Saturday, May 20, 2023

“Abundance, Regeneration, and Healing”: Permaculture and Spiritual Practice

I love walking in the Ozarks, and there is a special place in my heart for glades and hillsides with limestone outcrops. Even after all these decades,  every single time I stop to take one of countless photos, or sit and read a book, I pause in wonder that I am on the floor of what used to be an inland sea, the result of millions of years of marine animals living and dying in a shallow sea. (In fact, this sea has been compared to what the Bahamas are like today. So we are, in fact, living in what was something like that paradise; we are just living here 325 million or so years too late!) The memory of this paradise is in the rocks themselves,  most readily seen in crinoid fossils. Its stalked form, known as a sea lily, made a tubular calcite shell. When the crinoid died, its shell was added to layers and layers of other shells, comprising much of the limestone we see today. And when the sea receded, more layers of shale, limestone, and sandstone were left behind. 

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Quicker to Cut than to Care: The Urgency of Climate Justice

Last week, while on a working retreat in New York, I was delighted that there were four dogwood trees blooming outside my room. I could see two of them through the window every time I came through the door. It was a fantastic sight, made even more welcome because of a choice my back fence neighbors made last winter, when they cut down their dogwood tree. Its limbs grew into my yard, where I could get a close up view of each spring’s flowers. I missed that this year.

        I don’t think the tree was targeted. I doubt my neighbors got up one morning and thought, “Wow, we should cut down the dogwood tree today.” It was more probably a case of “wrong place, wrong time.” They were grading out some of their yard and clearing out the fence row, which had some small mulberry and elm saplings. And they just completely removed the dogwood tree. I had taken photos of that tree’s blooms since we had moved there in 2018. And now, this spring, there was an empty space where the blooms used to be. Again, I doubt my neighbors knew what they did. Who cuts down dogwood trees? And I appreciate a clean fence row. But their good intentions did not stop them from cutting down a beautiful tree. 

Humans excel at hubris. We just do not – we cannot be bothered to? – stop and pay attention. It takes a lot of intentional effort to slow down and do things purposefully. It is too inconvenient to ask – what trees are growing here? Are they all the same? Do I want to preserve any of them? We are almost always short on the things that care requires: time, energy, attention, curiosity, patience. 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Missouri’s Anti-Trans Actions and Our Continued Resistance

  It’s not as if marginalized communities ever get a break, including gender and sexual minorities. But this year continues to be an excruciating one, especially for the transgender/nonbinary/gender-expansive community. While collective indulgence in outrage, like videos of people smashing or shooting their cases of Bud Light beer, are obviously ridiculous, they also send a clear message to us. It’s not like Bud Light is suddenly a champion of trans people just because they work with a transgender influencer like Dylan Mulvaney. This is a marketing strategy, and so is the outrage. But all this outrage also tells me that, not only do these Bud Light-bashing folks hate me and oppose my wellbeing, they hate and oppose anyone that is friendly to me. They are so committed to erasing the existence of trans people that they can’t even drink a beer that is guilty by association. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Moving a Balloon, Moving a Rock: On Patience & Praxis

        My reflections of late have turned back to patience, a reflection that arises again and again out of the personal, relational, structural, and cultural turmoil of the last many years. So many of the issues we face are intractable, with roots as deep as hundreds and thousands of years. And while history reminds me that there have always been people who were there to fight against oppression and insist on humanity’s potential for wisdom and compassion, it also reminds me that human lives have been consistently characterized by injustice and oppression. Our progress is at once remarkable and incomplete, and we carry the urgency of our own brief lives. And so, we also carry both a necessary patience and a necessary impatience, like oil and water in our hearts. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023

“Don’t Say Gay (Or Trans)” in Missouri

Before getting into a bird’s eye view of the current crop of proposed and passed legislation targeting gender and sexual minorities, I feel the need to repeat some of my words from 2018, slightly edited to fit today’s focus on legislation: 

“Here at the beginning, I want you to know that I am wonderfully happy about my gender and sexuality. I love – I really love – being genderqueer. I love belonging to the transgender family. I’ll be focusing on painful and difficult experiences [today] as we continue to call [our communities] to accountability, but I don’t want there to be any confusion. There is so much joy in my life. There are so many incredible, beautiful, fantastic people I’ve met and you are so important to me, and to our community. I am so grateful for the time and life we’ve shared together. I am so grateful for you. The joy and life and love we share are why I am willing to stand here and assert our humanity … . I am angry, to be sure; but I am angry because all this suffering is unnecessary and cruel, and I am so exhausted from feeling and seeing my transgender siblings suffer so much. I hope that, in the anger, you also can hear this love.”

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Open to Change

My life has been filled with a fair bit of change and transition over the last few years, surrounded by lots of uncertainty. That has made for a natural time for reflection, and already being the type of person disposed toward reflection, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time thinking about the shape of my life: the decisions I’ve made, dreams I’ve chased, failures I’ve felt, and unlooked blessings found along the way. Like probably many of you, my life hasn’t taken the course I expected it would take, but I am profoundly grateful for where I find myself now and for the paths that still lie open in front of me. 

At the heart of that journey has been maintaining spiritual and reflective practices that support my aspirations, especially those related to kindness, wisdom, and justice. For decades now, for example, I repeat a simple aspiration before I meditate: “may I be with these next moments with openness and curiosity, with gratitude and kindness, so that wisdom can arise.” Those words have soaked into my heart-mind and become a familiar friend. After a few years, I found that they followed me off the cushion. Practicing with them intentionally made them available to me when I needed them during the day, when they can invite me back to the present moment, especially when I begin to feel overwhelmed by the uncertainties and sufferings of life. 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Mindless Consumption and Grateful Contentment

There are some conversations with your mother that you can never forget. One of those, for me, was on the occasion of my twenty-first birthday. I had rushed through my university studies, but not so much because of some special educational virtue on my part. The truth was that I thoroughly disliked the whole experience, I didn’t know how long I could endure it, and I thought graduating as quickly as possible was preferable to dropping out. So I graduated early and found myself moving west for graduate school at the tender age of twenty. I turned twenty one while living close to Highway 1 in northern California. An eccentric friend of mine thought my relative youth made for a funny anecdote and couldn’t pass up the chance to take me for a celebration dinner at a winery, where I could take my first sip of alcohol.