Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rattlesnakes and Mountain Lions

Tomorrow, our 1229 community + Brandon (site coordinator) leave for Cascabel. Cascabel is a sleepy little tiny desert town about an hour and a half outside of Tucson. Aside from the fact that its in the middle of seemingly nowhere, and there's a lot of land and not so many people, there's nothing really sleepy about it. Everybody I met there the last time we were there is passionate and excited about their community in Cascabel.
We're going to eat some locally made goat cheese, talk to a CSA along the way, camp together in the desert, among a plethora of other activities. Most of which really excites me.
we're going on solo-desert-sojourns.

Yes, me, the EXTREME E, will be completely by myself in the desert for two nights. Sometimes, I think the butterflies in my stomach are signs of excitement, and other times I think they're reminders of how nervous about it I am. Excitement or nerves, though, it will definitely be a growing experience.

And, hopefully, provided I don't get lost wandering the desert alone, I'll report back about it.

Monday, February 21, 2011


As a house we've begun reading Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. In the past, I've not been one for book clubs nor spiritual guidance, so I was a little apprehensive about this book experience. But- I said yes to the opportunity for a new challenge a long time ago, and I'm really grateful I did.
I've only just begun the book, but a few excerpts that have me really excited about what else is to come:

"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people but for deep people." (1)

WHAT a great beginning! I'm hooked.

"Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people. Leo Tolstoy observed, 'Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.' Let up be among those who believe that the inner transformation of our lives is a goal worthy of our best effort." (9)

Ver Pensar Actuar

Another insight into the work I do at BorderLinks- the newsletter. All of the submissions are written by past participants or staff, reflecting on their experience along the Border.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Dia del Amistad!

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!"

~Hamilton Wright Mabie

That quotation was on a Christmas card that some friends sent our YAV house in Tucson. I wish it was also relevant to the season around Valentine's Day!

There's a commercial on the radio right now that goes something like this:

"Valentine's Day isn't about how much you love him. It's about how how much you both loves 'us'." I have no clue what they're trying to sell in that commercial, but it got me thinking about today. What if we spent today focused on our community, our families, and our friendships. The bigger "us" to which we all belong. What if, we took Valentine's day as a reminder of the love that bonds us all together. All the types of love that have come in and out of our lives- Phileo, Eros, Storge, Agape.

Two years ago tomorrow, a good friend of mine passed away. My heart gets tied up in knots when I think about it. I could take the anniversary of his passing as a reminder of all the sadness, confusion, and horror that exists and will continue to surround us in this walk of life. But, I am going to try and do my best to celebrate the beauty that comes out of it. I think its kind of fitting that I'll be having dinner with his mother tonight, the day everyone celebrates love. We'll have an opportunity to celebrate his love- the one he shared with the world, and the friendship we now share with each other.

Like the other holidays, this day too has been taken over by Hallmark. But unlike Christmas and Easter, that bring people and families together, I think Valentines day tends to separate people- those that have a date tonight from those that don't. And instead of promoting self-acceptance, belonging, and good friends, people get lost in who and what they don't have today. Instead of celebrating romance and candles, I'm going to take today to celebrate my friends.

In Guatemala, the 14th of Febraury is celebrated as "dia del amistad," "Day of friendship." I really like this approach to today. Everyone can celebrate their friends!

I think we should all celebrate the day of friendship! Focus more on what brings you closer to the people around you rather than what separates you. Invite an acquaintance into a conversation today. Ask someone "how are you," and really mean it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I just finished reading Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel. I highly recommend you go to your local library right now, find it, and read it.

And- if you’re planning on reading it and haven’t yet (which I do hope you are), I don’t think this blog will be a huge spoiler for you. Just like Life of Pi, this book is open to a plethora of interpretations and understandings.

Some excerpts that caught my attention:

“But, the worst enemy of taxidermy, and also of animals, is indifference.” (97)

“But, the worst enemy…is indifference.” (97)

“I wanted to see if something could be saved once the irreparable had been done. That is why I became a taxidermist, to bear witness.” (98)

“Faith is like being in the sun. When you are in the sun, can you avoid creating a shadow? Can you shake that area of darkness that clings to you, always shaped like you, as if constantly reminding you of yourself? You can’t. This shadow is doubt. And it goes wherever you go as long as you stay in the sun. And who wouldn’t want to be in the sun?” (103)

“They insulted me repeatedly, though, I wouldn’t say they were angry or worked up. They were just doing their job.

It ended later in the day, around five-o-clock, I suppose, after a day’s work was done. Home beckoned. They unstrapped me from the harness and threw me into a small cell. After two days and nights of solitary confinement, pain-ridden and foodless, I was released. They opened my cell door, stood me up, marched me out, and left me outside the gate. Not a word was said. I didn’t know where you were and you didn’t know where I was” (179).

That last one is a quote from the book where Beatrice is describing the “Horrors."

I’d heard those words before. Not from Yann Martel.

But from migrants, recently deported.

Perhaps Yann Martel writes that to warn us against the hatred that leads us in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Love in any Language

I posted a few days ago some reflections on the shootings that happened here in Tucson January 8th. It took me a while, over three weeks, to put my reactions out to the world, for all who wanted, to see. I kept writing and re-writing different drafts. Some were too raw, some were too edited, some were too manicured. For whatever reason, I kept changing the words. There was too much emotion, too many tears were shed, for my words to be sufficient to explain anything.

Despite being completely exhausted from the stress of the day and from leading people throughout Nogales and Altar, Sonora, Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona- I did manage to write something down. I guess with all the hubbub of the delegation and everything else, somehow I’d completely forgotten about it until today, as I just stumbled upon that page in my journal.

Love in any language

Today, tragedy changed the world. On a national scale, policy will be affected, method changed, and the “how” of “representing the people,” will be compromised. On a local scale, families are changed, loved-ones taken, and tears are shed. Lots of tears are shed.

I walked into the Ed office this evening to see Ali and Meredith hugging.

How stupid I’d been to not think about how this would impact her, given her previous experience. She cried. Meredith held her. I joined in the embrace for just a moment before Polita walked in- a little confused at the situation, so Ali explained in Spanish. I thought about stepping in, and explaining it for Ali, something tangible I could do to alleviate the stress of explaining pain again, and then the further stress of explaining it in a second language.

But, I refrained.

We continued conversing in Spanish. Ali told Polita how one of the leaders had said, in commenting about a desert-walk they’d done together that day, “If I’d known there’d be snakes and insects in the desert, I wouldn’t have okayed the experience.”

Polita made a joke about giving him a snowglobe and saying, “here’s your land.” And we all laughed together. We embraced. We shed tears together.

And, although Meredith speaks little Spanish, she was present with us in all of those moments- embracing, crying, and laughing. The words didn’t matter. Nothing could be done. But, her presence meant everything. The language may not have been the same, but the love was.

As long as I have eyes with which to see, I’ll have tears to shed. As long as I have a mouth with which to share stories, I’ll have a smile to give. If only the whole world could now of the smiles they are called to continue to share so that the tears don’t feel as heavy.

A few days later, Obama came to Tucson to be with the grieving city. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance. There was a lot of waiting. And, there was a lot of talking.

It was really hard to not shut myself off entirely when Jan Brewer addressed the stadium, the city, and the nation. Especially when she said, “I know Arizona.”

A friend whispered in my ear while she was speaking, “It’s like having a liar give a keynote speech about truth.”

But- Obama had some great sound-bites. Sound-bites that I really hope do more than just capture a brief, passing moment of air-time, but rather serve as inspiration for change.

“Make sure that we’re talking to each other in a way that heals, not wounds.” (Which, given my tacky comment above, you can tell I’m still working on it. But hopefully- aren’t we all still working on it?)

“…but how much we have loved.”

“…prompts though and debate. Let’s make sure its worthy of those that we’ve lost.”

“Whether that change will make us afraid, or whether it will inspire us toward a change for a better world.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Remember, it's our world. together

I just sat and listened to someone talk at impressionable young minds, presenting a tough topic in a very factual manner, in a way and with a meaning with which I very much struggle and disagree.
And I didn't speak up, and I didn't leave; over time I have learned that would have been impolite, rude, and inappropriate. After all, she had the floor, and it was her opinion that was the important one.
Looking back, it could have been an optimal starting point for conversation, together- to learn together.

It made me think beyond the scripture, beyond my understanding of a preacher/parishoner relationship, and beyond the moments where I felt my soul being irked.

Something is wrong. Our system is inherently broken. The "our" in everything is broken. We don't know of an our. We know of teacher, student, city, country, yankee, southern belle, easterner, westerner, preacher, parishioner, leader, follower. The "our" in everything we learn is obliterated. We're not taught about the communal "us" here together; we're taught about "these guys" and "those guys." From early on we're taught: to listen to our teachers. That learning and memorizing are one in the same. To put answers on a piece of paper. That the x is bad and the check is good. That the teacher knows the distinction. Instead of being guided to learn how to think, we're taught what to think. We're taught that, over time, our once empty brain will be filled by these teachers with knowledge. We're taught that we will learn that one "right answer." That there is a right answer.