It’s a nice spring day here at the pool. Sitting with those who wait.
The pool is empty. As usual.
Most of us glance intermittently at the pool, some stare.
There are circles around the pool. Those on the edge sit or lay right on the precipice, so they can throw themselves in at the first sign of Movement.
My mother always said that I think too much. She was probably right.
I figure the pool has to be spring fed. But you can’t see from where. I’ve looked.
Once in a while a great bubble comes up from somewhere below. They say it is the Holy One’s own breath. I’m not sure what That One would be doing down below. I’ve always been told That One was somewhere up above.
Anyway, sometimes the earth belches, and then the front row dives or falls in as fast as they can. They say if you get in first - it helps. Can’t say as I’ve seen that - But there are stories. Hard to tell who is first most of the time. Just a big splash. And then we have to fish out all the not-firsts before they drown.
I’m in the third row. I don’t have much of a chance. But it’s less boring and lonely than laying around the house. We get our news here. We tell jokes. And people drop off food and it's passed around by the halt but not-completely lame.
Some go home at night, for some this is home. People’s spots are saved – this is sacred. Ancient Asher died of old age waiting – his crippled son took his place, so I guess your spot can be hereditary.
We get our amusement where we can. Front row people are supposed to be vigilant. But it gets boring, and guys don’t feel good, and they sleep. If someone is leaning, and sleeping, and in danger of falling, we usually nudge them or roll them back from the edge. But this afternoon Levi, Levi was perched. Like perfectly balanced into the lean. And sound asleep. Everyone stopped watching the pool and started watching Levi. It was silent. It was like the whole world got silent.
Levi wavered, he teetered.
Then that smartass Dan started count backwards.
Kahmesh (5)… he whispered.
And right then Levi started to fall. And the entire host shouted AKHAT!
Right as Levi’s nose touched the water.
And everyone to the fourth circle who could move jumped in right after him!
The bowl was full of bodies. All the water was out of the pool.
But the laughter, and the shouting! What a din!
I am sure that we disturbed the prayers in the Holy Places.
It took many minutes to extricate everyone. Unbending limbs. Shaking out beards.
We put everyone back in their places.
And then we noticed.
I shouted, Where is Levi?
Great hubbub and searching.
Levi was nowhere to be found.
It took days for the pool to refill, up from below, slowly.
Someone said they saw Levi, walking on the road to Bethany.
But that is probably just a story.
Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom
Albuquerque is all about the billboards - the one pictured above is ginormous and the centipede is three dimensional. Their new one has a giant (at least 25 ft) scorpion threatening 1-25 traffic. These warnings say a lot about the environment here.
We recently had a different company take care of our black widows after we found more than a few and those mate-killers and they had egg sacks ready to go.
Speaking of mate-killers I came out onto the deck one evening and saw this.
At first I thought that finding a praying mantis on the hummingbird feeder was a good thing - it meant that the black widow poison had not killed all the beneficial bug eaters. I left her where she was. But something was poking at the back of my brain. So I put "Mantis vs. hummingbird" into Google.
Up popped this from none other than the Audubon Society
"It’s rare, but it’s gruesome." Occasionally a PREYING mantis does snatch a hummingbird out of the air. I guess they have tasty brains or something. (photo from Audubon site)
SO... I went back out on the deck with a flashlight and a broom and made the ambitious mantis move along. Danged if she wasn't right back in the same spot in the morning. Apparently our resident mantis is an aspiring big game hunter. This time I took her to the farthest spot in the yard.
On the way back I saw one of our two resident bunnies - a juvenile (about 6 inches.)
Not much cuter than a baby bunny.
I stepped back up on the deck and watched the bun for a minute or two. A dose of cute did me good at that point. But soon I had a weird feeling of having eyes on me. I looked left - and there - six feet from my head sitting on the deck screen was a very larger raptor. Raptor looked at me and I looked at bun. Raptor looked at bun.
I clapped by hands and yelled "RUN!" and she did.
Big bad bird gave me a dirty look and lazily flew off.
Not today, Mr. Hawk - Not today.
I did not get a pic of the hawk.
Our Lady of Junction
So There I was… Halfway across the state of Texas working on a spiritual discipline. I am mildly allergic to the entire concept of discipline. It smacks of work. It stinks of tedium. These things do not call to me.
But I do desire to be a deeply spiritual person. Not the kind of pop-faith consumer who has a new guru or path with every season. I am ready to settle down: to choose one path and stick to it, and spend the second half of my life mastering it. To do this I am afraid that I must practice a spiritual discipline or two. The purpose of practicing any spiritual discipline is twofold: to aerobically exercise the soul and to increase awareness of The Divine. The traditional practices of prayer, fasting, simplicity, and so on, have great merit, and I occasionally work at them.
I have found a new discipline that suits me, and stretches me in ways I never thought possible. It is the discipline of Spiritual Adventure. The Discipline of Spiritual Adventure is not just simple thrill seeking, but the intentional choosing of the less certain way in order to allow the Divine maximum room to move.
When we are outside of our comfort zone, when we are on an unknown path, our senses are heightened, including our spiritual senses that so often lay dormant as we proceed through life on autopilot. We pay more attention to detail. We are aware of, and communicate our thoughts and desires, more diligently to our Designer. We listen better. Choice is an essential piece of Spiritual Adventure. We must acknowledge, embrace, and take responsibility for the freedom we are given as eternal children of a Divine Creator. An adventure that is not freely chosen is a detour at best, and sometimes a nightmare.
Many of us use our freedom to so fill our lives with busyness, structure and control that there is no room for adventure. We do this almost with out thinking, unconsciously barricading our life against the unknown. But I tell you, it is still choice; it is intentional, and intention counts. It is not a spiritual adventure if you are treading a well-worn path. Fresh road is required. Navigating not by memory, but by a combination of reason and trust.
To practice this discipline you must become aware of crossroads when you come to them. Often they are not marked or obvious. Daily we make decisions that will change our entire future; often it is only in hindsight that we see it. The discipline of Spiritual Adventure says that we can develop foresight and a present awareness that allows us to be fully conscious participants in our choices. And beyond that it tells us that the universe is trustworthy and that we can renounce fear, and trust our Creator and our own spiritual senses to keep us away from real disaster when we choose uncertain paths. A crossroads is a pivotal place where fear wrestles with obedience. It is one of the best places I know of to develop discernment, or wisdom listening. But we do not seek this discipline purposeless, we seek it with the desire, the craving, to see with our own eyes the movement, influence, and evidence of the Divine.
We can only see this when we get our plans, agendas and ourselves out of the way. There are no preplanned spaces in my calendar for miracles. Spiritual adventure can be fun, but often it isn’t. It is always stretching. Even a genuine miracle can be scary at the time -- just ask Jonah. It doesn’t always feel safe, but practiced properly it is safe. In fact, it is much safer than living a spiritually unaware, unawake life.
risk taking is betting on your luck, or your skill; and like any bet
the odds can be good, or the shot can be a long one. Spiritual Adventure
presumes that there is another player, and that the other has your true
best interests as its goal and guiding principle. This is an essential
truth: yes, the house always wins, but you and the house have intimate
In Loco Parentis
I was married on my twentieth birthday. Back in the Mesozoic Era (1977). On that day my parents ceased to have any legal authority over me, they no longer had legal parental care responsibilities for me, and would not have been the first choice to make legal or medical decisions on my behalf if need be. All those rights and responsibilities conveyed to my 24 year old husband. When my father walked me down the aisle and handed me over to the young man of my youthful choice, the symbolism was real. For one year there were certain ways in which he was both by spouse and legal parent. I thought getting married would make me an adult - I wasn't prepared for the ways in it would continue my childhood.
We were students in New Mexico (where I once again live.) When the college had a river-rafting field trip - I could not sign my own liability waiver - he had to sign a permission slip for me. I thought that was kind of funny.
I was not old enough to buy alcohol, but in any restaurant in the state he could say "...and I would like to buy a margarita for my wife." and no questions were asked. I had a ring on my left hand. If we ever did get carded - they carded him - not me - because my age did not matter if he was buying for me. I could have been sixteen, and if legally married - which my father could have consented to - I could drink - or not - as my husband wished. The legal doctrine for this is In Loco Parentis - he was legally acting in the place of a parent. In New Mexico at that time - a Pater Familias could put wine on the table and pour out to the children - he decided how much they could handle. I thought it was kind of cool to have what I thought were adult privileges early.
When I was a single girl, especially a white girl, I could open a bank account - I had one in Illinois when I was a child, and got checks made when I was 16. At 18 they added a question - to all women opening accounts - "Are you married?" because if you were, you needed your husband's signature. Hmm.
Shortly after the wedding I went down to the women's clinic and had a check up and asked for birth control pills. "Are you married? oh, then we need your husband to fill out and sign this form saying he approves." This time it did not matter if I was was 20 or 21. I did not like this one bit - but I had him fill out the form.
Ten years, and two children later - Now in Oregon, I told my doctor that I was satisfied with two children and wanted to have my tubes tied. My doctor wanted assurances that my husband was also satisfied. Then or now, a man can walk into his doctor's office and ask for a vasectomy and no one else's opinion matters.
In 2005 after my father's passing and receiving my inheritance, I asked my bank for a credit card in my own name. They wanted my husband to co-sign. But my rights had changed by this time and I made a stink, and quoted law, and got my own line of credit. What I did not know was that inheritance did not count as marital property - I could have put that money away in an account in my own name, but I did not. My inheritance got spent on marital expenses and was gone by the time of the divorce 2 years later.
Rights, as it turns out are temporal, and sometimes fragile. You can't buy booze for kids in a restaurant in New Mexico anymore. And as of this year, a women's fertility may not be in her own control.
There is a contingent of misogynistic, patriarchal people in this country (and they are not all men,) who want to turn back time. Make sure that women can only marry men. Make sure that men control women's finances and fertility. They would prefer that women don't vote. They would make women legally children if they could. Maybe even decide if they can get a drink.
We are not so far from having women who appear to be of child bearing age being denied alcohol, or plane tickets, because they 'might' be pregnant and the decision should not be theirs to make.
Ten years ago, deep in the Obama years, I would have laughed at this notion.
I am not laughing any more.
Because I remember being a married child.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is high desert. It is at the tippy top of the Chihauhuan Desert which is mostly in Mexico, but flows up the Rio Grande Valley. This allows a wonderful, miraculous thing to happen every summer. Just when the summer gets really hot and unbearable, moisture flows into Mexico from the Gulf to the East, or the Gulf to the West, and flows landward; it hits the mountains and mixed with all the heat, forms thunder heads which rain on the dry lands. Because of the mountains of the continental divide, this weather pattern comes north into Arizona and New Mexico. It doesn't really so much move, like storms across the great plains - it blossoms, it bubbles up, and then it pours down.
The people who have lived here the longest call these the male rains. They are blustery, and involve a lot of lighting and thunder. Winter rains, female rains, are less dramatic. Winter rains are also more prudent, and stockpile in the mountains in the form of snow and feed the valleys for months. And just when that winter bounty runs out, the noisy, fast, loud rains come. This is when you need to stay out of the arroyos. Believe the Earth. When you see what looks like a riverbed, believe it is a riverbed at least sometimes. If you pitch you tent on that nice flat sandy ground, when the daddy rains come he can make you very sorry.
The National Weather Service calls these rains monsoons. They are regular and yet notoriously difficult to predict in the specific. They can be very specific. Your neighbor an acre away can be experiencing a microburst that drops a couple of inches of rain in minutes and might include hail. You can watch this from sun-drenched, thirsty ground. Today may not be your day - tomorrow you may be bailing out the garage. We are on the edge of a Mesa with a view of the mountain. She gets wet more often than we do. We watch her and try not to be envious.
The first rain, whenever it come to you, is joyous. If you are oriented to your place, you go out and stand in it, or even dance a bit.
Every day we watch for the clouds to build. The monsoon is like a toddler working up to a fit. Sometimes he gets distracted, and calms down. Sometime he reaches full torment. Sometimes it's over the top and gets destructive. You never know.
You plant your beans and corn and squash and you hope.
But this you should know. You can't do anything about it. You can stay out of the arroyos, but you cannot make the rain come to your beans. This is a higher power. The oceans and the mountains and the deserts are old hands at this. This is an earth loving - life giving - somewhat dangerous - process. You can pray, and hope, and dance. But it is not about you. You cannot control it. Life itself is not really controlling this.
But I tell you,
love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of God.
God who causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
- Jesus, according to Matthew.
He told us to live abundantly.
He did not promise abundance.
He did say that joy would abound and grace would multiply.
And yet, living abundantly is not always easy.
I have recently come into an abundance of time.
It is actually a little disturbing.
So, I have started re-orienting myself in my safe place – the garden.
Blooming things provoke joy in me.
Grace being the interface between the Infinite Abundance, and the frail and finite - well,
Every garden is Graceland.
We’ve got just over a third of an acre, 16 thousand square feet, minus the house.
Living here before us; 13 mature trees, several large shrubs, a vine and some prickly pear cactus.
The ground is sandy and abundant with small stones – not clay,
and not the caliche concrete that causes gardeners here to despair.
It seemed to me to be ripe for enrichment. Good soil can be made from sand.
Then I put a shovel into it.
Our home is on what used to be a mesa overlooking the Rio Grande flood plain.
Of course, humans have built all over the plain, and on the mesa – out as far as the eye can see.
We are on the edge, between the two, and our lot slopes down.
When they built in 1962, they must have leveled the lot - somewhat.
My shovel found out how they did that. River rock. Tons and tons of river rock.
A compacted strata nearly a foot thick, found below 2-6 inches of decades of sand and dust.
It stopped my heaviest shovel with a crunch.
I could have left it alone and built on top.
But I am both curious and stubborn – this is known.
So, I got down on the ground with a trowel and started excavating.
Then I found the plastic. They put down a barrier under the rock.
To stop what imaginary weeds, I do not know.
Mostly shredded now by the years – but still there – now and forever.
So, one square foot at a time.
I have started hand digging, and ripping out plastic shreds and lifting rocks.
It helps that the rocks are beautiful.
Polished river rock, not from around here: quartz and jasper and granite, and I don’t know what.
It’s a treasure hunt.
A sifting that divides the land into soft root spaces and glistening pathways.
While I am down there, I am burying Alpaca Poo in every hole.
I am topping it with homemade compost.
The Book says the world started in a Garden.
Every spiritual lesson I have ever learned can be learned in a garden.
I have been in a liminal space. A waiting. A wondering what's next.
The ground itself has answered me.
RIP UP THE BARRIERS
FIND AND LIFT THE TREASURES
BURY THE SHIT
MAKE PATHWAYS AND PLACES TO PUT DOWN ROOTS
Jesus Sembrador - a parable
After the farmer sowed some tomato and lettuce seeds, quite broadly, he went to sleep. From his bed he heard a gentle night rain for it was the short rainy season. The rain made him happy. When he got up he went to check the seeds. Some had been eaten by the birds which he did not really resent because birds need to eat too. Some seemed to have settled on the nice patch of earth and were damp, and he knew they would germinate, so he pulled a few weeds and left them alone because they would be fine without intervention. But when he saw that a lot of them were sitting on some pretty bad soil, and didn't have much of a chance, and he repented, because he knew this was his fault.
So he picked some more weeds and he went over to his sister's place because his sister was a Good Shepherd, and he shoveled a bunch of sheep shit. His sister was glad to get rid of it. Then he went to his brother's place because his brother was a Good Carpenter, and he brought home a barrowful of wood shavings. He combined the three holy ingredients and let the rains fall on the pile. And the pile did compost. He dug the compost into the bad soil, and planted in a slightly more intentional manner.
In the fullness of time he and his siblings enjoyed some every good mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, because their mother baked some very fine bread.
And they said unto him "Bro - you are a Good Gardener!"