My wife and I have been driving for two weeks: Joseph, OR. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Fort Collins, Colorado. Yellowstone. Camping along the way: Southern Idaho. Eastern Utah. At the bottom of the Black Canyon. On a street outside our nephew’s apartment building. In the boondocks of northern Colorado, eastern Idaho and eastern Oregon. Home day before yesterday.
Corvallis Ride of Silence 2013
Ride of Silence yesterday evening. I coordinated and led, seeking a still place inside me below the details of pace and regrouping.
I must have found it, because this morning I feel it every time I seek it. Just as still and sure as ever. But this time the still place has bumps and jiggles, with a sensation of traveling.
When I’m frustrated and can’t speak, I either act out or I dream of a solution.
Children tend to act out. Adults dream of solutions. Sometimes an action or a solution includes revenge.
This seems to hold true among Quakers of all ages. The religious education program I coordinate for Quaker children has some acting out. The atmosphere is more violent than the children, their adult leaders or I want it to be. It’s more violent than most of the group of Friends who employ me might believe. I guess it’s about on a par with the playgrounds I supervised for public elementary schools.
The large meetings for business that I (rarely) attend include many ideas for solutions to many contemporary problems. Some solutions are focused on the group itself, some on regional or world issues. Sometimes violence or revenge is spoken of or included in a proposed solution. To sit through such a meeting does violence to the physiology of many of us. Some of us avoid that hurt by skipping meetings, perhaps while helping with the children’s program. Some channel the physiological hurt into smart and sharp repartee or open protest. The words may be aimed at evil in the world or they may be directed at a Friend across the room. Continue reading
From the stories of Moses and the prophets who followed him, we learn of three major tasks of a prophet. Put very simply, the prophet’s first task is to discover the law; the second task is to show how the law can–or must–be put into practice; and the third task is to make spirit available.
-Bill Taber. The Prophetic Stream, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #256. (1984). Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill.
Perhaps the role of the sport official is to be a prophet on the field of play. The tasks are similar: the official must learn the laws of the game, then s/he shows, corrects and instructs the competitors how to put them into practice. The third–and I think summative–task is to make the spirit of the game available to all in the arena. I’m less certain about this third task of the referee, so I’ll write more about it here.
No one else in the arena represents the sport itself as certainly and purely as the officials. The competitors are bound up in love for their team, the need to prove themselves and the desires to win or to represent the school or city. Coaches want to develop, protect and promote the athletes and team that they work for. The spectators are typically motivated by love for an individual or perhaps the whole team. The referee knows none of that. Continue reading
I was cycling my way to meeting on a recent Sunday and passing cars honked at me.
But its not that simple. You see, I was in Seattle, or rather its northern suburbs. Im not familiar with them. Im not a city boy, nor a suburbanite. For the past week or more, I had eagerly planned this bike ride of about two hours. It included three sections. First, some hilly residential way-finding along twisty roads. Then a middle section along several miles of the extensive Burke-Gilman lakefront trail, which Seattle has only recently converted from an old rail line. The journey would finish (I hoped.) through an urban residential and commercial area leading to the Central Area Senior Center where South Seattle Friends meet.
I had loaded my bike on the rack for a six hour car journey, unloaded it that morning at the hotel in Lynnwood, and fueled up on the hotels breakfast. I was set with a Google maps route especially plotted for a bicycle. Somehow the Seattle bike map hadnt been at the hotel waiting for me, although I had requested online that one be sent. Seemed like a small problem. Continue reading
My wifes mother died early this year. She was a collector who lived just up the street from us for almost twenty years. The last seven months of our lives has been about stuff. Lots of hers and some of ours. Weve carried truck loads of it to the recycle depot, the thrift store and the Habitat for Humanity ReStorea shop for used building materials. Weve given away bunches to neighbors. Corvallis Antiques sold lots of it before and during an estate sale.
Our floors are being refinished. We painted the ceiling and walls first. The living room, dining room and hallway were stripped of furniture, curtains, wall art and baseboards. It not only stinks in that center part of the house, it echoes. The floors are curing and giving off gas now. We can walk through those rooms, but it gives me a headache to remain. So Im turned out of our house.
Time for an adventure.
For the first time since college sophomore year, I went camping on my bicycle without support. I hauled all my own camping and cooking gear. It worked. I didnt take much. It was only an overnight turnaround to Armitage Park. About 37 miles there. I returned on a hilly routeto show myself I could do it, so the return was 60 miles or so.
Armitage Park still has the classic picnic grounds of my childhoodeven if theyve built a freeway bridge over the top of one end of it. It now has a campground, which I knew about, but hadnt seen. It was filled with large recreational vehiclessome of them towed by semi-truck tractors. Several pulled box trailers behind them, Continue reading
The meeting room for Corvallis Friends looked a bit different this morning. Big sheets of newsprint were spread around the floor. All who came were invited to lie down and be traced around, yielding a body outline.
A special invitation had been issued to children, letting them know that worship would be designed to include them. A few adults, seeking a quieter space on this Easter Sunday, chose to absent themselves. Some probably chose to join the early walk and outdoor worship, which gathered at 6:20 am in a local park.
After many body outlines had been traced and some posted on the walls, I explained that the markers, yarn, ribbon, flowers and glue could be used at any point during worship to add to the image of one’s body. I asked Friends to notice how the feelings within and recognize them. I explained that George Fox had written about this process many years ago and that contemporary Friends, some of them in our meeting, were rediscovering the ways our Teacher is present in our hearts and bodies.
In late slanting light I saw the Sisters two days ago. Triune and illuminated, their western aspects excited me enough to ride partway up the ridge on whose shoulder I now stand. The vision wasn’t repeated that afternoon, but perhaps it is what stirred me this morning as I lay warm, long before this fine red dawn. Or perhaps it was something greater than just a vision.Something shook me off the couch Continue reading
One of the finest blessings of my life is being part of a neighborhood network that is working to develop shorter paths for our food from soil to table. We have been meeting regularly for just over a year now. In the summer, it’s once a week to pool and share what we can harvest from our own gardens.
As there is need and availability, we make a connection with a local producer of food staples to cooperatively distribute some of the crop. We’ve done this with soft white and hard red wheat (grown in land that had previously been used for grass seed), pinto beans, garbanzo beans and tempeh. For a variety of reasons, the shortest path from our kitchen to the farmer’s field leads first to our neighbors’ doorsteps.
Sunday’s SHARE exchange was interesting. The guy from across the street brought a gunny sack full of well-sprouted Yukon Gold seed potatoes that a local nursery had given him. In the matter of minutes, several of us hatched a joint planting scheme. For a couple of days, Bob, Ed and I have been watering, then spreading layers of cardboard, chippings, dirt, compost and manure on a patch of ground (about 20′ x 30′) in front of Jenny & Don’s house. Linda and Lucy helped us toss potatoes and straw on top of that Tuesday evening. We have about 100 days until first frost, so we’re cautiously hopeful of bringing in a crop this summer. It’s risky enough that we aren’t putting anything of much value into the venture other than our labor and some water.
Im looking forward to volunteering next month with Bike First, the Portland affiliate of Lose the Training Wheels. We help people with disabilities learn to ride two wheeled bicycles.
The teaching I do there is quite different from my usual work in the school year. The teaching system at these bike camps was founded on the insights of a mechanical engineer. It relies on some very cleverly designed machines to do the teaching. Had it been designed by teachers, it would be focused on the interaction between cyclist and teacher, rather than the interaction between cyclist and bicycle.
Bike camp is a unique experience for me. Theres nowhere else I practice my teaching craft that my own personal style is so clearly secondary to another element in the learning relationships of students, skills and objects.
Because of the reliance on the innovative machines, limiting the curriculum to just one skill set, and limiting the students to those who can walk, keep feet on pedals and want to learn this skill, we succeed at a high rate.
I reflected on this on Sunday morning. Is there a technology to teach the insights and skills of silent worship? Quakerism is not something I believe so much as something I practice. Continue reading
Last week I was reminding one of my 5th grade PE classes about the Jump Rope for Heart event that was planned for a few days afterward. One of the students explained that he wasn’t going since he didn’t see that the American Heart Association needed any more money. I rather agreed with him, but remained silent as I’m the principal organizer for the shindig.
“So why do it?” I wondered that week. Jump Rope for Heart raises money for the Heart Association. Children ask people they know to contribute, usually a flat dollar amount, in honor of the jumping that they will do at school. The students are motivated by prizes they earn for raising different dollar amounts: water bottles, jump ropes, plastic toys, tee shirts.
After the event, I had my answer. It felt right in these ways:
- Thirty seven children enjoyed jumping rope for an hour.
- They worked hard at the jumping.
- They helped each other across grade levels and economic strata.
- They took some initiative to ask scores of adults to contribute. Continue reading