Friday, March 31, 2017

Out and About – Winter 2016-2017

Last Monday (March 20) was the Spring Equinox, the first day of spring here in the northern hemisphere. . . . High time, then, to review the winter just passed with the latest installment of The Wild Reed's "Out and About" series.

Regular readers 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, 2016 . . . and now into 2017.

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

Above and left: The Black Snake Resistance March – Minneapolis, January 20, 2017.

"Black Snake" refers to the Dakota Access oil pipeline and pipelines in general, many of which disproportionately threaten the land and well-being of Native communities. This and a number of other protest events on January 20 collectively comprised what was called the Twin Cities Inauguration Day Mega-March, and provided a way for thousands of people to speak out against the agenda and priorities of President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress. For me and many other people, this agenda and these priorities do not support the lives and struggles of those identified in the poster at left.

For more images and commentary on the Black Snake Resistance March, click here.

For The Wild Reed's February 2017 update on the Dakota Access pipeline resistance click here.

Above The Women's March – St. Paul, January 21, 2017. This event drew an estimated 100,000 people to the Minnesota State Capitol grounds, making it one of the largest protest gatherings in Minnesota history. It was also part of a nationwide surge of massive rallies and marches aimed at both protesting President Donald Trump’s positions and statements on women’s rights, immigration, the environment, and climate change and offering hope and alternatives to Trump's political agenda and to what has been described as his "sordid immorality" – his bigotry, ignorance, misogyny, and vulgarity. Sister marches were held on all seven continents, including Antarctica.

I wanted to carry a sign in the march that shared a positive message from an inspiring woman, and so decided on words of hope and encouragement from legendary singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. These words are actually lyrics from her song "Getting Started" (from her phenomenal 1992 album Coincidence and Likely Stories), while the image is one I took of Buffy when I saw her in concert last summer in Bayfield, WI.

For more images and commentary on the Women's March in St. Paul, click here.

For more about the making of my sign, along with some of the responses I received to it at the march, click here.

Above and below: Taking it to the streets! . . . Marching and speaking out against the Trump administration's immigration policy, including its "Muslim ban."

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

It wasn't all marching and protesting this past winter, although it sometimes felt like it!

. . . On Saturday, February 11, 2017, for instance, I attended with my boyfriend Brent (right) the wedding of his sister Shelby to Josiah. I was honored, as always, to wear my dad's tux! Thanks, Dad!

Above: Brent and I with Sara and Norah, wedding guests all the way from Norway.

Left: With Brent's delightful niece, who was the flower girl at her aunt's wedding.

Above: A view of Minnehaha Creek which is close to my home in south Minneapolis.

For more images of winter beauty, click here, here, and here.

Thursday mornings mean breakfast with my friend Pete!

. . . We're pictured above at Sun Street Bakery and Cafe on February 9, 2017 and, at right, at The Bad Waitress Diner on December 8, 2016. Both restaurants are located in south Minneapolis.

Above and left: At the ever-popular Hi-Lo in Minneapolis, described by City Pages as "a beautiful vintage diner" – March 16, 2017.

About the Hi-Lo, Star Tribune food critic Rick Nelson enthuses:

Taking a seat inside the Hi-Lo Diner is an instant mood-enhancer.

Heck, just driving past this gleaming, painstakingly restored structure — which started life in a New Jersey factory in the late 1950s and arrived in Minneapolis last fall, split down the middle and strapped to a pair of flatbed trucks — is enough to trigger a rush of endorphins.

If you’ve ever wondered what fast food looked like before McDonald’s ran roughshod over the American landscape, the hash-slinging Hi-Lo is a good place to start. And for those questioning the diner’s historic bona fides, just slip into one of the booth’s tight-ish quarters. Yes, American waistlines were smaller in the pre-Big Mac era.

On December 18, 2016 my good friend and housemate Tim and I hosted our annual Winter Solstice/Christmas gathering.

Above (from left): Pete,Omar, me, Raul, and George.

Right: With my friends Brent and Lisa.

For more images and commentary on this and other Christmas 2016 celebrations, click here.

On the evening of January 6, 2017 my friends Javier and Nico hosted a gathering at which El día de Los Reyes – a Hispanic tradition which commemorates the journey of the Magi to the infant Jesus – was celebrated.

Above (from left): Javier, Curtis, Omar, George, and Nico.

Left: Javier, Brent, and Omar.

For more images and commentary on Javier and Nico's party, click here.

On Sunday, January 15, 2017 I hosted a morning tea for friends at my home in south Minneapolis.

Above (from left): Mary Lynn, Omar, Rita, and Pete.

Right: A photo taken of me on the day of my tea party.

For more images and commentary on my tea party, click here.

On January 22, 2017 I traveled to the town of Montevideo to celebrate the 80th birthday of my friend Angie's mother, Elva.

The photo above (as with this image) was taken just outside of the township of Cosmos, MN, located between the Twin Cities and Montevideo.

Left: With my dear friends Elva and Angie.

Above: With Elva and our mutual friend Kelly – January 22, 2017.

Right: With Angie.

Above: Elva with Angie, her husband Bryon, and their three lovely daughters. For images of my time with Angie and her family at Pelican Lake last summer, click here.

Left: With Adam, Elva's grandson and Angie's nephew.

Above: With my good friend and housemate Tim – February 10, 2017.

Above: At right with (from left) friends Jim, Javier, and Omar – Friday, February 10, 2017.

Right: On February 17 Brent and I were the guests of our friends John and Kathy to a performance of Theater Latte Da's Peter and the Starcatcher. It was a fantastic night of musical theater. Thanks, John and Kathy!

Following is an excerpt from Chris Hewitt's Pioneer Press review of the show (with added images by Dan Norman).

I’ve seen preschools full of toddlers that didn’t have as much energy as the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher at Theater Latte Da.

The nine actors in the cast whiz from role to role in the show, which doesn’t have quite enough songs to be called a musical but has too many to be called a straight play.

Actually, Peter takes the form of an English music-hall show that makes lowbrow humor highly entertaining, deftly blending bawdy digressions, raucous jokes, outrageous anachronisms and relentless puns (“You made your bed, Pan”) into an evening of frothy fun.

. . . An origins story, Peter and the Starcatcher is to Peter Pan as Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz, a fairy tale that purports to show us how another fairy tale — and beloved characters such as Peter Pan, Wendy and Captain Hook — came into being. It’s meant to be imaginative and homespun, which means Peter and the Starcatcher fits perfectly in Latte Da’s cozy Ritz Theater.

Director/designer Joel Sass greets us with a gorgeously organic-looking false proscenium over a set that will be used to suggest many different places but always reveals its humble origins in ropes, wooden planks, ladders, hunks of vine and pieces of picture frames. The props, too, are imaginative, with the cast using nothing more elaborate than a whistle to suggest various animals, waves and foreign tongues.

There is wonder and magic in Peter and the Starcatcher. Befitting the broad material, Sass seems to have encouraged the actors to make their performances as out-sized as possible and that mostly works, with Tyler Michaels’ sweet-natured boy as the grave center of the piece.

To read review of Peter and the Starcatcher in its entirety, click here.

Left: On the evening of Friday, February 3 I experienced a wonderful evening of music when my good friend Brian treated me to the 2017 performance of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute. Thanks, Brian!

Held at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, this event showcased seven young composersKatherine Balch, Michael Boyman, Judy Bozone, Michael-Thomas Foumai, Tonia Ko, Phil Taylor, and Conrad Winslow.

Above: On the evening of Sunday, February 26 I watched the broadcast of the 89th Academy Awards with Brent, Pete, and Omar. I'm pictured here with Omar who's working on his Oscars ballot spreadsheet on his laptop. He had 31 people competing – and he ended up being one of the winners. . . . Yeah, we all joked it was rigged.

Above: Oscars night with Brent, Omar, and Pete. . . . And, yes, we were all happy that Moonlight won Best Picture.

Above, left, and below: Inside my home in south Minneapolis.

For more images taken both inside and outside my home, see the previous Wild Reed post, Winter . . . Within and Beyond.

Winter 2016-2017 Wild Reed posts of note:
Christmas 2016: Reflections and Celebrations
John, the Beloved Disciple
Resisting the Hand of the Empire
Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action
Move Us, Loving God
Winter Beauty
To Dance . . .
Progressives and Obama (Part 7)
Something to Think About – January 20, 2017
"It Is All Connected"
Anyone for Tea?
"The Movement of Love and Inclusion Has Just Been Unleashed"
Happy Birthday, Vanessa!
A Prayer for Refugees
Like a Sure Thing
Aristotle Papanikolaou on How Being Religious is Like Being a Dancer
He Persists, Too!
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
A Profoundly Troubling and Tragic Indictment
Two Exceptional Singers Take a Chance on the "Spirit of the Wind"
Lent: A Summons to Live Anew
For Acclaimed Songwriter, Activist and Humanitarian Buffy Sainte-Marie, the World is Always Ripening
Interfaith Chaplaincy: Meeting People Where They're At
Stephen A. Russell on Moonlight, "the Most Beautiful Gift to Cinema in Countless Years"
Winter . . . Within and Beyond

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

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quote of the Day


The Trump kleptocrats are political arsonists. They are carting cans of gasoline into government agencies and Congress to burn down any structure or program that promotes the common good and impedes corporate profit.

They ineptly have set themselves on fire over Obamacare, but this misstep will do little to halt the drive to, as Stephen Bannon promises, carry out the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Donald Trump’s appointees are busy diminishing or dismantling the agencies they were named to lead and the programs they are supposed to administer. That is why they were selected. Rex Tillerson at the State Department, Steven Mnuchin at the Treasury Department, Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Rick Perry at the Department of Energy, Tom Price at Health and Human Services, Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education are eating away the foundations of democratic institutions like gigantic termites. And there is no force inside government that can stop them.

The sparing of Obamacare last week was a Pyrrhic victory. There are numerous subterfuges that can be employed to cripple or kill that very flawed health care program. These include defunding cost-sharing subsidies for low-income families, allowing premium rates for individual insurance to continue to soar (they have gone up 25 percent this year), cutting compensation to insurers in order to drive more insurance companies out of the program, and refusing to enforce the individual mandate that requires many Americans to purchase health insurance or be fined. The Trump administration’s Shermanesque march to the sea has just begun.

– Chris Hedges
Excerpted from "The Feuding Kleptocrats"
March 26, 2017

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Robert Reich: America Is "Waking Up to Walking Catastrophe" of Donald Trump – Matt Broomfield (The Independent, March 25, 2017).
Trump the Destroyer – Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone, March 22, 2017).
Trump Signs Order Dismantling Obama-era Climate Policies – Valerie Volcovici and Jeff Mason (Reuters, March 28, 2017).
Trump’s Environmental Executive Order Is As Stupid As It Is Damaging – Susan Matthews (Slate, March 28, 2017).
Meet Indivisible, the Young Progressives Leading the Resistance to President Trump – Kurtis Lee (Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2017).
 The Key to Taking Back Our Country: Fortify the Front Lines of the Resistance – Steve Phillips (The Nation, March 27, 2017).
Donald Trump Says Obamacare Is Going to “Explode”? Only if He Lights the Fuse – Jordan Weissmann (Slate, March 27, 2017).
Five Lessons from Trumpcare's Collapse – Adam Gaffney (Jacobin, March 27, 2017).
Medicare for All? Sen. Bernie Sanders Poised to Push for Single Payer After GOP Plan Falls ApartDemocracy Now! (March 27, 2017).
Authentic Populist vs. Bulls**t Artist: Why Bernie Sanders Is So Popular and Donald Trump Isn’t – Conor Lynch (Salon, March 25, 2017).
Do These 10 Things, and Trump Will Be Toast – Michael Moore (The Huffington Post, February 21, 2017).
How Republicans Quietly Sabotaged Obamacare Long Before Trump Came Into Office – Tom Hartmann (Salon, March 22, 2017).
Steve Bannon Admits Trump's Cabinet Nominees Were Selected to Destroy Their Agencies – Dartagnan (Daily Kos, February 23, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Profoundly Troubling and Tragic Indictment
Historian: Trump's Immigration Ban Is a "Shock Event" Orchestrated by Steve Bannon to Destabilize and Distract
"The Movement of Love and Inclusion Has Just Been Unleashed"
Something to Think About – January 20, 2017
Quote of the Day – January 11, 2017
Quote of the Day – December 25, 2016
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook

Image: "Trump the Destroyer" by Victor Juhasz.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Not Whether We Dance, But How

The Wild Reed's series on dance continues with a second excerpt from dancer, philosopher, and scholar of religion Kimerer LaMothe's fascinating book, Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming. (To read the first excerpt, click here.)

Oh, and it's probably helpful to know that for LaMothe, dancing is any bodily movement in which humans "cultivate a sensory awareness capable of guiding us to create and become relational patterns of sensation and response that promote bodily health and ethical relating." I don't know about you, but I appreciate how this definition broadens and challenges our understanding of dance.

Following are more of LaMothe's thoughts on dancing.

Dance is not only a biological fact; it is a biological necessity. We need to practice creating and becoming relational patterns of sensation and response, consciously and deliberately, throughout our lives, in order to build brains and bodily selves capable of making movements that will serve and enable our ongoing vitality. We need to cultivate a sensory awareness of ourselves as rhythms of bodily becoming, alert to the movements we are making. And we need consciously to internalize a sense of self – a self-conscious awareness – that is capable of not only guiding us but enlivening us to the possibilities of action in the moment.

Dancing, in this sense, is not a question of learning steps or mastering technique or performing on stage; it is a question of discovering and disciplining ourselves to our own capacity to move. It is a question of learning how to participate as consciously as possible in the rhythms of bodily becoming so that we can align our actions with creating a world in which we want to live – and being born into it.

Because we humans are born early, we are biologically primed to dance as the enabling condition of our best brained, bodily becoming. The question is not whether but how.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Soul of a Dancer
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life
Aristotle Papanikolaou on How Being Religious is Like Being a Dancer
"Move Us, Loving God"
"Then I Shall Leap Into Love . . ."
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
The Church and Dance
And as We Dance . . .
Unique . . . Yes, You!
The Naked Truth . . . in Dance and in Life
Balance: The Key to Serenity and Clarity
Memet Bilgin and the Art of Restoring Balance
Dance and Photography: Two Entwined Histories
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle
To Dance . . .

Friday, March 17, 2017

Winter . . . Within and Beyond

Ever since moving to the U.S. from Australia in 1994 I've had a love/hate relationship with winter in Minnesota. I loathe, for instance, the cold and the ice (the snow, it's true, I'm not quite as adverse to). Yet, on the other hand, I appreciate the pronounced seasons of my second home here in the North Star State, something that's quite different from Australia; and I love how winter stirs in me the desire to go deep within, to retreat and take stock of my life in ways that are quiet and mindful. And, of course, I love the festivals of this time of year, the winter solstice and Christmas, with all their rich and interconnected symbolism.

I'm definitely not one who tries to conquer winter. By this I mean I'm okay with allowing winter's adverse attributes to influence my decision-making around where and when I go places. True, such attributes don't totally dictate my movements, but for sure I'm much more inclined to bend like a reed to the season's call to hunker down, rest, be reflective. I really think that when we do this we honor and say yes to winter's invitation to become that bit more attuned to the natural world around us; a world to which, because of all our technological advances and their accompanying expectations, we can easily forget we are connected. I've come to believe that when we establish a resonance with the seasons and connect accordingly with the natural world, we honor Sacred Mystery immanent in all things.

I share all of this as a way of introducing this evening's post which I'm calling "Winter . . . Within and Beyond." Inspired by my previous post, "Autumn . . . Within and Beyond," this evening's post is a compilation of words (excerpted from various writings that have been especially meaningful to me these last few months) and photos, mainly taken this winter – though with a few included from last winter. The images taken outside ("beyond") are predominately from the area around my home in south Minneapolis, located close to Minnehaha Creek and its parkway. It many ways it's like being in the woods!

All of the interior (or "within") images were taken inside my home, mostly in my room with its "meditation nook," as one friend calls it. This "nook" basically serves as a focal point when I pray and meditate, and contains John Giuliani's beautiful portrait of the Compassionate Christ along with an assortment of icons, stones, prayer beads, and other meaningful objects that I've collected over the years.

Also pictured is the surface of the large desk in my room, at which I've spent time this winter coloring mandalas. As Susanne Fincher reminds us, a mandala is a "circular design that grows out of the urge to know oneself and one's place in the cosmos" – a description that could just as readily be applied to this particular collection of words and images . . . and to The Wild Reed in general. After all, all of these creative endeavors grow out of my desire to discern and embody my unique oneness with Sacred Mystery, and to be continually discovering how this embodiment can best serve others and the world.

Something happens in that quiet place, where we’re simply alone and listening to nothing but our hearts. It’s not loneliness, that aloneness. It’s rather the solitude of the soul, where we are grounded more deeply in our own internal depths. Then, having connected more deeply to God, we’re able to connect more deeply with each other. Our connection to the divine unlocks our connection to the universe.

Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from "Christmas for Mystics"
The Huffington Post

Be still and know
that day and night,
dark and light,
are one holy circle.

– Jokhim Meikle

Our individual awareness and personality is like a standing wave in a flowing river. That wave has a unique form, but the form is created by motion. And the substance of consciousness is not unique; it is common to all filaments and currents of the river. . . . If our consciousness is like a standing wave, then Deep Self is the underlying rock that creates the form our awareness takes. Deep Self shapes our fate, lines up the lessons we need to learn, and guides our evolution.

When we are in contact with Deep Self, we feel a sense of rightness in our choices and actions – not self-righteousness or complacency but a visceral sense of knowing we are on the right road. Whatever happens, whatever the consequences of our actions, we know we are doing what we are meant to do.

Excerpted from The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
pp. 72-73

If you can catch a hare
and look into its eye
you will see the whole world.

Anna Crowe
Excerpted from "A Calendar of Hares"

Says Crowe about her poem:

Ideas about transformation, especially the sympathetic magic underlying the process of metaphor, interest me greatly, and the naturally elusive and mythic qualities of the hare readily embody this. Why a ‘calendar’? It offered a handy framework for conveying ideas about transformation through time passing, and also allowed me to focus intensely to produce brief snapshots like fleeting glimpses of the hare. . . . Underpinning the poem there is a childhood memory of the first hare I ever saw, killed when we were driving down to Devon one summer. It was soft, gold, almost unmarked, and I remember its great dark eye and a feeling of loss.

One of the great disservices [our] culture of domination has done to all of us is to confuse the erotic with domination and violence. [The ancient god or archetype Cernunnos] is wild, but his is the wildness of connection, not of domination. Wildness is not the same as violence. Gentleness and tenderness do not translate into wimpiness. When men – and women, for that matter – begin to unleash what is untamed in us, we need to remember that the first images and impulses we encounter will often be the stereotyped paths of power we have learned in a culture of domination. To be truly wild, we must not be sidetracked by the dramas of power-over, the seduction of addictions, or the thrill of control. We must go deeper.

Excerpted from The Spiral Dance
p. 233

One leaf left on a branch
and not a sound of sadness
or despair. One leaf left
on a branch and no unhappiness.
One leaf left all by itself
in the air and it does not speak
of loneliness or death.
One leaf and it spends itself
in swaying mildly in the breeze.

Crows brought the message
to the children of the sun
For the return of the buffalo
and for a better day to come

You can kill my body
You can damn my soul
for not believing in your god
and some world down below

But you don't stand a chance against my prayers
You don't stand a chance against my love
They outlawed the Ghost Dance
But we shall live again, we shall live again

. . . Crazy Horse was a mystic
He knew the secret of the trance
And Sitting Bull the great apostle
of the Ghost Dance

Robbie Robertson
Excerpted from "Ghost Dance"
(from the 1994 album Music for the Native Americans)

Many of the religious cosmologies [or worldviews] of the West have celebrated the winter solstice as a return of the Sun, the birth of the divine at the darkest hour. It is, for each of us, at the darkest hour that we must be able to find our inner light. Christmas is celebrated on December 25, the mythic date of Horus's birth, not because there is any evidence that Jesus was born on that date, but because it makes sense that the divine should come to be present among humanity at the time of our greatest feelings of fear and disconnection. . . . [T]he winter solstice or Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate rebirth because it serves as a moment to unify the paradox of individual and the Universal. It represents both the birth of the Universe itself and the rebirth – a recognition, really – of our own divinity, our divine spark, the fullness of the cosmic wisdom we each possess and express in our own way.

Winter is waiting and promise. Its word is often unspoken. Sometimes, too, it is sorrowful and finds itself alone.

Winter knows that love is coming – and wants it to come. It feels the pull of longing.

. . . In winter love asks us to be open, to be honest, and to trust.

Listen to love in winter.

– Louis M. Savary, S.J.
Excerpted from "Listening to Love in Winter"

Once I saw the summer flowers
turn the fields to sun
Up and down the mountainside
I watched the summer run
Now the fields are muffled in white
and snow is on the down
Morning comes on shivering wings and
Still this love goes on and on
Still this love goes on

Buffy Sainte-Marie
Excerpted from "Still This Love Goes On"
(from the 2008 album Running for the Drum)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Winter Beauty
Interiors – February 1, 2017
Photo of the Day – December 11, 2016
Winter Light
Winter Storm (2016)
Winter Storm (2012)
A Winter Reflection
Shadows and Light
Winter's Return
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
Photo of the Day – December 9, 2012
Prayer of the Week – February 22, 2011
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond

Images: Michael Bayly.