autumn equinox recently been and gone, it feels like a good time to look back on the summer just past with the latest installment of The Wild Reed’s “Out and About” series.
I suppose like a lot of people, I was hoping that the summer of 2021 would bring an end to the time of stress and uncertainty, loss and grief that we’ve been living through for over a year now. And while in some ways things have improved from the earliest days of the global coronavirus pandemic, we’re not there yet due to the Delta variant and people’s poor choices in response to it. Here in the U.S., simple things like wearing a mask and getting vaccinated have become mind-bogglingly politicized. This has contributed to an increase in infections, to hospitals being overwhelmed, and to unnecessary deaths. Working as a spiritual health provider (or chaplain) in a hospital setting, I witness these things every day. And like many “frontline workers,” I’m seeing (and at times feeling) the toll that all of this is taking, not only on patients and their families but on healthcare providers across the board.
Palliative Care chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN (left) meaningful and thus rewarding, and I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for my health, my family and friends in Australia, and my friends here in the U.S., many of whom I’m getting to see more often now that we’ve all been vaccinated. When I’ll be able to visit family and friends in Australia, however, is anyone’s guess. Hopefully sometime next year.
I’m actually choosing to remain hopeful about many things – both in my personal life and in the world. My seeking to stay grounded in hope has been a constant theme this past summer, and it cannot be separated from my ongoing efforts to stay grounded in – and open to – the awareness of Divine Presence both within and around me.
aligning with the Living Light,” something I’ve been doing very intentionally since the beginning of the year through a daily meditation practice. It’s really made a difference. Of course, I can still encounter chaotic and challenging situations on any given day, but I’ve noticed that I stay more centered and calm, more able to accept and deal with such situations when I’ve meditated for just five minutes in the morning.
I think of it as a form of sacred pause, one that not only centers me, but also prepares me for embodying and experiencing what French philosopher Lucien Lévy-Bruhl calls “mystical participation,” the idea that as humans connected in deep and intrinsic ways to the divinely-infused world around us, we have the capacity to recognize and be in relationship with all kinds of natural realities and processes. It’s long been my experience that such recognition and relationships lead to positive transformation, in both our personal lives and, if we’re willing to step up to the challenge, the socio-political realm.
A contemporary figure who inspires me in all of this is author and activist Marianne Williamson, whom Cornel West describes as “one of the few in the higher echelons of public life and public conversation who understand the intimate relation between the spiritual and the social, the personal and the political, and the existential and the economic." Continues West: “It’s very rare that people have this synoptic vision, [one that ensures that] spirituality, morality, and integrity sit at the center and at the beginning of any serious discussion about the relation of a self and a society.”
Marianne Williamson has such vision, and inspires me to develop it also so that it informs and guides my actions of body, speech, and mind.
I realize I’ve gone far beyond what I need to say in introducing this post. So without further ado, here is a look back at the people, places, and experiences that were most meaningful to me in the summer of 2021.
Above and right: Two portraits of my friend Adnan – June 29, 2021.
As I’ve mentioned previously, Adnan is something of a muse for my creative outlet of photography, specifically my photographing of male beauty. I’ve photographed other male friends before, but Adnan has something about him that, to my eyes at least, conveys something very special.
My photography is inspired, in part, by the work of Liam Campbell, founder, editor, and chief photographer of Elska, a bi-monthly male photography, culture and travel magazine. I appreciate how Campbell describes the images of his subjects as “natural, un-airbrushed and spontaneous,” and his subjects’ stories as “personal tales rather than regurgitated press releases.” I like to think that the spirit that inspires these words (and thus Campbell’s art) also inspires and is reflected in my portrait photography, including my images of Adnan.
Above: My best mate Deandre, with whom I played a round of miniature golf at The Links at Dred Scott in Bloomington – Sunday, July 18, 2021.
Left: Deandre’s cat, Tyga – July 18, 2021.
Above: My friends Kathleen, Calvin and Joseph – June 27, 2021.
I live with these three wonderful people (and Calvin and Joseph’s dog, Frodo) in a triplex in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis. I live in the third floor attic apartment of this triplex.
Above: A July 4th gathering hosted by my friends Joan and Matt.
For The Wild Reed’s special series of July 4th posts, click here, here, and here.
Left: For young Kannan, July 4th, 2021 provided his first experence of soap bubbles! . . . And it was a joy to watch his reactions.
Above: A summer solstice feast with friends (from left) Fred, Madeline, John, Noelle, Mark, Carmen, Phil, and Dee – Sunday, June 20, 2021.
Above: With darling Amelia (and Eddie the Wonder Dog) – Saturday, July 31, 2021. . . . And, yes, Amelia loves bugs!
Above: And speaking of bugs, here’s a beautiful one in my back garden on September 6, 2021.
Above: Celebrating Richard and Katie’s (pandemic-delayed) wedding reception – Saturday, August 7, 2021.
Back row from left: Kathleen, Richard, Katie, and Bob. Front row from left: Joey, Chloe, and Mary Lou.
Charlson Meadows Renewal Center in Victoria, MN with my Palliative Care colleagues at Allina Health.
As one of the retreat’s planners, I facilitated the day’s opening ritual, one that invited particpants to “set aside” for the day whatever it was that was weighing most on their hearts and minds. I had a beautiful river stone for everyone present, which we all placed in a wooden bowl to symbolize this “setting aside.” At the end of the day, folks were free to come and gather up their stone, perhaps aware that they were now able to “carry” what it represented in a new way after having experienced a day of rest and renewal.
For many of us in attendance, part of our day of retreat involved kayaking on beautiful Lake Zumbra.
For more images and commentary on this special day, click here.
Above: Enjoying dinner and a glass (or two) of red wine with my dear friend Joan at Colita in Minneapolis – Monday, July 19, 2021.
Above: My buddy Raul – July 17, 2021.
Left: Raul snapped this pic of me sitting in one of the over-sized beach chairs at Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) – August 28, 2021.
Above: Celebrating Dee’s birthday – August 8, 2021. From left: Phil, Dee, Noelle, and John.
Above: Friends Dee, Phil, Josh, Jackie, Amelia, and Liana – July 17, 2021.
Right: Amelia, coloring with the glittery (and pom-pom-y!) markers I gave her – September 5, 2021.
Above: An evening meal in the backyard with friends Calvin and Joseph – August 11, 2021.
Left: Frodo, the animal companion of Joseph and Calvin. He is the most placid and loving dog I’ve ever met!
Above: I took care of Frodo on the weekend of July 24-25, 2021.
At that time, most of Minnesota was experiencing various levels of drought conditions. And the backyard lawn definitely showed it! 😢 . . . Thankfully, things changed in early September.
Above: Friends Brent and Omar. The three of us enjoyed dinner at Pajarito in St. Paul on the evening of Saturday, August 28, 2021.
Above: My prayer shrine – August 20, 2021. The focal point of my shrine in a work of art entitled “Compassionate Christ” by John Giuliani.
The “HOPE” stone is something I made for a patient. He was a guy who was hoping to be discharged on his birthday, but it didn’t happen. Hope had been a constant theme of our daily visits, and a particular spiritual aspiration of his. At one point we were talking about those stones you can buy that have an inspirational word written on them. He told me the word he would have is “hope.” In the days after that particular conversation I looked high and low for just such a stone, but to no avail. So the day before his birthday I decided to make one for myself! Or rather, for my patient. I brought it to him the morning of his birthday, along with a couple of fresh donuts. I’m happy to say it made his day!
Above and right: Celebrating my friend Angie’s birthday at Pelican Lake, MN – July 9-11, 2021.
And, yes, my fire-building skills were a real hit! 😄
My time with Angie and her family in July was the first of two visits to Pelican Lake. I returned there at summer’s end for a lovely time of rest, renewal . . . and perusing with Angie the many antique stores in nearby Alexandria!
Above: Outside The Blue Rooster Shoppe – Alexandria, MN, Saturday, September 18, 2021.
The Blue Rooster specializes in unique vintage and locally handmade decor items and furniture. The owners believe in “providing one of a kind items to one of a kind people.”
Above: My “one of a kind item” from The Blue Rooster now hangs on a wall of my attic apartment in Minneapolis! I was drawn to it by my love of Oscar Wilde’s classic tale, The Happy Prince, which not ony features the eponymous prince but also a swallow. (To view the 1974 animated short film adaptation of The Happy Prince, featuring the voices of Christopher Plummer and Glynis Johns, click here.)
Above: The Mississippi River close to my home in south Minneapolis – August 15, 2021.
Above:: A “poet for hire” on the Franklin Ave. bridge, close to my home in south Minneapolis – Sunday, August 15, 2021. The “special of the day” was an offering of “love poems to the river.”
Here is the poem that the poet wrote “for the river as embodied my Michael.” . . .
coursing through every body
plumping out leaves
lifting branches, wings, heads to the sky.
we learn to pray
for every drop
finding its way
to the ocean.
bodies of this
charging it up
one way or another, we are
given this to feel:
The poet told me that the next day she was traveling to northern Minnesota to share love and healing to those on both sides of the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline protest.
I wished her well and thought to myself: 20 years ago I probably would have been joining her. After all, that was when I was most involved in a number of social and environmental justice issues, including the effort to stop the rerouting of Highway 55 through land considered especially sacred by the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota.
. . . I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
the center of your longing.
Spring 2021 Wild Reed posts of note:
• Summer Garden
• Peter Certo: “We Can Have the Filibuster or Democracy – But We Can’t Have Both”
• Maebe A. Girl: A “Decidedly Progressive Candidate” for Congress
• Cultivating Peace
• Blue Yonder
• The Political Legacy of Chadwick Boseman
• Sweet America
• David Richo on the Adult Task of Forming a “Grown-up Patriotism”
• The Art of Tania Rivilis
• Remembering David McCaffrey, 10 Years On
• Lil Nas X, the Latest Face of Pop’s Gay Sexual Revolution
• Weekend at Pelican Lake
• Summer Blooms
• We All Need Love
• “Meaning Transfigures All”
• Remembering an Actor Who “Changed Everything”
• Kuan Yin: “A Mirror of the Queer Experience”
• Nina Turner: “A Candidate Who Can Make An Enormous Difference”
• Progressive Perspectives on Nina Turner’s Election Loss
• Something to Lament . . .
• Heather Cox Richardson on the 4th Anniversary of the “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlotteville, VA
• When Wendy Walked Away
• Phyllis Bennis on the Crisis in Afghanistan
• Fred Kaplan: Quote of the Day – August 16, 2021
• A Day of Renewal
• The Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen
• Richard LaFortune: Quote of the Day – August 20, 2021
• A Sacred Pause
• Aligning With the Living Light
• John Pavlovitz: Quote of the Day – August 25, 2021
• “The Perfect Send-Off”
• Somehow, Somewhere
• Mystical Participation
• COVID Observations From a General Surgeon
• Be In My Mind, Beloved One
• Your Peace Is With Me, Beloved One
• “Better Than Callas We Will Never See”
• Summer’s End
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Out and About – Spring 2021
• Out and About – Winter 2020-2021
• Out and About – Autumn 2020
• Out and About – Summer 2020
For previous Out and About series, see: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021
Images: Michael J. Bayly.