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In my early adolescence, when I was busy trying to separate my meaning from my mother’s I found a church-going family who helped me in this task. They -like I- were quick to point out her sacrilege: her poverty, her politics, her single parenting (they did not know, like I did, what the alternative would have looked like). And I, like them, became spitefully critical of the church she’d taken me to when I was a child: A place marked as irreverent for its open willingness to negotiate through the beauties and follies of a number of faiths.

I borrowed the criticism of the Unitarian Church, like I borrowed the criticism of my mother. I refused her christianity, and so she made a new round of it, refashioning her faith in a new space that I did not snub at the time (though I wouldn’t put it past myself now, knowing my history).

I began looking too, sure that the “real” church could provide what I needed in a community and faith, if it was so self-assured and critical of everyone else. After years of looking around, blinking dumbfounded at congregation after congregation, often as numbed and insensitive to me as I was to them, I came to question the right for religious institutions and their spokespersons to point fingers.

It has been a long time since I’ve stepped into a church building. In my time away, I have let my imagination run wild with the grotesque possibility that all churches– indeed the buildings themselves–would represent everything I wouldn’t want a church to be: exclusive, apolitical, self-protective, anti-humanistic, gold-plated and in the clouds.

I walked in this weekend to wood. To the smell of it. To walls, darkened in places with old oak knobs and lit with the honey of split planks. There was a wooden rocking chair in the tall ceilinged meeting room– in case someone like me, wandering in, would want to keep a small child with me, rather than turn her over to strangers. And in all that crafted wood, and the murmur of forested voices, there was a whisper of worship at the pulpit- but worship, identified in working hands and good rest, in the richness of the land and the possibilities of music.

The man picked up that old book, laughing, laughing and proceeded to tell us the things in it that he found useful: A young prophet, politically radical enough to have been executed by the state. A message of peace and disarmament; the pounding of weapons into ploughshares and scythes.

This is not the first time I have realized a need to restitch myself to a history I rejected in my youth, but its the first time I’ve considered that task to be spiritual. Something in me feels deeply drawn to the idea of building a community in a place that wrestles (faithfully) with environmentalism, human rights, and peace, in ways that have been instilled in me since my childhood. I see room here, not for me to agree with everything, but to set a course down, and learn from others, in a community of people who hold on to whatever point of religiosity seems to make the most cultural sense to them, while still insisting on sharing a conviction that there’s something spiritual about the loves and joys and politics that we might live together.

When I arrived home, I called my mother, to tell her I knew something — some little thing– of what she’d lent me in life. and to apologize.

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here it is, again: a monthly review for family and friends who decide to follow this blog and are interested in the actual goings-on in our life, rather than my less practical musings.  I have divided our month into categories, and provided the highlights.

life with a little one:

i) Andjoli slept for three hours. twice. hours slept may not seem like the first and most important thing about a month to you, if you haven’t had children yet. but just you wait.

ii) chapstick and toothbrushes make much better toys than expensive organic non-toxic actual toys.

iii) We celebrated Andjoli’s first name day on March 25th. Hronia Polla. She had peas. For those unfamiliar, name days are similar to birthdays, void of cake and commercialism. Andjoli is the namesake of my godmother but we were unfortunately too busy to make it up for them to celebrate together. Perhaps next year.

iv) girl’s got bed head for the first time, and this crazy little hair woosh that i wouldn’t quite call bangs. she’s lookin’ good.

v)you’d probably just prefer pictures, anyway, so I’ll let them speak for themselves. Here are a few of her rolling around on our couch, and ready to go out in the last of the cold weather.

v) I’ve finally inserted pictures of the wool longies i made into the february review. i promised you these pictures last month, but it took this long to take and post them. I know pictures of pants don’t really compare to pictures of babies, so I put the baby in the pants,  hoping that it might increase the chance that you actually care. scroll down to the old post if interested.

outside:

i) I have winter-sown 12 different varieties of beneficial flowers, and they’re in their mini greenhouses on the front porch.  I know it’s spring now, but I still insist on referring to this propagation method as winter-sowing. we don’t remember to water them as frequently as we should.

ii) we’ve seen a good number of early spring flowers blossom and fade: lenten roses, snowdrops, bird footed violets, and a few others that i’ve never known the names of.  The early tulips and daffodils have set their flower heads up and are waiting to open. the lilacs have miniature purple mounds, and green leaves starting to unfurl. all the bushes, berries, nuts, fruits are leafing out nicely.

iii) all the spaces left unmulched are leafing out too. i wouldn’t call it “nicely” though. I might actually refer to it as a “problem.”

iv)B’s brother (and brother’s girlfriend) helped us weed the entire front yard and put up grape and raspberry wire trellis on the west fence. Since they left, we’ve weeded about a third of the back yard  and put in a few hundred strawberries between front and back, and twice as many onion and garlic sets. I also seeded the entire front yard with veggies and herbs, but there is a lot still to do in the back plots.

v) Our compost grew by several feet since we’ve started on this spring rampage. We built a large compost hoop to contain it all, but have not transferred the compost material into the hoop yet.

inside:

i)after good time in the garden, it was next to impossible to force myself to come in and work diligently on all of the papers, grading, lesson plans etc. that I had put off in order to get my fingers dirty. but i did it, and it’s done. most of it was accomplished past my deadlines and in a disorderly fashion, but it’s spring and there’s no keeping us in here any longer.

ii) a first coat of stain is down on the addition floor, and we hope to get the second on just under the march wire- we plan to finish the staining on the 31st. I’m jumping the gun and writing a review a day before the month is over, so I can’t report on this accurately, but it’s a plant based all natural stain, and I’m a little skeptical about the final outcome. If nothing else, we have a lot of good wool rugs to cover it up.

iii) the juicer is back in order (it was actually down less than a week). I can’t wait for the summer season to kick in to production, so we can get more local vegetables to put through this little machine. every other function it serves in my kitchen is back in working order. I really love kitchen order.

creation:

i) I’ve started outlining a chapbook that starts in the 6th month of my pregnancy, goes through Andjoli’s birth, and details vignettes of her first months. Essentially I’m drawing up a collection of essays that weave this year together. If it doesn’t end up publishable, it will still be a story worth sharing with Andjoli later.

ii) We’re still stuck in our rut of functional production, but we’ve talked about it, and determined it is not worth complaining about in the least. We really rather like it. We’re discussing ways to use our resources so that we can engage our community through creation.  We’re considering growing flowers, teas, herbs and medicinals on our plot in the coming years to sell at market.

community, work, politics, and the rest of the world:

i) I decided to cut out the categories of “school” and “work.” This does not mean we are actually cutting those things out of our lives, but sometimes we wish we were. Future updates on work and school will be highlighted under this new, more expansive, category. There is little in the way of news to put in these just-retired categories, excepting that, despite huge financial cuts in the department, I was offered one additional semester of teaching for next year, which should perfectly correspond with the completion of my PhD coursework.

ii)the neighbors are out! it’s so nice to run in to our hibernated friends and to again exchange stories, seeds, meals, and baby clothes. we are reminded: we were made for community.

iii) We found a small plot of earth about a mile from our house that is more than reasonably priced– and it has made us start to think about getting a little more land to work. We’re up to our elbows in work in our existing yard, but we’ve got spring in our noses, and ideas to boot.  We’ve already talked about putting a woodstoved yurt on the plot as a writing house and building a composting toilet. Of course, we don’t have 15k to put into property or dreams right now, and we don’t make enough to get another mortgage. It gets us thinking, anyway, about ways to increase our small urban homestead.

iv) After blood sampling and multiple interviews I have been accepted to donate my extra milk to the Indiana Milk Bank. The bank is a non-profit that provides breast milk to premature and newborn babies when the mother is unable to feed them (due to birth complications, maternal death, etc.). I’m excited about this, because it’s a rather unique way for me to provide a resource that’s pretty hard to come by (human milk), that I happen to have in abundance.

v) I am heading up a delegation for Amnesty International to talk to our Senators and Representatives (both State and National) about the crisis of Maternal health, and the possibility for access to education and transformation in policy to decrease  maternal complications and outrageous spending.  I don’t have time for this, but no one had volunteered in the whole state, so I’m putting myself through the Amnesty training and traipsing up to the (state) capital a few times next month to see if we can’t do something about a pretty serious issue in our country.

vi) we were considering getting a full-blown meat CSA from an amazingly wonderful local farm called maple valley. Because the CSA included large portions of chicken, turkey, and lamb, we decided to do some taste testing before we began, most specifically, to address our lack of lamb experiences. We have tried to love it, prepared it a few ways, and have decided we are not fans of the animal. Though the lamburgers with meg were tastier than I would have expected, I firmly believe that it is because we doused them in enough local condiments and spices to make the lamb unrecognizable.  And while I successfully consumed one whole burger, I’m not sure we would know what to do with a quarter of a lamb in our freezer. So, we’ve opted for a chicken share from the same farm, and will be getting a slew of free ranging hens to set on our table this year. I am on the hunt for an inexpensive rotisserie to make this experience even more enjoyable.  I love few things more than local, sustainable, home prepared, delicious food and am glad that the meat we eat this year will be all of those things. and not made of lamb.

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