Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Labyrinth


I walk the labyrinth
bared sole and eyes closed
feeling my way along a Path unseen

feels her way with bared soul

in my darkness
she passes unseen
with Namaste

not alone

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ribbon Madness

My ribbon is better than your ribbon
Don't you love all the ribbons you see on cars: "Support the Troops" - "God Bless America" - "End Breast Cancer." During our recent vacation in Colorado, I saw a car with a "support the troops" yellow ribbon that had been augmented with the phrase "Stop Bogus Wars." Pretty funny. Even better: check out this website.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A New Look for the VA UU

I have completed my latest blog project - transferring my Iraq blog from Verizon to blogspot. The indexes are now complete and functional.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Some More of the Story

Probably not the last word in this affair, but thanks to Chalice Chick for pointing out this eye-witness account of events inside the arena during the GA closing ceremony.

The witness, an usher, makes a good point that the problem here (from her perspective) was not the RACE of the youth, but their behavior. Stay tuned for more on this - it's not going away.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Our "Dirty Little Secret?"

On Sunday during our worship service, a long-time member whose young adult daughter had attended GA related her daughter's account of some racial incidents during GA. This was the first I had heard of it - young UUs of color being mistaken for hotel employees, for one.

Well today I found out that there is much more to this issue. Apparently during the closing ceremony, there was a racially charged incident outside the arena, which resulted in the cancellation of the final GA dance. I was oblivious to all of this, having skipped the closing ceremony to get a good night of sleep. These incidents definitely have the attention of the UUA (here's a letter about it from the UUA Board), and it's sparked a lot of debate in the UU Blogosphere, particularly on the FUUSE website.

From my reading of the 57 (and counting) comments on FUUSE about this issue, here's what seems to have happened: an adult white male challenged a group of youth of color about their "right to be there" in the hall outside of the arena (where the closing ceremony was being held), because some or all of them were not wearing nametags; the youth reacted strongly to this challenge, and a shouting match ensued; finally, a minister became involved (on the side of the adult) and exchanged words with one of the youth. It got physical to the point where someone "had to be restrained." Ugly stuff. I wasn't there, so I don't claim to know what really happened, but that's my interpretation of what I read. Some of the commenters attribute it to end-of-GA fatigue and/or ageism rather than racism.

Reading about this issue and considering how white and middle-class my congregation is (and my previous congregation, and GA, and by extension, the UUA) makes me think about the other institution I'm deeply involved with. The Marine Corps is the most thoroughly integrated (racially, anyway) group I've ever been in. Marines are "dark green" or "light green," not black or white, and there is an effective system for dealing with incidents (or perceptions) of prejudice. It's not perfect, of course, and as I was just reminded, a "dark green Marine" might not agree with my perception of racial harmony in the Corps.

At any rate, there are a lot more people of color in my workplace than in my congregation. I would guess they feel comfortable in the Corps because of a shared ethos and common interests, whereas I've been told by a black woman that our congregation "just wasn't her people." Hmmm. Seems we have some work to do.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Night Lights

There are more spiders in Virginia, but the lights are brighter in Colorado.

Once again I'm writing about riding - this time about riding at night. And some other things too, perhaps.

In Virginia, I ride under tall, leafy trees, where it is VERY dark even on a moonlit night. Just about the only man-made light in evidence is my headlamp, which reflects lots of eyes - spiders (all over the trail), deer (all around the woods), opossum, raccoons, and of course the "mystery eyes."

Saturday night I ride near my in-laws' on South Table Mountain, west of Denver. It is very open and exposed, and on a moonlit night it would be brilliantly lighted and I wouldn't even need my headlamp. The mountain is like an oasis or island in the seething humanity of the western Denver suburbs - a few hundred acres of grasslands, shrubs, rocks, wildlife, and trails. It's a great place to ride, day or night.

I notice right away that things are different from my typical Virginia forest riding experiences. First of all, there are hardly any spiders, usually evidenced by the bright little green pinpoints of light in the trail reflected from their eyes. There are other animals, but not the number and variety I'm used to seeing at home. There are deer, rabbits, and mice (never seen a mouse during a ride before), and some curious sort of ground dove that likes to nest in the trail, then burst skyward in a flurry of wings as my front wheel comes near. This bird's eyes are bright yellow, almost golden, and one of them flies directly in front of me for a while, periodically sneaking looks at me back over its shoulder with its glowing orb.

Besides the different wildlife, I am surrounded not by dark trees and forest here, but rather by an absolute sea of cultural lighting. Stopping for a breather and a drink of water, I can see much of Jefferson County, north toward Boulder, east to Denver and beyond, and south to Green Mountain and I-70 disappearing into the Hogback notch. The western horizon is mostly dark, although I know the town of Golden itself is hidden down there.

There are long strings of lights on the freeways, little pools of lights on streets in residential neighborhoods, and huge, brightly lighted spots here and there. Without exception the brightest places are sports venues, car dealerships, and malls. Even at 10 PM, with no ball players or customers in evidence, these places lie under rows of arc lamps, wasted megawatts ruining any view of the night sky. Hmmm.

There are also fireworks, from two places near downtown Denver, and another one near Green Mountain. As my ride progresses and the clock ticks toward 10:30, they build up to furious codas of light and sound (only a faint booming and popping from my distant post), and then they fade into darkness and silence, leaving only drifting clouds of smoke to mark their previous locations.

These three things - the wildlife I encounter in the peace of my ride, the garishly and wastefully lighted commercial and athletic venues, and the loud, violent display in celebration of our national independence - give me pause. What is it about our country that is worthy of celebration - what tangible, real thing can I grasp that has meaning and value? When the "shock and awe" are over, and the clouds of smoke have drifted away, what do we have left?

Is it the ubiquitous mega-mall, the multiplex, the super-sized car dealership selling super-sized cars?

Is it the ball field where people pay to watch "professionals" play games that have their roots in mock combat?

No. I choose the animals and the birds, the calm dark of the mountain at night. I choose these things that were here in "America" long before we were, and will persist long after humanity is but a fading memory. I choose Nature and all her glory, for that is what truly makes this a great country.

Happy Birthday, America - love it or lose it.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Meditation on Two Wheels

My biggest challenge in living a life of Mindfulness is to truly be present in all that I do. It's so easy to let my mind wander, to dwell on the past or plan for the future, or get distracted by something else going on around me. Sadly, this is often true when I sit down to meditate; the "monkey mind" has its own agenda and rather than focusing on my breathing in, breathing out, I find myself watching the picture show inside my head.

Much the same thing happens sometimes when I'm riding my mountain bike, especially on an easy or familiar trail - I think about posts to write, what I'm going to do when I finish riding, or wonder where that creak in my drivetrain comes from. A new or challenging trail, however, serves to totally focus my mind on the ride.

Yesterday I rode Mustang Trail - a sinuous, flowing singletrack with a 200 foot dropoff to one side and water bars, rock ledges, and roots adding to the challenge. It is the type of trail where inattention can result in disaster, and sometimes riding it is just plain hard work - there is too much going on in my mind, or I'm distracted by animals or the view - and the way is slow.

This time, however, I achieve Meditation in Motion - a quality of mindfulness that transcends the ride itself. Each rock, root, or water bar becomes part of the trail's flow, and the imminent danger of the dropoff serves only to sharpen my focus. I feel one with my bike, effortlessly shifing my weight and gears as required to accomodate this steep dropoff and that short climb. My lungs and legs are burning, my forearms ache from riding the brakes, but my mind and soul are free and joyful as my bike and I flow through this moment. The trail is less than a mile long, but in my mind I'm still on it, swooping, climbing and descending, heedless of the cares of the world.

Singletrack, water, blood, the Tao, life itself - it's all about the flow. Where's it going? When will I get there? Will I like it? None of these questions seems to matter when I find these moments of mindfulness.

Life is a journey, not a destination - enjoy the ride.