Artful Land Care

Posts Tagged ‘Family’

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 »

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 »

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 »

Family—99 %’s & Malheur

In Peace & Justice, YCM on January 10, 2016 at 9:24 am

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January 10, 2016

Never gave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge much thought before? Neither had I. I traveled nearby, once, a few years ago. Heading south to the Steens Mountain Wilderness, I skirted by to the west on the two-lane highway. I probably passed a sign telling me to turn east to the Refuge, but I missed it the high desert of sky and sage. Though traveling at 55 mph doesn’t allow for much, you can still catch your breath in this beautifully rural and open landscape

I find it sad that the first time most US folk become aware of this landscape it is not for its beauty.

Enough has been said about the gun toting, cowboy hat wearing folk who are living at the Refuge these days. However, as one who wears a cowboy hat, hunts, and whom neighbors think of as the local liberal, here are two more cents.

It figure it was about the time I first heard about #YallQaeda and #VanillaISIS tweeting and folk wondering about calling this occupy movement domestic terrorism, that I began thinking about the Refugee occupiers and the now, mostly, defunct Occupy Movement/99 percent movement in the same light. Sure there is a difference between those who carry guns and those who don’t, but then again, who is feeling their lives are threatened by the few folk in the 10-30 degree weather of the east Oregon high desert, locals notwithstanding.

I find I agree about as much with the Refugee occupiers as I did with the Occupy Movement. In both cases, it seems most folk are/were about maintaining a middle (or higher) class existence for themselves. I want more land (the Refugee folk). I want a better job (the Occupy Movement). My friends who support one group or the other would say that is simplistic and it is more complicated than that. I’ll give you that. My question though, then as now, is when this is all over will you give of your time and resources to better the lives of those who have less? Read the rest of this entry »

Evenings of Lefsa, Pozole, And Black Eye Peas

In Reflections on December 20, 2015 at 10:58 am

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December 20, 2015 

When fall reaches the latter days of December life in the valley is more winter than autumn. Days are noticeably shorter than a month ago. Temperature highs are two layers of long sleeves and a vest on warm days; all that and a coat, hood, and gloves—and there is still a chill in your britches—on cold days. The night air is no longer a fall crisp but moonless and frigid whose clarity lowers stars to where you can see their breath.

The calendar on the kitchen wall speaks about the solstice being hours rather than days away. Morning fog lifts off the frosted back of steers as they eat hay spread upon snow covered pasture. Cows and thrower of hay, alike, need not a calendar to tell them winter has arrived in the valley.

Now is the season of stories and food.

Folk have long known the solstice as week of storytelling and food. In the time of year where little to no food is grown, now is the time to gather the folk in warm space, square up the food, tell stories and gain a little fat—for the coldest of days are ahead.

This week is the time trade in the gossip and like of the political and business in favor of new and old stories of friend and kin. Perhaps hold on to a Christmas cookie or two, but bring in the heavy hitters like Lefsa, Pozole, and Black Eye Peas—sustenance to sustain good solid stories of naked babies, the fall hunt, and lovers. Gather the folk—maybe more than once—and eat and listen and watch. Watch the winkled elders who grin at the story, who close eyes, nap for a moment, and who look at one another with those clear eyes of age and smile with a knowledge we may know one day. Watch the young lovers who sit near one another, who feign listening, but are too full of one another to pay much attention. Storytelling is nothing if not also the real time stories played out in the tellings.

In a few hours comes the longest of nights, a magical time of sorts. Might as well enjoy it to its fullest. Gather, eat, notice the cat lying in the warmth of the woodstove or heater vent, and listen…listen, for the spiritual is possible during this moment of enchanted seasonal change.

Prayer & “God Isn’t Fixing This”

In Peace & Justice, Theology on December 6, 2015 at 8:43 am

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December 5, 2015

God Isn’t Fixing This and that is freaking people out.
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Last Sunday, like many pastors, I stood before a congregation asked what folk were joyful about and what they were concerned about. A few joys, a few concerns, and Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood—seems like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?—were mentioned. And we prayed.

Tuesday I sat in the Living Room of a 64-year-old who lost his wife last May. We prayed.

Wednesday I sat in a coffee shop and listened as a fifty-something spoke about the hardships of life lived and hope of tomorrow. I prayed.

Thursday I walked the pasture and then to the edge of the creek. Frozen snow cracked underfoot, a sentry Quail yelled “Chicago,” and a coyote broke through the bush. I prayed.

And I am not much of a pray-er.
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I have not read the NY Daily News article folk are talking about, but dealing with the headline words alone, I agree, God is not going to fix this problem of mass shootings or shootings at all. Hell, not only is Colorado Springs old news in light of San Bernardino, it is hard to remember the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon in October, and the February Pasco, Washington shooting-lynching of Antonio Zambrano-Montes is long since forgotten. There is no prayer, to any God “out there,” that is going to fix or end the killings of our brothers and sisters.

Yet prayer matters because a bit of the Creator resides in all of Creation. Within Creation, within folk is the restorative creativeness that will bring about harmony. The first step, for those who pray, toward finding restorative creativeness is prayer. Prayer helps the pray-er grasp they have the Creators creative ability to bring about health, wellbeing, and balance. The pray-er can actively heal.

Healing, though, comes by perceiving prayer and creativeness as words of action. Neither is passive. Both are proactive. Prayer and creativeness are causative rather than inert or lifeless and calls for advance action rather than scrabbling response. Healing occurs when the pray-er gains strength from prayer to actively engage change.
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God Isn’t Fixing This, but the people of God can.

A Kitchen of Culture, Life, And Conversation

In JustLiving Farm, Landscape, SAGE Quest on May 10, 2015 at 8:00 am

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May 10, 2015

The kitchen is a favorite room of mine. Hard to imagine it isn’t everyone’s. Good food, good company, and good talk roll over the counter top and fill the house. Not a big room, but open with movement between kitchen and dining is hardly noticeable.

Our home is a back door home. That is, it is one of those homes that a knock on the front door means someone has arrived who has not visited before. After the first visit folk come to the back door. The back door leads straight into the kitchen, so it naturally the homes main room. Which suits us just fine. Folk soon learn that when we are expecting them to give a quick knock, walk in and walk in and grab a cup of coffee or tea—if we’re out in the pasture we’ll show up before too long. The kitchen/dining space is space where friends and neighbors sit laugh, argue, converse, and eat good food.

Spring break groups often have a stint or two in the kitchen. Spring means March, which means wind that blows so hard an outside conversation is next to impossible. During the summer, groups hang out in the barn and converse, but the barn is full of hay and equipment in the spring. So the kitchen fills up with thirty folk and we talk about justice in the landscape.

Every once in a while a group leader contacts me and together we will work to develop a unique spring break. A few years ago a pastor in Watsonville, California called and we developed a spring break where the kitchen stimulated the weeks conversation.

Each day the community baked or fried a cultural bread. Each bread: Wheat bread, fry bread, tortillas, etcetera promoted conversations on culture and we folk carry have different worldviews. The type of bread, its ingredients, and its making helped folk to think about how bread is reflective of a people’s poverty and prosperity. Read the rest of this entry »

Mystery In the Nooks and Crannies Of Garages and the Everyday

In JustLiving Farm, Landscape, Reflections on April 19, 2015 at 8:00 am

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April 19, 2015

There was always a bit of mystery in Daddy’s garage. Having free range, we kids were in it most every day for one thing or another. It was a normal place with a bit of an edge.

Daddy fought in WWII as a young man. For him, as a parent, that meant more untold stories than told. Directly after the war he spent a few years in the States. But being single and of sound mind and a carpenter he headed to the middle-east. Like much of the world, the area was ramping up since the war had destroyed much of the infrastructure. He ran construction projects ranging from pipelines to housing for the better part of a decade. When he came home he brought carvings, rugs, old (at least old to us kids) films, and intricately made boxes. Time to time daddy might tell a story, but like the war stories, he kept Arabia pretty much to himself. Which made the garage all the more interesting.

We kids always had our own agenda. The garage was our first stop for whatever tools we needed to fix a bike, work on the treehouse, or build another live-trap to haul into the hills. It was in the midst of our stuff that we came across his stuff. Though it didn’t happen often, it was also not unusual to be looking for a drill bit in the drawer of a handmade toolbox and come across medals from the war, or looking for a handsaw and find a carving wrapped in a small Persian rug.

Age didn’t matter when you came across a medal or a carving for the first or umpteenth time. The imagination wandered. Because a story was seldom available, these items from times past and landscapes unknown brought mystery into the moment. The bike or treehouse was forgotten and the mysterious led the imagination to that place of wonderment and questioning. Funny, isn’t it, how the non-story can bring about intricate and surprising stories? Read the rest of this entry »

Sidle Up To The Fenceline

In Chores, JustLiving Farm, Landscape on April 5, 2015 at 8:00 am

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April 5, 2015

Ray and I spoke across the fenceline for fifteen years. Each Christmas, whether we needed to or not, our families got together. When Rebecca and Andy’s wedding came, Ray and Mary were there. Ray and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything and I am glad we didn’t—made life a little richer, but we when it came to the joy of working land, we had pretty darn the same mindset. Ray passed away a few years ago and his place was split up. We picked up the land—someone else the home and barn—not long afterwards. I think of Ray whenever I am working the place. However, I sorely miss the fenceline conversations.

Ray flood irrigated the land. Each spring he hooked a V-ditcher up to the 3-wheel tractor and pulled ditches. Just like it sounds, the V-ditcher is a huge V shaped metal implement. When pulled behind a tractor it pulls dirt up and out of the ground leaving a V-shaped ditch. Once pulled, the irrigator runs water down the ditch. Siphon tubes then transfer water from the ditch into the field. The practice of ditching and siphoning is laborious. Which has a lot to do with my intention of using sprinklers to irrigate the field.

To flood the land, Ray created a series of crisscrossing ditches. The large supply ditches run the property’s boundary. Changing to sprinklers means all the ditches need filling. To do so, I run a spring-tooth implement up and down the mounds of dirt along each side of the ditch. After loosening the dirt mounds, I use a 3-point blade to turn the soil back into the ditch.

15.04.05b Read the rest of this entry »