Sunday, November 20, 2005

More Autumn

Plumes in the breeze
Monet comes to San Ramon, California
San Francisco Building, Albuquerque
Business park colors
Spare splendor

Autumn in Albuquerque

Shrubs springing amid river rocks
Motley leaves
Ash branches
Los Sandias
Ash leaves turning

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The turning of the velvet ash

A few weeks ago I arrived in Albququerque, New Mexico, to work for my main man, Smokey Bear, once again. I am now on assignment with the Albuquerque Service Center of the Forest Service. Within the first week here I noticed ash trees, which probably identifies me with a small minority of the population. Botanists, arborists, landscape gardeners, lumberjacks, wood crafters, and tree lovers in general are probably the only folks who would recognize an ash tree but I grew up in Fresno, California, a city named in Spanish for the ash tree. In Fresno it is the Modesto ash; here in NM it is the velvet ash.

The trees were green when I arrived. A month has passed and they are bright yellow. The picture above is a close-up taken a couple of days ago. Along with the ubiquitous cottonwoods, the golden aspens in the Jemez Mountains, and scrub brush in general, the ash gives me a sense of place. Of course, the most prominent landmark here is the Sandia Mountains to the east of the city.

Let's out the WHIG

The White House Iraq Group is responsible for diverting this nation's energy and resources into an illegal and immoral invasion of another country, plunging it into chaos and setting it up for civil war. Isn't it time their deliberations were made public?

Check it out:
Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) today introduced a Resolution of Inquiry to demand the White House turn over all white papers, minutes, notes, emails or other communications kept by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG).

"This group, comprised of the President and Vice President's top aides, was critical in selling the Administration's case for war," stated Kucinich. "We now know that the Administration hyped intelligence and misled the American public and Congress in their effort to 'sell' the war. After over 1,900 American troops have been killed in Iraq, it is long past time for this Congress to ask serious questions about WHIG and its role in the lead up to the war."

A Resolution of Inquiry is a rare House procedure used to obtain documents from the Executive Branch. Under House rules, Kucinich's resolution is referred to committee, and action must be taken in committee within 14 legislative days.

"For two-and-a-half years Congress has sat on the sidelines neglecting its oversight responsibility when it has come to Iraq," continued Kucinich. "We owe it to the American people to hold this Administration accountable and to find out the truth."


You may take action to urge your Representative to co-sponsor or support this resolution here.

The BB

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

New life...hmmmm

In the last post I mentioned that classic sign of new life: doves billing and cooing and building nests. It seems my deck has become a favorite hangout for the randy birds and my! but they do soil the places they hang out.

Beware what you rejoice in.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Donkey's years, I know

Can I honestly say life has been all that busy? Too busy to post? Yes and no. For a while after the previous post I was very busy at work. Then the contract came to an end and there was time to post. Instead I have been busy either reading other people's work, mostly political, and traveling.

A week in Albuquerque for reconnecting, recreation, and discernment. Time with my ex is always well spent. The week was both intense and wonderful. The intensity was belied by time spent chilling, but that does not mean lots of "processing" was not taking place.

The first treat was a night in Santa Fe, dinner at the SantaCafé followed by a stunning performance of Mozart's Lucio Silla at the Santa Fe Opera. This posting would be too long if I allowed myself to ramble about the brilliance of the production. The singing was superb, the music not as dramatic and memorable as later Mozart but still lovely, the costumes outlandish but fun, the staging surreal and effective, and the dancers were not only effective but also quite hot. The palette of the production was thoroughly neutral: black, white, many shades of gray, silver, and highlights of blood red. The threat of violence was everpresent, from the opening rope dance with its obvious bondage representing life under the Roman dictator Sulla, to the effective use of stage blood gushing, not from a body but from the pierced back of a chair upholstered in white. Improbably as it was, the ending was a happy one, inspiring some of us to wish a certain powerful person in our own time would repent and change course.

The second treat was another trip to Santa Fe, with a day of rest in between, for the Spanish Market with its panorama of arts in the traditional of craftwork from the Spanish colonial days of New Mexico. Leather, tin, and iron work; retablos and bultos (portraits and carved statues of the saints); straw inlays and woodcarving; hand woven textiles--all of it quite splendid. Qualities of workmanship and inspiration varied with the artists, of course, but there were some pieces that could move one to contemplation and others to esthetic wonder. Moments of this experience qualified it for Sunday worship and communion with the divine, so no guilt for playing hooky from church this Lord's Day. The adjoining Contemporary Spanish Market had its own variety of works, some of them delightful and some of them stunningly beautiful.

A dinner party featuring many vegetables from the garden allowed me to see delightful persons I had met before and to meet some new ones. Food and company were both excellent. Another dinner gave me the chance to reconnect with our fellow godparent, my sister-in-law's sister. Meals are such wonderful ways to be together, and breakfast and Spanish conversation with the lovely Susana rounded out visiting.

The third major outing was a drive to Ácoma where we took the walking tour of this millenium-old pueblo. I felt especially drawn to the cemetery and all the generations of ancestors whose remains lie there. Another time of non-liturgical prayer and communion. As in the San Francisco Bay Area, I could not help noticing the presence of the ravens and zopilotes (turkey vultures), who have played a major part in my psychic energy in the past year. The day was stunningly beautiful, the sky vast, the sun brilliant. The continuous residence of a people for at least ten centuries in one place, ever re-inventing their limited space and struggling to maintain their unique identity: humbling and fascinating.

There was also househunting and I saw places I can visualize myself inhabiting. The question was finally settled; I am going to move to Albuquerque. Much will need to be done--tons of packing and sorting before my current home can even be staged for sale; moving arrangements; finding employment in New Mexico. The initial goal is simply accomplishing the move and getting stable employment. When I have some financial stability (and the cost of housing is a major driver in this), then I can address other issues: finishing my doctoral program, exploring new avenues of ministry, deepening and broadening my expression in liturgical arts. Creating new social circles and developing new roots, of course, and learning how to stay connected with those I leave behing (something I have historically been terrible at), negotiating that new relatedness by which my ex and I rejoice to be near each other while not being too near.

Ah, newness. So this is why those carrion birds have kept appearing in my life, cleaning my psychic carcass for something new! And the doves that arrived outside my window this spring, harbingers of new life and fertility. What now comes to birth in me? I do not know. But I feel good about taking the steps and making the changes.

Well, how was that for catching up? More later.

The BB

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Something It Has Never Been

Something It Has Never Been
By Daniel J. Webster
Article in The Witness, Tuesday, June 28, 2005
The Anglican Communion has been evolving for 150 years. It continues to. It likely is turning away from Richard Hooker and more towards Oliver Cromwell.

Thus begins my friend Dan's article on the Anglican Communion after the 13th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham. While proud of the presentations by the American and Canadian provinces, I am distressed by other developments. There are those in the Anglican Communion who would like to see a centralized canon law, which I see as a move toward the centralized model of the Roman Catholic Church [which is ultimately monarchical]. At the latest ACC meeting it was decided to admit the Primates of the several provinces as ex-officio members of the Council. This gives the exclusively male clergy at the highest level of hierarchy inordinate presence and power at these meetings. I was horrified to learn of the move, though I grant the convenience of timing ACC meetings and Primates' meetings to coordinate for the sake of communication.

I want to urge our friends to read Dan's article by clicking on its title above.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Minority Voices Excluded in House of Reps

Have you seen the video of Sensenbrenner adjourning a hearing (illegally?) in violation of House procedures? Posted by Hello

Howard Dean Speaks for Me

I find fence-sitting Democrats to be a liability when we are a minority in a society that is rapidly losing its minority voices and with a government that seeks to quash minority voices and minority rights.

Howard Dean, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, is willing to take unpopular positions (opposition to the war in Iraq before the American people wised up to its specious reasons and lack of strategy and resources, for example) and to speak out with passion. While the MSM ("mainstream media") rolled their eyes and endlessly played the tape of his famous yell/roar, I thought he was simply an energized rallier of troops who was willing to show enthusiasm--and thank God for that!

Of late he has dared to publicly state the obvious, that the Republican Party is basically white and Christian, and refused to back down. Why should he? This statement is so overwhelmingly true that protests are pure hypocrisy. Sure some persons of color have contributed to the GOP in significant ways (though why they would do so I have no idea, with the exception of the anti-Castro Miami Cuban community). But what is the impact of Republican policies on minorities? It's not pretty.

More controversial was Dean's comment about most Republican leaders--note, not most Republicans--not having done an honest day's work. Please, can't anyone speak in hyperbole anymore? Today we would lynch Jesus on cable TV and in the newspapers just for his teaching methods! What is the underlying truth behind Dean's statement? That the GOP does not represent the working class or the interests of the working class. All one has to do is look at the shift of the tax burden from the wealthiest to ordinary working folk, the cuts in social services which are most needed by those who do not have large cash reserves, the crisis in medical coverage and the rise in bankruptcies for medical expenses (now more difficult to file for, to the delight of the banking and credit industries), the mandating of school testing without matching funds to accomplish it, and reduction in environmental protections (which disproportionately affects those who cannot afford to live where the water is purer and the air is cleaner).

Just to pick one egregious example from the GOP, George W Bush ineffectively pursued a number of failed business ventures, relying on bailouts from his father's wealthy friends to salvage them, made money on a baseball deal funded by a large amount of money from taxpayers, executed what can only be a profitable bit of insider trading (for which he was not prosecuted by the SEC but neither was he exonerated), and then rode into Washington on a fraudelent election in November 2000. Now he tells us how hard it is to be president in spite of his spending over 40% of his time in office on vacation, poses as a rancher though he is terrified of horses, and cannot take time from his busy schedule to attend the funeral of a single troop killed in Iraq. Never misses his workouts though, even when the White House and Congress are being evacuated.

I signed the petition saying that Howard Dean speaks for me.

So did Barbara Lee.

So does Harry Reid.

So does John Conyers.

So does Nancy Pelosi.

Compromise with extremists is another form of yielding to terrorists. America is under attack, attack by the leaders of the Republican Party and conservative Christian extremists. I will say no more to keep this a "family-friendly" forum.

Please add your signatures to the petition if Howard Dean speaks for you. Thank you.
The BB

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

With Smokey Bear, one of my childhood icons. After living almost six decades, I still find posing with Smokey a total rush. And remember, only you can help prevent forest fires! Posted by Hello

I was not on vacation

My apologies, friends and browsers, for the long absence. Life got very busy as I found myself working full-time for the Forest Service (crunching numbers, though some of you know my secret fantasy of being a ranger leading folks on nature hikes) and juggling two part-time jobs. One was the church and the other was theological tutoring (which I love). Toss in the Thursday night class I was taking in Berkeley and there was neither time nor energy to keep a blog going.

Tutoring ended, as did the semester, and I am beginning to feel as normal as normal ever gets in my life, so I’m back…and badder than ever.

I have long enjoyed textile arts, whether viewing what can be done with fabrics and threads and yarns or actually sewing myself. In the past month I have launched into knitting, an activity that is at once creative, productive, and relaxing. Being a total beginner has rarely stopped me from trying things, though I do need to take some knitting classes. Still, I have managed to do stockinet and garter stitches and even some yarnovers. If you did not want a scarf for Christmas, too bad, folks.

Years of dining at Fatapple’s in El Cerrito have been a joy, a habit, a form of social comfort. They have also faced me with Skein Lane across the street, a shop dedicated to knitting, crochet, and other crafty things to do with strands of fibers. I have visited it just to enjoy the sensual pleasure of all those colors and textures, but now it has become a den of temptation, akin to bookstores and art supply houses.

Caution: Sudden Change of Course

Although my political reading on the internet is less intense than it was leading up to the November election, I still try to follow national and international politics on a daily basis. We are, I believe, in very dark times and Sauron must be stopped, so gather together, whoever you in a contemporary fellowship of the ring may be, we have a task before us. May love, friendship, persistence, courage, and truth sustain us.

I was not convinced that we needed to invade Iraq while watching the current administration’s single-minded pursuit of exactly such an action. The case was never adequately made and we clearly were not doing it as a last resort. I will grant that the threat of force may well have been necessary to convince Hussein to permit inspections, but when the inspections were finally working we cut them short. Though my human weakness for self-righteousness is tempted to gloat and say, “I told you so,” it is quickly overwhelmed by deep sorrow that the United States should pursue a course so wrong on so many levels.

Now, of course, we and the Iraqi and Afghani people daily pay the price for our willful behavior. We abandoned the pursuit of bin Laden and the securing and rebuilding of Afghanistan to divert our forces to Iraq, which had no direct links to al Qaeda and none to 9/11. We have relinquished any moral authority we may have had in our flouting international law, the Geneva Conventions, and common decency in our treatment of prisoners. We have ignored the lofty principles enshrined in our own founding documents. We have thumbed our nose at the community of nations. The White House has thrown away the international good will that came our way after the brutality of the 9/11 attacks.

Of course, manufacturing a war is nothing new on the face of the globe and Citizen Hearst certainly knew how to drum up conflict. Nonetheless, watching power coalescing ever more in the hands of a callous kleptocracy is sickening. The undermining of American democracy by those who have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution sickens the heart.

The Downing Street Minute confirms what many of us always suspected: that Bush and company were determined to attack Iraq and would manipulate information to do so. Other strands are woven in as we just learned that Bolton, W’s nominee as ambassador to the UN, forced the ouster of the man heading the international inspections for chemical weapons in order to render inspections ineffective and preclude a peaceful resolution. The world now knows that Hussein did not have the alleged stockpiles of functional WMD. And the President of the United States lies to the American people and the world.

Reporters and pundits are careful not to word it so strongly, but the documentation of his saying things that are not true is solid. Does he intend to deceive or mislead (which would move speaking things untrue into the category of lying)? Given the ability of the human heart and mind to deceive the very self, perhaps he believes he speaks truly. I believe he usually does. But I do not think it is accidental or coincidental that he repeatedly says one thing and does another (All Children Left Behind, Dirtier Air Act, etc.) or that he tries to create impressions that so clearly fail to square with facts (the purported crisis in Social Security, the role of Hussein in international terrorism, the radical redistribution of wealth from the working class to the ownership class). He said the intelligence committee had declared Bolton’s activity all right after examining papers requested by a different committee, but the intelligence committee did not see the papers and two members of it had only seen summaries. They indicated that even what they saw raised grave concerns, and their committee had no jurisdiction over the nomination. I say he lied, deliberately trying to weasel out of admitting that it is the secretive White House that is obstructionist in the machinery of government though its acquisition of increasing power at the expense of the legislative and judicial branches of government—and at the expense of our democracy.

Well, I just needed to get that rant off my chest.

More interesting and edifying topics ahead….

The BB

Monday, April 11, 2005

Requiescant in Pace

I have few comments on the death of the late Bishop of Rome and Patriarch of the West, John Paul II. By sheer chance of channel-surfing, I came across his funeral live on C-Span and watched some and slept through much. I was impressed with the simplicity and dignity of the service. Though the workmanship was exquisite, the plain cypress coffin (with an inlay of the pontiff’s armorial symbols, a cross and an M plus beautiful dovetailing) was an elegant and eloquent witness against the excesses of the funeral industry. People strapped for cash lay out thousands of dollars for metal and satin contraptions that, however much we love the deceased, simply holds a corpse until time does its work. Simplicity, function, beauty—these alone suffice.

The banner at the doors of St Peter’s was also elegant—appropriate in its proportions, proclaiming the Resurrection without words through the reproduction of a painting of the risen Christ, framed in crimson hangings to match the papal vestments and the chasubles of the cardinals.

Splendid music. And how lovely the sound of a woman reading the lesson from Acts in Spanish!

Only later did I read that when Dubya appeared on the giant TV screens there arose booing and whistling among the crowd outside St Peter’s Squara. What a grand Italian tradition—one might think one were at La Scala catching a substandard performance. I certainly found it jarring to see him and have to acknowledge my visceral distaste for all he represents. [No, I do not mean America and her ideals which I hold quite separate for anything related to the current administration other than its holding office.] Even more jarring was the sight of Condi Rice after the service, smiling and greeting others. That the US Secretary of State should attend when former President Jimmy Carter wished to be there is simply appalling. I would think a Nobel Peace Prize winner would be more appropriate than one of the architects of our invasion of Iraq. Ah well, seeing Their Most Catholic Majesties Juan Carlos and Sofia in the front row of dignitaries took the edge off my political distaste.

So, the legacy of John Paul II? Mixed. He did reach out to make the church more global; mended some fences with Muslims, Jews, and the Orthodox; spoke out against war as a solution to our problems and against the death penalty; and greatly strengthened the spirit of those resisting communism (while maintaining a clear critique of capitalism’s evils). He spoke on behalf of the poor. Within his value system he was consistent. The articles following his death reminded me of his positive accomplishments.

He was adamantine in his resistance to the equality of women, praising their role in family and church yet supporting the societal and institutional structures that make certain that role remains subservient to male power. No “altar girls” (female acolytes, though the American Catholic Church frequently ignores this silliness); no women priests nor even discussion of it as a theological possibility; no contraception of any kind in spite of the poverty, disease, and political strife that come from overpopulation. Promotion of Opus Dei, the secretive and ultra-conservative organization that works where none may observe (including beatification of its founder). Theological homogenization as the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith (the office formerly known as the Inquisition), headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, quashed free inquiry and debate in many areas and tightened Rome’s reins on the church at large and the clergy in particular. Slowness to address the sexual scandals around pedophile priests (yes, they eventually addressed it, but only under great duress—not unlike presidential commissions formed in spite of the president’s stated desire not to go there).

As I said above: mixed. May he rest in peace, along with Saul Bellow, Terri Schiavo, Archbishop Iakovos, and the tens of thousands of untrumpeted dead who fall victim to famine, flood, disease, war, sundry accidents, and the effects of oppression and corruption. May light perpetual shine upon them and the joys of paradise be their portion.

The BB

Monday, March 28, 2005

I have been experimenting with floral closeups of late. My inner Georgia O'Keefe? A blessed Fifty Days of Easter to one and all. Posted by Hello

I made a special effort to get a shot of these last year. Posted by Hello

Camellias has fascinated me since I was an undergraduate at Pomona College. I remember they bloomed in January on the huge bushes by the admin bldg. Posted by Hello

Even the oxalis is glorious Posted by Hello

Spring in the East Bay Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Bird Must Die

This morning a small raptor flew into the sweet gum in front of my deck, the one visible from my office window. The coloration and size led me, at first, to think it was a large dove, but even though it was partially obscured by branches with fledgling leaves, revealed that it was a small hawk of some kind, with an inert animal hanging below the branch grasped by its talons.

Raptors have been appearing with some kind of freshness or urgency in my world of late. This, of course, may be entirely subjective; I may only be noticing them with more attention.

My friend Amber has told me that the hawk is an important totem for her and that they have shown themselves to her in unusual circumstances, as though serving as tutelary figures watching over her.

While the usual birds flying about in front of my place are crows and seasonal doves or LBJs (“little brown jobs”)—when unemployed I have spent many daylight hours at the computer with a view out the window—there have this year been lots of turkey vultures hovering in the area and sometimes flying towards and directly over my unit. I usually refer to turkey vultures by the Mexican Spanish term (presumably from the Aztec) “zopilote.” It has a nice ring to it.

That large a bird flying by at close range does get one’s attention. I even composed my own silly song in the shower about it. The verses are already forgotten, but not the chorus.

Zopilote, Zopilote,
I’m still alive as you can plainly see.
Zopilote, Zopilote,
Please don’t try to take a bite of me.

Variant: reprise last line with…
Please don’t try to make your lunch of,
Please don’t try to feed your clan with me.

Amber’s comment on all this is that condors and their cousins are powerful birds that portend death and renewal, the picking clean of our carrion bones so we are freed of encumbrance—ready for resurrection, so to speak. Their appearance to me could thus symbolize a purifying process that will prepare me for whatever is coming next.

As I left for work this morning, I saw by the many small white feathers scattered on the ground that the hawk’s breakfast was a small bird. For the sake of the hawk, the bird had to die. For the sake of what is to come to be in me, the bird must die.

I wonder what unsuspecting bird within me is going to be hawk’s breakfast?

The BB

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Spring camping on the arctic tundra by Richard Voss, Refuge Manager Posted by Hello

Speaking of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

I feel the need to share this:

[ENS, Navasota, Texas] - Urging full protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church on March 14 adopted a resolution calling upon the U.S. Senate to oppose opening the pristine region to exploration for oil and gas. Alaska Bishop Mark McDonald, a leading voice for environmental protection and ecological justice, left the bishops' spring retreat, in session through March 16, to present the resolution to the press and to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. [Washington Senator Maria Cantwell is leading the opposition to driling, along with John Kerry and others.]

A Message from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA, to the United States SenateMarch 14, 2005

Resolved, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA, meeting at its Spring 2005 retreat at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, March 11-16, 2005, sends to the United States Senate the following message:

As the Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA, we want to express our commitment to the vision of reconciliation of all peoples and share a common scriptural and theological belief that we have a responsibility to care for God's creation. We support protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge fully. To risk the destruction of an untouched wilderness and an ancient culture violates our theological mandate to be caretakers of creation. Because of these deeply shared values we respectfully ask you to oppose legislation that would facilitate the opening of this sacred space to oil or gas exploration and development in any way. We specifically call on you our Senators to reject efforts to include revenues from lease sales of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Budget Act currently being considered by Congress.

While the ecological and human rights values of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are recognized by many, the cost from exploitation of the potential resources that may exist there does not justify exploration or development. The best estimates tell us that oil from the Refuge as a single source is equal to what the United States would consume in less that one year. Conservation, energy efficiency, and alternative sources of energy can do much more to address our country's energy needs.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the few ecosystems left on earth in its original condition. It is a national treasure and such natural places are anchors in a changing world. They help hold us in place and tell us where we have been; they often can be sources of inspiration and comfort. As Job counsels, "listen to the earth, and it will teach you" (Job 12:8).

The Arctic Refuge is well-known for its Porcupine caribou herd, whose life cycle is dependent on the Refuge as an intact, virtually undisturbed ecosystem. The caribou are a chief link in the subsistence culture for the indigenous Gwich'in people. The Gwich'in call themselves the "Caribou People" and the Arctic Refuge is for them "the Sacred Place where Life Begins." The caribou are essential for Gwich'in cultural, social, and spiritual needs and it has been that way for over 10,000 years. Disturbances that lead to reduced calving success for the caribou may cause significant, irreversible, negative consequences for all involved in this unspoiled web of life.

Pristine places like the Arctic Refuge provide numerous benefits. For humankind, the Arctic is a control environment that helps scientists answer current and future questions in the changing environment. For animal kind, the Arctic is an important habitat and home for many species, including the Arctic peregrine falcon, gyrfalcon, golden eagle, snowshoe hare, ptarmigan, polar bear, grizzly bear, musk ox, threatened spectacled eider, wolves, smaller mammals and water fowl. "The psalmist proclaims, 'O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of your creatures" (Psalm 104).

We recognize that our use of fossil fuels and the resulting global warming has its greatest impact on the poor and vulnerable. Controversy over whether to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development requires us to ask ourselves: what kind of world will we leave to future generations? As Bishops of the Episcopal Church, we are committed to working for a world with justice for indigenous peoples and all creation and we support indigenous peoples' rights as a basic component of a just society. For these reasons and others, we ask you to oppose opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and development.

Source: Episcopal News Service [ENS 031405-2]

Phos hilaron hagias doxes tou patrou to hagiou tou ouraniou.... (O gracious Light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven....) Posted by Hello

What a lovely way to end the work day! Posted by Hello

Mount Tamalpais at Sunset Today Posted by Hello

Tanker in the Afternoon Posted by Hello

Judicandus homo reus, huic ergo parce, Deus

Mortal under judgment, guilty--spare this one, O God.

Well, something like that. I am not reaching for my dictionaries or eloquent translations here, just sharing a line from the famous Sequence hymn of the traditional Requiem Mass, the Dies Irae. I had to head this in Latin, because that is the form in which I am familiar with its lines. It was the two words "homo reus" (guilty mortal) that leapt to my mind a few minutes ago.

Out the window I could see a tanker leaving a California port, with refineries in the background. Earlier today I had noted a faint brownish tinge to the sky from air pollution (so familiar to me from years in the Los Angeles basin). In a very short time I will be getting into my car to commute home. Not a long commute, but still driving my own car by myself.

Being a native Californian does not excuse me, though my commute would take much longer if I tried to pull it off with public transportation, and I suspect it would involve lots of walking too. The walking would be good for me, but with the demands on my time I do not even try to rationalize driving. I just do it.

One more willing cog in the vast machinery of U.S. oil consumption, our favorite addiction.

Under judgment

the BB

On the matter of abuse

Susan at Suburban Guerrilla has some interesting musings on the issue of abuse. I feel the post is worth sharing. After a quote from Everclear's, "Father of Mine," she goes on to write:

Last night I saw "Raw Boys," an intense play by playwright Dael Orlandersmith. It's about the effect abuse has on two brothers - one a writer, the other an actor.

I know so many men who were badly beaten as children. They're wounded, hostile, mistrusting. The sad thing is, men are still made to feel abuse is relatively normal and only weaklings are affected by it, so they rarely claim that pain. Instead, they stuff it down until it erupts later - on others, or on themselves, via chronic anger, substance abuse or depression.

There's a graphic scene in the play where the father beats and kicks his oldest son. It's all the more powerful because the actors never actually touch; they're at opposite ends of the stage.

It brought back far too many memories. It made me physically sick.
What do you do with all that anger and pain? Where does it go? Look how many men justify how they were treated by repeating it with their own children. "My father did it to me, and I turned out okay."

No. No, you didn't, I always tell them.

There's more. Click on the title of this post to read it all.

Thanks, Susan, for a great post.
The BB

Monday, March 14, 2005

eRobin said to steal it, so I did

From the American Street:

Steal This Post
Operating once again under the radar, the Republicans in Congress are doing their best to sneak funding for drilling in ANWR into the federal budget. Want to stop them? Find out how!
Continue reading…
Posted by: eRobin at 8:34 am

Friday, March 11, 2005

A Cultivated Mind

As rain leaks into a poorly roofed house, so does passion invade an uncultivated mind. As no rain leaks into a well-roofed house, passion does not invade a cultivated mind.
--Dhammapada I.13-14

Ay, no wonder I find myself often running in too many directions at once, i.e., not going much of anywhere. The invasion of passions indeed.

Not surprisingly, when I am centered and mindful (cultivating my mind?), I don't get so caught up in illusory foolishness. So, part of Lent is clearly about getting the roof of one's soul in good shape.

The BB

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cleveland Farewell Posted by Hello

Mischief Ever Lurks - Acrostic Poem

Mischief ever lurks in the corners of your eyes, a smile
Underneath the smile of flawless teeth, a playfulness
Sitting, Pucklike, on your brow—you thawed the
Ice that wickedly set my mouth in a Scandinavian line,
Cured my genetic dourness, taught me again to laugh.

How difficult not to be seduced, my full-grown playmate,
Ensorceled by that childlike freedom into wishing you
And I might not have to grow up! I thank you nonetheless for
Risible moments, for teaching me once more to hope, weep,
Dream, dare, let myself be me—to try for something with all my

Soul and body. What a rush! Yet insinuating itself into
Our games there was not only that better, nobler

Dream for each and both, that challenge to
Exert ourselves for something truly worthwhile, to
Earn a happiness we had not dared desire—but also the sickly
Pall of grief, of loss, of not quite reaching our heart’s goal;
Losing something precious, costly, dear; the sober wrench that
Yanks us back into harsh daylight, hard reality, solid ground.

This solid ground is firm, yes, and rock-strewn,
Hazardous, harsh, and hard on naked feet, unguarded souls.
At the core of many salt-water moments, the source of
Tears upwelling in my chest, shaking this solid body—as

If it were a small thing, dry thing, fragile autumn leaf
Tossed back and forth in playful breezes or hurled

In some divine anger (not Juno’s wrath again!) to earth—
Small at first but growing, is this grief, this sorrow:

Not at losing you, though that is ache enough to send me
Over the edge, and does, but my heart’s lament
That you, dear man, sweet man, fine man, good man with a

Heart made for love and hands for kindly deeds, should
Ever fail to see how much you have to give this world
And cannot feel—deep, deep within yourself—how
Rich your gifts and your complexity: your gentleness
Dancing fiercely with manly strength, your

Artist’s yearning after truth and beauty woven
Together with your first-hand knowledge of life’s pain;

All your openness to friendship, family, orphaned animals, a
Love of sky and water, tree and leaf, a joy deep-rooted in
Living—all of this pouring out like sand in an hourglass,

But not from one hour’s chamber to the next—no! Spilt
Upon the ground, pouring from some crack in the glass, some
Torn part of your heart, some little crack through which

Your hope, your love of self, your pain, your fear all rush
Out, soaked in seeming seconds into the earth, instantly,
Utterly gone, lost, unrecognized. You and I, my fellow fool,

Are alike in this, watching precious hours vanish with little
Real and lasting stuff to show for them. We are such slaves,
Each in his own way, to our fears and hurts, old wounds.

Terry, what would happen if we could resolve to
Hold our hearts open, our ears alert, our eyes ever seeking—
Each moment that we have—to Life, not fear? What

Might then come about? What healing waters lie
Under the deceptive surface of our turbulent, wasted days?
Surely the power that set this amazing universe
Into being, into action, into a dance of variety,
Complexity, and some strange balance of compassion and beauty

Will reveal at least a hint of our potential, and with
Heart-breaking (for we need our hearts broken open again)
Invitation call us back to life worth living!
Let Shawn’s passing before us, my brother-in-law’s daily wasting
(Eaten by disease), the news of every terror on this earth

Teach us not that all is vain but that each new hurt and
Horror calls us to learn from pain, from failure, from futility;
Each moment reveals itself as fresh opportunity to be the

Men that we were created to become. Even our wildest
Urges give flesh and voice to that creative fire, that
Spirit that gives life and binds all things together.
I weep, yes, to think your dreams are circumscribed,
Contained by something way too small, inadequate.

Lad, it is not too late to take our next small step
And say Yes to God, to Life, to Joy, to deepest Reality, to
Sit still that we may listen to our heart’s deepest yearning,
To want more, and more, and even more for ourselves, for
Such (believe it or not) is Heaven’s will. Dream deeply, dare bravely. Be!

July 20, 2002

For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.

—From “The Dry Salvages” from Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot

The Pleasing Boy--Poem

The pleasing boy
who played by the rules
earned the smug toleration
of the unimaginative—
not affection, respect, or love
(perhaps a quiet admiration
for his ability
to tolerate crap)

It’s not enough,
he concluded tardily,
and decided to take his soul back,
to color outside the lines
and follow his imagination,
to take risks and live
with the consequent failures
as well exhilarating successes,
to let fly the snarky comment
and show disapproval
as well as bestow
the wonted compliments

He’s gone back to dancing
in streets and hallways,
singing out loud,
drawing on sidewalks with chalk,
naming bullshit,
laughing too loudly,
playing with children and elders—
and even the occasional midlifer
who has begun to wake up
and wants to play too

17 October 2003
Paul E Strid

Monday, February 28, 2005

Urban Haiku

September sun slants
into a Friday office—
frustration, fatigue

American flags
ripple above building cranes,
docked ships in the haze


Racing mists, ghost shreds,
dance by night, by day among
San Francisco joys


Laughter is better
in most everyday things
than hot, bitter tears.

I am reminded
daily and repeatedly—
silliness redeems

Today was the day
my heart was eager to work


September 26, 2003

Medicine Wheel, private collection Posted by Hello

Locating Ourselves

The following paragraphs are excerpted from a paper I wrote last December titled "The Medicine Wheel: Image of Lakota Spirituality." They are related to the theme of finding our own sacred space found in one of the earliest posts here.

Peter Brokenleg, a Lakota singer and teacher, postulates that the purpose of all ritual is to create, restore, and maintain relationships.[1] Relationship is thus central to all Lakota ritual, and most Lakota prayers end with the words “Mitakuye Oyasin,” variously translated as “we are all relatives” or “for all my relatives.” This represents more than human relations and includes all creation: the four-leggeds, the wingeds, the swimming, the creeping, the plant and tree nations, the sun and moon and star nations, mother earth, our ancestors and our descendants, all spirits and powers, and ultimately that Great Mystery we call Grandfather, the Creator. This intimate connection with all creation—which itself is seen as a living reality, “thou” and not “it”—is understood in the recognition of the circle and the directions.

After “sending a voice” to Tunkashila, Grandfather, the Creator, the directions are addressed. Elaine Jabner notes that “[i]n all Sioux ritual, the four directions are greeted with the usual order for the greeting being the same as the myth's order for the establishment of directions.”[2] West is thus the first direction and they are then saluted “sunwise” (or “clockwise”): West, North, East, and South. Black Elk continued his prayer thus:

You toward where the sun goes down [West], behold me; Thunder Beings, behold me! You where the White Giant lives in power [North], behold me! You where the sun shines continually [East], whence come the day-break star and the day, behold me! You where the summer lives [South], behold me![3]

He then continues turning toward the zenith and nadir as follows:

You in the depths of the heavens [Above], an eagle of power, behold! And you, Mother Earth [Below], the only Mother, you who have shown mercy to your children! Hear me, four quarters of the world—a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is! Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you. With your power only can I face the winds.[4]

This salutation of the six directions—the four cardinal directions plus up and down—characterizes and begins Lakota ritual. Participants are thus located, grounded, established, before they proceed. Such relatedness carries with it blessing, obligation, and great power. It also places each person at the crossing of the two roads, the center of the circle, for in Lakota thought this represents “here and now.” Each person is always at this crossroads, facing all its choices.[5] As Black Elk noted, “anywhere is the center of the world.”[6]

[1] Class notes from “Native American Ritual,” GTU summer school course taught at PSR.
[2] The story is well summarized in Elaine Jabner, "The Spiritual Landscape," I Become Part of It: Sacred Dimensions in Native American Life, ed. D. M. Dooling and Paul Jordan-Smith, (New York, NY: Parabola Books, 04/12/03, 1989)197-199. A fuller telling of the establishment of the directions may be found in D. M. Dooling, ed., The Sons of the Wind: The Sacred Stories of the Lakota (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000).
[3] John G Neihardt. Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1988) 5.
[4] Neihardt, op. cit., 6.
[5] Brokenleg, class notes.
[6] Neihardt, loc. cit.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Will we hear about this on the nightly news?

Bob Herbert writes in today's New York Times ("Thrown to the Wolves") about Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was returning home from a visit to Tunisia.

While attempting to change planes at Kennedy Airport on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunisia, he was seized by American authorities, interrogated and thrown into jail. He was not charged with anything, and he never would be charged with anything, but his life would be ruined.

Mr. Arar was surreptitiously flown out of the United States to Jordan and then driven to Syria, where he was kept like a nocturnal animal in an unlit, underground, rat-infested cell that was the size of a grave. From time to time he was tortured.
Mr. Arar is the most visible victim of the reprehensible U.S. policy known as extraordinary rendition, in which individuals are abducted by American authorities and transferred, without any legal rights whatever, to a regime skilled in the art of torture. The fact that some of the people swallowed up by this policy may in fact have been hard-core terrorists does not make it any less repugnant.
A lawsuit on Mr. Arar's behalf has been filed against the United States by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. Barbara Olshansky, a lawyer with the center, noted yesterday that the government is arguing that none of Mr. Arar's claims can even be adjudicated because they "would involve the revelation of state secrets."

This is a government that feels it is answerable to no one.

How have we come to this from our founding ideals?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VIII: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

My friends, we must defend our own Constitution.
-Deuteronomy 27:19 19 "Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice." All the people shall say, "Amen!"
-2 Chronicles 19:7 7 Now, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the LORD our God, or partiality, or taking of bribes.
-Ecclesiastes 3:16 16 Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well.
The following verse may have other than messianic application:
Isaiah 53:8 8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.

Isaiah 59:14 14 Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter.

Micah 7:3 3 Their hands are skilled to do evil; the official and the judge ask for a bribe, and the powerful dictate what they desire; thus they pervert justice.

Yes, I used to be a Bible thumper, and though I abhor the misuse of scripture, the Bible still shapes my thinking in very positive ways.

Let us, the people, take back our nation... "that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

The BB

Plus ça change....

In my class tonight we were looking at a statement from the Fourth Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), The Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the Church and in the World of Asia. This came from their meeting in Tokyo in September 1986.

Given the current concerns about the role of media in American society--consolidation of ownership, government manipulation, impact of the internet, censorship and secrecy, bias and disclosure--I found some remarks by these Asian bishops from 19 years ago to be most intriguing.

3.6.2. Finance and the mass media determine to a very large extent the destinies of nations; in fact, finance uses the media to this end. Those in power are well aware of the potentialities of the mass media, which they manipulate to mold public opinion and to consolidate and perpetuate their positions. One test of the freedom prevalent in any society today is the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the mass media. [emphasis mine]

Wow! A nice polished summary, completely applicable to here and now. The subsequent paragraph opens with this sentence:
3.6.3. Today, the mass media in Asia are predominantly controlled by authoritarian governments or by a handful of economically and politically powerful persons, while the vast majority of the Asian people are passive recipients.

Try re-reading just the bolded portion [again, emphasis mine].

It would seem that the world's sole remaining superpower has not made good progress.

The document may be found in Rosales, Gaudencio and Arevalo, C.G. (Eds.). For All the Peoples of Asia, FABC Documents from 1970-1991, volume 1

The BB

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Secret Genocide Archive

NY Times op-ed columnist NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF reminds us all in an article published February 23, 2005, that the world is accountable for standing by when genocide takes place. As he puts it:
During past genocides against Armenians, Jews and Cambodians, it was possible to claim that we didn't fully know what was going on. This time, President Bush, Congress and the European Parliament have already declared genocide to be under way. And we have photos.
It seems that there is "a secret archive of thousands of photos and reports that document the genocide under way in Darfur." Kristof shares four of these photos with us, undoubtedly not the most grisly.

While the UN has declared that it cannot definitively say that genocide has taken place in Darfur, it is clear that grievous crimes against humanity have occurred and they need to be dealt with. Yet we seem more ready to launch an invasion over the unproven possibility that weapons of mass destruction may exist than to deal in any effective way (I would hope multilaterally, and especially in cooperation with African states) with mass killings we know are happening. Where is our collective sense of horror? of outrage? Are we content with wringing our hands, making tut-tut noises, and telling ourselves we are helpless?

Helpless? The victims of Darfur were helpless. How dare we think that we are? We are free to speak out, to mobilize, to educate, to rally public opinion, to raise awareness, to pressure our elected officials, to make our opinions known. We have access and networks. The people of Darfur do not have such means.

The Anglican Communion News Service was sending reports from southern Sudan about various forms of injustice and violence long before this was making headlines in the mainstream press, and I found myself praying for the Christian and traditional animist peoples there before there was talk of genocide. Yet for all my awareness of the issue, I was not taking proactive steps to learn more, nor telling others what I had learned. So I join the ranks of guilty bystanders and cannot pretend to more righteousness than anyone else.

What does it take for me, for all of us to wake up?

Ask not for whom the bell tolls....

The BB

Our Lady of Sorrows, retablo in New Mexican style by Elena Slusher Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The World of Books

I grew up near the intersection of Fresno Street and Belmont Avenue in Fresno, California. We lived about one mile from downtown, where the Fresno County Free Library (now called the Fresno County Public Library) main branch was located, along with the old Courthouse and City Hall. My mother would take me to the library to check out books, and I read avidly. Father had taught me to read when I was only three, using my alphabet blocks and showing me how to sound things out phonetically. (It was all too long ago for me to recall how I overcame the challenge of non-phonetic orthography.)

I know that comic books were a mainstay, and I read every word, including the fine print in ads and the legal and copyright notices. Needless to say, I checked out and devoured many books. As time went by I became old enough to go to the library on my own. The old library was replaced with the current brick-faced one and near the entrance I encountered the most magnificent mural I had seen. It was a fired-enamel mosaic illustrating the branches of human knowledge arranged according to the Dewey Decimal System. The colors were brilliant and the symbolism fascinating. It remains one of my fond memories and recently, when I inquired whether any digital photos of it were on hand, librarian Roberta Barton took a photo and sent it to me. You can see it below.

I want to thank Roberta and all the librarians of my life, including my dear friends Cathy Gordon, Jim O'Donnell, Amber Sturgess, and Genevieve Kelly of blessed memory.

The BB

Mural of the Dewey Decimal System in the Fresno County Free Library, Main Branch, Fresno, Californa Posted by Hello

Political Explorations

Until today the political side of this blog has been neglected, though it has been part of my intent from the beginning. If my spiritual and moral values are to be enfleshed--incarnate--then they must have consequences for my life in community.

The word "politics" turns many people off these days, and I must admit that I found myself disinclined to engage in political discussions for the past few decades. Our current situation in America shook me out of that mental and social lassitude last year.

Here is a disgusting, but common, example of someone applying their "values" (from the Daily Kos):
As countless diaries and at least one WaPo column noted two weeks ago, Maya Keyes was kicked out of her home by her father, Alan Keyes, as he put his "family values" in action.
This is where those of us who have a different vision of the values that go with any healthy concept of family (one that puts people and love first) need to stand up and speak out. I am grateful that my family, though it did not and does not approve a lot about me, never kicked me out the house. Nor have I ever ceased to love them and value them, even while I disagree with a lot of their values. First and foremost we are human beings who love each other, no matter how difficult it may be to stay in relationship.

How many teenagers have been turned out of their homes or disowned by parents who would not deal with the reality of a child's sexual orientation? How many have wound up living on the streets, turning to drugs or prostitution? How many have committed suicide? The statistics on this are appalling. These constitute no set of "values" that I want anything to do with.

To me, family values involve love, honesty, forgiveness, communication, mutuality, respect, commitment, consideration, compromise, sacrifice for a greater good, celebration, sharing, and reaching out to include others in the love of the family. Again, I was blessed with an extended family that had many "honorary relatives."

Family values are not about hatred, exclusion, rigidity, moralism, control, and self-righteousness.

How can someone preach hatred of homosexuals and then see gays committing themselves to each other with love and joy as somehow "threatening" heterosexual marriage? Who is threatening whom? Who has a destructive agenda against whom? C'mon, folks, let's get real.

One last mini-rant: May we please revive the useful distinction between who and whom, and learn to use them in a meaningful way? It really does make communication easier. [Note, I am not talking about "correct" usage; languages don't work that way.]

Postscript from the home page of Louie Crew:

Restore Family Values
It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round your neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones. --Luke 17.2
Only love can prevent lesbigay teen suicide.
"In a study of 686 gay men, 337 heterosexual men, 293 lesbian women, and 140 heterosexual women - 35% of gay men and 38% of lesbian women considered suicide. 8% gay men and 23% lesbian women had attempted - compared to only 3% heterosexual men and 14% heterosexual women. The majority of the suicide attempts were before the age of 20; nearly one-third of all attempts were before age 17."
--A. Bell and M. Weinberg Homosexualities: A study of diversity among men and women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978.)

Visit The American Psychological Association's Resources for Lesbigay Youth

The BB

Interview with Jim Wallis

I commend to your attention the BuzzFlash interview with Jim Wallis, a significant contributor to religious discourse in America from a liberal evangelical standpoint. A man of deep faith and articulate, prophetic commentary, he has much to say that we all need to hear. He is currently touring with his new book, God's Politics. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Jim Wallis: Well, having had two debates this week with Jerry Falwell, I want to tell you that he excludes me. Listen – religion doesn't have a monopoly on morality, and that should be clearly stated. What we're finding in this book tour and in my book signings – from Austin, Texas to Dayton, Ohio to wherever we go – the usual reading to 50 people sitting quietly in their seats has grown to be town meetings with 400 people sitting on the floor.

And they're not just large crowds, they're diverse crowds. You've got Evangelicals who don't feel represented by Jerry Falwell. You've got Catholics who feel the bishops – the right-wing bishops who command them to single-issue voting only on abortion, and ignore all the rest of Catholic social teaching – they don't feel spoken for by them. You've got mainline Protestants who feel left out of the whole conversation and always disrespected. You've got black churches who feel like this is always a white conversation about religion. Latinos, Asian Christians, and a lot of Jews are coming out – rabbis and their congregations. A lot of the synagogues are having book studies on the book. And it's full of [Micah] and Amos and Isaiah, and Abraham, Joshua, Hershel, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. And a lot of the Muslims who are looking for a better, more humane, inclusive religion are coming out to this, too, of course.

A lot of folks who are not religious but would call themselves spiritual are interested, and a whole lot of young people – a whole lot of young people who maybe saw me on Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, and they are now saying we didn't know that Christians could care about poverty, the environment, or be against the war in Iraq. They didn't know a progressive religion option even existed.

The BB says, check him out!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Life Work of Christ - Dream Fragment

While prolonging my time snuggled in bed this morning, I kept drifting in and out of sleep, with short mini-dreams. In the last one I stood by a jigsaw puzzle titled “The Life Work of Christ.” Waking, I concluded I have to piece together my own Christology.

Hardly a fresh concept, but my unconscious seems to have signaled that part of my doctoral work is on target.

Friday, February 18, 2005