more from blue ridge

Buenas dias, I greet the school secretaries each morning. Los lunes, miercoles, y viernes nosotros hablamos español en la escuela--en los pasillos, los mensajes, los conversaciónes. This is excluding actual classes, where math and English are in English, and Science and Social Studies are in Spanish. I walk in at 7:35am and head downstairs where the kids are eating breakfast.

Terrible breakfasts by the way, Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cookie Crisp with chocolate milk, muffins, corndogs, ''breakfast pizza,'' canned fruit on the side, maple bars every Friday. They don't eat much, and the whole philosophy is, ''The two meals they get at school may be all they get in a day or most of what they get for the weekend, so we have to pack in the calories,'' which I understand, but there are better ways to do that, and what they do eat, at school at least, is just packed with sugar...

Anyway, I start the mornings greeting kids, trying to engage them as they warm up for the day with food, or come down from the violence and craziness at home, and at 7:50am our ''Team Time'' starts and the whole school, teachers included, does zumba. The coffee sloshes around in my stomach but the dancing is fun and the songs are ridiculously inappropriate for elementary schoolers and I just laugh. The brothers with cerebral palsy arrive and I help the second-grade one for the first half-hour of the day. We say Happy Birthdays and the Pledge of Allegiance.

This week I was greeting a group of kindergartners with the general, ''How was the weekend? Thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs to the side?'' when one little guy responded with, ''I went with my mom to get her... pierced.'' ''Oh her ears pierced?'' I replied, not catching the middle word. ''No, her chest,'' he said, grabbing his nipples.'' ''Oh wow, you went with her?'' ''Yeah, to the tattoo shop. She has a tattoo on her butt.''

So that was one way to begin the morning with a five-year-old.

Other funny/sad observations lately: one of my 5th graders has a new baby brother. His name? (Last name changed, don't worry). Boston Riot Young Cortez.

A Bed Full of Cats is this week's story in the first grade lit book. Disturbing visual there.

Gunner, Garrison, and Twelve Gage: the names of K. and T.'s new landlord's three elementary-school sons. He is a retired sniper. Wow.

Walking into the Y last week, listening to a middle schooler yell, ''Austin, come on!!'' then add, parenthetically, within earshot of all nearby: ''He has pink-eye.''


walk well the banks

Five dead crows, black stick legs splayed in the air,
lying on their backs in shallow snow
I found them walking at Pioneer Park two weeks ago,
Navigating ice sheets carefully as I talked with K,
holding my heart to hers 250 miles away.

I don't want to only tell hard stories,
but I can't purge my mind of the image of that kindergartner who killed a cat
(is it possible that a five-year-old could do that?)

and later, when he told me of his dad who kicked down doors
I felt only the sick familiarity seeping into the pit of my stomach
Brother, I know it well

The warm Chinooks blew last weekend,
melting the ice that had coated the streets for days
treacherous roadmap in a city that doesn't plow.

Silver earring glinting in the dark,
I thought of that metallic band of water flowing from the Rockies,
no longer reaching the Sea of Cortez,
of Phoenix's air conditioning and golf courses,
Mexico's dried-up womb farmlands, y todos los inmigrantes hambrientos,
But who really owns a river?

I read Mark 5 and had a hard time believing a father could be that desperate
I guess I missed the point.

Y esos fotos me molestaron, tu explorando cuevas en mi ropa, mi luz de cabeza. !Es tan impropio! Luego yo recordé mi caja de pino, de tu mano, de la que yo tomo anillos y horquillas cada mañana. Yo pienso que usaré eso hasta que me muera, contigo o sin ti.

So I will also learn to bend.


ginger cabbage scramble

Taking some inspiration from this sister's beauty, I thought I'd share a recipe. Sort of makes me wish I could re-design this whole bloggin' space. Ah, if only I knew how to do things like that!

Well, here is the first; I threw it together last week, not knowing what to do with the rest of the purple cabbage in my fridge from making beet soup.

Use a little bit of olive oil in a pan and let it heat up. (I always use a paper towel so that the oil is minimal).
Cut two or three cloves of garlic, and onion if you have it.
Throw them in the pan.
Add purple cabbage. You could also add zucchini and or squash at this point.
Let cook for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, cut up chard and kale. Throw that in.
Now for salt, pepper, garlic powder, and ginger (root is better, but ground also works).
Stir scramble so everything is seasoned.
Optional: add an egg or egg white for protein. The yellow and green mix to form a brilliant shade of blue around the edges of cabbage.
Serve sprayed with Bragg's Liquid Aminos.

For breakfast or dinner, soooooooo good!


''Yet I know that good is coming to me--that good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it.''
-Phantastes, George MacDonald


getting older

I suppose the best part of a birthday is not double snowshoeing,
breakfasts out,
two delicious cakes made by my roommate (in a sugarless month),
getting tipsy,
or a room-full of good and new friends,

just as the best part of being 23 wasn't singing karaoke,
finally liking tomatoes,
obtaining a new car
(and supporting myself),
or making it through a hell of a year.

In the end, I think, I am so happy to be 24 because I am learning to let go
to receive others
to draw boundaries
to find my identity and value only in Christ
and to walk in freedom and honor like the daughter I am

Yes, all her paths are peace.


When the rains came to our leaking Honduran house
corrugated-tin roof and gaps under the doors
water would spread over the brick-red tiles on the floor,
any clothes on the line soaked through all over again.

I remember that particular night, running back through the storm alone,
lightning-lit sky and the road a river of rainwater,
my sandaled feet metronoming a watery rhythm.

For Earth Day, we planted watermelon and frijoles,
and I watched amazed as one often disengaged student, Arnold,
came to life pushing wheelbarrows and shoveling dirt.
An hour and a half left me with blisters on my thumbs and a sore back,
leavings of the labor I was so unaccustomed to.

I think of the problems I faced with perra and prostituta namecalling, of those boys, beloved, who wept when I made them apologize, explaining that real men don't use those words.

I can't remember Jose Javier without smiling, the little guy who was okay with being called Jose, Javier, Javi, or even ''J.J.,'' but when I called him ''Javs'' informed me with utmost seriousness, ''My name is not Hobbes, Miss.''

And when I tire of my first-floor, plainish apartment, what about that week in March, when we found five tarantulas living in our casa? Later there were triple termite hatches of thousands and always, of course, the occasional cockroach.

Buses were graced by creepy and pitiful-looking payasos performing screamed songs for a lempira or two. Tambien, ladies, men and children selling cheap fried snacks to earn their exhausted living.

This land I long for, that which breathed life into me and drew my blood, leaving me unchangeably wounded and marking my mouth with its taste, so I will never drink water the same way, my leg muscles not forget how to move upon the uneven earth of the South. I take the strangeness and the heartbreak and beauty and hold it close to my cheeks. My Latin time is not finished, I know, and speaking Spanish daily meets a deep need, but the chosen separation still makes me ache inside.


January: intentional

I've been soaking beans, roasting vegetables, sprouting seeds, making granola. Cooking up roasted beet soup and sweet potato fries. Practicing my own apartment-homesteading in whatever small ways I know how.

And this! For a woman who has maybe done four cartwheels in her life, holding crow pose for a minute-plus is pretty much the coolest thing I can do! Yoga has been an incredible addition in my life.
And I am obviously not very good at wielding a sledgehammer (or in this case, an ax), but we spent MLK service day Monday destroying this little structure, and my arms and hands are killing me today. So satisfying though!


MLK: Ebenezer Baptist Church, 5 months before his assassination

"I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren't fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You're afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you're afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice."


the bittersweet between my teeth

In Hinduism, he told me, there are two paths to G-d: Love and Knowledge. In high school, I think I followed that Love path--loving my youth group, loving my leaders and friends. Then college came, and with it the path of Knowledge.

I can see how some would think of it this way, the quest for Knowledge itself as a way of being hungry. And I don't want to discount that.

But I don't know if Knowledge is a path to G-d.

Because how does thirst really ever come except by knowing you are utterly dry, and without? Is this why is says do not be wise in your own eyes? Love and Knowledge are compatible, but they are also not equal.

But thirst, to thirst in your blood and in your bones and in your eye sockets and nerve endings, to want, desire, crave, ache for, need something more--this must be a path to G-d. How could someone live thirsty and not in the end meet G-d?

Like the Spanish boy in The Alchemist, who sells his entire flock of sheep and leaves everything he knows to get to Egypt. Even if he doesn't make it, he will die trying to find and fulfill his legend.

And lately that question that gnaws at me--can people change?--has taken a new dimension, Can a person become hungry? Are we either born or not born with this hunger? Can it be grown in us? I know it is not hereditary.

I want to be able to believe that overarching statement that we are all longing for the same world, whether we know it or not, we are all longing for connection and for freedom and for the Prince of Peace to reign on earth. But sometimes I'm not so sure...

But as for me, I have to get to Egypt. If it means selling everything I have, I will buy no other way. Even if I never see the pyramids, I will not rest from this desert crossing. I will walk mi camino propio, and I will not wish for another.


it takes an ocean not to break

In Bellingham two weeks ago, L., J., and I crashed a wedding. On a napkin I scribbled this snatch of handwritten vow, ''For freedom from doubt and suspicion, I commit to interpret your behavior seeking to understand in love.''

Now, aside from the fact that any man saying that to a woman, or person saying that to a person, makes me want to weep, all this reflection on the salient and unspoken rules of classes and cultures has me thinking: when you exist in the dominant experience, or at least the headlining one, unintentional ignorance and/or willful oblivion comes easy.

When the different does appear (in the form of homelessness, minority cultures, women's experiences, etc), it is so easy to regard with distrust and suspicion, which we know gives birth to judgment and pride. In the flicker of a brain wave, you are ruler of your own universe, miles and miles from the heart of God.

But to learn to seek to understand and face situations and cultures and people not being wise in your own eyes, giving the stories of others fullest attention and questions and empathy--now this may be something like that woman Wisdom! And oh, how I want to walk closely with her!


In all things,
at all times,
you will abound with everything you need.


back at blue ridge

Today, when we are discussing ''Los opciones de Kelso (la rana) para resolver problemas grandes y pequeñas,'' we come to ''Calmate.''

''Cool down your chicken,'' Sirgio says, explaining the meaning of ''Calmate.'' I ask him if his mom says this, and he nods his head.

Of the same child, a bright reader, I must frequently request, ''Read it again please, this time nicely,'' as he lapses into funny accents almost without fail by the end of the first sentence on each page.

Later Seth raises his hand as la Maestra asks everyone to put their hands down. ''I was going to say something important,'' he declares.'' ''You have one second to do that,'' she responds. Esta maestra es una poca intensa.

''My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather died 10,000 years ago,'' Seth says.

First grade is about following directions; stomachaches and hard falls can be cured with an ice pack or drink of water. I've been working a lot on reading with these little ones lately, in Spanish and English. Teaching reading to a kid who struggles to connect sounds to letters is no easy task, not to mention that English has 1100 rarely reliable ways to spell 44 sounds for Spanish's 38 and 35 reliable ones.

If preschool and kindergarten are about concepts (time, family and community, spatial and mental categorization), and in grades 6-12 we teach content, then grades 1-5 are all about skills. Cutting, coloring, pasting, tying shoes, ordering, arranging, writing, reading, adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, problem-solving, observing... I guess I just never took the elementary teaching vocation very seriously, but think of where you'd be without these basis abilities?

Last week my Latino first grade teacher pointed out that the reason our afternoon block can be a little crazy with behavior problems is because we have all the English readers in one room at that time. ''You mean the behavior kids are white,'' I said, a bit boldly, knowing we were both thinking of the eight or so kids who consistently tend to act up. He nodded, embarrassed. He isn't trying to stir up anything, and culture plays a large part, but it's true.

So, there's that.


new year, happy

and all the lives we ever lived
and all the lives to be
are filled with trees and changing leaves
-Virginia Woolf

A couple of years ago my friend Darrelle started a blog. To introduce us readers to her story, she begins by talking about roots. She shares about her life in Colorado, about what it means to be from a place, and also what it means to leave that place. How we are born in and leave and return to geographical and metaphorical places (and relationships) in our lives.

Roots grow. Leaves change color. Branches must be pruned. A tree becomes unrecognizable from a seedling. And yet without the seedling, there would be no tree.

I am talking about identity. You are older, but you are the same. At any given point in the line, the spiral, the web, the building, you are either becoming more yourself, or less yourself.

For me, being from Washington means so many things.

Familiarity with Salish words and names, the normality of seafood, salmon, and berries, taking ferries regularly, dirty cars and teeming gardens, composting and rain, seasons and driving, Asian food and earthquakes. Mountain houses and evergreen trees.

I think of the island town of my birth and the Upper Columbia of my adolescence, now the vineyards and Blue Mountains of Walla Walla.

Chacos and Birkenstocks, dirty feet and snowshoeing, Indian reservations and long summer nights, the drive-in, bow-hunting and fly-fishing, ground wheat berries and sprouted grains, homemade wine and beekeeping, the Kootenais and the Salmo Priest, Quillisascutt Valley and all the orchards along the river.

And woven into these northwest roots the language of Santa Barbara’s beaches and Westmont, beloved; the self-assurance of San Francisco walking; wide-eyes of London exploration and burly glares of self-protection learned in Tegucigalpa and along Honduran trails.

I think about where I’ve come from and each stage I’ve passed through even while remaining the same. Stretching and growing and expanding but being essentially the same person, the same species of tree.

Each step is a stone of sorts, a stepping-stone. Or how could we get to where we are going? How could we miss steps but keep on with the journey? That would not work. I am grateful for Telford’s class, as it helped prepare me for living in San Francisco. I am grateful for coming back to Santa Barbara after working as a chaplain and wondering what the hell was happening to me, not being able to process anything, struggling to put words to those experiences from General Hospital.

And it is has stuck with me, what he said about not judging or looking down on who you have been, not looking back to think with relief, ‘I’m so much cooler now,’ and sensing your earlier self a stranger. We must learn to be okay with the places we have been, the roads we have walked, the scenes carved into our eyes. And not only okay, but richer and kinder for them.

Where you are now, there will come a day when you also want to write that off. You are not where you will be! And that is okay too. Karen always talked about chronological snobbery, about the need to be patient with others, to remember, as Brad said, that people are rarely where they will end up. Gentleness, gentleness, in all interactions.

Because sometimes the lack of manifest empathy makes me sick to my stomach. But even this must be forgivable, for empathy only comes from walking in the hardness. And some walk flatter, not better or worse, paths.

This 23rd year was my golden birthday, and to be honest, it has been a painful year, marked with loss. If you know me, you know I love gold—earrings, rings, headbands, scarves, glitter—and this year really has held none of that.

But then maybe that is what it means to become gold—to walk through fire, and come out purified. Well I do not claim purification, though I have seen so many things held dear crumble into ash at my feet. And I will say that of transformation, like alchemy, I know no other way than to walk through flame.