Monday, June 30, 2008

Hutterite Veggies!

We found that there is a little farmer's market here on the banks of the Missouri River in beautiful SD! A group of hutterite women were selling the most massive cabbages and cauliflowers I think I have ever seen! They also had eggs, wonderful radishes(LOVE radishes), beets rhubarb, and turkey sausage. The food was washed VERY clean and trimmed! The cauliflower and radishes are delicious. I am cooking up the beets today and plan to get one of their bowling ball size cabbages next time they are here. Hutterites are interesting folks and I will write about them as I have been thinking and reading about religion lately. Hooray for the Hutterite gardeners!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Greenest Church?

Not that its a competition, but I think that the UU's have a good shot at the title. They certainly have the "Most Open Minded" title sewed up.
I have attended Unitarian Universalist Churches for about six years now and I have been a member of one for about half that time. Now that we live in South Dakota, the closest UU church is about 150 miles away. Probably won't get there every Sunday. Our minister from Michigan, Jill McAllister, took the time to visit us today while on her way to a retreat in Oregon, and it made me realise how much I miss them. I was perusing the UUA site looking for the online UU congregation which Jill recommended and sure enough at I found the Church of The Larger Fellowship. Yes, it has a minister you can call(toll free) or e-mail, a religious ed person, materials for study and home services and what all. Pretty cool idea. Not sure about joining because the great thing about church for me is going to be with others of similar mind set. But I am going to spend some time with the website and consider joining. If you aren't familiar with the UU, they are from Christian roots, but you can't nail them down to any theology. Lots of my UU pals are secular humanists, some are Buddhists, some pagans, you just never know. I like the guiding principles a whole bunch.

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

I especially like the wording on the last principle which avoids the term "creation" which avoids offending the atheists in the crowd. I think I'll copy these and keep them handy for to see how I'm doing measuring up.

I have been thinking and reading a fair amount about religion, faith, whatever you like to call it and while I have no interest in converting or convincing, I am interested in writing about it some and exploring the religious connection to living an ecologically responsible life. So I will.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

So, Wachya readin'?

I haven't felt much like talking lately, or writing, but I have been reading. I ALWAYS read. That's why I was an English major. Anyway, I finished Skins, by Adrian C. Louis and Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie last week. Skins is the story of two brothers who grow up on Pine Ridge reservation, play football rogether, go to Viet Nam at the same time and choose very different paths. It is a moving story about love and addiction. It was made into an excellent movie starring Graham Greene and Eric Schweig and I can't recall ever having seen a closer movie rendition of a book. Except for the sex. Left that right out. Oh well.
Indian Killer is a very different murder mystery and it is a real page turner too. Set in Seattle, it is very urban and violent. Plenty to satisfy fans of the genre. But Sherman Alexie is a poet too, so the writing itself is mysterious, beautiful in a stark and disturbing way.
In addition to being great reads, each of these books deal with real-life issues of modern American Indians in an engaging, entertaining fashion. Both are written by Indians, both have lots of dry, sarcastic humor, and both books are absolutely seething with anger. The anger American Indians(and African Americans) live with is something very few white people are even aware of, much less understand. But we really need to learn about it and it is much better to listen to a story than a sermon,ennit?.
I would suggest that, at some time, you also read Killing Rage by Bell Hooks. Hooks is African American and she will provide insights into the anger people of color in the US feel that will astonish the average white person.
If you are looking for some damn good reading, you would do well to check out one or both of thse titles.
And check out the movie, Skins, too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Adios, George

If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
George Carlin

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Holy Geological Phenomena, Batman!

We visited Badlands National Park yesterday and we were, shall I say, frickin' AWED!
I have been a lot of places and seen some splendid sights, natural and human produced, but this place is just plain extraordinary. I learned that it is also home to about 200 Black-Footed ferret, the most endangered mammal in the USA. Hooray for black-footed ferrets! I'm not really all that cranked about ferrets in general, just felt like giving a ferret cheer. Anyway, all through the park and for most of the drive there and back the words "vast" and "scenic" kept running through my head. I've gotta improve my adjective storehouse I guess. All the way there I think I saw one cigarette pack on the side of the road-its so CLEAN! And the sky is huge! One really odd thing is that we saw dozens of turtles, live and (alas)squished on Interstate 90. A seven year drought has ended this spring and we figured the turtles are, what? coming out of hibernation? Migrating? We were picturing vast herds of turtles crawling across the plains to get to the now overflowing creeks, visiting with turle relatives they haven't seen in years. Curious.
On the way to maka sica(lakota for 'bad lands') we visited a homestead museum which was poorly maintained and over priced but which had a sod house built in 1909. Since I am currently reading "Giants In The Earth" by O.E. Rollvaag about South Dakota homesteaders living in sod houses, it was very cool to be able to visit and actually go inside the sod house. What a great place for energy conservation! Built into a rise in the land, it would have been so easy to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. But I would have had to finish the walls with some earth plaster or adobe, the plain old dirt with grass roots in it was just a tad too primitive.
Well, we are burning up some gas visiting places, but you have to explore when you go someplace new. And the Badlands was really worth it! We are going back there to camp in July so we can see the place at dawn and at twilight. YAY fo South Dakota!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thanks Mr.G

We survived our week with the girls. We also made it through our first day and a half without experienced staff to lean on. Actually it was pretty easy except for a bit of confusion about a disciplinary measure instituted before we came on. But no big thing and all went well. One kid was really funny; Thursday evening, when she learned we were there with them on our own she asked,"Aren't you afraid?". I said 'of what?' knowing full well what she meant. She said,"Of us". Claire and I found this pretty amusing considering the kids we have worked with in our careers. By Saturday night, this same girl was telling us about her life and her family. She and two other girls were very open about some of the really distressing details of their infancy and growing up. Maybe they're used to talking this openly with the adults with whom they spend a little time. I hope it indicates that we are easy to talk to and the kids feel safe telling us things that are painful and could be construed as embarrassing. I am really hopeful that we will be able to build trust relationships with some of these (sometimes,usually)sweet kids.
My decision to go to college and work in education was shaped in large measure by my art teacher in my freshman year in high school. He was a first year teacher and a great guy. The best thing he did was to listen to me and treat me and my interests and opinions with respect. Interestingly enough he was going to kick me out of the class. At that time Chicago schools required freshman to take art and sophomores to take music, and the baby-boom classes often had 35 to 40 students in them. What a melee! I guess I was really a jerk though, because he didn't boot Frank Guerrero who wore his Latin Kings sweater to class and called Mr.G 'Geronimo'. Hell, I thought there were at least 20 guys in the class who were way rowdier than I was. Anyway,during the meeting with Mr.Griffin and the principal, my dad expressed surprise saying that I had always loved art and even expressed an interest in commercial art. Mr G offered me the chance to switch to an elective class which was much smaller so he could actually teach me some things. And he did teach me, about art and about how a concerned adult can really make a difference in a kid's life. Thanks Mr Griffin.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A new day and a new house

Not our house; today we started working in a new student house on campus. Last week we worked with high school boys, this week we are in one of the girl's homes. We also have a new partner to train us and he is a vegetarian! Yay! We can get a perspective on how to get by here without being a hunter. We may learn more about green living here as well since he seems to be a pretty earth conscious person. He also seems to have a more positive attitude toward the students. The person we worked with last week was very rule oriented and sort of into catching the kids being bad (read:being kids). Of course we want to know the rules and how to keep the kids and ourselves safe and in line with policy. But we are hoping for a relationship beyond guardian of the gates. High standards of cleanliness and good behavior are important but developing a trusting bond is even more important. I am not naieve, I have taught high school in inner city Chicago and on reservations, so of course kids will test you, push the boundaries and get into trouble. That's what kids do. It is actually their job to break with adult/parental authority, establish independence and learn how to survive semi-intact while doing this. Without good boundaries and guidelines we all struggle with our attitudes and behaviors. I am hoping to be able to, at least in part, be a person the students can count on and turn to if they are struggling. I am looking forward to the challenge.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What we haven't found

I sorta knew this, but to paraphrase Kermit, its not easy being green-in South Dakota. So far the nearest recycling center is 65 miles away. The school we work at is starting to ship paper for recycling back with a supplier's empty trucks. I will try to get in on that. There is no place that carries bulk anything except candy so we can't reuse containers. No organic or fair trade food in town of any sort. There are some locally grown tomatoes at the market, but no farmers market here and we are the biggest town for 65 miles in one direction and 100 or so in another. There is no community garden and my lot has about enough sunshine to grow a few pots of basil and tomatoes-already planted. There are a lot of pluses to being here,but so far, the pursuit of greenness isn't one of them. I feel that I have a chance to make a difference in the community if I can find some like minded people and get some positive stuff going. I will keep you posted.