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The Prairie — The Good, Bad and Ludicrous

*This post inspired by Teacher As Transformer post I read today I needed passion, beauty, and ‘idling’ while I pretended to learn new things, today. I’ve spent too long on the ‘work I learned long ago how to do/improve upon’ in databases, websites, clean-up of outdated data…… compilation of reports, checklists, etc., to aide my […]

The Prairie — The Good, Bad and Ludicrous

TamrahJo was kind and referenced that my post inspired her. When I looked at her post several days ago, I was inspired. I love her line of needing passion, beauty, and “idling.’ The word idling captures so much of what we need in our lives. We need the time to just be in each ensuing moment.

On top of the wonderful poetry and prose that reads like poetry, TamrahJo shared beautiful pictures of nature just being, in this case prairie scenes. Sometimes,beauty lies just outside our door and is right there for us to revel in on a daily basis. Many years ago on a beautiful day, Kathy and I were getting ready for church and as I stepped outside something move nearby. I looked up and a cow moose stood about 15 feet from me. I held my hand up to signal for quiet, as Kathy stepped out, and we stood and watched this beautiful animal eat shoots from a willow tree, watching us as we watched her. We stood there for a few moments and went quietly to the car. The moose continued to do what it was doing, being a moose. I turned to Kathy and said. “That might have been church today.” We still went, but the beauty and majesty of that moment remained with me over the years.

We lived in that small town for two years and our oldest son was born while we were there. Living in an isolated, rural setting in a mountain valley served to slow me down. Years later, I would find the same process happening at Gonzaga University in the summers. It took a week or two to bring myself back into the moment, to just be. The campus is a lovely setting and I walked in the river valley and on other trails on a daily basis.

Sometimes, things happen in serendipitous ways. We went to a concert and the main act was terrible, but the opening act, Corb Lund, was terrfic. We have seen him several times since and have a couple of CD’s. This song has become an anthem for opposing opening up coal mines in the southwest corner of Alberta where Corb lives. It has beauitful imagery in this particular version and speaks to the need to think about the actions of today and how they might impact the future. The song speaks to how often we overlook the extraordinary of everyday life and what is outside our doors.

I leave you with a Wendell Berry poem: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Set the Backpack Down

Several years ago, I was in the midst of professional struggles and wrote this poem while attending a retreat based on Parker Palmer‘s work. At the time, I was reading his book, The Heart of Democracy. In the book, I came across the following quote:

“Suffering breaks our hearts, but the heart [that is] supple … breaks open, not apart, [and] can grow into greater capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.”

Joanna Macy has a similar quote: “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” If my memory is accurate it is this quote that informed Parker’s writing at the time. It is about hopefulness. Hopefulness is not going it alone. It is walking up the mountain together, with those who we can share the burdens of our mutual journey together. Companionship is about sharing bread along the journey, not hoarding it. This is an apt metaphor. What does bread mean in our daily lives?

Parker reminded me passion is not just about love that comes easily. Passion is love has moments of suffering, sometimes long moments. We can each grow through these moments or wallow in self-pity. The other part of suffering is I was not in it alone. Whether it was a colleague who listened, parents who came to check in with me every few days, or Kathy giving me space to make career decisions, I was not in these moments alone.

At the time, I was writing poetry for the first time in years and it was a healing space; a space where I tried to become whole. An essential part of becoming whole is speaking from the heart, which may not mean speaking out loud. In speaking to one another this way, I must listen more closely.

Weighing us down;

We set backpacks down,

Without companions,

The path terrifying,

The mountain is high,

Its peak obscured.

Sharing one’s load;

Trusting,

Settng one’s course right,

Being true to one’s heart,

Only other hearts hear,

Will others hear?

Speaking one’s truth;

Inviting,

Sharing

Lightening loads;

Strengthening our resolve,

Straighening backs,

Squaring shoulders,

Holding heads high.

Will we walk together?

Will we share our loads?

Will we lighten the journey?

I leave you with a wonderful short video from a Canadian performer, David Francey called Morning Train.

 

Leonard Cohen

We did not get a chance to see Leonard Cohen live, but I have listened to him for a long time. I bought Songs of Leonard Cohen a couple of years after it was released.

One of the songs on the album was Sisters of Mercy, which Cohen wrote here in Edmonton. As he told the story, he sat in his hotel room, looking out the window, and below he saw nuns walking to and from their convent. He determined they belonged to the Sisters of Mercy and wrote this song.

Leonard Cohen also wrote Hallelujah. My favourite version is by kd lang, another Canadian artist. We have many songs from various stages of her career.

Kathy and I have attended concerts by kd lang (another great Canadian artist) and her version is spell-binding. She has a pure voice and sings with so much power I have goose bumps.

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