Saturday, October 31, 2015

Just a Few Steps Off the Usual Path

We ran a weekend errand today
on the campus
where I teach a class
three days a week.

Three days every week
I dash from my car
to my classroom
and back again.

we took time to wander,
only a few feet from the parking lot,
down a winding trail.

I realize not every workplace
has a handy Botanical Garden
a stone's throw away.

But a lot of places
have things worth seeing
if we just take the time and effort.

Who knows the beauty
that surrounds us,
day after day?

Monday, October 05, 2015

Bat Cat

A change in the weather
stimulates a return to kittenhood.

Daisy still plays with toys,
but rarely in the public eye.

In her more mature years,
the stuffed animals
are more prone
to moving quietly around the house
in the dark of night
or when the peoples
are away at work.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Koreans in Northern Ireland

Three of us spent the last week of May
in Northern Ireland,
touring with the guidance
of local folk known
through mutual friends
and internet connections.

Our mutual friends
arranged for us to stay at Skainos,
a community center in the inner city of Belfast.
The accommodations were simple
but the people we met were lovely
and rich in hospitality.

When Gary gave us a tour of Skainos,
he explained the deep symbolism
in architecture and decor,
with all the elements of the building reflecting
important concepts of theology
and identity with Belfast.

I usually had no trouble
understanding the Northern Irish accent,
but when Gary talked about the recurring importance
of the color yellow in the decor of the facilities,
I was a bit confused.
"It represents the Koreans."
What Koreans?
When pushed, he finally explained,
"the yellow CRANES, the H&W cranes
in the shipyard, visible from many parts of Belfast.
Right.  The Koreans.
Sometimes we just need to retrain our ear
to hear simple truths.

Photos: 1) The biowall in front of Skainos. 2) A yellow crane through a window at Skainos. 3) One of the two H&W cranes, pictured from the vicinity of the Titanic museum.  4) Another view of a crane from my bedroom window at Skainos.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Unexpected Guest

I will admit
that I shrieked just a little
when this rather large spider dropped down
as I closed the gate
to the chicken yard last night.

I can't say
that I'd ever previously seen
an arachnid
who looked like her
in color 
or dimension.

With a little google
of "yellow backed spider,"
I found that she is a
Marbled Orb Weaver.
I'm somewhat fond of her
when she is not catching me by surprise.

I had noted that letting the chicken yard
go wild a bit
encouraged the wildlife.
Perhaps it is worth
the occasional shriek.

Better pictures and more infomation on orb weavers.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ice Cold Water on a Hot Summer Day

On a hot day in August
we hopped in the car
and drove up to a favorite hike
off the Parkway.

The air was much cooler
on the hike
than it had been at home,
but the effort of hiking
warmed us back up.

We could see the signs
of people who had crossed this way
before us,
stones stacked
in simple art.

At the end of the trail
we reached
the ice cold swimming hole.
The swim was short
due to the frigid waters
and approaching thunder.

We walked back in sprinkling rain
cool and refreshed
in body and in spirit.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Going Wild

When we bought the house
more than ten years ago,
the area behind the garage
served as the garden area.
The ground consisted of hard baked bare clay.
After a few years we moved the chickens
to this area
and moved the vegetable garden to the back yard.

The first summer ran hot,
and we strung up tarps around the coop
so the chickens would have shade.
They also lacked shelter and protection from
watching hawks and airborne predators.

So we decided to let the goldenrod grow
for shelter and shade.
As beekeepers
we also knew that goldenrod nectar
provided a source of the bees' winter honey stores.

We've watched the goldenrod
grow taller than our own heads,
and the subsequent gathering of so many
varied pollinators coming to drink of its nectar.
Often bumblebees spend the night
hanging on a golden bloom.

You could say
our back garden is full of weeds,
I've come to think of it
as the most beautiful garden
I've ever grown.

For further reading on wild lawns...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Covering our Buts

The inability to hear my own discriminatory language
comes automatically with white privilege.

I've been blessed
by my parents, teachers, friends, and aquaintances
who have taken the time to
call me on my own racist speech
across my lifetime.

I've internalized what they've told me,
and now I try to prescreen
what comes out of my mouth.

Too often there is still
a cognitive step
between the garbage I think
and what I actually say.

While I've lost most of my fear
of the potential of living with dementia
in my later years,
I'm aware that one of my lingering fears
of cognitive decline
comes in the fear
that I will lose that cognitive step,
that inner filter,
and say things that spring forth
from the racial tensions
and biases I've soaked in
my whole life
from the culture around me.

I'm struggling this week
with my responsibility
to address, not just the racism I say,
but the racism I hear
and don't address.

I've often failed to say anything
when people I love say things
that trouble me.
Because I love them,
because I know they are struggling
to be better than the culture around them,
because I know in certain regions
I call home
everyone talks like that.
And, let's face it,
because I don't want to stir up trouble,
or cause them to love me less.

But we need to start
holding one another accountable
to hear the things we say
that represent our inherited biases.

We need to continue to work
on our language,
and hope our hearts change as well.

So, a couple thoughts on
covering our buts.

If a sentence begins
with the phrase
"I don't want to sound racist, but..."
then the horse has already left the barn,
the chicken has already flown the coop.
Pretty much any sentence that begins with
"I don't want to sound racist, but....,"
well, that sentence already sounds racist.

And we wouldn't use that phrase if
somewhere in our hearts
we didn't think so, too.

So we need to listen for that phrase
and eliminate it.
And we need to think
about what we are saying after it,
and whether it needs to be said.
Why does it sound racist?
Maybe because it is?

The second place we can cover our buts:
Any sentence that includes
a positive description of someone
and the word "but."

She's black, but she's a good nurse.
He's gay, but he's a good neighbor.
 She's Mexican, but she's really smart.


We need to keep that "but"
and hear instead
the lesson that
people of all races, ethnicities, and persuasions
have gifts and challenges.

Noticing our language
gives us an opportunity
to hear the biases we've learned
whether we wanted to or not.

And so, I ask you,
even if we don't have the kind
of relationship where
we have a covenant
of mutual accountability,
even if we are barely
polite acquaintances,
tell me when my butt shows.
Tell me when I say things
that I don't even hear.
Tell me in love,
and help me battle
my own blindness and deafness
of privilege and bias.