Thursday, June 29, 2006

Watonga VBS: Part II

The Vacation Bible School portion of each day only occupies a few hours. Preparations begin around 9:00. Volunteers drive around town to pick up the kids (with parent or guardian permission) at 9:30 am. The kids arrive between 9:30 and 10. Volunteers then take the kids home around 1:00, after which we clean up the church.

The Episcopal mission does not currently have its own building in Watonga — although one is (finally) under construction. The mission's services are held in the Indian Baptist Church, which is also where the Vacation Bible School has been held for at least the past three years.

Jim, the deacon serving the mission, is very intentional about sharing Native American traditions and culture with the volunteers. Every year, he takes us on a tour of sites relating to the ministry of St. Oakerhater. He arranges for dinner speakers who share their knowledge or experience of Native American customs.

I wrote at length about the historical tour in this entry from two years ago. In re-reading the entry, I note how many things I got wrong: for example, I say the place where St. Oakerhater is buried is south of Faye, OK; as it turns out, it's actually in Watonga.

St. David Pendleton Oakerhater's grave

Cheyenne Cosmology
On Wednesday evening, Blu Clark gave a presentation on Cheyenne Cosmology. He began by comparing the Cheyenne mythos with the traditional Western mythos. "When we think of the sky, or the heavens, we think of positive things," he said, "the same is true of the Cheyenne. They believed the sky was the place of the Father God, who provided the rain and sun which planted the seeds for food."

"When we think of the area below the earth, we think of a negative place, which many call Hell. Although the Cheyenne would not have a word (or concept) equivalent to the tradtional Christian image of Hell, they did think of the underworld as a chaotic negative area."

"The disk we walk upon, which many Cheyenne tribes believed was supported by a turtle, was considered feminine — just as we often talk of Mother Earth. This brought forth the abundance which Father Sky had planted."

Blu continued with a discussion of the Cheyenne sense of direction. According to him, the Cheyenne are distinct in observing what we might call "cross-quarter" directions. In other words, most other American Indigenous Peoples understand the cardinal directions in the same way most westerners do. The Cheyenne understand "north" to be where we point for north-east.

Last year, I wrote at length about the animal spirits which reside in each of these cross-quarter directions. The directions are also related to seasons, and times in human development, and also represent colors.
  • NE = Red = Birth
  • SE = Yellow = Youth
  • SW = Black = Adult
  • SE = White = Old Age / Sage
Bugs found at the Whirlwind Mission Cemetary

A Choctaw's Life
Wednesday's presentation was by LaDonna, who, as I recall, is a Choctaw.

LaDonna shared that growing up she had been warned of the white man's ways and the white man's religion. Considering how most Native American nations where treated by our government and missionaries, one can hardly wonder why she was raised this way.

LaDonna has always been a spiritual seeker. In addition to attending ceremonies of the Native American Church (a product of the late 19th or early 20th century), she has also followed the Buddhist tradition. In fact, she helped build a Buddhist meditation center in Oklahoma City.

LaDonna's partner invited her to our church. The partner asked LaDonna to at least give it a try, since the church was the partner's home. Once there, LaDonna discovered a welcoming community that she has become increasingly engaged in.

The Choctaw are one of the "Five Civilized Tribes", so called because early Spanish exporers thought their villages seemed resembled European settlements. The Choctaw were primarily farmers, so they tended to stay in one place — unlike the Plains Indians, who were primarily nomadic.

The Choctaw are also known for their strong sense of charity. For example, during the Irish Famine of 1847 they collected $710, which was sent to aid those starving in Ireland. The Irish still honor this gesture; when LaDonna recently visited Ireland, she was treated as a visiting dignitary.

LaDonna has a beautiful singing voice, and shared a pair of songs from a Choctaw Hymnal. This hymnal was a gift from her grandmother. As Pam noted, one could hear LaDonna's deep spirituality expressed through her singing.

Next: Parting gestures and final thoughts

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Watonga Vacation Bible School

This is the third year I have been involved in the Vacation Bible School our church offers to the mission church in Watonga, OK. Watonga is a little over an hour west of Oklahoma City. The town's economy is primarily supported by farming and a near-by prison.

The main crop is wheat. Since there has been little rain since late 2005, there is not much wheat crop to harvest. So, Watonga is even more depressed right now than normal.

There are now three churches that offer three different Vacation Bible Schools in Watonga: ours, one from Norman, and one from Duncan. We go because Watonga is the historic home of St. David Pendleton Oakerhater, a Cheyenne warrior who became a deacon in the Episcopal Church.

He founded an Indian Mission and Boarding school a few miles south of Watonga. Sometime in the early 1900s, he was forced to close that mission, and opened a new one closer to Watonga.

As I see it, our Vacation Bible School is one way we continue St. Oakerhater's ministry to the people in this area, especially the Native Americans.

There are not many places for our "missioners" to stay in Watonga: a couple of bed & breakfasts, two or three motels, and a lodge about 6 miles north of town. The current deacon for the mission, Rev. Jim, always selects the least expensive motel in town. This is in consideration of the fact that our church covers the cost of the motel for the missioners.

The motel we stayed in last year was especially bad: bugs, suspicious plastic covering on the bed, generally unhealthy atmosphere in the rooms. One day, we chose to put quarters in the drier in order to have clean towels. That motel burned sometime in the past few months. I walked by the motel, and my immediate suspicion was "insurance fire".

The place we stayed this year was much better, by comparison. The primary down-side was initial haggling about the number of rooms we had reserved, and the loss of hot water on Thursday and Friday. Regarding that latter point, it turned out that a water line had broken.

Ten adults (some for only a day), and five young people from our church were volunteered. About thirty youth from the town attended, from toddler to teen-age; the town's teen-agers also helped looked after the youngest children.

It rained Wednesday night, and some Thursday morning, and our voluteers chose to keep the kids inside. That meant a lot of pent-up energy in a relatively small space. The noise level was rather maddening.

I was worried we'd have the same situation on Friday, when it rained even more. Normally, we take the VBS kids swimming on Friday; it's something we promise them every day. It's an out-door pool, which means it's not safe during a thunderstorm. So, once again, we had to keep the kids inside and reluctantly disappoint them with the loss of the promised swimming. But they were better behaved on Friday. Pam, the official storyteller for the VBS, suspected barometric pressure was a factor in the kids' wildness on Thursday.

Next: Tours and presentations
Post #1600

Idée d’jour

It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.
— Bill Watterson, comic strip artist (1958- ), in his comic strip Calvin & Hobbes

Monday, June 26, 2006

Idée d’jour

If we would have new knowledge, we must get a whole world of new questions.
— Susanne K. Langer, professor of philosophy

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Why I've Been Gone

I've been out of town since Tuesday afternoon. I had a pressing project on Tuesday, so didn't have time to notify you, faithful reader, that I would be out of pocket for three days. Sans computer, sans internet access.

I went with a group of other people from my church to offer Vacation Bible School in Watonga, OK, a barely-there community about an hour west of OKC (as the raven flies). This is the third year I've made this "mission trip," and I've posted somewhat obsessively detailed reports in the past. Compared to past years, this VBS was rather low key in some respects. The report may turn out to be more brief than in the past.

In any case, I'm back. I have some pictures to share. One in particular, of a craft created by one of the children attending our VBS, may prove to be of special interest. Especially to Pam.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Self Portrait, 19June06

Self Portrait, 19June06

Today's entry in the self portrait marathon. I took the picture of me yesterday morning, when I was charmed by how the dawning sun illuminated one side of my face. I took a back-up shot of the bookshelf this morning. Look closely, and you'll note a difference in angle and lighting.

As to part of my face being transparent, we'll leave that to the arm-chair psychologists and closet mystics to discern.

I don't really intend this self-portrait thing to be a daily practice. I'm not that enamored of my face. Believe it or don't.

Idée d’jour can't observe life as you're living it.
— Alynda Wheat, in review of Carolyn Parkhurst's novel, Lost and Found; Entertainment Weekly, June 18, 2006, pg 78

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Praising the Muse

We praise the Muse who calls us to hide in plain site, like Poe's lost letter.
We praise the Muse who flips the card picturing the Pale Rider.
We praise the Muse who kisses our pencil.
We praise the Muse who sleeps beside our words.
We praise the Muse who leads us to our subterranean river.

The Muse may treat us like a one-night stand, yet we praise her.
The Muse may sell our dreams with an ice cream jingle, yet we praise her.
The Muse may bind our hearts with adamantine chains, yet we praise her.
The Muse may be as fleeting as the wind, as faithful as a cat,
yet we praise her.

The Muse has a snake twining up her arm.
We praise her.
The Muse dances naked in our living room.
We praise her.
The Muse drinks our fantasies.
We praise her.
The Muse demands, she does not deign to tempt.
We praise her.

I bring my lonely army of empty words,
I bring my blank calendar pages,
I bring my half-filled notebooks,
I bring my darkening voice,
I bring my first words and my last,
I bring them all to the altar of the muse.
This started as a comment in response to this post by the lovely Ms. Candide. These words are for you, Sam.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Self Portrait 06June17

Self Portrait 06June17.

This is my first entry in the "self portrait marathon" initiated by Augustine and Sparky. The image on the left was captured in May (remember my "Miami Mice" shot?). The image of the lady, on the right, was captured yesterday morning. There is some slight background distortion.

Idée d’jour

For $10,000 I'd endorse an opium pipe.
Fanny Brice, comic and chanteuse; famously fictionalized in Funny Girl and Funny Lady

Neighbor's Flowering Bush

Neighbor's Flowering Bush 06June16.

As I was taking pictures of my fledgling butterfly garden yesterday morning, I also took this shot of a bush in my neighbor's yard. The bush grows at the southeast corner of the neighbor's house. The house is to the west of me.

The woman who lived in this house passed away a year ago. Her son in-law, and a young man I presume is his son, have been slowly redoing the interior of the house. Their yard work has been spotty at best. I doubt they've bothered to water this bush.

Considering the heat and lack of rain for the past two to three months, this must be a very hardy breed of bush.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wild Flower

This is actually a Rose of Sharon. The flash over-exposed the flower, so I took the shot into my cyber dark room and started to play. It may not be art, but it's interesting. (Click the image for full-sized view)
Post #1590

Friday Five: Catching Some zzzzzzz

This week's questions regarding blessed sleep come courtesy of Reverend Mother.
  1. In what kind of environment do you sleep best?
    As little light as possible. Mild temperature (around 70°). Two pillows. In the summer, I either sleep in the buff, or in my undies. In the winter, I wear pajama top, but only boxer shorts below.

  2. How much sleep do you need to feel consistently well-rested?
    Around 8 hours is ideal. If I get less than six hours, I can be pretty grouchy.

  3. Night owl or morning person?
    Morning person. I wake up 6 whether the alarm is set or not. Sleeping late means I slept until 8.

  4. Favorite cure for insomnia
    Favorite cause of insomnia — drinking caffeine any time after about 1 pm. Second most likely suspect are times of stress, when I feel like there are not enough hours in the day to complete my appointed tasks. In the second instance, I do my best to release those anxieties before I go to sleep. When I hit my limit of restless or sleepless nights (~3-4 in a row), I take a Benedril and three ibuprofen.

  5. To snooze or not to snooze? Why or why not?
    I took the occasional nap before DJ & I adopted each other. Under DJ's tutelage and encouragement, I have become a fan of the power nap. My naps typically last about a half hour. DJ still has me beat though - her naps can last as long as three hours.

Cat Friday

The lady poses. This shot was taken a little after 6 o'clock this morning.

We very nearly did not have a feline shot today. The photographer was a gardener last night. I totally broke up the ground in the little plot on the south side of the house last night. I started around 6 pm, and didn't quit until around 8. I had no trouble getting to sleep. In fact, I drifted off a bit after 9, as I lay on the couch.

Did have a struggle getting out of bed this morning. But here I am.

If you'll scroll down to my "New Moon Planting" post, you'll note that I've corrected the plant names. After a fashion. I tested the flowers on the taller plant, and sure enough, it's dill (as Sam suggested in her comment on the previous post). All I know about the other, at this point, is that it is not basil. The fronds have no discernable aroma, so no clues there.

Through it all, her royal catness has been very tolerant.

Idée d’jour

One of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.
— Charles A. Beard, historian (1874-1948)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bon Jour!

Your Inner European is French!
Smart and sophisticated.
You have the best of everything - at least, you think so.
Who's Your Inner European?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

New Moon Planting

Dill 06May13 .

Unknown 06May13.

After visiting Brother Dave's estates, I was inspired to attempt some planting. Linda is a member of the local Master Gardener society, and has done some lovely landscaping. I was especially impressed with plants that drew butterflies (such as lantana), and vowed to do something similar when I got home.

Linda strongly advised I look at local nurseries rather than box stores, such as Home Despot. She had recommended several plants, and I settled on lantana and dill. I went to a farmer's market sponsored by a local vo-tech. I bought lantana and dill (about $3 total). The lady who sold me the dill said basil would draw butterflies as well.

My cyber friend, Sam, had blogged that the new moon was an excellent time to plant things. She suggested they would come to fruition by the full moon.

By the time I got the plants home, it was too hot to think about planting. I set them on a shaded window sill. It was a windy afternoon, and the lantana blew off. It looked pretty sad when I got around to planting it, and it has subsequently wilted away.

Ironically, my neighbor (who is also quite a gardener) pointed out that some lantana had volunteered itself on the east side of my house. Well, I'm not so obsessive that I need to have all my "butterfly plants" in one place. It can stay where it's happy.

Dill 06June11 .

Unknown 06June11

The full moon is tonight. As you can see from these photographs, Sam was right.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Five: Rain

Today's conversation starters are offered by Songbird. She is experiencing a surfeit of percipitation. Here in the home of the dustbowl, on the other hand, we are experiencing a derth of wet stuff.
  1. Favorite way to spend a rainy day
    With a good book. Or a romantic movie. Or watching the rain.
  2. Favorite song about rain
    "It's Raining, It's Pouring", or the Beatles song ("Rain")
  3. Favorite movie featuring rain
    Say Anything. The obvious Gene Kelly movie shall not be mentioned.
  4. Favorite piece of raingear, past or present
    Poncho purchased in Winfield, KS, as response to torrential downpour during music festival. That poncho is now a permanent ficture in my suitcase.
  5. Favorite word for rain
    Cloudburst. Least favorite image is the whole "God or angels crying" thing.

Friday's Cat

DJ last night

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Idée d’jour

We may not return the affection of those who like us, but we always respect their good judgment.
— Lillian Carter, mother of President Jimmy Carter

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Skeleton of Words

Morning makes its appointed rounds.
I see a rainbow
painted on eastern clouds
with a dry brush.

I've bound your song
to my arm,
where my heart beats.

Your smile scampers
up your cheeks,
and sparkles your noon-tide eyes.

Your honey lingers through twilight,
through branching streets,
through dancing shadows.
Your honey is a rainbow song
I wrap myself in like a blanket.

This thin skeleton of words
is the fragile shell
I've constructed for your dream.

Idée d’jour

Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.
Colette (1873-1954)
Post #1580

Friday, June 02, 2006

Blockbuster Friday Five

As suggested by Reverend Mother. As a bonus, we are invited to guess which movies inspired these questions.
  1. If you were a mutant, what ability would you like to have? (think superpower)
    Funny, this came up in the RLP chatroom a couple of weeks back. Only then we were considering superpowers based on talents we already have. Mine was a superior knowledge of basically useless trivia.
    The question is inspired by the movie X-Men III: The Last Stand. In the movie, the government discovers a drug which will make mutants "normal." Having been born with a very visible birth defect, this is a question that speaks to me. From birth through high school I went under the knife several times for plastic surgery intended to make me look more normal. Sometime during my college years — or perhaps slightly after — I learned to accept that my current appearance is as close to normal as I'm going to ever be. I learned to live with my face as it is.

  2. Tell us about a memorable road trip you've experienced.
    The bus ride to Princeton, NJ, would count. I went with a high school friend, Gary S. Seems like the trip took at least three days and two nights. We arrived at Grand Central Station sleep deprived. I don't think I ever recovered during the three months I stayed in the four-person artists' colony. Four dudes in a two-bedroom apartment.
    I assume this question was inspired by RV, by all accounts a Robin Williams movie worth avoiding.

  3. Do you enjoy solving riddles and working on puzzles? If so, what kinds?
    I work crossword puzzles on-line every day. I used to be quite adept at cryptoquotes, but seem to have lost the knack. I'll confess that when I read a mystery novel — one of my favorite genres — I rarely try to solve that puzzle. I'm happy to follow the main character, and let him or her do all the work.
    This question was inspired by The Da Vinci Code. I have not seen it, but suspect I will.

  4. Take two of your phobias and combine them to make a campy horror/disaster flick. What would it be called?
    The main phobia I'm aware of is a fear of heights. Related to that is a mild fear of flying. These might fit into the next Final Destination sequel (God forfend), but I can't imagine a whole movie built around them.
    There are a couple of horror movies out at present, See No Evil and Silent Hill. This question was possibly inspired by one or both of these.

  5. Just how batsh*t crazy is Tom Cruise, anyway?
    He's a Scientologist, a "religion" essentially created by the writer of mediocre pulp science fiction (L. Ron Hubbard). 'Nuff said. Mr. Cruise may be slightly crazier than John Travolta, who is also a Scientologist. I suspect we enjoy taking pot shots at Tom because he has been on such a high pedastel of popularity until his couch-jumping and anti-psychiatrist antics of the past year.
    Oh yeah, Mr. Cruise has a bang-bang boom-boom movie out this summer based on a TV spy show of the 1960s.

Friday's Cat

DJ near Bolivia
DJ and I got a good nap when I got home from work yesterday. As soon as I had changed, I became one with the couch. Shortly after, DJ became one with my chest. It was a quite homey scene. I slept for an hour, she slept at least a half hour longer.

Of course, this provided DJ with considerable energy for running back and forth the remainder of the evening. I was lucky to catch this shot with minimal blur. It was taken with my high-powered Digital SLR; f-stop 5.6, don't recall what the shutter speed was. I was also playing with an ISO of 1000. Not sure how much influence those ISO settings play with a digital camera, so I indulged in an experiment.

Behind and to the right of our lady is a guitar case Elsie brought back from Bolivia. It's too small for any of my guitars - I suspect it was made for a parlor-sized guitar. But it does add some color to my living space.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thinking 'bout Salvation

One of the things one rarely talks about at work is religion. It’s part of that triad of topics traditionally considered to be taboo at the table (the other two being sex and politics), and that same triad is typically avoided at work. Given the demographics of this particular office and state (the latter being the buckle of the Bible Belt), it’s safe to assume most of my co-workers are Christian. But only two have talked about it to any degree.

One is Dianne, who is an African American and a member of a Baptist Church. I mention Dianne’s cultural heritage only because the African American Baptists are very distinct in their traditions and beliefs than Caucasian Baptists.

I’ll admit I am prejudiced – against Baptists. When I learned Dianne was a Baptist, I feared she would try to proselytize me. I feared we would argue about some arcane of theology. I learned over time that Dianne was a reasonable person, and wasn’t concerned with proselytizing her co-workers. In fact, she was involved in her church in ways similar to how I was involved in mine.

The first Christmas after I joined the office, I gave Dianne a card in which I wrote how glad I was to work in an area with a fellow Christian. Since then, she has approached me as a friend and sibling in the faith.

Yesterday, she told me about an incident that happened when she and team of missionaries went to witness to a relatively rough neighborhood. After she knocked, a man came to the door, and she asked him if he had thought about his salvation.

He responded that he hadn’t, and he didn’t care about it.

She was shocked by his response, and seemed to hope that I would be shocked as well.

I assume the man just didn’t want to be bothered, and had chosen a rude method of communicating that message. I also pointed out that it was possible he was trying to get a rise out of her. There are people who enjoy getting other peoples’ goat.

If she was disappointed that I didn’t share her shock, she didn’t let on. But she just couldn’t understand how someone could be so cavalier about their eternal state.

Episcopalians don’t talk about salvation very much. Even a recovering Baptist who has transferred her membership to the Episcopal church is not likely to ask: "Have you been saved," even though that was once part of her tradition. An Episcopalian is more likely to give you a dissertation on the root meaning of the word (root of salvation is salve, which means to be healed or whole).

What question would I have posed to the man, if I had been part of Dianne’s team?

When I ask myself this, I immediately remember a scene from the musical version of The Cottonpatch Gospel. The musical, by Harry Chapin, translates the traditional story of Jesus’ life to the deep South during segregation. In one scene, Jesus meets Matthew (the tax collector) for the first time. Jesus sits across the table and asks, "Do you like what you’re doing?"

I think that might be a more meaningful question to many people. There’s more concern about current needs and pleasures than the future. And one of the most common criticisms of Christianity is that it’s all pie in the sky in the great by and by. What might the response be if I asked person if they were pleased with how their life is right now?

How would I respond? I may not seem happy, but I am joyous. And I take solace in the belief that I do not walk my road alone.


Some time a little over a month ago, I received an e-mail invitation to attend a retirement party. The name of the retiree was unfamiliar to me, but that's not unusual; I'm infamously poor at remembering names. As I mentioned to a church friend last Sunday, if I don't repeat the name at least once a week, it gets lost. In this instance, I could not recall the face that belonged to Carol K–.

There were a number of addresses in the e-mail's header, many of which belonged to names I associate with Oklahoma City's poetry community. I'm at the far periphery of this community, but consider it to be filled with kindred spirits. I took it for granted I would recognize the honoree once I saw her. I also took it for granted that I would see at least one or two other familiar faces.

The retirement reception was Tuesday. It was held at a local church; people had been asked to arrive no later than 6:15. The church is close to where I work, so I would have some time to kill. Happily, there is a cafeteria across the street from the church, and I had dinner prior to the reception.

I ambled the block from the cafeteria to the church. The reception was in the meeting hall, which is on the southwest side of the church building. I walked in and looked around, hoping to see at least one familiar face.

For a moment, I feared I was in the wrong place. I almost asked. Then I saw Frank. Frank is a mentor of the Norman Poetry community. He founded an organization called Independent Artists of Oklahoma (IAO), which still exists today. I recall the original as being relatively avant-garde ; the current incarnation is slightly more mainstream.

I was on the way to say hello to Frank when Sandy came up to me, and started sharing her affection for Carol. It turned out Sandy remembered me from days when I was more actively involved with the poetry scene. We had a lovely chat, which included Sandy complimenting my voice. She has experience in radio and voice-overs, and naturally has an ear for such things. So we compared notes on our radio experience.

I visited with Frank for a while. I visited with his companion, Sarah, for several minutes. A bit after 6:15, Carol K– came in.

I recognized her immediately. We have more communities in common than just poetry.

I probably first met her through her church, which is Unitarian. I have sung at that church a few times, as half of a folk duo. In many ways I consider myself Unitarian by adoption.

I've also seen her at several poetry events. I think she's heard me read at least once.

I've also seen her at folk music events, such as the annual Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah (coming July 13-15 this year).

Carol K– and I have at least three circles that intersect. It turned out Carol was retiring from teaching. There was opportunity for folk to share favored memories of Carol — so she got a well-rounded Tom Sawyer experience — and many of those memories had to do with how her teaching had touched their lives or the lives of their children. Her active support of poetry led people to refer to her as both doyen and grand dam.
Paper Butterfly
Pictured: Butterfly decoration on digitally-generated background

Hearing stories of how one person has touched so many lives is inspirational. It was clear, from the affection of the group, that Carol didn't help people so they would say nice things about her when she was gone, or for ego strokes, but because that's who she is. She is clearly a person who knows that helping others is part of what it means to be human.

I came to the reception in hopes of widening my social circle. One reason I hope to widen my social circle is to counteract an undertone of loneliness I'm currently experiencing. Another reason is the suspicion that I'm more likely to meet that special someone if I get out more often.

These are, admittedly, rather selfish reasons. But I was rewarded with more than I sought. I saw how once person, who gave of her time and talents simply because it was the right thing to do, touched lives in every circle she was a part of.

Carol K– has clearly been a light to the people she's met. I have no doubt she will continue to teach through example, and continue to be a light.

Discovering the intersection of our circles shed light in my world.