Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Visit to Gunnedah


My sharing of images and commentary on my time in Australia during July and August continues with this latest installment – one which highlights a visit with my parents to our hometown of Gunnedah. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

My parents have lived in Guruk (a.k.a. Port Macquarie) since 2002, and the drive from this town on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales inland to the rural town of Gunnedah takes about four-and-a-half hours.

In traveling across the mountains from the coast to the New England Tablelands, the towns and villages one passes through are Wauchope, Walcha, Bendemeer, and Moonbi, and the city of Tamworth.



Above: In Tamworth I caught up with my friend Julie, with whom I went to primary (elementary) and high school in Gunnedah. Julie now lives and works in Tamworth and it was great to catch up with her as we hadn't seen in other in over 20 years!



. . . In fact, I'm pretty sure the last time I saw Julie was in Gunnedah in January of 1994, just before I relocated to the U.S. That's when the picture above was taken. In this photo Julie and I are pictured with three of our school friends. From left: Julie, Michelle, me, David, and Joanne.



Above: With my mum, Margaret, and my Aunt Ruth (mum's younger sister) – August 16, 2017.



Above: Mum as a child holding an even younger Ruth. This photograph was taken in Gunnedah sometime in the early 1940s.



Above: Ruth graduating from the Royal Women's Hospital in Paddington, Sydney, in 1968. Pictured with her are her parents (my maternal grandparents) Valentine (1890-1971) and Olive Sparkes (1906-1997).



Above: Mum with her cousins Ron, Marg, Bettie, and Joanne – August 16, 2017.


Right: My Uncle Michael (mum's brother) with their cousin Ron (left).


Gunnedah and its surrounding area were originally inhabited by indigenous Australians who spoke the Kamilaroi (Gamilaraay) language. The area now occupied by the town was settled by Europeans in 1833. Through my maternal grandmother’s family, the Millerds, my family can trace its connection to Gunnedah back to the town’s earliest days. For more about the town’s history and my family’s connection to it, see the previous Wild Reed posts, My “Bone Country” and Journey to Gunnedah.



Above: My dad, Gordon, with his good friend (and our family's former neighbor) John Sills – August 16, 2017.



Above: Dad and John in the 1950s.



Above: Another photo from the archives! That's dad third from left and John at far left. In scanning and saving this photo onto his computer, dad named it "The Untouchables."! I guess they were quite the team!



Above: Good friends (and former Gunnedah neighbors) John and Heather Sills.


Left: My childhood friend Jillian and her husband David. Jillian is John and Heather's youngest daughter.

Above: With Jillian – August 16, 2017.




Left: With family friends Gwen (right) and her daughter Denise.




Right: Wendy (another daughter of Gwen's) and her husband Gary.



Above and below: Scenes of Conadilly Street, Gunnedah's main street – August 17, 2017.



Above and below: Mum and Dad, catching up with many of their Gunnedah friends – August 17, 2017.





Above: With Sister Gabrielle (left) and Sister Christine, two of my former high school teachers. Both women are Sisters of Mercy, which was the order that founded my high school, St. Mary's College.





Above: On the evening of August 17, I met up with a number of my old high school friends at the Gunnedah Golf Club. Back row from left: Louise, Paul, and Joanne. Front row: me, Mick, and David.




See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 9 – Gunnedah
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 12 – Gunnedah
A Visit to Gunnedah (2014)
Journey to Gunnedah (2011)
This Corner of the Earth (2010)
An Afternoon at the Gunnedah Convent of Mercy (2010)
My "Bone Country" (2009)
The White Rooster
Remembering Nanna Smith
One of These Boys is Not Like the Others
Gunnedah (Part 1)
Gunnedah (Part 2)
Gunnedah (Part 3)
Gunnedah (Part 4)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Michael Greyeyes' "Role of a Lifetime"

An artist I greatly admire – actor, dancer, and choreographer Michael Greyeyes – is set to portray the Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull in the upcoming film, Woman Walks Ahead.

The film, directed by Susanna White, tells the real-life story of 19th-century artist and activist Caroline Weldon (Jessica Chastain) who in 1889 traveled from New York City to the Dakota Territory to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull.

Left: One of four portraits of Sitting Bull painted by Caroline Weldon.

Woman Walks Ahead has been getting decidedly mixed reviews. IndieWire's David Ehrlich opines that "as a self-contained story . . . the film suffers enormously from its slippery grasp of history, all of its narrative thrust slipping through the cracks between fact and fiction." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter offers a similar critique, noting that "the story never comes to convincing life and doesn’t, in the end, have anywhere particularly surprising or interesting to go."

McCarthy does, however, concede that Steven Knight's screenplay presents a "plaintive look at a highly unlikely relationship dotted with moments of connection and mutual sympathy." He also writes that Greyeyes ("lithe, tall and handsome") delivers "all that the script allows, which doesn’t include deeper feelings or subtext that would have made the characters more complex."

Katherine Murray, writing for Pop Matters, also takes issue with the film, noting that "it confuses different types of oppression, and seems to propose that people who’ve experienced misogyny are uniquely qualified to understand racism and vice versa. In the process, it glosses over the specifics of each situation in favour of recycling the message that all suffering is the same."



Above: Michael Greyeyes as Sitting Bull and Jessica Chastain as Catherine Weldon in Woman Walks Ahead.


Nicholas Olsen shares a more positive review and, in the process, offers high praise for Greyeyes' portrayal of Sitting Bull.

[Director Suzanne] White keeps the drama taut while positioning it beside a raw aesthetic, perhaps a bit too unpolished. It’s a quiet endeavour with uneasy surges of emotion throughout. Greyeyes’ presence is astounding, overshadowing every inch of the screen when he appears. The larger than life fighter and holy man, forced into submission but his heart still strong and his body physically mangled. He mentions the bullets lodged in his torso and how they dance inside him. Sitting Bull at the end of his run is fascinating, a ghost of the past not yet joining the dance of the dead.




The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw also praises Greyeyes in his write-up of the film, noting that:

Michael Greyeyes . . . is a calm, yet brooding figure as Sitting Bull, almost like Napoleon at St Helena, the great military commander reduced to a quasi-retirement, digging potatoes and accepting a future of farming, rather than hunting ­– on land given on the white man’s say-so. He meets cute with Caroline: she patronisingly tries to address him in a kind of pidgin English, talking about coming over many rivers and valleys to see him. “So – you came here on the New York train?” asks Sitting Bull sardonically. It is an amusing scene. (I wonder if Steven Knight was inspired by the moment in Crocodile Dundee when the native Australian tells Sue that she can’t take his photograph: “You believe it’ll take your spirit away?” – “No you’ve got the lens cap on.”)

This Sitting Bull, so far from being the noble savage condescendingly imagined by the well-meaning white, is in fact a complex leader and savvy operator who agrees to be painted for a $1000 fee, which he in fact returns to Caroline and which she uses to buy their provisions. He also is an artist himself, having drawn autobiographical scenes from his own life.


Speaking in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last month, Greyeyes said the following about his part in Woman Walk Ahead.

It's the role of a lifetime, certainly. And to play a real hero [is really special]. Sitting Bull is a legendary figure and I have an obligation as an indigenous person and as an artist who cares about representation. I'm there to represent a community and a family – his family still lives and Standing Rock is his home. So I felt a huge obligation and responsibility to play him with integrity and compassion.


In another interview, Greyeyes said that he approached playing Sitting Bull in a human – rather than political – way.

[It's a portrayal that] reflects the contemporary understanding of our world and politics, that Sitting Bull was an enemy of the state. . . . I was playing what at the time would have been considered a terrorist. I was really conscious of that because he was a hero to the people. In this case, the state is on the wrong side. That was a really important way in because of the counter-narratives.


I close with a Los Angeles Times video interview of director Suzanne and actors Michael Greyeyes, Jessica Chastain, and Sam Rockwell talking about Woman Walks Ahead. Enjoy!





Related Off-site Link:
Director Susanna White on the "Anti-Western" Woman Walks Ahead – Nathalie Atkinson (The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2017).

For more of Michael Greyeyes at The Wild Reed, see:
Michael Greyeyes on Temperance as a Philosophy for Surviving
A Warrior's Heart
Visions of Crazy Horse


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Great Honor



On the evening of the autumnal equinox, Friday, September 22, I was honored to be one of five recipients of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's 2017 Adsum Award.



Above: With fellow 2017 Adsum Award recipients Ed Walsh and Jim Moudry.


Right: With my dear friend Mary Beckfeld, a previous Adsum Award winner and the recipient of CPCSM’s 2008 Father Henry F. LeMay Pastoral Ministry Award.


"Adsum" is a Latin word which means "I am present and listening." Whenever the participants in Vatican II were gathered at St. Peter's Basilica their traditional prayer was the exclamation: Adsumus – "we are present and listening." CCCR's Adsum Award recognizes individuals who have made an "extraordinary commitment to be present and attentive to the Spirit, to be partners in re-creating the face of the church here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis."



Above: Seated at left with (from left) Brigid McDonald, CSJ; Mary Sutherland; Bill Bailey; Bev Bailey, Caroline Beal, and Lisa Vanderlinden.


This year's awards were presented at a special dinner hosted by CCCR and the Council of the Baptized at St. Joan of Arc Church. The other 2017 Adsum Award recipients were Bernie and Eileen Rodel, Ed Walsh, and Jim Moudry.


In accepting his award Ed Walsh noted the following.

In Vatican II, the Spirit gave our Church a vision. What it took us time to realize is that human institutions, like human individuals, don't change without a struggle. The Spirit is with us in these human struggles. I am extremely grateful to the founders of CCCR and the Council of the Baptized and to their current leaders. They give me a vehicle, the support and the inspiration that I need to carry out my vocation to move my church community closer to the vision of Jesus.


Said theologian Jim Moudry in accepting his Adsum Award:

CCCR and the Council of the Baptized came along for me at the right time to address and to give hope for continuing the reform of our church called for by the Second Vatican Council. Their efforts have been an anchor for my spiritual life. Thanks to all such reformers for walking the walk. Ecclesia semper reformanda.


As the executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), I was a founding member of the Catholic Coalition of Church Reform in 2009. I served on the board of CCCR from its founding until February 2016.



Above: Members of the leadership team of the Catholic Coalition
for Church Reform with Janet Hauter (front row, third from left), vice-president of Voice of the Faithful (National) and co-chair of the American Catholic Council – April 2009.

Back row, from left: Rev. Judith McKloskey (Roman Catholic Womenpriests) and Lonne Burkhardt Murphy.
Middle row: Dan DeWan, Bernie Rodel (Call to Action-MN), Bob Beutel, Eileen Rodel (Call to Action MN), Connie Aligada (Call to Action MN), Jane Collova, Brian Willette (president, Call to Action MN), Jim Moudry, Bill McGuire (Call to Action MN co-founder), Michael Bayly (CPCSM executive coordinator and Progressive Catholic Voice co-founder and editor).
Front row: Paula Ruddy (Progressive Catholic Voice co-founder and editorial team member), Mary Jo Czaplewski, Janet Hauter (vice-president, Voice of the Faithful and co-chair, American Catholic Council), Mary Beckfeld (CPCSM president and Progressive Catholic Voice co-founder and editorial team member), Terry Dosh (Corpus, Call to Action MN co-founder).
Absent: Brian McNeill (president, Dignity Twin Cities), Dorothy Irvin (MN St. Joan’s Community), and Shari Steffen.


In accepting my Adsum Award at CCCR's September 22 dinner I opted to keep it short and sweet, noting that:

I have many happy memories of working with some incredibly inspiring people as together we endeavored to be the church we envision – a Gospel-inspired community of justice, compassion, and inclusivity. Thank you for this great honor.


Although I know longer feel called to work in the area of church reform, I do indeed have many happy memories of the important reform work I helped plan and facilitate during my time with CCCR.



More often than not, this work took the form of educational/social events, including:

• "Many Voices, One Church," CCCR's 2009 prayer breakfast.

• "An Evening in the Park with Roy Bourgeois" (2009).

The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Work/Study Group (2009).

• "Creating a Liberating Church," a presentation by Rosemary Radford Ruether at CCCR's "Evening in the Park" fundraiser (2010).

• "Taking Our Place at the Table," CCCR's first Synod of the Baptized in 2010.

• "An Evening in the Park with Diana Culbertson, O.P." (2011).

• "Making Our Voices Heard," CCCR's second Synod of the Baptized (2011)

• "Co-Creating the Living Church," CCCR's third (and to date most recent) Synod of the Baptized (2013).

• "Companions on a Sacred Journey," an interactive workshop on Evolutionary Christianity sponsored by CCCR and which I facilitated for groups within the local church throughout 2014-2015.


Right: With Bernie and Eileen Rodel in March 2010. We were at Holy Wisdom Monastery in Madison, WI to hear a talk by theologian Roger Haight.

Bernie and Eileen were unable to join us at CCCR's September 22 dinner, but the following statement from Bernie was published in the evening's program booklet.

Eileen and I are constantly wrestling with a few critical developments which we hope the church in the archdiocese is addressing. We know that CCCR/Council of the Baptized has been mindful of their implications for the archdiocese yet there seems to be many disconnects when it comes to implementation. Two developments which we feel need continuous dialogue with the archdiocese are pluralism and christology. In a pluralistic consciousness the local culture of the archdiocese can no longer command the center of thoughts expressed but it must realize that there are a variety of local centers of thought. Another development is our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth and his historical ministry as we search for his particularity and his individuality. Why is this significant? The result of this search leads to an understanding of God's salvation in our lives.



Above: With the inspiring John Brandes, Catholic priest and a truly prophetic and pastoral presence in our local church. He is the inspiration for the character of Fr. Brandon in my semi-autobiographical series, The Journal of James Curtis.



Above: With my friends Lisa and Brent Vanderlinden.


For more CCCR-related posts at The Wild Reed, see
The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (2009)
"Many Voices, One Church" (2009)
Preparing to Claim Our Place at the Table (2009)
An Exciting Endeavor (2009)
Twin Cities-based CCCR Goes Global (2009)
A New Phase (2010)
Prayer of the 2010 Synod
The Spirit of Pentecost Is Very Much Present and Active in the Church of Minneapolis/St. Paul (2010)
Taking It to the Streets (2010)
Countdown to Synod 2010
Out and About – September 2010
Out and About – August 2011
Out and About – September 2011
Astounded (2013)
Out and About – Autumn 2013
Minnesota Catholics, LGBT Students, and the Ongoing Work of Creating Safe and Supportive Schools (2014)
CCCR Responds to Archbishop Nienstedt's Resignation (2015)

For Progressive Catholic Voice articles about CCCR and the Council of the Baptized, see:
"Something Exciting and Joyous" (2009)
CCCR's 2010 Synod: A Progress Report (2009)
Synod of the Baptized Uncovers Deep Well of Hope (2010)
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission (2010)
A Tradition Worth Returning To (2011)
Council of the Baptized Launched in Minneapolis-St. Paul
Council of the Baptized Calls for the People’s Voice in the Selection of Bishops (2013)
Council of the Baptized Recommends Comeback for Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (2013)
Countdown to Synod 2013
A Pre-Synod Get-Together
Local Catholics Discuss the Need for a "Healthy Christian Theology of Sexuality" (2015)
CCCR Representatives Meet with Archbishop Hebda (2015)
Council of the Baptized's Open Forum Continues with Focus on Parish Life (2016)

Images: Brent Vanderlinden (except for the 2009 Prayer Breakfast image which was taken by David McCaffrey, a previous recipient of CCCR's Adsum Award.).


Sunday, October 08, 2017

A Visit to Grand Marais (Part II)


Okay, this post is long overdue . . .

It's the second part of my sharing of photos from a trip I made in June with my friend Kathleen to Grand Marais, a town on Minnesota's beautiful North Shore of Lake Superior.

For Part I, click here.



Above and below: Views of Grand Marais.






Above: Grand Marais Harbor – Friday, June 16, 2017.



Right: The Shoreline Inn, our lodgings in Grand Marais.



Above: If I look rather pensive and perturbed in this photo taken on Friday, June 16, it's because I was. Kathleen and I had just heard that, back in the Twin Cities, police officer Jeronimo Yanez had been found not guilty in the shooting death of Philando Castile.






Above: The Temperance River – Saturday, June 17, 2017.



Notes Wikipedia:

The Temperance River was named Kawimbash by the Ojibwa, meaning "deep hollow river." While it retained this name in the earliest geological surveys, in 1864 Thomas Clark reported its present name, which he alleged arose as a pun from the fact that the river has no sand bar near its mouth. However, this is not the only river on Lake Superior to have this feature, which has cast some doubt on that story.

The Temperance River flows 39 miles (63 km) between its source, Brule Lake, and its mouth. Brule Lake is unusual in that it has two outlets. The Temperance flows from its western outlet, and carries approximately half of the flow leaving the lake, while the South Brule River carries the other half from its eastern outlet.

After leaving Brule Lake, the Temperance flows through a chain of smaller lakes for the upper half of its length. It shares this feature with its neighbors, the Cross, Poplar, and Cascade rivers, which gives it a warmer water temperature and more steady flow than streams further to the south. After this, it proceeds to flow directly over the bedrock which is entirely igneous, formed during the formation of the Keweenawan Rift. Near Lake Superior, the river has dug deep potholes into the bedrock, some of which connected to form a narrow gorge and a system of waterfalls. The depth of the water where the river enters the lake prevents the river from developing a sand bar at its mouth. The Temperance has a drainage basin of 198 square miles (510 km2), which is the fourth largest catchment for a Minnesota river entering into Superior, after the Saint Louis River, Pigeon River, and Brule River.







Above: Kathleen with our mutual friend Judy at Crazy Mary's Cafe in Finlayson, MN. We had dinner here on our way back to the Twin Cities on Saturday night, June 17.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Visit to Grand Marais (Part I)
Days of Summer on the Bayfield Peninsula (2013)
Sunday in Duluth (2010)
Trempealeau (2009)
Northwoods (2008)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.