Environmental awareness

A recent article got me thinking about our contact with the natural world.  How do we form connections with the natural world and what does it mean to be environmentally aware? For those fortunate few who grew up (or still live) with abundant exposure to the natural world it may be as easy as stepping outside your front door, taking a walk in the woods, or working in your garden.  For others with less access it may be more difficult to find such opportunities.  If we didn’t grow up with access to nature communicating may seem like asking us to speak a foreign language we’ve never learned.  

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My father’s death

My father died on Dec. 24th and my husband and I returned to Minnesota for his funeral.  At 87 he had lived a long and full life.  It seemed like he went “downhill” very fast.  In the last two years each time I saw him I couldn’t believe the changes.  In some ways I feel fortunate that the end of his life came relatively quickly.  He lived to a “ripe old age” and enjoyed his life almost up to the very end.  We were fortunate that a family wedding last August brought most of our family together in celebration and my father’s health was still good enough to share in it.  The picture above of my father was the one taken last August and the one we used at the funeral.  When the end came it came relatively quickly, although I know it didn’t feel that way to my mother or sisters who sat by his side for four days.

His memorial service was a beautiful celebration of his life. It was held at the small Lutheran church that our family attended most of my life.  It was bitter sweet.  The church was filled with people and many of them came up to me to offer condolences.  They would often say “You probably don’t remember me…” and all too often I didn’t.  Many people I hadn’t seen for years, even decades,  but their words always touched me.  Their stories brought tears and laughter.  They all thought so much of my father.   How can one explain what it means to belong to a community?  These were my people.  I was Bob’s daughter.  I belonged.  Somehow sharing with each of them it felt as if the emptiness I was feeling was filled.  The hole in my heart that I wasn’t expecting…was somehow filled. These people in one way or another made me feel that my father was important.  His life mattered and by extension …my life mattered.

How absolutely essential it is to belong in community.  Our roots go deep and our soil is enriched because our father tended it.  He wasn’t perfect.  Nor are we.  But we would not be who we are if not for him.  To me he was my idol because I was the proverbial “daddy’s girl”.  He was my first teacher and I learned so much from him.  I would not be who I am without his influence.  We belong to a family within this community.  My mother, my siblings, my nieces and nephew, their spouses, their children…we gathered together as family.  We cried, we laughed, we hugged, we looked at pictures, and we hoisted our drinks.  We came together as family. This is a time when you feel we are more than just individual people living our separate lives.

I could feel my father’s spirit and I know he was smiling.  I thought “Look what you started dad. Look what you left behind.” I could feel his approval and his love.  His spirit was with us. The mystery of life came full circle, we are born, we live and reproduce, we die…the way we only hope it can be.  We all hope we can live a long and full life and in the end to know it is our time, to know that we were part of something larger than our self.

A week before he died my sister asked him about death. “Are you ready?” His answer was straight forward. “Yes. I’m pretty sure I am. ” Can we hope for more than that?

The religion of American Politics

image: Apostle St. Simon the Zelot

When are we willing to fight for our views?  Simon the Zelot was a disciple of Jesus.  He advocated aggression with the Romans.  He literally fought for his views.  I find it odd that Simon was one of the twelve disciples because Jesus seemed very much against violence (unless one considers the story of the  money changers in the temple!)  Politically I consider myself a moderate independent and normally I do not view political views something to fight over…disagree certainly, but this does not include violence!

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Our opposable thumb

Stereoscopic vision, depth perception, certain emotions and other perceptions, and the ability to stretch our thumbs farther than most other species, the ability to build and destroy things, and many other traits individually or in combination separate us from other species, not necessarily all species though.  Other animals with opposable thumbs include gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and other variants of apes; certain frogs, koalas, pandas, possums and opossums, and many birds have an opposable digit of some sort.  Many dinosaurs had opposable digits as well.  Granted, most of these are primates, as are we.  I wonder if rationalization is something unique to humans.  The ability to ponder may be as well.” Continue reading “Our opposable thumb”

The flood washes over us

A year ago I wrote an article discussing Hurricane Harvey.  Here we are again watching another 1 in a 1,000 year hurricane disaster unfold.  I won’t try to summarize all the other weather disasters that have been unfolding around the world this year.  This year is going to be the fourth warmest year on record behind 2016, 2015, and 2017 respectively.    Our global climate is obviously in chaos and weather disasters becoming more frequent and severe. Continue reading “The flood washes over us”

God Breaks In

I’m not sure why but today’s reflection posted by Richard Rohr seemed like something worth sharing.

“We are told that Jesus hung out with publicans, tax collectors, and sinners. Perhaps during these sessions of music, laughter, and food fellowship, there were also . . . moments when the love of God and mutual care and concern became the focus of their time together. Contemplation is not confined to designated and institutional sacred spaces. God breaks into nightclubs and Billie Holiday’s sultry torch songs; God tap dances with Bill Robinson and Savion Glover. And when Coltrane blew his horn, the angels paused to consider.

Some sacred spaces bear none of the expected characteristics. The fact that we prefer stained glass windows, pomp and circumstance . . . has nothing to do with the sacred. It may seem as if the mysteries of divine-human reunion erupt in our lives when, in fact, the otherness of spiritual abiding is integral to human interiority. On occasion, we turn our attention to this abiding presence and are startled. But it was always there.”

Perhaps it was the use of the word erupt that took my mind to the people of Hawaii, but I started to think about how even amidst the disasters of life…God breaks in…another way of saying that the sacred is always there.  My heart goes out to all those Hawaiians faced with recent volcanic eruptions and perhaps more to come.  I’m not trying to make light of the situation.    Living in the middle of the North American plate, I seldom feel the earth shake.  The only roar I hear is the thunderstorm and maybe once in a lifetime, a tornado.  The power of the earth experienced as an earth quake, volcano, or tsunami is almost beyond my imagining.  I’m beginning to understand why people of the Hawaiian Islands made sacrifices to appease the God’s when the volcanoes erupted.

The photo of the plants covered with lava in Michelle’s last post seemed poignant to me somehow.   It reminded me that nature is tenacious.  No matter what events surround us; we pick up the pieces and move on.  Perhaps it’s harder to see the other side, when dark smoke fills our view.  But eventually the lava turns to soil and plants will thrive in its mineral richness.  Perhaps this is why prayers and sacrifices are given, to remind us that the sacred is still there.  To hope that we can find the courage and strength to face loss and adversity.

My prayers to everyone in Hawaii for their safety and speedy recovery.

The Courage to Jump

I took this photo of my son, 18 months old and poised to jump off the bench to the ground below.  The picture captured his fearless love of adventure so clearly.  At the age of two he climbed up to the top bunk and jumped off into a bin of stuffed animals below.  He is still adventurous but lately I’ve come to realize that he isn’t without fear or doubts.  In other words, he is a normal young man.  I’d been thinking about gender roles when I came across a recent article by Tim Winton discussing how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny. “I don’t have any grand theory about masculinity,” he wrote, “but I know a bit about boys.”

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Urban and Small Farm Agriculture

We often read about the environmental damage and unsustainable practices of modern agriculture.  Some people have proposed urban gardens and small farms as a pathway to food resiliency; repairing environmental damage, reducing fossil fuel use, and improving our health and well-being.  Others conclude that it takes too much effort; people aren’t going to change; no one wants to slave away in the garden, kitchen, or on the farm; it can’t be done in every country;  small farms and gardens can’t feed the world’s population.  All these arguments have some merit, but I have found the reality of growing local food becomes quite different once the transformation begins. Continue reading “Urban and Small Farm Agriculture”