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Do Pigs Have Udders?

Part of educating for hope is “reading the world” in hopeful while living “in dynamic interrelationships” with others (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 102). This means opening the world to eloquent questions without presupposed answers and without the threat of violence of any form. I used the quote in a recent book chapter I co-authored with a colleague from North Carolina. The book is to be published in late 2020 or early 2021. What does it mean to live in a world full of hope; a hope(ful) world.

My first day back from the retreat I posted about in Welcoming Differences and Gentle Rain I noticed the students were subdued. In the afternoon, I was alone, which was unusual. Without an adult and teaching three grades, it could be demanding. Other times, it provided interesting moments, and this turned into one of those moments.

I had contacted a substitute teacher I had used several years before and who was available again after completing a long term assignment for an ill teacher. As we talked about what was bothering me, the students told me they had not enjoyed the teacher. I was surprised, as he had seemed a good fit before. I asked for an example and they told me he had told them their conversation was inappropriate. This was unusual, as the students in this group were well-behaved and respectful. I asked them what the conversation was about and they told me, while completing some Science, one student asked “Do pigs have udders?” Apparently, this became a hotly debated topic and it was brought up again today.

I laughed. For me, it was funny and pointed to an irrevocable human truth: curiosity about the world we live in and eloquent questions leading to exploring the world and learning about it. We had serious fun as we talked about what udders were and their role in feeding offspring. I even phone Kathy, who was raised on a farm, and asked he. She was not sure, but thought it was a structural thing and pigs probably did not have it. We left it as an open question.

Simple question,

Emerging eloquently,

Not presupposing answers;

Fueling curiousity–

Energizing learning.

What does this mean?

Is it true?

Querying and questing;

Seeking to fill gaps;

Not with certitude;

New questions emerging.

With passing years,

Recalling that moment,

Smiling, chuckling;

Appreciating simple, provocative question–

Do pigs have udders?

As best as we can learn, they do and it was fun trying to figure it out. Adolescent children ask the darnedest things. Laughter is an antidote for difficult moments. Something I learned as a student teacher was a safe classroom allows children, youth, and probably adults to ask provocative questions with no preconceived answers. In the polarized world we live in, we have lost that assurance of safety and are reluctant to ask questions needing answers.

I will save you looking up the answer on the Internet. Pigs do not have udders. Udders are a reference to mammary glands on certain mammals and it has to do with their structure. I read a version of this poem for a group at a retreat in Wisconsin. As I finished, adults wanted to know the answer. I said I didn’t know and someone looked it up on the spot.

I don’t have a picture of a pig. Here is one of a bear I took in Waterton Lakes National Park. Bear and pigs are related, so it was as close as I could get.

Gentle Rain

I wrote this poem as part of a Sabbath activity at the retreat I mentioned in One’s Story and Companions. When I attend a retreat, I enter into a covenant with myself to slow down, talk less, and listen more deeply. In most retreats, that is the norm. We choose to set time aside purposefully and share with purpose in small groups, listening and being present for each other, reflecting in time set aside for solitude, and finding our way back to the circle of kindred spirits. In these ways, it is unlike other conferences, workshops, and training filled with busyness. I focus on opening up space where I experience being vulnerable, in solidarity with others, reflecting, and as I find myself coming home.

The poem began to emerge as I meditated in the morning in the main hall. As I sat, I became fully aware of sounds coming to me from outside as the voice of nature spoke. The reflective moment brought back a memory of the sudden and tragic passing of a young woman the year before. I met her briefly several years before.

Shunryū Suzuki and Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about how each person we greet on life’s journey leaves an imprint on us. We only need to stand or sit quietly and listen and like a wind and gentle rain voices are heard again and again in the silence of that moment.

Sitting inside the drum;

Hearing rain,

Singing a reverent song,

Tapping, oh-so gently–

Occasional Increased tempo

Adding rhythm in a fresh moment.

Shaking tree limbs and leafs–

Sighing gusts of wind;

Breaking free from reverie,

Dreaming, exploring, imploring

Reaching out–

Turning inward.

Inviting gently,

Each receiving;

Walking, remembering, enjoying–

Gathering together–

Carrying bits of each other.

Yet, in solitude

Communing.

I took this picture in Waterton Lake National Park several years ago. Memories act like water on rock. They live an imprint, carving out a place in our lives.

Bridge

The Canadian educator Ted Aoki wrote about a “bridge that is not a bridge.” We use bridge as a verb, moving us ahead to make the world a better, more just and democratic place. In this sense, bridge becomes a metaphor. There is no actual structure and experience to guide us through challenges we face.

John Lewis wrote a book called Across that Bridge: A Vision of Change and the Future of America. Again, I propose his bridge is not a physical structure either. But, physical bridge provides insight into myriad emotions at play as transformational change happens. In these moments, we put faith and trust in others and things we cannot see, only hope for. We reach out to hold each others hands, understanding the shared meaning of (com)passion. In these moments we share (com-) the joy and suffering (passion) of one another.

Today, as I prepared to post, I came across this poem and accompanying picture. For many, this bridge is not daunting. For me, fear is front and centre as I cross. When we crossed this bridge, I reminded myself to take it one step at a time. Transformational change counts on us taking it one step at a time, as we share journeys with one another. We will each experience loss and gain in different ways. At the end of it, what we share is being human and becoming more human with each ensuing step.

Standing on the edge,

Abyss yawning,

Taking a first step.

Forming compassion,

Crafting wisdom,

Forgiving one another.

Transforming world,

Each carrying one’s weight.

Reaching out to others.

Taking the next first step,

Trusting one’s self,

And, others in the human journey.

On some mornings and evenings, I observe the sun rising/setting with the moon in the sky. Several years ago, early in the school year this occured. I began haiku class with poems describing phenomena we often take for granted. I emphasized poetry  often emerges from what is overlooked.

Great poets have a way of lifting extraordinary phenomena into fuller view for us. I modeled this with shared from Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, etc. I try to write poetry in a similar way.

Greeting and adieu

Sharing the sky together,

Guiding one’s journey.

I took this picture as I approached Waterton Lakes National Park enroute to Spokane. It was a beautiful evening with just a wisp of cloud below the rising moon. It was as if Nature decided a needed two guides on my trip.

On many trips, I pass mountains, which, even when I stopped, I did not grasp their majesty. It is as if they have their own language and ways of being.

Clouds surrounding,

Momentarily crowning,

In regal splendour.

I take many pictures of Mount Robson as I drive from Edmonton to parts of British Columbia. Even with clouds, it has a majesty about it.

 

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Life As a Panorama

Kathy took these panoramic pictures as we drove to Waterton. I wonder how I make sense of life without a more complete picture and the haze fades, revealing a complete and panoramic view. Even at that, life’s complexity shrouds the mystery, as there is too much to take in.

As a still shot,

Life–

Emerges by image by image,

Parsed, fitting my definition.

As a broad view,

Life–

Evidencing no visible pattern,

Full, rich, ineffable.

As a quilt,

Weaving—

One stitch into the next,

Ragged, seamless paradox.

As community member,

Retaining one’s self—

Binding together,

Adhering disparate parts into one.

Pensive Pirate

For me, creativity and energy emerge in quiet moments. Kathy took this picture in Glacier National Park. I paused to scribble. We only saw a handful of people on the walk in and out.  For me, Nature gives me room breath and refresh.

Pausing, reflecting

Fortifying one’s spirit

Soaking in Nature.

Even though I enjoy quiet and solitude in Nature, I am drawn to its loudness. I love waterfalls, their power and what is not readily visible remind how much of life is a mystery. Whenever we travel, we stop and hike into various waterfalls. What is ironic is I have a fear of heights, which limits my ability to get close. On the other hand, Kathy is part mountain goat, so we get wonderful pictures.

Now and then, I get a chance to get closer and, on this trip, Cameron Falls offered me an opportunity to do just that.

In Waterton Lakes National Parks, I had to keep my distance as the drop off on the overview was too much for me. The result is an overload that drains me of energy. This is a view of Blakiston Falls, which are bridal falls. In case there is any doubt, Kathy took the picture. Below, I express gratitude to see through another’s eyes.

Revealing beauty

Viewing through another’s eyes

Nature’s abundance.

Paradise

Here is another post with photos and poems based on travels through of the natural beauty of Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park. Parks Canada describes the former as where the prairies and mountains meet. The latter is known as the crown of the continent.

As we drive along Highway 22, we get this view of the mountains in Waterton. The sign says, “Where prairie meets the mountains” and they do. We saw this view later in the day.

This is what a few minutes does in this part of the world.

Embracing mountains

Emerging peaceful fury

Signaling day’s end.

Can you imagine waking up to the view below each day? It is intense. The Canadian census indicates 88 permanent residents of Waterton town site experience this. This is Mount Vimy viewed from the townsite across the big lake.

We traveled down the big lake crossing the Alberta-Montana border about half-way down. We cleared customs with our passports and hiked on the Montana side. At the end of our hike we arrived at to Kootenai. The scenery is spectacular.

Soaring ramparts,

Sheltering nature’s bounty.

In their shadows, safe.

At the end of a dayn hiking we saw this across the lake looking at Mount Vimy again.

Fair maiden rising,

Watchful eye surveys Nature,

Keeping safe til morn.

I know I shared this video a couple of weeks ago. It is my favourite John Prine song and reminds us Paradise is within reach. The challenge is to protect what we have.

Neighbours

Here is a wonderful quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel on how we should live life and, I think, view our neighbours in all their forms:

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazemement [to] get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

I dip into my photographic archives and poems I wrote around them. Again, this is a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park. It is closed right now. It is interesting to revisit the images and remembrances they stir. It is a reminder of living life in radical amazement, taking nothing for granted.

During the trip, we hiked in an area where there were signs about the possible presence of grizzly bear. Its Latin name is Ursus arctos horribilis. The horrible is an apt description if you end up on the wrong side of one.

When I hike, I wonder what hides from my sight and is quiet as I pass. The dense underbrush path hides things from me, giving them a sense of security. The signs reminded me I am not alone, and our neighbours are not always human.

As luck had it, we saw bear that day. At first glance, this one had the right colouring for grizzly. A closer examination indicated it was missing the tell-tale hump on its back and the wider forehead of a grizzly and was a brown coloured black bear. Behaviour wise it was too close to humans, as it was right next to the road and a hotel. Grizzly are pretty reclusive neighbours.

This one was a black bear for sure. Its colour did not make identifying it a problem. As well, it was smaller. That suggests it was younger, probably born a year before we were there.

Even black bear are dangerous. I tell hockey players I coach about the bear rule to decide on what is appropriate language. I tell them, even with our friends, we don’t know what might trigger a negative (horrible) response. Bear attack about 1 out of 10 times they make contact with humans. We just don’t know which of the 10 times.

Hiking someone’s home

Treading warily, softly

Horribilis‘ habitat.

Not all our neighbours are fearsome. This mountain sheep posed for his picture.

I leave you with this poem about neighbours of various forms.

Neighbours near,

Some visible;

Ducks laugh and swim

Distract us, grouse–

Protect family and spouse

Woodpecker’s hunting lunch–

Delectable larvae, I’m sure.

Others less in evidence;

A fish plays–

Loon here and gone

Games of hide and seek.

A moose–

Signs they have been,

Tracks and droppings.

Insects whirring in the stillness’

Butterflies flitting and feeding

Moving seeds from place to place.

Phantom breeze brushing the floor,

Up high, solitary leaf responding

Waving

Trees sighing.

What watches me?

Neighbours present,

Unseen community–

Nature piecing its puzzles,

Seamless, yet not form fitting.

International Peace Park

I love to go to Waterton National Park and, by extension, to Glacier National Park. They border each other on the Alberta-Montana border and form what is known as an International Peace Park.

When I go to Spokane, I drive past the turnoff to Waterton and it brings back by fond memories each time. Kathy and I spent part of our honeymoon, roughing it in a tent, in Waterton. The scenery is beyond spectacular and, when we are in settings like this, the poet in is spoken to.

The first day we were there in 2012 this deer was in the townsite unconcerned about human presence.

We traveled down the big lake and crossed the Canada-US border. This was the boat we took. Despite appearances, the boat is over 90 years old and was refurbished.

Joining us together

Offering a hopeful message

Carrying peace each day.

Once we got to the American side of the border, we stayed and hiked into Kootenai Lake. We had our passports, cleared customs, and were able to take a later boat. Along the way, I saw some great sights. Having said this, the brush along the trail was so heavy we could not get off of it and I wondered what we missed.

Nature’s cathedral

Dancing lights mingle with shadows

Peace’s benediction.

Companion

Etymologically, companion is breaking and sharing bread (panis, pa, and pain) with one another as we come together (com). It is associated with being on a journey, meeting others on the path, and stopping to eat with one another.

Companion lends itself towards metaphor, taking us beyond the literal. Faith and cultural traditions have stories related to helping one another, showing compassion and companionship to others. The word compassion means to share the joys and sorrows fo one’s life with others. When we do this, we do so because we can relate to what someone else is experiencing e.g. the loss of loved one.

On this quest we call life, we can questioning what it means to live this life. How do I share it? I am reading Parker Palmer‘s On the Brink of Everything. Parker repeats this need to understand and share in, sometimes, unexpected ways. It is not a calculated process, which humans often can fall into. After all, to be human is to fall short. It is to do the proper thing and bring out the better angels in ourselves and others.

I tend to think a lot, but this is a time where I am thinking even more. What forms of leadership do we want moving forward? How do we bring some harmony to a world often divided? How do we engage in meaningful dialogue to listen with open hearts to others who have much different experiences?

Arise,

This morning.

Tentatively step into the unknowable,

Discerning one’s voice afresh,

Discovering one’s purpose anew.

Asking,

What nourishes, waters, and heals one’s soul?

Who walks with us?

Who joins us?

Who shares the journey?

Who breaks bread with us?

How do we find refuge in one another?

As we pause and share the path,

Never quite able to step into the other’s steps.

Take care,

In one’s questing,

Speak mindfully, heartfully, graciously

Hear mindfully, heartfully, graciously

Your self and others encountered.

I took this picture in Waterton Lakes National Park. When I hike, nature reminds me to sense how much is closer at hand than I realize. What don’t I see? What don’t I hear? The coronovirus gives me time to reflect and question my priorities. What do I value? Am I true to my values? There are things and people who remain invisible and unheard, yet may be closer at hand than I realize. How do I become a companion and share in their journey without imposing?

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