Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Out and About – Autumn 2016

Well, today is the Winter Solstice. . . . High time, then, to review the autumn just passed with the latest installment of my "Out and About" series.

Regular readers of The Wild Reed will be familiar with this series, one that I began in April 2007 as a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in the world. I've continued the series in one form or another every year since – in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 . . . and now into 2016.

So let's get started with this latest installment . . .

Above, right and below: Standing in prayer and solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock, North Dakota – Minneapolis City Hall, October 27, 2016.

For months, hundreds of native people and their supporters have been camped at Standing Rock and putting their lives on the line to protect the waters of the Missouri River and the surrounding land from the construction of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline. On October 27 in Minneapolis, I joined with over 1000 others to show support for the Water Protectors and to voice opposition to the deployment of about 30 Hennepin County Sheriff’s personnel to Standing Rock.

For more about the October 27 solidarity rally and the situation at Standing Rock at that time, click here.

For The Wild Reed's December 4 update on Standing Rock and the ongoing resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline, click here.

Left: Is there a chaplain-intern in the house? Oh, wait . . . that would be me!

On October 3, 2016 I began my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training through the CPE program of one of the major healthcare systems based in the Twin Cities. Until the end of this first unit next May, I'll be spending three afternoons a week at a hospital located on the edge of the metro area. Here I'll be providing interfaith pastoral care to patients and families who request it or to those who are referred to the chaplain by hospital personnel and medical staff. The program I'm enrolled in employs what is known as the process model of education. In this model students minister to patients, their families, and staff and are then invited to reflect on their experiences in a peer group and in individual supervision.

During one recent visit, a patient asked me what I do as a chaplain-intern and if the hospital's chaplaincy program is part of a particular church. I responded by saying that the chaplaincy program isn't grounded in any one religion or denomination and that, as a chaplain, my ministry is to serve as a listening presence to anyone of any faith. The hope is that through this listening those I'm accompanying will be encouraged and guided to go deep into their own spiritual life and their own religious tradition so as to seek, discern and embody whatever it is they need to so as to deal in an honest and life-affirming way with what they're going through – and perhaps struggling with and/or feeling overwhelmed by.

James Miller and Susan Cutshall describe far more eloquently what it is I hope to be about as a chaplain when they convey the following in their book The Art of Being a Healing Presence.

Healing presence is the condition of being consciously and compassionately in the present moment with another or with others, believing in and affirming their potential for wholeness, wherever they are in life.

As this definition implies, healing presence doesn't entail much activity. While it can make a major difference in people's lives, as it's taking place, it may appear that very little is happening. . . . [H]ealing presence is an art, not a science. In any artistic field, there are universal principles that hold. Yet all artists apply these principles in their own way, making their work personal and distinctive, combining their intuition and vision with their gifts and skills to create something uniquely theirs.

This is how it is with healing presence. We are all invited to bring our uniqueness, our depth, and our fullness to this creative undertaking – to put our own signature on being a healing presence.

So that's what I'm currently doing – putting my own signature on being a healing presence. It's taking time and lots of energy.

As a result, I find I have less time and energy to devote to The Wild Reed. And for now that's okay.

Above: Celebrating my 51st birthday with friends (from left) Alfredo, Brent, Kyle and Omar – October 22, 2016.

Left: On the evening of my actual birthday – October 23 – I attended with my friend Kathleen the annual silent auction and fundraiser for Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) – a non-profit organization dedicated to dismantling systems of militarism and global oppression, and one of the most active and influential justice and peace groups in the Midwest.

Above: Darling Amelia, to whom I'm "Uncle Michael," enjoying the beauty of autumn in the St. Paul backyard of her grandparents, my dear friends John and Noelle.

For more images of autumnal beauty, see:
Photo of the Day – September 22, 2016
Photo of the Day – September 29, 2016
An Autumn Afternoon at Minnehaha Falls
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond
Photo of the Day – November 13, 2016
Photo of the Day – November 19, 2016

Above: With my friend Christopher outside The Wedge Co-op in south Minneapolis – September 25, 2016. We were with others distributing flyers opposing plans for consolidation.

Christopher shared the follow on Facebook later that day.

A successful day of getting info out to co-op members at the Wedge today. I'd like to point out that management has a table inside and is giving away cookies to people as they promote consolidation. Yet, this supposedly open process does not allow us MEMBERS to have a table there along side them. So members are only getting one side of the story. That's where we come in. We talked to tons of people and many were happy to be getting info that management has withheld from us. Management even went as far as to say to us members who were there flyering that we couldn't even step on property of The Wedge, OUR co-op that we OWN. This entire consolidation has been undemocratic and misinformed. That in itself is the biggest reason to vote NO on consolidation. Another reason is the terrible judgement of management who wants to sell our hard fought for organic farm which is at the core of our mission as a co-op at the same time as they built Wedge Table, which doesn't fit our mission at all. Bad priorities will continue if we don't vote NO on consolidation. And after this round of consolidation, IF it passes, there would be another round of consolidation as well. The folks who don't understand what a co-op is all about are the ones supporting consolidation. A big, unaccountable, undemocratic organization is what we'd become, and that is so anti co-op.

On October 29, 2016, the Southwest Journal reported the following.

The Wedge and Linden Hills Co-ops have voted to merge, while the Eastside Food Co-op has voted against the merger and will remain independent. . . . Eastside members elected at least three board candidates who were running on a platform against consolidation. Some expressed concerns about an oversized focus on profits and potential loss of community oversight in a merger. Those advocating for consolidation said it would improve the bottom line for all of the co-ops.

Above: My friend Omar – October 2016.

Above: My friend Phil with his cat Natasha.

Right: A portrait of the beautiful Natasha!

Above: Quinn.

Left: With Eddie, "the Wonder Dog"! For more images of this handsome beast, click here and here.

Breakfasting with my friend Pete at Sun Street Bakery (above) in November . . .

. . . and at Babette (right) in October.

Above: Friends (from left) Hossam, Omar, Alfedo and Pete – Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

Yes, on the evening of November 8 my housemate Tim and I hosted a gathering of friends to watch the U.S. presidential election results come in.

Left: Friends Omar, Kyle, Raul and Alfredo.

In my Wild Reed election eve post I wrote how "from everything I've read in the last 48 hours, a [Hillary] Clinton victory [over Donald Trump] seems pretty much a sure thing."

Indeed, so sure was I that Clinton would win that I had the graphic at right ready to go as my Facebook profile pic, starting November 9!

My intention was that it would convey how I actually wasn't "with her," which of course is the opposite message of the Clinton campaign slogan, "I'm with her." This is because I don't see Clinton as a genuinely progressive candidate, and, if she won I was therefore committed to do my bit to work with others to push her to the left – away from the neoliberal order in which she has operated her entire political career and toward genuinely progressive stances and policies.

I also wrote on November 7 the following:

And if by some chance Clinton loses to Trump? . . . Well, that would certainly be a great disaster for the U.S. and indeed the world. But make no mistake: if Clinton loses then the blame lies squarely at the door of the Democratic National Committee which unfairly supported and promoted her at the expense of a genuinely progressive (and popular) candidate, one who consistently defeated Trump by wide margins in the polls. I'm talking, of course, about Bernie Sanders.

Well, we all know how Election Night 2016 ended.

I suppose at first we didn't want to believe what was unfolding; tried to make light of it all. One friend, for instance, posted the above image of Bette Davis from Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte in an attempt to humorously convey the encroaching horror we were all feeling. And as that horror became more and more apparent as the evening wore on, the mood of my party turned despondent. I mean, pretty much everyone there was gay and liberal, if not progressive. No one wanted a Trump victory, and even I, as wary of the neoliberal Clinton as I am, was still hoping she would defeat the vile Donald Trump . We were also all hoping that the notoriously anti-gay Republican party wouldn't win control of Congress. . . . Well, we lost out on both counts.

Right: Friends Omar, Kyle, Raul and Alfredo . . . pictured before the despondency set in!

As the realization of Clinton's defeat to Trump set in, many of my friends expressed feelings of disbelief, shock, and alarm. Many left early, needing some quiet time to process the news and its implications – real and imagined.

For myself, I just couldn't believe that Americans would allow someone like Trump to become president. How could this happen?

My search for answers resulted in my November 15 post, Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, and my December 14 post, Progressive Perspectives on "Fake News" and the Alleged Interference by Russia in the U.S. Presidential Election.

Above: On Saturday, December 10, I marked International Human Rights Day by joining with close to 200 other people in Minneapolis to speak out against the increasingly fascist agenda of President-elect Donald Trump – an agenda that is the antithesis of human, environmental, and democratic rights.

For more images and commentary on this event, click here.

Above and below: An autumn snowfall – November 23, 2016.

Above: Celebrating Thanksgiving with Pete and his parents – November 24, 2016.

Right: With Pete's nephew Cooper.

With the approach of winter, I found myself drawn to spend time in my room – coloring mandalas, meditating, and listening to the music of artists such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Claude Chalhoub, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Enigma, and Loreena McKennitt.

Writes Susanne F. Fincher, artist and author of Coloring Mandalas for Balance, Harmony, and Spiritual Well-Being.

A mandala is a circular design that grows out of the urge to know oneself and one's place in the cosmos. Some scholars derive the word mandala from the Sanskrit syllables manda, or essence, and la, or container. Mandalas express completeness and invite us to experience ourselves as a whole being. The womblike structure of a mandala creates a feeling of safety and protection. At the same time, mandalas distill the complex rhythms of the universe – and human consciousness – into patterns that are manageable and comprehensible to human beings.

. . . A recurring theme in mandalas is an awareness of the passage of time and the realization that human life is in constant flux and flow. Mandalas are used to find meaning in the ongoing stream of human experience.

Above: My room (and sanctuary) in the house I call home in south Minneapolis, not far at all from beautiful Minnehaha Creek. As you can see, it's also a portal to the faerie realm!

Right: I found this sculpture last year in, of all places, a used and antique book store in south Minneapolis. I'm not sure how it ended up there but the old woman who owns and operates this store was eager to be rid of it. So much so that she sold it to me for $4.00. I know nothing of its artist or if it depicts an actual historical figure. I like to think it's a depiction of the Oglala Lakota warrior and mystic Crazy Horse. But then I would.

Above: On Saturday, December 17 my friends Joan and Matt hosted a lovely dinner party in their new home in Mendota Heights. Pictured (clockwise from left): George, Joan, Gary, Kevin, Matt, Brent, and John.

Left: Joan and Matt – December 17, 2016.

You may recall that my dear friend Joan accompanied me on a visit back to Australia last year.

Above: Joan and Matt with my good friend and housemate Tim and his girlfriend Colleen. This picture was taken at the Christmas/Winter Solstice party that Tim and I hosted on the evening of Saturday, December 18, 2016. (More images from this gathering will be shared in a future post.)

Right: My lovely glittery little Christmas tree!

For previous Wild Reed posts celebrating the Christmas tree, see:
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the "One Holy Circle" of Both Dark and Light
Something to Cherish
Christmas Baubles
Christmastide Approaches

Autumn 2016 Wild Reed posts of note:
Nienstedt, Redux
Bde Maka Ska Sunset
The Renegade Returns
An Afternoon at Minnehaha Falls
A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice
Shaun King on White Privilege in America, 2016
Balance: The Key to Serenity and Clarity
Standing in Prayer and Solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock
An All Hallow's Eve Reflection
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond
Progressive Perspectives on the Eve of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
In the Wake of Trump's "Catastrophic" Election, Phillip Clark on the Spiritual Truths That Will Carry Us Forward
The Path Ahead
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
"Pure Class": Petula Clark's Latest Offering Captivates
Art and Resistance
An Advent Prayer
At Standing Rock and Beyond, Celebrating and Giving Thanks for a "Historic Decision"
No Other Time, No Other Place
Progressive Perspectives on "Fake News" and the Alleged Interference by Russia in the U.S. Presidential Election
Malala Yousafzai: Prayers Are Not Enough for the Children of Aleppo
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Summer 2016
Out and About – Spring 2016
Out and About – Winter 2015-2016
Out and About – Autumn 2015

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