Sunday, August 31, 2008

One Afternoon: A Whole Lot of Tomatoes!

This afternoon was spent canning tomatoes from the Zephyr Cooperative organic farm in Ms Ether's fine kitchen. I'm a member, as is she. The tomatoes have just started to gush into ripeness. So we picked a bushel or so, messed up Ms Ether's kitchen, and came away with about 30 pints of lovely sauce. It's a lot of work, but feels good at the end of the day. While the tomatoes were cooking, there was time to talk politics, religion and gossip with Ms AND Mr Ether. Their two daughters would occasionally appear and contribute tidbits of wisdom. I love learning to can. It puts away good food for dark winter nights. It is a fun social time. And, it connects me with my grandmother, who canned and froze every fruit or vegetable she could get her hands on. It feels like money in the bank. Only better.

The Want of Peace

Today in Meeting, I was quite upset about the SWAT team raids in St Paul, and wondered where Spirit takes us, perhaps especially when the experience of Spirit, at that time, is unpleasant. When ugly and horrible things happen like devastating hurricanes, genocide and the SWAT team raids, is this what God wants? Is this Spirit moving? I rose and shared, then sat down in pain and rather dazed. After a few minutes had passed, I opened my book of Wendell Berry poems to this:

The Want of Peace

All goes back to the earth,
and so I do not desire
pride of excess or power,
but the contenments made
by men who have hd little:
the fisherman's silence
receiving the river's grace,
the gardener's musing on rows.

I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Go Towards the Motion

Bayard Rustin (above, click to make it bigger, it's worth it!) was a major figure in the Civil Rights movement. Although most everyone gives Dr King credit for the 1963 March on Washington, it was Rustin who did the lions share of the organizing. A black, gay, Quaker activist, Rustin left his mark on so many progressive movements. He argued. He struggled with his peers, and with his own demons. Made the mistakes we humans make. But he MOVED while he argued, struggled and took some harsh criticism.

As I look at the upcoming presidential campaign, I think of Rustin. I wonder what he'd be thinking and saying and doing. Would he chastise Obama for not being perfect and distance himself? I think not. What Rustin said once has stuck with me. Referring to progressive activism, he said "Got TOWARDS the motion" if you want progressive change to occur. Move. So my thought would be that he'd have some strong, eloquent criticisms, but he'd move TOWARDS Obama and engage rather than pout and go write a book or something. Becuase THAT is where the motion currently lives. Instead of going on TV to attack, like so many cowards do.

I've been noticing lots of talk about Obama on a wide variety of progressive blogs. Lots of stuff that usually comes out saying somethin like "I don't like everything he's saying, but I'll vote for him...I guess. Sigh" These long conversations keep happening. People spend too much time listening to the pundits, reading their favorite progressive blogs, patting themselves on the back, and criticizimg Obama for not being perfect. Which of course he's not! So who's out there, knocking on doors, phone banking, in places like Mauston or Reedsburg in more rural, conservative Wisconsin? Or are people sitting at home, watching the tube and doing nothing? I have been doing too much nothing. Rustin's challenge to me and to all of us is to "move towaqrds the motion". Which means to engage, to raise the energy, to make change. Real change. Speeches don't make change. They aren't change. The good speeches move people in deep places, put them in touch with their desires...for change from the horrible course we've been traveling as a country.

Like the Gatorade commerials that ask " Is IT in you?" Change IS IN YOU! Change is in me. It's moving towards the motion of life. To choose McCain is to choose death. There's not much motion in the McCain campaign. So I'm challenging myself-----and everyone who calls themselves liberal or progressive OR conservative, to move towards the motion and do more than waste energy in intellectual vaudeville.

Move towards the motion.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Children of Katrina Still Bear the Scars

by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Published on Sunday, August 24, 2008 by the Miami Herald (Florida)

You cannot watch Laura Belsey’s movie without ruminating upon the myriad ways we fail our young.

There are many wrenching scenes in Katrina’s Children but arguably the most wrenching is not the girl crying because the hurricane left her so fearful of water she can no longer swim, or the boys touring the wreckage that once was home, or the children recalling how corpses floated by, writhing with maggots, bursting open. No, the most wrenching scene comes when Tyronieshia tries to read.

She pauses before the sign warning of penalties for bringing firearms onto the elementary school campus — yes, they need a ”no guns” sign at an elementary school — but she can’t read it. She struggles to do so, but it’s no use. She can’t decipher ”carrying,” can’t figure out “firearms.”

Everyone failed her.

Ten years old and she was already well on the way to illiteracy and the life of don’t have and can’t get that usually comes with it. And you realize, here is a child who was failed by her school, failed by her community, failed by her family. Then, three years ago this week, the storm came and she was failed by everything else.

Katrina’s Children is not coming soon to a theater near you. It can, however, be purchased online ( A portion of the proceeds go to help children’s programs in New Orleans.

See it if you can. It will claw at your heart.

There is no footage of the hurricane in it, no shots of rooftop rescues or chaos at the Superdome. There is no narration, no talking heads, virtually no adults whatsoever. Instead, there are the children, drawing pictures of the day their city drowned, telling how it feels to leave or lose everything you’ve ever known, walking you through the debris and the detritus, weeping, and wondering why it happened. They are white and black and one Vietnamese girl, children of various economic strata, some precocious and verbal, some so ill-spoken, so isolated from the mainstream, that their English requires subtitles.

All of them indelibly scarred.

”It was interesting when we screened the film for some of the parents and the kids,” says Belsey, the 42-year-old New York filmmaker who directed Katrina’s Children. “The parents were really moved. They had no idea the kids were thinking those thoughts. It just goes to show that if you take the time and pay attention and if you’re quiet enough . . . you hear things.”

But when are we that quiet?

We cry out at as the famous for nothing live their train wreck lives or the ballplayer runs for daylight or the TV news tells us about this week’s missing coed, but we fail to hear the quiet, painful sound of Tyronieshia trying to read.

Then a mammoth storm swallows an American city whole. And some of us cry out that liberals should not send help to a red state, or that God allowed the storm because New Orleans is too tolerant of homosexuals, or that this tragedy proves certain people are lazy and welfare-dependent. But we fail to hear Erica, who is 10, weeping because she saw babies die in the convention center’s heat and stench.

We forget that children are in the room sometimes. We push our agendas and assign our blame and impose our narratives and forget that they are right there, taking it in. Yet, if some of them were failed by schools, community and family, all were failed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the mayor, the governor, the emergency management director and the president. And don’t think they don’t know.

Maybe you take that as the cue to circle your wagons of race or politics. Well, Erica, who saw babies die, sees an imperative beyond that. She drew a picture, a mosaic of faces in rainbow colors, combining into a single image. A single destiny. With a little one’s gift for clarifying and purifying that which stymies and stupefies adults, she calls her drawing All In One.

And the prophet was right. A little child shall lead them.


Sunset in the labyrinth.
The crack between worlds
some say.
When day shifts to night.
Dew is forming
and floats to my nose
with the spirits
and the questions
God urges me on
with you just ahead.
We dance our questions
God reminds me (again)
that my wound is my gift.
(will I EVER get this!)
And I see my Dad walking along the periphery
keeping pace and still smoking, I see.
But not entering the labyrinth.
God tells me he’s sent me angels
at various times during my life.
They only help
If you believe, says God.

At the center, a figure carved in stone.
Jesus. Mother Mary. Buddha. Muhammad.
It doesn’t matter.
The figure looks off balance.
I feel an urge to straighten it so it won’t fall over.
But I can’t reach out.
It’s scary somehow.
To see imperfection in something we want to believe
is perfect.


Sparkly Raincoat

Snorkeling down
into the river.
Something yellow,
like a sparkly raincoat
sinking towards the muddy bottom.
I wanted it in my hands.
Very much.
Trying to dive
I couldn’t hold my breath any longer.
I rose to the surface.

Later in the day
after a rest
I went back to look for it.
But the river was empty.
She said the tide is out,
the water will be back.

I doubt it,
I said.
And walked off the bridge.
Not planning to return.


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Fast Track to Slow Food

by Kerry Trueman
Published on Friday, August 22, 2008 by The Huffington Post

Look, I hate the military-industrial complex as much as the next hemp-seed snacking, kombucha-brewing, raw-milk swigging real food revolutionary. After all, they're the ones who saturated our soil with their surplus nitrogen in the wake of World War II, reversing generations of careful land stewardship in the name of moving forward. They declared corn King, and turned our supermarkets into minefields littered with fat, salt and sugar bombs. Our blown-up kids? Just collateral damage in the eternal battle to boost Big Food's bottom line.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Agribiz ascendancy; the same military-industrial complex that locked us into this fuel-ish food chain also gave us the key to free ourselves--the Internet. Presumably, the Department of Defense didn't develop this technology in order to empower citizen activists, but isn't it nice to finally have an unintended consequence we can cheer about? Unlike, say, cross-contamination from genetically modified crops, or E. coli-tainted produce, or fertilizer-fed algae blooms or--oh, nevermind.

The Internet has proved to be extremely fertile ground for the good food movement, nurturing a virtual community of sustainably minded farmers, foodies, and activists. Websites championing the agrarian agenda are sprouting up everywhere, like Roundup-resistant super weeds, ready to take on the unsustainable status quo. Rest of article here.

My Dad and the Duke

Listening to the Duke
on my IPod the other day
my dad came to mind.

I imagined him dancing to Duke
and his orchestra.
Mabye at the Aragon in Chicago.
Possible steamy,
much like today.

I see my dad dancing
smiling and laughing
as his young body
shook and glided through the haze
of cigarette smoke and humid Chicago.

That’s in my mind.
But I recall seeing my dad dance.
just once.
At my brother’s wedding.
I’d always thought he was
very clumsy
and not an athlete.
Usually sitting around
and smoking himself towards the emphysema that killed him
twenty years later.

But that nigtht
he danced with my mom.
They were recently divorced.
But they still made quite a couple.
My mom had a look of surprise on her face.
My dad a look of joy and confidence
I’d never seen before.

As Duke himself used to say: “If it feels good,
it is good.



When I was in a dark place
and scared
and God wasn’t’ there
for me.
I’d play Legos with my son, age 5.

We’d build and build and talk and mutter.
I constructed huge walls and castles.
I felt safe.
Or I imagined I was safe.
Almost as good.

My son said suddenly, “Daddy are you worried?”
Safe for the moment behind the Legos
I said “No”.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Army Toothbrush

This afternoon I took a break to get a soda out of the machine and noticed the new students, Veterinary Class of 2012 getting oriented. There were table after table representing various Vet Student groups: Large Animal Club, Equine Club, Ethics Club, Gay and Lesbian Support Organziation. On they went. Around the corner, sitting all by his lonesome was a man in uniform, representing the Army. I went over to talk with him. As I approached, I spied several traveling Army toothbrushes. I took a couple. My tax dollars, I thought. The building manager was standing there talking to the recruiter. I made a joke: "Are you going to sign up, Tom?" He laughed and said he'd already been in the Navy and besides he was too old. "But you're not", said the Army man, pointing a beefy finger at me. "And", he went on, "I can get you a $65,000 bonus just for signing up." I asked him if I'd have to go to Iraq. He averted his eyes and said "Maybe". I don't like the idea of the Army recruiting in my Vet School. It worries me. A little later, as a joke, I told my story in the lab to my boss. I told him the Army guy had offered me all this money and laughingly asked him what HE might offer! He said something like "I'll offer you an ad in the paper for someone to replace you for less money than that!", he said with a laugh. (at least I think he was laughing!)

Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to put down the Army Veterinary Corp.

After all, it has a long history and.....a veterinary education is really expensive these days. The average vet student graduates with a debt of over $80,000. But Army veterinarians do go to Iraq. And they do get killed. And it's a tragedy and a waste, like this ridiculous and cruel war. And the cruel ruses the Army uses to get it's cannon fodder.

I went back to the young student at the Ethics Club table and asked her how she felt, ethically, about having the recruiter here. She said she had her views and he had his. But she wouldn't say what her views were. And the silence about the war goes on. I'm planning a letter to the Dean about my feelings. Will anything happen? I doubt it. The Army will still come. People will still go. People will stay silent. People will still die. Support the troops. And with my Army toothbrush, I can make war (and prevail) in the ongoing battle against my dental enemies. They hate us for our clean, white smiles.

And yes, Army veterinarians do go to Iraq, and the tragedy continues.....and I honestly mean no disrespect to this man or the people who loved him, but the lies continue to be believed. And people continue to die. You don't need the excuse of a war to go vaccinate a country's cattle.

U.S. Army veterinarian killed in action
Lt. Col. Holland the first Veterinary Corps casualty of Iraqi Freedom

Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians gathered May 24 at Camp Liberty in Baghdad for a memorial service honoring Lt. Col. Daniel E. Holland. The U.S. Army veterinarian, along with three other soldiers and a civilian interpreter, died May 18 of injuries sustained that day when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee during combat operations in Baghdad.

Lieutenant Colonel Holland, 43, was serving on a Civil Affairs humanitarian mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom while assigned to the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He is the only member of the Veterinary Corps to die in a combat setting in recent years.

Brigadier General Michael Cates, chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, said, "Truly outstanding as a soldier, leader, Christian, husband, father, colleague, and friend, Daniel epitomized all Army values and was one of our finest Army Veterinary Corps officers. He believed strongly in what he did and (in what) our military veterinary personnel have been doing and are continuing to do, and dangerous assignments did not sway him from his duty.
"Daniel has set an extraordinary example in Iraq, just as he has done everywhere he has been, for all of us to follow."

The mission that ultimately took Lt. Col. Holland's life was one he considered vital to the future of Iraq, according to Lt. Col. William Woods, his commander. His mission was to evaluate Iraqi sites relative to public health, veterinary medicine, animal health, and agriculture. Lieutenant Colonel Woods said, "He died trying to help Iraqi farmers with their livestock."

Lieutenant Colonel Holland grew up in a military family and once described his commissioning in the Army as a dream come true. "Where else could a person swim with dolphins, jump out of airplanes, and help people in faraway countries take better care of their animals?" he asked. (umm, I could think of some other places.....)

Commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps Program, he received his DVM degree in 1988 from Oklahoma State University and entered active duty as a Veterinary Corps officer.

Monday, August 18, 2008


In Meeting for Worship yesterday, I opened my Wendell Berry book to this poem.

It's introduced as being "for Gurney Norman,quoting him". Not sure who Gurney Norman might be, but here it is...

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itslf,
its roots passing lordly through the earh.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Runing or walking, the way
is the same. be still. Be still.
"He moves your bones, and the way is clear."

Monday, August 11, 2008

John McCain's Illegiitimate son revealed

Enterprising reporter that I am, I've dredged up some shcoking information about John McCain's past. I hate to break it to you folks, but he's not what he has trouble pretending to be. To some, this may seem unblievable. To others it's a perverted blend of fact and fiction. But isn't that what politics is all about?

Now to the heart of the matter. Mr McCain's son from a previous affair (not the current one) is....Draco Malfoy!

Mr McCain grew up, not as a McCain but as a Dursley, as this startling photo reveals, McCain is not his real name. In fact, he grew up with the Dursleys, and was called Dudley.

McCain makes a lot out of his POW experiences, all that harsh interrogation and stuff. It has come to my attention that Severus Snape, former Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was busy putting McCain under the Imperious curse.

It's a forbidden curse, but those Republicans will stop at nothing. The Imperious curse allows the perosn who casts it to control the actions of important people. McCain is obviously under this curse: hundred years of war, no chld develpment plans, doesn't even know where Africa is on the map. I could go on, but I would quicly bore even the most loyal of my readers. All I can say is beware! John McCain, fact or fiction.


This weekend the temperature dropped to 50 one night and it's only August. A reminder that fall is coming soon. Poodledoc, Jr is unhappy when I use the S word. He wants summer to go on forever. I always did when I was a kid.
But now, I'm in a different season both in the present sense and in my life. Yesterday, I froze 6quarts each of yellow and green beans. I cooked down a huge pot of just picked tomatoes, just picked onions and green peppers into a tasty pasta sauce. I froze another 6quarts of that concoction, but not before having Poodledoc, Jr smell a just opened, just picked sweet green pepper. Newborn.

All on top of the pesto from the previous weekend. Wow! I'm running out of room in my freezer compartment. Oh no! I need to save room for coffee, at least...

As to the season of my life? It ain't spring. Maybe feels like late summer. I'm uncertain about he season of my life. Something to contemplate before the ragweed pollen rises up like a beast to disturb my nasal passages. But for now, it's harvest time. Eating the wealth of the land which bonds me to the soil that many people refer to as "dirt".

A Poem for Quaker Meeting-8/10/08

Often, when I go into Quaker Meeting for Worship, I'll bring a book, something of spiritual importance to me. Something I feel can teach me something. But mostly a book that will help me move into a space where I am open to God. Or at least closer to that place. Usually, I just open the book randomly and read the passage or poem or verse that opens before my eyes. Today I took a book of Wendell Berry poems, and opened to the following, which fit just fine.....

To the Unseeable Animal

Being, whose flesh dissolves
at our glance, knower
of the secret sums and measures,
you are always here,
dwelling in the oldest sycamores,
visiting the faithful springs
when they are dark annd the foxes have crept to their edges.
I have come upon pools
in streams, places overgrown
with the woods' shadow,
where I knew you had rested,
watching the little fish
hang still in the flow;
as I approached they seemed
particles of your clear mind
disappearing among the rocks.
I have walked deep in the woods
in the early morning, sure
that while I slept
your gaze passed over me.
That we do not know you
is your perfection
and our hope. The darkness
keeps us near you.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

McCain the Antichrist?

by Robert Dreyfuss
Published on Friday, August 8, 2008 by The Nation

Wow, I never realized the Antichrist was likely to be a Romanian. What canst thou say?

Biblical scholars in Colorado Springs have uncovered startling evidence that Senator John McCain may be the Antichrist. Their conclusions, while highly controversial, may have a dramatic impact on the 2008 elections, since many Bible-believing Christians have already expressed doubts about McCain’s fealty to Christianity.

The analysis was conducted by the respected True Bible Society, and it will be published next month in the End Times Journal.

The analysis was especially ironic, given that it came out just one day after McCain was accused of subtly hinting that Barack Obama could be the Antichrist. McCain ran a commercial depicting Obama as “The One,” giving rise to charges that he was sending a subliminal messages to anti-Obama Christians.

“What started us looking at this issue is the fact that Senator McCain has declared his intention to maintain US forces in Iraq for a hundred years,” said David Jenkins, a leading Biblical scholar. “That means that McCain wants to control Babylon for at least a century.” According to many scholars of the Book of Revelation, the Antichrist will try to rebuild the ancient city of Babylon in order to use it as a springboard for an international effort at world domination. Ultimately, the Antichrist will marshal forces from Babylon to spark a showdown with Christian and Jewish-led forces in the battle of Armageddon.

“We believe that the End Times is near, based on the pattern of wars, earthquakes. and other strange phenomena we’ve been witnessing since the start of the New Millennium,” said Jenkins. “Given that it may be imminent, the person who controls Babylon must be the Antichrist.” Until 2003, many Christians believed that Saddam Hussein might be the Antichrist, since he started excavations to restore Babylon in the mid 1970s. But Hussein’s death meant that the Antichrist is someone else. Since Obama wants to get out of Iraq, he can’t be the Antichrist either, concluded Jenkins.

Jenkins said his teams suspicions were further heightened when genealogical research showed that McCain’s great-grandfather was actually not John McCain, but John Mihai. Mihai is an ancient Romanian name, and according to Bible-believing Christians, the Antichrist is likely to be a Romanian. “What clinched it for us was that the name Mihai means ‘who is like the Lord,’” said Jenkins. “As far as we’re concerned, that was enough. It means that McCain might easily pretend to be the Redeemer.”

McCain’s geniality and folksiness are consistent with his being the Antichrist, Jenkins said. “Many people think that the Antichrist will be a evil-seeming leader, but in fact the Bible tells us that he will be charming.”
So far the McCain campaign has refused to comment on Jenkins’ study.

Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in politics and national security. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam and is a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones.

Copyright © 2008 The Nation

Friday, August 8, 2008

Post-Apocolyptic Summer Reading, Part 2

I Am Legend
by Robert Matheson

I saw the movie first. The one starring Will Smith as Robert Neville, the last human alive in Manhattan (and perhaps the earth) after a synthesized cancer curing virus mutates and starts killing everyone. Well, almost everyone. The movie was ok, Will Smith is energetic and entertaining, there's a dog, and some zombie creatures that somehow survived the epidemic. Oh, and some really well done computer graphic work. It could have been a good movie. Maybe a great movie. They waited to bring God into the flick until the last 20 minutes. I won't say what exactly happens since I'm sure at least 4 of my 10 loyal readers will rush out to rent the movie. Plus, after I read the book, Will Smith just isn't introspective enough to play Neville. So, let's get back to the BOOK, which bears little resemblance to the movie.....

The book was penned in the 50's and bears almost no resemblance to the movie. Once again, a virus has killed off just about everyone, turning most people into vampires. Takes place in LA, there is a dog, briefly. There is a woman in the book, too, but she plays to the stereotype of the "designing woman", which I found more than a little annoying. But it plays out in the book fairly well. Oh, the zombies in the movie are actually vampires in the book. So Robert Neville spends his days running around Santa Monica driving stakes through vampires hearts. We ALL know they only come out at night, right? And he uses standard gear for warding off vampires such as mirrors, necklaces of garlic, crosses, etc. I liked the part where he wonders if a cross would ward off an Islamic vampire. (guess I'll check Wikepedia). I've asked Poodledoc, Jr this question, since he's quite an authority on vampires. He just laughs at me! Anyway, back to the book. It's way darker than the movie. Matheson has his character spend more time in hopeless moods, introspecting and also drinking heavily. The vampires are much scarier than the zombies from the movie. And in the book, Neville even offers up a prayer or two, although he doesn't seem to have much faith that any God will be there to hear. I will say that the book had some really excellent suspense writing, which I enjoyed. But as far as post-apocolyptic fiction, I wouldn't rate it very high. Creepy? Yes. Suspenseful? Yes, in places. My feeling is that both the book and the movie fail to to answer the question: Where is God?

Post-Apocolyptic Summer Reading, Part !

The Road
by Cormac McCarthy

I'd always wanted to read a book by Cormac McCarthy. Not sure why. So I chose this one for my summer reading list. I found this book to be well written and a great read, especially if you are feeling a bit too....cheerful.
It tells the story of a father and son, walking along a road across an America in the throes of a nuclear winter. Little is said about the initial catastrophe. It's the results, the dregs of the horror McCarthy shows us here. And the dregs of horror are almost beyond words. Still, he uses his words to take us along with the father and son as they walk towards the coast hoping to find...........something.

It's perpetual winter. Snow falls often, quickly covered with ash. The sun does still rise on this tragedy, but it's a lighter shade of gray than the night, which is colder and darker. As I read this, I was hopeful that they'd reach the sea and there'd be this group of healthy folks, waiting to receive them, living in some sort of a dome city, still getting their mail on time. But as I read, my hopes sagged with theirs. There's not much food around, when you can't grow it. Most people have resorted to cannabilism. They are starving. At every town, they have to cautiously poke through old stores and houses, looted long ago, looking for a scrap of food, a useful tool or something they can use to keep warm. Or some fuel.

The ironic "highlight" to me is the moment they uncover a "fallout shelter" as we used to call them in my town back in the 60's. Forcing the lock, they descend into a world reminiscent of the magic cave in Aladdin. Clothes, fuel and a huge stock of canned goods. Peaches, pears, tomatoes, okrah (yuck on the last one!) After all the lack of color, the dark gray, I can imagine the colors. I can almost taste the canned peaches as the joice runs down my chin. I guess the irony for me is that when I was young, we were all instructed to build these structures and stock them in case the Russians attacked us. In this book, the shelter never gets used by it's creators. It serves only to 'save' the father and son who wonder if their existence is worse than death. Well, I guess I'd better get canning. All those tomatoes I'm about to "put up" should see me through even the harshest nuclear winter, dontcha think?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Adventures in Darkness

Walking along the gravel road
And hot
Came to a canyon
It blinked dark
The sky turned low and I was sliding
Towards the black
Small rocks scraped
My hands
My legs
To the edge now
Wobbling vertigo
Peering down
And in.

So devoid of light that it sucked the air out of my lungs.
I cried out to God
Where are you, dammit!
A strange prayer
But I felt such anger
At the deity
Who is supposed to protect me.

That’s when I saw them
In the distance of space
That I called the canyon

By the millions
And finally
I saw God.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Eldering is NOT Scolding

I'm struggling with the term "Eldering" as it is used in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). In other religions, it can mean the older, more experienced people in the spiritual group sharing their wisdom. I think some of that certainly goes on here in the Quaker world. Truly, some people's words carry more weight than other in our Meeting. Hence the somewhat humorous (to me at least) "weighty Quaker". But I'm not sure exactly what it means.

I feel there are things it is NOT. It is not scolding individuals or the Meeting as a gathered body. It is not attempting to speak FOR the Quaker Meeting. It is NOT confronting individuals who are attempting to connect with God in their own way.

But there are certain rules of conduct in Quaker Meetings. And of course, these rules can and do vary from person to person. For example, I have trouble and feel uneasy with someone singing out of the silence. That may sound strange to some, but that's me. I'll own that unease as mine. I try to be open. Am I going to scold the person and tell them I don't like this, or am I going to try to be open to God's message in the song. If the some members of the group begin to sing along, do I rise and berate the group about this? If I did, I would not call that eldering. I would call that scolding. Clearly their are modes of conduct that need to be spoke to such as conversation in Meeting for Worship. Who does that and how it is done are tough questions for me.

My sense, at this place in my life, subject to change and learning is that eldering has nothing to do with the chronological age of the eldering person. It may have more to do with the SPIRITUAl age of the person. For instance, I was in a workshop a few years ago and the leader had along a young man to elder the gathering. To keep things spiritually grounded, as she put it. I was skeptical at the time. He's so young, I thought. How can he possibly elder? Plus, he has his eyes closed for pete's sake! Several days into the workshop, I had lots of feelings come up. Some were angry feelings. I didn't speak them. After the days gathering had ended, he crossed the circle and told me he sensed I had a lot of stuff inside, struggling to get out. And I felt safe enough to finally let them come gushing out. He had his physical eyes closed, but his spiritual eyes open.

So, my understaning is that eldering seems to work best, in the Quaker sense, when the elder is connected to God. Grounded in the Spirt of God. I'm not saying that's the way it is or the way it should be. I'm saying that's my understanding and that the eldering comes to the listener as a message from God. Perhaps.

I do know one thing for sure. Eldering is NOT scolding.

Camping: A Quaker Meeting?

We had a great time camping up in the lower Chequemagan National Forest, the lower area, near Medford, Wisconsin. We camped on North Twin Lake. The first couple nights were pretty quiet, with the exception of some folks enjoying fireworks. Otherwise, I liked the quiet. One night we heard a group of coyotes talking to each other. Another day, we heard the call of a loon, until someone started up their chain saw. I liked the quiet while it was thee. There was space to notice things. As in my Quaker Meeting, entering a quiet space and hearing the voice of God. This was a Quaker Meeting of sorts. And God spoke through loons and coyotes and, unfortunately, deer flies! But it was a fragile quiet. Since the National Forest land bordered on private land, sadly, there was noise at various times that blotted out that voice. Maybe it's hard to hear God on an ATV, hurling along the dirt trails. But who knows, maybe that works for someone. Not me. But even with the noise, it was a special time.