methodist Christianity.  During his years as Indian agent, Wilbur removed children from their families, placed them in the Fort Simcoe agency and began to generationally remove Yakama culture—food, religion, dance, art, clothing, hair length, traditional names, and family and community structure—from their identity.  Wilbur’s actions changed people’s lives, historically and presently.

Wilbur’s is a story few within the church know and even fewer talk about.  Yet this is the church’s story.  Until the story is known, accepted, put “out in the open,” all that can be done is to make apologies.  Perhaps, this evening, with Rev. Tinker’s guidance, we will begin to move beyond apologies and enter into the hard work of action and change by taking our first steps toward repentance.

Wild Horses of the Yakama Nation

In Art, Reflections, Reservation, YCM on April 27, 2012 at 7:52 am

By Tamalyn Kralman

April 27, 2012

Last Saturday the JustLiving Farm and Yakama Mission hosted Spring Horse.  Spring Horse brings amateur and professional photographers together to experience the wild horses of the Yakama Reservation and to enhance their gift by developing ongoing relationships.  These photographers give us their unique perspective of the landscape.

Spring Horse 2013: April 20

By Roger Lynn

By Roger Lynn

By Doris Steeg

By Roger Lynn

By Tamalyn Kralman

By Roger Lynn

By Roger Lynn

© David B. Bell 2012

Dialect: Life, Community, Landscape

In JustLiving Farm, Reflections on April 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

 

April 24, 2012

Belinda and I will spend much of the day placing irrigation mainline and backfilling trench.  That is all of the day except for a few hours this morning.

Not that long ago I read an essay on funerals.  The writer compared funeral services he experienced back east to those of the west.  He spoke to a belief of eastern funerals having a higher degree of ritual and communal comfort than western funerals.  In part, he supported this line of thought saying the ritual of spreading ashes (a western ritual in his estimation) did not provide the community groundedness as, say, occurs when the congregational family comes together and provides food and comfort in the fellowship hall after a burial service.  When I finished the essay, I could not help but to think the transplanted eastern writer missed the values and richness of culture—east or west.

Landscapes speak to individuals and communities with their own unique voice.  The landscape of forested Arkansas simply speaks a different language than an arid western landscape lying east of the Cascade mountain range.  More so, the dialect of the arid eastern rain-shadowed Washington Cascades is different from the twang of the arid eastern rain-shadowed California Sierras.

This morning the twang is apparent.  Belinda and I have the afternoon to place irrigation line because there is no My Future after-school today.  There is no after-school today because a community member died and school canceled.  Instead of school today, the whole community is invited to the school gym for funeral services.  For this community, in this landscape, the end of life is so important it is okay, even supported, to close school and businesses so everyone might gather, remember, and grieve together.

So, this afternoon, when Belinda and I gather to place pipe into the earth, there is a fair chance our groundedness is more than standing waist deep in the ground, but also that we have become entrenched in the deep care of our whole community.

© David B. Bell 2012

Chirping Toward Voice

In Animals, JustLiving Farm, Reflections on April 3, 2012 at 11:21 am

April 3, 2012
JustLiving Farm

Morning feeding sometimes lends itself to a moment of consideration.  A few days ago we picked up a few chicks whose lot in life is to become this year’s egg-laying hens.  These chicks may not be the image that comes to mind when hearing the word chick.  This time of year, in our area, the image that does come to mind is all around us.  It is nearly impossible to walk into a feed store, a lumberyard, or even a clothing store and not see chicks about the size of tennis balls chirping next to a feeder under a heat lamp.  Something about Easter brings out the sellers and buyers of chicks.  However, our chicks are not the size of tennis balls.

Our chicks are two months old and at two months, they have lost their fluff and gained their feathers.  They are beginning to look like chickens, but have yet to acquire a chicken voice.  At two months, chicks continue to chirp as they did when they were tennis ball size, but there is something more to it.  The chirp has something of a hoarseness to it, kind of like the in between, breaking, voice I remember all too well from my teenage days.  Soon, though, their true chicken voices will kick in and the days of chick will be long-gone.

Finding voice is different for chicks and chickens than it is for teenagers and adults.  Speaking—having the ability to speak or chirp, is natural in most of our lives.  But finding voice, finding those thoughts which are uniquely your own, is something different, something that takes a bit of time and a lot of reflection.  Such voice might be verbal, but it might also be that which is written or formed by clay or painted on canvas or pencil on paper, or by way of camera.  Such voice is not chirping nor childish, but mature with a dash of thoughtfulness—however; such voice may rise up out of a child and be lost to an adult.

Voice does not silence the voice of another, but gives another something to ponder and consider.  Voice encourages voice.

I’m not sure why the chirping of two-month-old chicks has me thinking of voice today.  I imagine it has something to do with the darkness of Holy Week.  A time that calls for attention, consideration, and awareness of the deep and abiding hurt that has far too much presence in our communities.  Perhaps it is the riding of a colt and Travon Martin and Mathew Shepard; perhaps it is the selling of doves and John T. Williams; perhaps it is a few days before Passover, some nard and Rosa Parks, Dorothy Day, and Fannie Lou Hamer; perhaps it is Judas and I; perhaps it is a meal in a guest room and Oakland and Oikos University; perhaps it is the casting of lots, sour wine, a torn curtain and us.

Voice does not just happen.  Like so much of life, chirping comes first, then listening, then consideration, and then with the help of friends, neighbors, and elders…voice becomes.  Perhaps, today, I just begin chirping and live with the hope of voice and resurrection.

© David B. Bell 2012

 

Thanks for Brown Teeth and Straggling Geese

In YCM on November 24, 2011 at 7:10 am

November 24, 2011

Native American Heritage Month

Board with music I pushed the scan button.  The next voice I heard was that of the radio when I walk into the local steel supply.  A steady rant on why it wasn’t Indians who were hurt in the selling of Manhattan.  The voice went on and on as if the spilling of words would make his thoughts the new truth.  But I rush on…

Why rage against the poor comes so easy for a wealthy urban person the day before Thanksgiving I don’t know.  And I guess I’m really not up to putting up with it and want to go on a tirade myself.  But instead…with some steadiness?..it is good to take time  and appreciate today’s sky, John bundled and sitting in front of the P.O. before the sun rises on a freezing morning smoking a cigarette, a mountain white from yesterdays snowfall, a dog sniffing a paper bag across the street, and the wealth of a warm car as I drive by.

© David B. Bell 2011

 

Thanksgiving

Turkey, blue head on the ground
body in a gleaming white tub
with lion claw feet.
Heat rises in the yard
melting crystals of ice
and there are feathers, bronze,
metallic blue and green
that were his strong wings
which never flew away.

And we give thanks for it
and for the old woman
shawl pulled tight around her
she sits
her teeth brown
her body dry
her spoons
don’t match.

Some geese, last stragglers
trickling out of Canada
are flying over.
Noisy, breaking the glass sky
grey
they are grey
and their wings are weightless.

Linda Hogan