Sunday, July 31, 2005

Idée d’jour

The world is not to be put in order, the world is order incarnate. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order.
— Henry Miller

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Belated Cat Friday

2 views of DJ
Yesterday was kinda crazy at work, so I was unable to get this up on its regular day.
LATE ADD: If you'd like to see the individual shots, look here for the top shot, and here for the bottom one.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Idée d’jour

I am going my own way
And I meet myself
Which includes everything
  I meet.
— Dogen

Bad Luck

Please lose that
picture of me with
my roommate.
I'm afraid
to tear up pictures
of myself.
It's bad luck,
like breaking
a mirror.
Overheard in the hospital cafeteria, yesterday at lunch.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

High School Reunion

Graduation Pic

Your correspondent in 1975.

Click for larger view
You may recall that I mentioned my high school reunion on Friday. I will share some impressions in a moment.  To your right, you will see what I looked like about 30 years ago.

There was a picnic on Friday evening. I had planned to go, but could never make up my mind whether or not to take my guitar. As I often do when faced with such momentous dilemmas, I chose not to go.

According to reports, it was hot at the picnic — the temperature was over 95°. However, I might have been more comfortable at the picnic than I was at home: my AC conked out early Friday evening. The house was 99° when I went to bed.

I chose not to call the repairman until Monday, on the assumption that there would be an extra fee for a weekend service call.

Saturday morning, my lawn mower died. For the second time this month. I was beginning to sense a trend.

After I took the mower back to the shop, I spent most of Saturday at the mall. I even took in "Wedding Crashers" at the multiplex [BTW: just the sort of light-weight flick I was needing at the time.] Got back to the house at 3:30, and tried to take a nap on the couch, in front of the fan. The operative verb being "tried"

So, as you might imagine, I was not in a wonderful frame of mind once I arrived at the reunion a little past 6:30. Oh yeah: did I mention that I drove several blocks out of my way due to road construction?

I got in line, and immediately a couple of people recognized me. One said she remembered me from driver's ed, which I took in Summer School just prior to Freshman Year (in other words, Driver's Ed was the first class I took in high school).

One of the people who remembered me was Queenie. In addition to being one of the nicest girls I knew in high school, she was also the daughter of a local tv personality - Ho Ho the Clown. In fact, her given name wasn't "Queenie" - that was just the name her dad called her on his tv show. I think she was the youngest of his six children.

Someone else remembered me from elementary school. Jeez! I barely remember folk from high school, much less elementary.

It was interesting how people remembered me. One fellow was certain we had worked on the high school paper together, and had both studied journalism in college. Neither is true - I was an English major in college. Though you might say my primary major was mind altering substances (which might explain a lot).

I was pretty visible in high school - drama productions, talent shows, and so on. Plus, as my graduation shot shows, I let my hair grow as long as the dress code allowed. We were permitted colar-length hair, side burns of a certain length, mustache and goatee. If you look very closely, you might discern the wispy whiskers on my chin.

So, it makes a certain kind of sense that they'd be unclear as to where they remember me from. And, I might be excused for not remembering - or recognizing - them. Plus, God only knows how many memory cells got burned during my "mind altering substances" days.

Our graduating class had about 600 people; there were only around 170 at the reunion. It turned out the people who originally planned the reunions quit a few years ago, and the data base was lost or crashed.

I had hoped to see certain ladies I had crushes on in high school - Patti, Pam, Cindy. I thought maybe, just maybe, friendships could be renewed and a new relationship might develop.

Not that I'm on the prowl, necessarily, but I'm definitely open.

For good or ill, if any of those ladies were there, I didn't recognize them.

So I went back home around 9, to enjoy the discomforts of my 96° house.

Two More Haiku

The eight o'clock moon
claims your pulse, then gathers up
the neap & ebb of your heart.

The honey moon claims
your heartbeat, quickens the storm,
enlivens the flame.
You probably recognize the second haiku from last Friday. The top haiku was actually written first.

This is another instance (like the two "Pen" poems, below) in which I took the structure and what images and ideas I could remember to write another poem. I perceive this process to be distinct from revision. Revising a poem means to have the text in front of you and go through with your editor hat on, tweaking music, measure, and thought.

In this case, the written text is only a memory (at best). I have a few ideas, some definite images I want to include, and maybe a few turns of phrase.

So, you tell me: does one seem a revision of the other? Is one version superior to the other? Or are the two versions at best studies which might lead me to a third, theoretically better, poem?

Haiku d’jour

Just simply alive,
both of us, I
and the poppy.
— Issa

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Joan's Pen

The pen of Joan
traces the distracted stars
circling the echoes
of rose rock brick.

Tracing the distracted stars
dancing about the moon of claiming
as the moon's children
paint shadows in the courtyard.

And echoes circle the courtyard,
foreign radios in fractured time.
She swims in shallow water
under deep blue dream scape.

Rose rock bricks
count out their subtle pattern.
She calls in the moon children.
She sends out the southern wind.
Here, I tried to take the form of "John's Pen" and as many of the ideas/images as I could remember, and write fresh without reference to the previous poem.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Idée d’jour

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an enlightened person. There is only enlightened activity.
— Shunryu Suzuki

Friday, July 22, 2005

Honey Moon

Honey Moon

This one's for you, Ms. Candide.

Friday's Cat

Here's another example of my on-going goal of adding some variety to these Cat Friday shots. The lovely Ms. Candide achieves variety by up-loading creatures other than her cats (e.g., toads, lamas, et al). I don't have the same sort of managerie available here in ex-urbia.

In this shot, the furry companions montage by way of a Photoshop abstraction. The image also fullfills DJ's request that she not be the only model on display in these pages.

Here's a version of the abstract without our images. I'm really having a lot of fun with Photoshop lately, as you might tell.

In other totally unrelated news, I'm attending my high school's 30th reunion this weekend. There's a picnic tonight, and a dance tomorrow. I plan to attend both, but will certainly attend the dance tomorrow - I already paid for it.

Idée d’jour

You cannot avoid paradise.
You can only avoid seeing it.
— Charlotte Joko Beck

Thursday, July 21, 2005

John's Pen

From the pen of John
in the late evening:
Stars circle the floor
moonshadow traces the sky.

In the late evening
cars bank on wildflowers,
cats track moon shadows.
John counts the horses.

Stars circle the floor.
Fingers trace the labyrinth
leading between the letters
of the secret name.

Moonshadow traces the sky.
The sky is open late.
New dreams appear nightly
from the pen of John.

Buddha's Lotus

I sat on top of the world,
years ago, before the statues fell.
I sat atop the Golden Buddha
in Afganistan.

I formed a lotus
on his head
reflecting the lotus
in his hand.

I followed Buddha
through no ego
and no space.
I floated above Buddha,
above the roof of the world.

Years later, after
the Buddhas were tower rubble,
I stood atop Oklahoma.

I stood above the Wichitas
on Mount Scott.
I stood above towns,
trees and rivers.
I watched black lava
divide the world
into uneven squares.

I said my secret name.
I chose my secret path.
There, at the roof of the world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Activist Judges (et al)

We have heard much in the past several months about "activist" judges. An activist judge is one, we have been told, who "legislates from the bench". Even a moderate justice like Ms O'Connor has been described as an activist.

This term is not used by Republicans alone. Just this morning, I heard Patrick Leahy (ranking Dem on the Senate Judiciary Committee) say he would evaluate Judge Roberts partly based on whether he would be an activist judge.

This term seems to me meaningless. I find it hard to imagine how a judge might rule that would not generate an action. To paraphrase Newton, every ruling has a reaction.

To take a hot button issue, any ruling on Roe v. Wade will generate an action. Overturning Roe v. Wade would likely have some negative consequences (i.e., back alley abortions). Not turning RvW might maintain the status quo, but this is still an action.

A justice ruling either way at the Supreme Court level will say s/he is intrepreting the Constitution. It seems clear to me that when someone - on either side of the aisle - says a judge is "activist", what they mean is the judge in question does not interpret the Constitution in the same way as that person would.

Wouldn't it be easier, and more accurate, to say you don't agree with a judge's rulings, and detail the reasons for your disagreement?
One might be forgiven for believing certain groups had templates ready regardless of who W nominated. Sure enough, petitions from MoveOn and True Majority were waiting for me in e-mail box this morning.

And the buttons were fairly predictable: Roe v Wade, environmental protection, working class rights, etc etc.

The problem with these messages are two-fold. Every single one has a shrill Chicken Little tone to it - if I don't sign their petition, democracy as we know it will come to an end. It's difficult to take these sorts of alarmist messages seriously, after a certain point.

Secondly, their messages are consistently reacting to something W has done. In this fashion, the agenda is set out by the Republicans and their designated chatterers. Isn't it about time that Democrats and Progressives started talking about a unique agenda that is not just reactive?
On the positive side, news of the nomination seems unlikely to knock the Plame/Rove/etc affair off the front page. For example, Josh at Talking Points Memo points us to this article in The Washington Post. Here's the opening graf:
A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document.
Assuming, as many have, that this memo is how Karl Rove learned of Ms Plame's identity, he can hardly profess ignorance that she was covert.

The law many on the left have pinned their hopes on is broad enough that Rove still may get away clean. As above, interpretation of the law will be key - and it has yet to be tested in court. Aside from the name/identify theme that has been popular on the right, it would have to be proven that his intent was malicious.

In the case of Rove, one would have to say "Duh! Of course it was malicious!" But knowing it and proving it are two different things, as they say.

In an ideal world, W would ask for Rove's resignation to fullfill his promise (in 2000) to return integrity to the White House.

If the past five years have taught anything, they have taught us that the current administration has a very odd definition of integrity.


Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Diaphragm draws in.
Lungs pull out.
Bell song echoes.
Breathe in.
Cat whiskers tickle left hand.
Breathe out.
Don't think.
Forget whether you think or not.
Diaphragm draws in.
Don't think of spot light
hovering between brows.
Lungs fill out.
Don't think of holy.
Don't think of unholy.
Don't listen for bell song.
Breathe in.
Don't think of timer.
Don't meander with Karl Rove.
Don't contemplate the Supreme Court.
Breathe out.
Air draws into nostrils,
glides to head top,
then circles the adam's apple.
Let it circle.
Let it be.
That's all, that's enough.

Then the door bell rings.
The prayer means nothing
if I do not rise
to help my neighbor.

Zen Mondo d’jour

An eager Zen student arrived at the temple. He sought out the Master and said: "I want to join your community and attain enlightenment. How long will it take me?"
"Ten years," the Master replied.
"How about if I really work hard, and double my efforts?"
"Then twenty years," the Master said.
"That's no fair! Why did you double it?"
After which the Master said: "In your case, I'm afraid it will be thirty years."
— Quoted in 2005 Zen Calendar, Workman Press

Idée d’jour

True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess.
— Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Idée d’jour

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.
— Iroquois Nation Maxim

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Idée d’jour

If you do not get it from yourself, where will you go for it?
— Alan Watts

Friday, July 15, 2005

Watonga Part Three: Miscellany

Read previous entries: Part One | Part Two

Pam chose the theme for the weekend, which was "Honoring the Light of God in the Child". Each day she would tell the campers at least one story which related to this theme, and the crafts for each day were co-ordinated with the story.

The story for the first day was about the Love Light. This introduced the campers (who were, roughly, K-5) to the notion that we may look different on the outside, and are unique in our own ways, but have at least one thing in common: we all have Love Lights inside us. Sometimes it's bright, and sometimes it's dim, but it's always there.

Pam told two stories for the 2nd day. She talked about the Peace Flower first. The Peace Flower is a method of conflict resolution. The person holding the Peace Flower may express his or her feelings for as long as s/he needs to without being interrupted. Each person involved in the conflict has the same opportunity. Two teenagers from our church demonstrated how it could work while Pam acted as mediator during the demonstration.

The second story talked more about the Love Light. Pam explained that one way of strengthening our Love Light was by being very still and quiet. One way to help us become quiet is by watching a candle. She also gave the campers a felt Love Light to take home as reminder.

Here's one for you:

Love Light

Friday was the last day of the Vacation Bible School. Pam told the story of humanity dispersing and reuniting. The dispersal was primarily based on color, but some dispersed seeking people who believed or thought as they did.

But separation got lonely, and loneliness made the Love Light go dim. So people reunited, celebrating their diversity, and the commonality of their Love Light.

This Pam I speak of is the same lady I was "sweet on" earlier this year. We spent some time together during the week, and things seem to be getting back to normal. We were able to visit and tease with each other, like the friends we are meant to be.
Another treat of the week was coordinating music with Mary R. Mary is one of the premiere musicians in Oklahoma City. I've had the pleasure of working with her for Peace Walks as well as the Taize Service at church.

Working with Mary always raises my game, and I learn something new from her every time. She says that she enjoys working with me as well, and I have no reason to doubt her.
This last story is another reflection of how humanity's foibles can cross cultural lines. It's very common for a person to emphasize how right his or her beliefs are by denigrating another's. We see this in politics as well as in religion.

Wednesday evening, after Deacon Jim told us that Gordon Yellowman had invited us to the Sundance, another Native American, named James, had some negative comments. "Oh, that Sundance is just a show for the white man. We do the real thing up in Ceiling [Oklahoma]; no outsiders are allowed."

Later on, Deacon Jim was instructing us in proper etiquette for the Sundance: no water near the practice tent; don't try to enter the tent; don't take any pictures; women should keep their legs covered (by wearing pants or long dresses).

James had an addition to these cautions: Don't take your dog. According to him, a dog is sacrificed during the Sundance. Puppies who have recently been weaned are especially prized. Then people eat the dog meat.

This may be true. There was a time, after the buffalo had been slaughtered (primarily by the railroad companies) when the people were very hungry, and dog meat was the only food available. So, this sacrifice may be a memorial of that time.

However, it seemed clear that James was trying to shock or offend. I got the impression that he objected to our being invited to the Sundance, and suspected that he was trying to discourage us from going.

I don't intend to sound judgmental of James. I heard his comments as a reflection of our common humanity. Which is to say that I am equally capable of making disparaging remarks about others' traditions or beliefs. For the others in our group, seeing this very human flaw might have been a corrective for any notion of the "Noble Savage".

Cat Friday

2 views of DJ

DJ was adopted a year ago July 4th weekend. We've been discussing appropriate ways to celebrate.

I had to inform her royal catness that running back and forth from the bedroom, and chattering at beasties at 2:30 a.m. is not an appropriate means of celebration. She was gently ejected from the bedroom for the second or third time since she was adopted.

You may include your "Happy Adoption Day" wishes in the comments below. I will relay them to her.

Idée d’jour

The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions.
— Robert Lynd, writer (1879-1949)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Abstract: Bastille Day

Abstract-Bastille Day

Happy Birthday, Woody Guthrie

I'd like to walk with you down
the backroads of our town
I'd like to sing with you to the men
huddled in the shadow of the mission.

I'd like to sit with you as
you listen to people's stories
then turn 'em into song.

I'd like to hear your song
take fear hostage,
capture hate, and
send injustice into exile.

I'd like to walk the blue highways
and unionize the WalMart employees.

I'd like to go with you to California, New Mexico,
New York, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma.
I'd like to see the sparkling sands
standing next to you.

I'd like to sing your prophecy on the corner,
collect the spare change,
then have lunch with a kind-hearted woman.

I like it that you were born
when prisons were smashed in France.
You were always about
smashing prisons.

Official Woody Guthrie Website
Woody Guthrie Folk Festival (July 13-17, 2005)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Too Much Coffee, Man

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Thanks for the tip, Mike.
In other news, I have evolved. Well, this blog space has evolved. According to the good folk at Truth Laid Bear, "Love During Wartime" is a "Crawly Amphibian". "LDW" has been a couple of steps below amphibian for a long time. I attribute my increase in status to the fact that a couple of folk have recently added me to their blog-rolls - Mike and Blindheit. Thanks, folk!

Idée d’jour

There is no easy way from the earth to the stars.
— Seneca

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Watonga: Part Two - The Sundance

After Gordon Yellowman's presentation Wednesday evening (see Part One), Deacon Jim announced he had some bad news and some good news. The bad news was we would not have a sweat, as we have during past Vacation Bible School sessions. This particular VBS had been scheduled at the same time as the Sundance, and all the medicine men who might have lead a sweat were committed to be at the Sundance. The good news was that we were invited to attend a practice run of the Sundance Thursday evening. Gordon had invited us, as one of the medicine men officiating over the Sundance.

The group met at the future site of the Oakerhater Whirlwind Mission at 7 o'clock Thursday. Deacon Jim fed us leftover brisket, which was even better the second time. Several cars caravanned east on Hiway 33, then southeast on the back roads to arrive at the campground where the Sundance was being held. The camp was a little south of an Indian Gaming Casino, on a bluff.

There we saw something few have seen outside of the movies, or tourist attractions around Anadarko, Oklahoma: teepees and true brush arbors.

In fact as we were waiting for the practice to begin, several of us watched as a teepee was being constructed.

The Sundance is a type of vision quest done in honor of the sun spirit which lives in the southeast. When Cheyenne were a warrior culture, it involved a form of mutilation. The dancer would have eagle talons inserted in his pectoral muscles, then lean back from the talons with his full weight, until the talons tore through the muscle and skin. The dancer would pass out, then have his vision. A Hollywood version of this rite may be seen in A Man Called Horse.

Since the Cheyenne are no longer a warrior culture, it is no longer necessary for the dancer to "prove" himself in this way. I shall describe what we saw in the practice in a moment.

We stood by the side of a gravel road for some time. Deacon Jim said a caller would cry out when the ceremony was to begin. After standing in the sun for about 30 minutes or so, Marion Yellowman invited us to sit under her canopy. Marion is Gordon Yellowman's wife, and we were joined by his mother, June Yellowman. She offered us drink, shade, and shelter.

Shortly after that, the caller started making his way through the camp. He sang out the names of the clans which were sponsoring the dancers. See, the dancers had pledged to dance on behalf of several different clans. More time passed, then Jim said it was alright for us to go up to the center of the camp, where practice was being held.

A large teepee was near the center, and was the site for the practice. The actual Sundance Lodge would be built on Friday. The center post of the lodge would be the trunk of a cottonwood tree - because cottonwoods are very efficient at finding water.

Deacon Jim told us to sit well behind the clans and the other Indians gathered around the tent. For this reason, I had some trouble hearing or seeing everything that went on - but I can record some impressions.

A few of us started quietly visiting just as someone asked, "Who are those men wearing hoods?" And sure enough, six men came running from the east. Three wore something over their heads - it might have been a hooded shirt or a towel; in any case, we could not see their faces. The other three did not wear anything over their heads.

The men with hoods were the dancers, actually called Pledgers because they pledge the dance to the different clans. The other men were Painters, who will paint the Pledgers with the clan colors before each round. When I saw the Pledgers, I immediately thought of boxers - partly because of the hood, and partly because of the way they carried their bodies. Very solid, very packed into itself.

The Pledgers will pray in the Sundance Lodge for four days, and they make a commitment to do this for four years. They fast during this time. Most especially, no water is allowed in the lodge. Between rounds, the Pledges may take a sip of water and spit it out; have water poured on them; or suck on a bit of sage which has been soaked in water.

Each round consists of three songs. People on the outside of the tent sing these songs, to drum rhythm, as the Pledgers dance. To western eyes, it might look like they are running in place. At the appropriate point in the song, the Painter reaches over and puts an eagle bone whistle in the Pledger's mouth (the whistle has been hanging by a leather chord around the Pledger's neck). The Pledger then blows the whistle as he dances.

Following these three songs, a warrior story is told. After that, the Pledgers take a break and are allowed to leave the lodge.

The Pledgers do this for three or four rounds. All this must be completed before nightfall. After each round, the clans send large trays of food into the lodge. The Painters carry in the food; it's believed the food is blessed just by being in the lodge. Remember the Pledgers are fasting all this time, so they get to see and smell this delectable food several times during their fast. Maybe not as bad as having eagle talons rip through one's chest, but still pretty intense.

If you go to visit a Sundance - as two in our group have - you must sample food from each clan. It's considered rude not to gorge yourself on the offered food.

We stayed through one full round of the practice session, and the first two songs of the next. When we got to our cars, it was about 10:00; we got home at a quarter of midnight.

Idée d’jour

No, no, you're not thinking, you're just being logical.
— Niels Bohr

Monday, July 11, 2005

Watonga: Part One

We arrived in Watonga at about 6 o'clock Tuesday evening. We checked in at the Couch Inn, then drove east on Highway 33 to the future site of the St. Oakerhater Whirlwind Mission. Deacon Jim and Kent had set up a tent shelter/lodge, and most of us could gather in the shade as the sun started pulling the blue back to the west. A number of women from the Mission made us Indian Tacos, which were wonderful.

My mind was only partly on the food and good conversation. About half-way to Watonga, I realized I had left my shaving kit back at home. Most of the things in it could be replaced at a local store. But not my heart medicine - I take verapamil to control a heart murmur. So, I had to decide whether it was worth driving back to OKC for the medicine. I have skipped one or two days in the past without any ill effects, but this stay was three days long, and it was possible I would be participating in a sweat on Thursday. As I was eating, I tried to formulate a plan.

Happily, there were two RNs on the trip with us, one of whom was the official medical person for the trip. So, I determined I would I ask one of them for their opinion.

Vacation Bible School (VBS) was being held in the Indian Missionary Baptist Church, as it had been last year. After dinner, we went there to set things up for the next morning - the first official day of VBS. The official medical person was in the kitchen. I was in the parish hall, working with the other volunteers to set up craft projects for the kids. Jani (the other RN) was close at hand, so I asked her. Her initial opinion was I should try to get pills for the next few days rather than go without. But, she wanted to ask the official camp nurse's opinion.

Marilynn confirmed this opinion. In fact, Marilynn takes the same medication, and was willing to share. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember how many milligrams were in my dosage. My options were to call my doc or pharmacy to learn what my dosage was, or drive home. I decided to drive home Wednesday afternoon; on the whole it seemed less hassle.

The consequence of this decision was I would miss the historic tour of the original Whirlwind Mission site and the cemetary where St. Oakerhater is buried. See, Deacon Jim believes the ministry of this week is two-fold - the kids get the Vacation Bible School (and their care-givers get a break), and we urban dwellers get to experience Native American culture in ways we might not otherwise.

I was sad to miss to miss the tour, but I had seen it the year before. So, I drove back to OKC, got the shaving kit, gave myself an hour to rest, then drove back to Watonga (about an hour twenty minutes each way).

I got back to the Coach Inn about five o'clock, which was coincidentally the same time the others were returning from the historic tour. I got a chance to visit with my roommate. As it turned out, several folk came back with ticks - including my roomie - so I may have chosen the better part anyway.

Deacon Jim was going to serve brisket at the future mission site ("The Land") at 7, so we just had a couple of hours to kill. John, my roommate, took a nap while I read and also napped. We left the motel right at 7:00.

You've heard about "Indian Time"? I'm here to tell you it's an actual phenomenon. Things start whenever the time is right, and if you're the kind of person who gets stressed about things starting "on time", then being part of this mission team is not for you. As for me, I perceive time to be a handy fiction at best, so I left my watch at home - and my chronos-oriented anxieties with it.

There is a Greek term, kairos, that more or less means "the proper time" or "when the time is right". That's how things work in "Indian Time".

Anyway, we got to The Land just as Gordon Yellowman was beginning his presentation. This was to serve Deacon Jim's goal of teaching us about Cheyenne Culture. Gordon is a holy man of his people, and a Cheyenne Peace Chief. As Peace Chief, he not only negotiates peace, and works to maintain peace, but he has vowed to remain radically non-violent during his tenure.
Gordon's presentation began with a description of the Cheyene cardinal directions. I'll use the English names for these directions, keeping in mind these are not the names Gordon used.

Each of the cardinal directions is a dwelling place of a spirit.
  • The Sun spirit rests in the southeast. The Sundance, which takes place sometime in the first two weeks of July, honors this spirit which gives the people life.
  • In the southwest is the wind, who brought the people to this place. This spirit reminds the people of its strength through the tornado. When the people pray to the spirit, it goes around their camp. In this way, they respect the wind. They also build their camp on bluffs, which are not troubled by tornados.
  • The spirits of the four old men dwell in the northwest. For some tribes, these have always been spirits. For Gordon's tribe, they are actual warriors who once led the people and went to dwell in the stars.
  • In the northeast is the turtle spirit, who brought the earth from the flood. Just a patch of soil survived on the turtle's back, but the elders restored the earth from that remnant. The turtle reminds us to take things slow. When you know your goal, you can take your time. You can be assured you will arrive there in good time.
Gordon also talked of the power of fire and water. Fire is related to the sun, but also reminds people of its power in grass fires or house fires.

Water reminds us of its power in floods, and most recently in the tsunami. The point is these elements are friends to the people - they are necessary for life - but if the elements are not respected properly, their power becomes destructive.

He spoke of Sweet Medicine, who was a prophet of the Cheyenne. Sweet Medicine predicted the coming of the white man with a long beard, who would be carrying a large book; this man would tempt the people to leave their native ways. This was a prediction of the coming of Christianity. He also predicted the loss of the buffalo, but promised they would be fed by a new animal - cattle. However, this animal would cause sickness among the people (Diabetes, heart disease).

Chief Yellowman told another story of Sweet Medicine. Once, before the buffalo were all gone, the people were very hungry. They had not killed any buffalo for a long time. Sweet Medicine said he would transform himself into a buffalo and drive the buffalo into a canyon were the people could easily kill them. The hunters were afraid that they might kill Sweet Medicine by mistake, and asked how they would know which buffalo he was. "When you see a buffalo calf flapping its right ear and dancing in circles, that will be me."

Today, whenever Gordon Yellowman sees a buffalo calf playfully dancing in circles, he thinks of Sweet Medicine.
[Note: portions of this entry may be re-written as I gather information from others who listened to Gordon's presentation. Tomorrow — the Sundance.]

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Belated Cat

Click for larger view

Also titled "DJ by lamplight".

Got home about 3 Friday afternoon, and DJ seemed glad to see me. She hasn't let me far out of her sight during the times I have been home, and has been a little chattier than normal.

And she's so chatty normally that I'm convinced there's a considerable amount of Siamese in her blood-line. Additional proof is the shape of her face - as Ms Candide has pointed out.

Alexandria dropped by daily to feed and visit with our friend, and reports that DJ was well behaved.

I left the radio tuned to a 24-hour classical music station (KCSC, Edmond) so DJ wouldn't be quite so lonely. I think she may be a little smarter now than she was four days ago.

Not that she needs to be that much smarter. She has me wrapped around her back paw as it is.
I shall be posting about my time in Watonga in detail soon. I expect there will be at least three entries forthcoming.

Idée d’jour

To understand God is to listen, listen to Jesus and Muhammed and Buddha; but don't get caught up in the names. Listen beyond them; listen to God's breath.
— Zen Saying

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Idée d’jour

No more words. Hear only the voice within.
— Rumi

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Off Line

I will be out of town through Friday evening, and will likely be off-line through Saturday or Sunday.

I am going to Watonga (a little over an hour west of OKC) with a group offering Vacation Bible School (VBS) to the local children. The community is primarily Native American and Hispanic. This VBS is part of the Episcopal Church's missionary work to Native Americans. This will be the second year I have been part of theis work.

I wrote about last year's trip extensively, in about four parts. My favorite of those four appears here, and includes links to the remaining three parts.

This Saturday, I will be an assistant proctor for an exam on campus (it's a paying gig). This will take the better part of the day, so I'm not likely to be on-line for long.

Send positive vibes, or prayers (as you prefer) Watonga way. I'll chat more - much more - when I return.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Behind the Curtain: "Prayer"

About "Prayer in My Loneliness"

Two weeks ago yesterday, I went to confession. Yes, the Episcopal Church has a rite called "Reconciliation of the Penitent". Just about every other service in the Episcopal Church has a General Confession, and most members feel they are covered by that. A few, however, find the burden of a particular sin - or group of sins - to be intollerable. The reconciliation rite is for those people.

It must be noted that the Episcopal Church does not put a lot of emphasis on sin. There's an old joke that we regard the Decalogue as the "Ten Suggestions". So it's fairly rare that an Episcopalian requests confession. I'm not aware of an Episcopal church in the OKC metro which has a traditional confessional booth. Not even the Cathedral - which would probably have one if it were a Roman Catholic cathedral - has a confessional booth.

No, I'm not going to tell what I confessed. That's not the point of this reflection.

I have made this sort of official, personal, confession three times before - shortly before I was confirmed, once in the late 70s, and once in the early 80s. Each time I did the form as found in the Book of Common Prayer - similar to what you've seen in the old movies - stated my sin, received absolution, and was given a penance.

Unlike those times, the priest and I spoke at length prior to performing the rite. She was not satisfied with simply hearing the name of the sin, she wanted to know what lay behind it. She wanted to know where my regrets lay. She wanted to know what made me vulnerable to temptation.

I worked harder, and went deeper, than I have in some time. I was frequently uncomfortable. I often felt defensive. But I walked through it.

Toward the end of this work, she again asked what I believed made me vulnerable to temptation in this instance. I answered with the first feeling that came to mind: "Loneliness". And it fit.

My penance was two-fold: find a Psalm which addressed my loneliness, and pray it for thirty days; and, to offer my loneliness to God. Now, on the first point, I sought a Psalm which used the word "lonely" or "loneliness"; there aren't any in the New International Version (one of two concordances I have handy). So I am following a system in the Book of Common Prayer whereby one reads about two and half psalms in the morning, and the same number in the evening. Using this system, one reads the entire Psalter in a month.

Since there wasn't a psalm that used the word "lonely" in it, I decided to write my own. While I was at it, I decided to reflect on other ways I tend to err. This resulted in "Prayer in My Loneliness". It may sound like a cry for help, but it's more the result of a cry for help (eg, my confession).

The poem quickly found its own form, as these things do: a five-line stanza, in which the first two lines offer something to God (in Jesus). The next four lines vary somewhat, but basically attribute some complementary quality to Jesus, then affirm that only Jesus has the power to heal the wound or dis-ease.

Each stanza begins with a different titles for Jesus - intentionally avoiding the standard title of "Lord" (which I find meaningless). The titles do not necessarily reflect on the sin I'm discussing in that stanza; or if they do, it's mostly unintentional. The final stanza returns to the focus on my loneliness with the hope - perhaps even assurance - that Jesus will find blessing in the loneliness.

Obviously, one thing which caught my attention was the priest's directive to "offer" my loneliness to God. I heard this as being distinct to "turn it over to Jesus" which has become so rote to have lost its meaning. But to offer something to another implies that it is a gift; I don't know what benefit there is in my loneliness at this time, nor what blessing it may hold. But I trust that my prayer and the discipline of reading the psalms each day will lead me to discern the blessing.

Cat Friday

DJ Stretches
Here's the lady doing one of her yoga exercises. She has suggested that I post a picture of myself every so often. She's not comfortable being the only model around here.

Here's a shot our friend Alexandria took this past Sunday.

Jonah Plays
I am leading rehearsal for the Cathedral's Taize service. Someone else actually led the music during service, but she was in a play prior to service. So I volunteered to lead rehearsal.

You may note that I'm wearing a watch. This is relatively rare for the weekend, when I like to remove time's shackle. But I did want to be mindful of chronos leading up to the time appointed for pre-service silence.

Rehearsal went well. We rehearsed one hymn a cappella, after I had played the beginning bass-tenor-alto triad, and it sounded marvelous. This was a testament to our regular director, who has patiently led us through each song, part-by-part.

The regular choir director flew in about five minutes before service, and all went well.