Friday, August 18, 2017

On My Way Home With Ohiyesa

I found myself standing at the counter returning a book to the Spooner Memorial Library yesterday. The book I was returning, like usual, was a few days overdue. And, like usual, the friendly young lady working the counter waved the fine. As I was standing there I noticed to my right, sitting on the counter ready to be checked in, a small red book titled, "The Soul of an Indian." Since the title contained "soul" and "indian" I was automatically interested. Writing this I think it's interesting that at one time there was question and great debate amongst intellectuals in various institutions of The West if indians even had souls. Here, it's 2017, and I'm looking at a soul book by Ohiyesa (Charles Alexander Eastman). So after outwardly expressing my turmoil to the young lady of whether or not I need another book to read I decided to check it out. She smiled, laughed, and did what she had to do on the computer and in the system to make this happen. Moments later I was on my way out the door with Ohiyesa and the book I attempted to return in the first place. Admittedly, the accumulation of books "to be read" is becoming a greater weakness of mine. There could be worse habits, I guess.

Well, less then 24 hours later I am 15 pages into it. I couldn't resist the temptation to put down another book and pick this one up (another worsening habit). I had to know if Ohiyesa's orientation was in line with the worldview layed out by Daniel Quinn in Ishmael and his other teaching tool novels. I know, I know, I was warned by Jim Britell's words on the cover of Ishmael when I first picked the book up around the turn of the century: 

"From now on I will divide the books I have read into two categories--the ones I read before Ishmael and those read after."

Another book, this time Ohiyesa putting his soul to paper, that reaffirms Britell's observation. And to take it perhaps a bit deeper is its affirmation that there really is a different way to be ("B") in the world, and things really don't have to be this way despite the stories most of the modern mythmakers make up. Take these words of wisdom by Ohiyesa, the indian with one foot in the white man's world and the other in the way of the ancestors and ancients of our tribal past:

"In our view, the Sun and the Earth are the parents of all organic life. And, it must be admitted, in this our thinking is scientific truth as well a poetic metaphor.

"For the Sun, as the universal father, sparks the principle of growth in nature, and in the patient womb of our mother, the Earth, are hidden embryos of plants and men. Therefore our reverance and love for the Sun and the Earth are really an imaginative extension of our love for our immediate parents, and with this feeling of filial devotion is joined a willingness to appeal to them for such good gifts as we may desire. This is the material or physical prayer." (Pg. 8-9)

In a world collapsing into fundamentalism, literalism, extremism Ohiyesa's words, to me, are a balancing act, and perhaps a lifeline if taken seriously.   

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Mother's Day Moment

We're at The Prime Bar and Restaurant in Trego WI. It’s Mother's day morning. I'm seated at the head of a long table. Sitting at the table are 15 of my family members from my mom's side. I'm generally feeling uncomfortable. It's not Christmas uncomfortable, but it's ranking up there for some reason or another. I look over at Hayden, my 7 year old son sitting about halfway down the table. Across from him is my cousin's 6 year old son whom my dad calls LP. I turn my attention away and moments later, LP kindredly and excitedly remarks, "He picks his nose too!" 

I look over, and there's my son shamelessly picking his nose. And I wonder what I've got to worry about.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fathering and Fiddleheads

Sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by books, bookmarks, and notebooks. Enjoying the silence, except for the hum of the old freezer. Everyone but my oldest son sleeps. He's sitting out in the woods somewhere listening to a myriad of birdsong I imagine. The other day he returned from the woods with some fiddleheads. He boiled them in a pot along side a frying pan of scrambled eggs with chopped sweet-white violet leaves and flowers. I begged some fiddleheads off him. My first time ever having them. After a lot of butter, salt and pepper were added they weren't too bad. 

Yesterday, while going for a barefoot run in our yard, I noticed broken robin egg shells. Something about seeing them lifted my spirits after delivering over 400 boxes and 100 miles of mostly junk mail yesterday. Days like this I wish everybody would sit down and write a love letter sealed with a kiss, drop a postcard to a friend, write their representative about something that really pisses them off, or you fill in the blank. Anything to help people get in touch with their soul, elevate people above products, and make my job a bit more satisfying and worthwhile. 

We're headed south to Bloomer this afternoon. It'll be the 4th baseball game this week I will be attending in the capacity of fan and proud father. I will most likely see about half of it or so. The rest of the time will be spent playing catch with whatever kid wants to play catch, and there's never ever been an instance where this wasn't the case.  I pretend that it's a chore, but it's really not. The only time I can focus in on a game is in the capacity of coach or player. I like to keep moving I guess.....

Spring just keeps springing along.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ishmael Forgotten?

The other day, while delivering a package to a customer, I told him I admired his statue of the Buddha that sat in a grove of pines just outside his house. He's a retired professor that spends a lot of time writing in simple but beautiful house just off the gravel road. We talked briefly about some of his missionary work, religious leaders like Thomas Merton, children, and writing. And, like usual, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn entered the conversation. I've pretty much resigned myself to this phenomenon that occurs in my occasional exchanges. It's a pattern that’s been occurring for close to two decades now. I presume it'll continue until I no longer walk the earth.

Once I brought up the book his face lit up and he said, "Oh, yes! Ishmael. That was written way back..."

"In 1992, the year I graduated high school." I said.

"That’s right. I loved that book. It's probably one of the most important books of the 20th century. Now it's sadly been largely forgotten" He added.

"Did you know," I added "that Quinn studied under Thomas Merton briefly when he was a young man."

"No, I had no idea"

"Yeah, it was brief. Merton thought Quinn needed more real world experience so he had him leave the monastery. He wrote about it in "Providence," his autobiography." I informed him.

"Well, I had no idea he had an autobiography out. I am going in the house and ordering it from the bookstore right now!"

And off he went. I got back in my mail jeep and headed on down the dusty mail trail. Just as I pulled up to the next mailbox a half-a-mile or so away it occurred to me the professor's assessment on the longevity of Quinn's masterpiece was a bit off. We wouldn't have been talking about the book and its' author and he wouldn't be in the house on the phone with the bookstore ordering the autobiography of the man behind the book.

These words on page 248, I believe, still ring true to these ears today:

What you do is teach a hundred what I've taught you, and inspire each of them to teach a hundred. That's how it's always done" - Ishmael, p. 248

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Command, Control, and Compulsion

I was thinking of Derrick Jensen's book "Walking on Water," which does a really good job laying bare the effects of compulsory schooling, yesterday while sorting mail. Compulsory schooling, which almost all of us reading this has experienced and champion, prepared me for working in a command and control buisness like the USPS. One parallel between the two structures is there is very little, if any opportunity to offer feedback to change the structure. You're expected to show up, listen to authority, and do what you're told. Because look around you, there are people more than willing and happy to do what you do. Both structures are far from being democratic, and they operate on this assumption so eloquently laid out at the beginning of the 20th century by the founder of scientific management, Fredrick Winslow Taylor:

"In the past man has been first; in the future the System must be first."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Snowballs at Night

I wrote this poem this morning. There is no form to it. The only form I know and have practiced is the haiku. I've had fun with that so far. I never regret my attempts ato creating with words.

Standing under the night sky
with shoulders and toes pointed
toward the old, red barn wall.
Sophia, son and I let snowballs fly.
The boy of beginnings returns
with bats, balls, and boundless time.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kids, Spit, and Snow Leopards

I just got done being sprayed with spit. Somehow the morning conversation between my 3 kids led into snow leopards. Sophia, my daughter of 4, is wearing a leopard print shirt. Daniel, son of 17, says it looks snow leopardish. Hayden, my son of 7, wants to know if it's "real" snow leopard. This is where I enter the conversation. I explain to him that they're rare and you'd probably never see anyone around here wearing snow leopard skins. He immediately wants to know if the President and police are putting up signs to protect them. I assure him they're being protected. It's not enough. He pulls out his snow leopard sword and proceeds to show me how he would protect them from killers by wielding his imaginary weapon and slashing and slicing it in the open space between us with full sound effects of the blade doing its job. The problem is that he's missing his two front teeth. Their job, in this instance, would be to catch the spit being forced out of his mouth from the sound effects of my son's heroic slaying of snow leopard killers. And that's why I am using my sleeve to wipe off my face. 

His head, hands, and heart are in the right place. Just would've been nice if his two front teeth were too!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Saving a Neighbor's Farm

Our family recently got involved in a campaign to help a local family save their organic farm. It's a micro-dairy that bottles the milk right their on the farm in half-gallon glass bottles, and produces other dairy products like yogurt, cheese curds, and such. They're in debt, like most farmers are, and are on the verge of being foreclosed on. It's been an uphill battle for them since 1990, and now they've decided to reach out to the community for help.

In one of our recent meetings it came up that they are sick of not only being in debt but being paid little or nothing for their labor. Then, this morning, in reading about how farming in america is being systematically destroyed I ran across this quote by an economist that predicts the country may soon just get out of the food buisness altogether. He notes:

"A golfer pays $275 to wander around on the turf at Pebble Beach for about 4 hours, and there is a waiting list to do it. How often do people pay farmers for the opportunity to wander around in their fields?" -- Quote from Bill McKibben's Deep Economy

I wish I had more to say about this besides it is utterly insane and just another indicator where we are headed as a nation, but I don't.

I am requesting, though, that if anyone out there has any organizations or individuals that we can turn to for financial support or to promote the campaign please let me know here or through private message. All suggestions and ideas will be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vonnegut's Seeds

Sitting in silence drinking coffee with Daniel (17 yrs. old) at the kitchen table. It doesn't last long and I break it. There's a quote by Kurt Vonnegut (below) I'd like to share. In my role as an unschooling father, especially with mom out delivering mail, it's the best I've got to offer so far today. I reach to my right, swipe the smartphone screen and start reading it aloud with little or no effort. We're off to the races. It doesn't take long and Donald Trump walks into the conversation. Soon after that we're talking about uninitiated males. How they, especially young ones, will burn your city down. I make sure to add they'll burn the whole polis down. Then my son adds, "Isn't it interesting that most advertisements directed at men promote youth. If they could figure out a way for us to have a 24 hour erection they'd do it."

Thank you Mr. Vonnegut, wherever you are, for offering the seeds for a morning conversation with my son before I also head off to do mail duties.  

"'Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue,' the monograph went on. 'Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.'"
-Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, Or The Children's Crusade : A Duty-dance with Death (1969)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

To Stand Or Not Stand

A few months back The American Legion declared all baseball players and coaches participating in baseball games sanctioned by TAL must stand for the national anthem at all events. If they don't they will be banned forever from baseball games sanctioned by the association. 

I wholeheartedly disagree with this. If my son, who is a 17 year old American Legion baseball player, decided not to stand for the anthem I would support him. Also, I've coached baseball from T-ball on up to the high school level. If one of my players chose not to stand I would also support them. I, on the other hand, had thought I would choose to stand as a coach. My thinking was an individual could stand for the anthem AND work towards a more democratic and civil society. In other words, I wouldn't be standing in the name of an authoritarian patriotism. But after reading this paragraph in Doug Lummis's "Radical Democracy" I wonder if the United States flag stands for an authoritarian patriotism. 

"In a democracy, it must be remembered, patriotism means the love that binds a people together, not the misplaced love of the institutions that dominate the people. Authoritarian patriotism is a resigning of one's will, right of choice, and need to understand to the authority; it's emotional base is gratitude for having been liberated from the burden of democratic responsibility. Political virtue--democratic patriotism--is the commitment to, a knowledge of, and ability to stand for the whole, and is necessary condition for democracy." -- (Pg. 37) 

Right now, the United States flag stands for an authoritarian patriotism. We would have the right to local, community self-government if it did not stand for that, but it doesn’t. The United States government protects corporations over communities and the landbase that supports and nourishes them physically, emotionally and spiritually. Standing Rock is a case in point. A local community should be able to exercise their right as self-governing people to say "no" to pipelines and other corporate harms. That’s simply not the case at this point in time. 

I don't know If I'll be standing for the anthem this upcoming baseball season. 

Friday, January 06, 2017

From Thoreau to Thoreau

This morning, in my visit to my phenology journal, I ran across this about Henry David Thoureau:

"His [Thoreau's] records of flowering times at Walden Pond -- 160 years ago -- show us that spring now begins three weeks earlier than in his day." -- Emily Stone

This passage caused me to pull "The Winged Life: The Poetic Voice of Henry David Thoreau," by Robert Bly off my shelf.

Bly writes, "In 1859 he [Thoreau] began defending John Brown in his lectures. In October of that year he announced a lecture on John Brown at the Concord Town Hall. When the Republican Town Committee and the Abolitionists both advised against it, he replied to them, 'I did not send to you for advice, but to announce that I am to speak.' When the selectmen refused to ring the bell, he rang it himself." (pg. 143)

I'm confident today, given that atmospheric C02 levels are close to 410 ppm and the consequences thereof, Thoreau would support Deep Green Resistance and other so-called radical environmental organizations.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Plans and Pocket Prairies

I started a phenology journal this morning. Daniel (17 yrs. old) bought it for me the other day up at the Cable Natural History Museum before his cross country ski meet. I returned the favor this Friday when the kids and I ventured up there (Cable, Wisconsin) while mom was off delivering mail. Now we'll both paying attention -- philosopher Jacob Needleman calls this a free gift--to Nature a bit more, atleast that's the plan anyway. I also bought Hayden (7 yrs. old) a childrens book on planting pocket prairies and Sophia (4 yrs. old) one on the night sky.

Since then I've been hearing about Hayden's plans of turning our piece of land into a prairie. It involves, cement trucks, helicopters, bridges, steel cables, rock quarring, and John Deere back hoes, to start with. Once, after close to a half hour of half listening to him, and hoping to slow him down a bit, I patted him on the head and remarked we're going to have to take this one small step at a time. And while we're at it, I added, we have to keep the collapse of industrial civilization in mind. That didn't phase him. He proceeded to beg me to grant him permission to run the familiy's Dewalt compound miter saw by himself.

What if our children are simply adults trapped in little bodies hoping much of the time to do one thing: Make a contribution.