A Different World

In the midst of my travels the last couple of weeks (more on that forthcoming), I was able to finish Gleb Raygorodetsky's The Archipelago of Hope.  In his chapter on the Sapara people of the Amazon, he writes that they "see their rainforest as a living breathing conscious being that must be cherished and cared for."  This is one of the sources of their resilience.  They've already encountered centuries of climate and cultural disaster and have had to repeatedly adapt.  They've done so through their relationships with the environment around them--a good lesson for us going forward.  

In a visit to the Karen in the Hin Lad Nai forest of Thailand, he explores various alternative agricultural options that might help us renew environments devastated by industrial, monoculture farming (though this does leave you wondering if there's anyway to maintain current global populations levels with these more traditional agricultural practices, meaning that overpopulation is one of the central problems that is not so easy to discuss).

The final group he visits is the Tla-o-qui-aht of British Columbia.  One thing I learned in this chapter was the importance of the salmon run for the entire ecosystem.  He writes that 190 species rely for nutrients upon the salmon, including the giant cedars that line the rivers.  Salmon predators, catching and eating them on the banks, end up bringing marine nitrogen into the soil.  Plants five hundred feet from the river can be mostly "made of salmon."  

Joe Martin, one of his guides, states, "One of our teachings is that Mother Nature will provide for our needs, but not our greed.  And it's our greed that's destroying many things nowadays."  As a reminder how nature provides, Raygorodetsky points out, "For the adept, the rain forest is a shelter, a garden, a pantry, a work shed, a medicine cabinet, and a cathedral all wrapped into one."

From the Tla-0-qui-aht he learns that "our medicine must penetrate to the very core of our affliction," and so we must address fundamental values and behaviors to respond to and live resiliently through this changing climate.  He writes, "What a different world we would live in, if it were arranged not along the lines of fear, greed, and power, but around the intricate web of respectful and reciprocal human relationships with the Earth and all its living beings."


Exterior Painting Finished, etc.

Early in the Summer, Sebastian and I cleaned up and redecorated this pass thru area of decking between our back stoop and the garage.  When we did so it became clear what bad shape the paint was in on the side of the garage.  I had thought, "I might get to that in the autumn," since it wasn't on my summer project to-do list.  

Well, you know I've spent this time in between trips working on some projects, including what started as touch up work on the front porch that then evolved into touch up painting all around the exterior of the house in areas that I could reach.  Seemed like I should go ahead with this then.  I scraped the area on the miserably hot and humid July 5 and the rain all week kept me from getting the painting finished, but this morning I finally got it done.  This area, particularly visible when we have guests come over to the backyard and visible to us every day, now looks so much better.  Still a few things I want to do to finish it up, but that's all the exterior touch up painting for now.

I did get some writing done this week as well, particularly during the rain.  I'm working on a collection of memoiristic essays, which mostly draw from work I've written over the years in various settings and genres.  Hopefully I can pull it all together in a book that works.

But a lot of what I've done this week is prepare for my upcoming trips.  Our big one to Yellowstone begins next week and then I've got Glacier and Boundary Waters coming quickly in August.  Many supplies, like bear spray, will be good for all of the trips.  Yesterday I visited Dick's, Scheel's, and Cabela's (twice) getting supplies.  The next few days will be spent packing and getting everything ready.  I'm SO excited.


Finding Balance

Golden Mountains of Altai | Series 'Top 15 UNESCO sites in Russia'

I am mesmerized by Arzhan's kai song--the hauntingly beautiful and stirring acoustic blend of all the Altai's elements.  In it, I hear the deepest rumblings of the shifting layers of the earth, the crackling of fire in the hearth, the neighing of a horse on a steppe, the bugling of elk in the forest, the tapping of raindrops on parched soil, and the high-pitched swish of air through the feathers of a bird swooping overhead.

In the next section of Gleb Raygorodetsky's The Archipelago of Hope, he visits the Altai people (his mother's ancestors) of the Altai Mountains that run along the Russian-Mongolian border.  Here the emphasis is learning from local people their traditions of land use as better ways to care for nature in the midst of our changing climate.

Danil Mamyev teaches him that "nature for us, the Altai people, has a different meaning. . . . For us, Altai is a living and breathing being with whom we've developed a relationship over generations. . . . One cannot put nature in a park."

Danil, who was trained and worked for a long time as a geologist, is critical of the Western scientific approach.  He states, "I believe now that my people's traditional worldview is, in many ways, more advanced."  He adds, "The juvenile Western science . . . has done a lot of damage to our environment and culture.  I just hope we can survive its adolescence."

One of the Altai elders talks about how unpredictable the seasons have become, making it difficult to plan.  This, of course, I hear regularly from Omahans.  It's clearly a global sentiment now.

According to the Altai, "If nature is not treated with reverence, reciprocity, respect, and restraint, the relationship becomes compromised, leading to environmental imbalance, such as climate change."

The shaman Maria Amanchina teaches that "If every human being could feel nature, the world would be saved."  She adds, "On our own, we have no hope of healing anybody or fixing anything.  We can do this only by asking other living beings to help us heal the earth.  We need to ask everybody--animals, plants, spirits, the land itself--and, of course, each other."


Holiday Weekend

How was your long holiday weekend?  Mine was an interesting mix of activities.  Friday Sebastian and I enjoyed the inauguration of the renewed downtown park here in Omaha, including attending the Kristen Chenoweth concert.

May be an image of 3 people, child, people standing and body of water

Saturday I decided not to be busy with household projects and instead to enjoy the day.  Robyn and I went to the Farmer's Market and then lunch and then walked around the park to see more of it in daylight and then sat for a beer at Thunderhead Brewing.  We also went over details of our August trip to the Boundary Waters.  We hadn't spent hours leisurely together like that in a very long time.

May be an image of 7 people, people standing and outdoors

Saturday evening I went to the Harmons for dinner, sitting outside on their terrace enjoying the view and the perfect weather.

Sunday was a work day.  I spent almost the entire day on my touch-up painting project.  That included scraping, caulking, and cleaning first.  I walked around the house and got the base trim of the wood and parts that I could easily reach, concentrating more work above the backyard patio.  So, there's plenty of upper parts of the house that need serious attention that I personally cannot give it and can't currently afford to have repainted, but at least the eye level parts look better now.  

In my downtime this weekend I watched TV and movies.  The finale of Stranger Things was exciting.  I finally watched the gay romances Hearstopper and Fire Island.  And the thrillers Invisible Man and Get Out (which I had somehow never seen the last five years, go figure).  

Monday was miserably hot and humid, but in the morning I made a cole slaw and walked over to Field Club for the annual parade and then lunch party at the Fortinas.  I came home and napped the afternoon away.  I had planned to go to the evening symphony concert and fireworks, but the heat zapped me in the morning and I had no interest to go back out into it.

May be an image of 3 people, people standing, tree and outdoors

Tuesday morning I woke up early and spent a few hours scraping the side of the garage that parallels the entryway to the backyard.  When I finally couldn't take the heat and humidity anymore I went inside.  I ran one errand and then spent the afternoon doing some business and watching TV.  I did catch up on bear safety for Yellowstone, which is only a week away.

In the early evening I went back out to scrape some more and my nextdoor neighbors invited me to join them in their pool for margaritas, which I did just in time for the rainstorm to come through.  But after it passed we continued to enjoy the pool.

So, overall a great balance of activities over my weekend.  Today I'm back to reading and writing on the front porch as the rain gently falls outside and the temps are a pleasurable sixties.


The Front Porch, & More

Today we awoke to a lovely and much needed rain.  It is surprising how much this has cooled off the air, rather than creating summer humidity (at least so far).  I've spent almost the entire morning on the front porch--drinking coffee, reading the news, reading books, and now some writing.

May be an image of furniture and outdoors

This week of the sabbatical has been very focused on the front porch.  Between trips I have a few weeks of being in town and have been using those to get some home projects accomplished.  Nothing too big and involved, but there are a bunch of little things that have needed attention, and I finally have the time to get to them.  All part of one of my spiritual commitments for this season of my life to make my home even more beautiful and comfortable.

So, this week I have done touch-up work on the porch.  First I scraped, sanded, and painted the tops of the porch railings.  I had done this very thoroughly about five years ago, but it was needed again.  This time it wasn't as involved because I had done such a thorough job last time.  Then, I decided to paint the porch floor, which I also hadn't done in years.  Doing so made me wonder why I had waited so long?  Then I decided to spray paint the porch swing and a small table and did it in black to match the shutters.  Next up was the front steps.  I used to refresh those every year and not sure when I got out of the habit.  And getting the pain out also gives me a chance to do some touch up painting around the exterior where it's needed (and I can reach).  And because it has been a few years since I've done that, there's a lot needing touch up.  I hadn't planned to do that much painting on Monday when I began, but it's been good to do.  The porch in particular looks great and makes me feel even better sitting out here.  Today's rain is preventing me from finishing the touch-up painting today, but I'll take the rain and the chance to have a more restful day of reading and writing.  And I've got more days to do the painting anyway.

The latest news from Yellowstone is exciting--the northern loop will reopen next week. So I think I'll cancel my backup reservations and plan to spend as long in the park as we had originally.  Still won't be able to do everything we'd planned, but a lot of it.  I'm really getting excited.  

May be an image of outdoors

And last weekend Sebastian and I got out all of our camping equipment and set it up in the backyard to see that it was all okay and what we needed to refresh.  On Sunday night, which dipped into the fifties, we slept outside and it was a wonderful night to do so.  The only adventure in the night was when the neighborhood raccoon family came to eat the birdseed in one of my feeders just a few feet from where my head was laying inside the tent!  Two evenings ago I watch this family of six--mom and five babies--playing in the tall tree east of my property.  The little ones were wrestling and trying to best each other in climbing higher in the tree.

Yesterday met with Katie Miller and Stephen Bouma to plan more for our August trip to Glacier National Park.  And Robyn Reynolds and I have done some of the planning for our August trip to the Boundary Waters.  The second half of my sabbatical is going to go by quickly.  I'll probably be tired afterwards and need a rest!  Ha ha!

I have also gotten some writing done this last week, working on pulling together a collection of memoiristic essays, largely drawing from things I've written over the years.  And my publisher said he thought that was a good follow-up to the last book and timely given the state of our politics and people wanting to better understand the Heartland.

Looking back at my writing it was fun to reminisce being a newspaper columnist--I sure miss doing that.  Also I realized I have a lot more writing saved that's never been published.  I had forgotten that I had two books I'd submitted to publishers early in my ministry that never got published.  I'm thinking about self-publishing those and some other collections I have, just to get them out there.  So, another spiritual goal I've set for this season of my life is to get more of my writing done and out.


The Very Long View

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'forefront the ight people Bill Mekibben author Deep conony THE ARCHIPELAGO of HOPE WISDOM AND RESILIENCE FROM THE EDGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE CHANGE CLEB RAYGORODEES RAYGORODEESKY'

"These communities--islands of biological and cultural diversity in the ever-rising deluge of development and urbanization--are humankind's "Archipelago of Hope," for here lies our best chance to remember--or learn--how to care for Earth in a way that keeps it healthy for our descendants."

I'm currently reading Gleb Raygorodetsky's The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change, which focuses on various indigenous communities and cultures, relating how they are impacted and what they are doing to being resilient.  In the midst of all the horrible news out of the United States Supreme Court in the last two weeks, this has been a nice escape that really isn't an escape but a reminder of reality.

Much like the lessons drawn from my earlier reading this sabbatical summer, in particular what I learned from the last book on the Aztecs, the theme is adaptability to an ever-changing world.  While these indigenous communities have ancient practices, because they are more in tune with the earth, they are constantly having to adapt as things change.

One of the Sami elders--the Sami are reindeer herders and salmon fishers currently living in Finland--declares, "It is time to say goodbye to some things we'll never see again. . . . But it is also time to build new knowledge.  And this knowledge could only emerge through keeping strong connections with the traditional territory."

Another Sami elder states, "But there is also a glimmer of hope--if the land can heal, even if it takes a long time, it means that we can also heal together with the land."  Wisdom for all of in these troubling times.  A reminder to take the very long view.

In a chapter on the Nenets, a Siberian reindeer herding people, we get a vivid picture of two worldviews, as their homeland, the Yamal peninsula houses an ever-expanding Gazprom natural gas site:

Here, the semicircle of the Nenets' chums, surrounded with sleds and reindeer, is a symbol of a cyclical world where people are an integral part of nature, not separate from or positioned above it.  Their well-being is a product of the timeless coevolution between the people and their land that provides for current and future generations--wood for the sleds, reindeer skins for the chums, fish for the table.  The straight lines of the dirt road and the pipeline cutting off the stoybishe from the rest of the tundra represent the rival worldview.  It sees people in general, and Western civilization in particular, as being beyond the natural laws governing life, entitled to take from nature anything it craves, like natural gas.  The future of the Nenets depends on which of these worldviews prevails in Yamal.