I dedicate this post to a friend whose death is close. He has chosen to die at this time rather than wait. Being kept alive by extraordinary means at an advanced age seems counterproductive to him when he could be dancing with the dead!
Enjoy this extraordinary film of the life cycle of nature in Alaska, remembering that we are nature. Today is a day to celebrate the cycle.
Matter matters as much as spirit, contrary to some thought in early Christianity. Matter was considered by some to be evil, while spirit was good. Contemporary Christian theology urges us to recognize and celebrate the reality that everything that exists is interrelated. What I do in my relationship with creation affects your ability to be nourished by and enjoy your environment. My friend Polly grew up in Eastern Washington in the farming town of Colton. She has lived most of her life somewhere east of the Cascades mountain range. Today the magnitude and urgency of fires that rage there came home to her. I share her letter as an invitation to all of us to take creation-centered spirituality seriously.
This morning I heard that Tonasket was evacuated because of fire danger–the whole town of Tonasket–a town where I spent a week while I taught vacation summer school in Oroville, living in the convent of the Dominican hospital in Tonasket. This town is evacuated because of the wildfires in the Okanogan. These places are not just names on a map, They are places I know. A Colville tribes person asked for prayers saying their reservation is burning. Also, the whole Spokane Indian Reservation is under a warning to be ready to move because of fire danger. This is getting closer to home and to the homes of people I know.
Meanwhile our air is smokey, our sun gives an eerie orangish glow, I go to my car and find particles of ash on my windshield. And since I’ve started writing this even the valley below my ridge has filled in with smoke.
But the coal trains keep on rumbling by with their multiple cars shipping coal to the west and likely into Canada on its way to China. And the black tanker cars carry their highly volatile oil to the west coast to refineries where it will become gasoline and other dangerous global warming producing products.
The drought and fires wouldn’t have to be. We in our state wouldn’t have to have had the hottest July on record since 1890 when records first started being kept, and our whole planet wouldn’t have to have had the hottest July on record. But we keep on drilling for oil and natural gas and keep on burning coal. I sob with heart-break for all this destruction that wouldn’t have to be.
Photo Credit: http://q13fox.com/2014/07/17/heart-wrenching-photos-fires-burn-houses-memories-in-twisp/
Public transportation has become my preferred way to move about my congested city and between cities. However, I am a solitary person so the crowded, loud and stuffy buses are a challenge for me. Often I am unable to muster up the spiritual energy to learn anything from a trip. I am definitely out of my comfort zone, but I bus it intentionally for the lessons I learn about being truly present to myself and others.
Recently I took two buses and a ferry to visit my friend on an island. In a cemetery along the route workers were erecting a canopy over an open grave. The scene drew me in, conjuring images of my siblings and I standing at the grave of our parents. I prayed for the loved ones of this spirit who would arrive in a few hours to say good-bye.
Soon, after one of the hundred stops the bus made, I felt a rich, reverberating and peaceful energy around me. Startled, I began to pay attention. Someone was singing. I turned on my hearing aids and was greeted with a faith-filled gospel song that seemed to emanate from a life deeply lived and a love freely given. I caught the singer’s eye and gave her a thumbs up. As the bus approached her stop she moved forward, still singing. The driver shouted, “Take it outside, will ‘ya?” I walked over, shook her hand and said, “Thank you.”
The challenge of the ride came when three “fare checkers” boarded the bus like Navy SEALs on a mission. They boomed out an introduction, asking us to have our transfers ready to prove that we had paid. Three men- one to check, two to provide muscle off the bus if necessary. I wondered what passengers without homes were experiencing during this check that felt like a raid.
On the last leg of the trip home I sat beside a sixteen year old who had traveled from a city forty-five miles south to meet another teen who said he’d buy a pair of shoes from him. The buyer was not answering his phone, so it appeared that the trip was useless. A really sweet kid who likely had no adult to navigate him through the ins and outs of business transactions. No car, but big on initiative. I tried to be present and offer him a bit of comfort and reassurance.
Taking public transportation is becoming a spiritual practice for me. Sometimes life outside my comfort zone is more real and spiritual than life ensconced safely in my contemplative anchorage.
Phonto Credit: Evening Standard