Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Everything Costs

Returned from Navajoland Pilgrimage on Saturday evening. Only now feeling like a real person back home what with the jet lag and the humidity. By the by, Navajo actually means "horse thief" in Spanish and they prefer to be called Dine'.

Monument Valley is stunning. We remarked several times that you simply can't take a bad picture out there, but no photo will do the space and grandeur justice. The redness of the dirt, the blueness of the sky, the SPACE between the monuments...ok, I'll stop drooling.

Tano, our neighbor and guide on several hikes, told us that the monuments in the valley are sacred to the Dine'. This is holy ground. And it was won with a price. We've all read about the history of Native Americans since the white people came. We know about the destruction and exploitation. The Dine' have lived in this valley for a very long time--they were not part of the Trail of Tears--yet they have been taken advantage of for centuries. This beautiful land has cost them dearly.

Our trip to the reservation costs. The plane ticket alone is $500 or so. Plus food, SUV rentals, gasoline, materials for the work--it adds up to many thousands of dollars. Is the beauty and spiritual depth worth the money and damage to the environment from gasoline fumes? How much longer can we go out there?

I spent a lot of money on jewelry this year. We buy Dine' crafts to auction on Shrove Tuesday and send the profits back to the Episcopal Diocese on the reservation. This year, I may have overspent myself. Something like fifteen necklaces and bracelets and a lovely painted pot. Can you say "buyer's remorse"?

I return to a hundred emails and a messy office. I plunge right back in and have soon lost the calm I won on the reservation. Everything costs. Is it worth it?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Junior Birdman

Off we go, into the wild, blue yonder...

The annual pilgrimage to the Navajo reservation in Arizona begins tomorrow at 6am. Or, rather, 5am for those of us who'd like to shower before pilgrim-ing. Very much looking forward to orange mesas and blue, blue sky. Even looking forward to the plane flight and 6 hour drive to the rez. More on that later, perhaps.

In the meantime, please enjoy this photo.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sticky Decision

Converse is owned by Nike.
Nike is a Great Corporate Evil.
Converse is now made in Nike's foreign sweatshops.
Nike has made tentative steps to alleviate some of the biggest problems in manufacturing and human rights.
Converse All-Stars are objectively cool.
[See also the connection between McDonald's and Chipotle: McDonald's is terrible in both taste and record, but Chipotle makes an effort to buy non-hormone-bred meat and organic produce.]

What's a semi-hip, socially-concious girl to do? Completely boycott? Recognize good strides and encourage with my purchasing power? Will anyone in power hear either message? Besides, I really want new chucks...

Roller Coasters and the Divine

Our Youth Council, the teenagers who lead our youth program at Redeemer, spent a day at Kings’ Island recently followed by a lovely barbecue at the home of Karen and Mike Staffiera. The day was meant as a “thank you” for all their hard work this past year and an opportunity for bonding among the group. It was fanTAstic. Our first ride was the new Firehawk and, if you like roller coasters at all, you’ve got to try it: once you’re strapped into your chair, it reclines. And I don’t just mean a little for a better television-watching-angle—I mean your feet are above your head. You ascend the first hill lying down, backwards, and head-first; it is fairly freaky. Then, just as you go over the top of the hill, the track rotates laterally so you are hanging prone, flying-Superman-style. And off you go! The Firehawk is amazingly smooth and worth the current wait.

Now, before you think this is just an advertisement for Kings’ Island, let me share something with you. I have a love/hate relationship with roller coasters. Specifically, I get motion-sick. Really motion-sick. I spent large portions of the day lying down on the grass, holding everyone’s hats and phones as they rode ride after ride. We’ve got several photos of me looking queasy. The first ride doesn’t bother me—it’s exhilarating to feel the wind in your hair, the palpable excitement in the crowd around you, the freedom of raising your arms and letting go. But several in a row and my stomach catches up with me.

It’s terrifying. To be strapped into a small, mechanical car and thrown at terrific speeds over hills and through the air is scary. And, if I’m honest, that’s a huge part of the love. As you climb that first hill, there is a feeling of abject fear: this will never work, we’re really high up, get me out of this thing, O God we’re going to die. But you can’t get out—it would be more dangerous for everyone if you tried to get out at the top of the hill rather than ride it out. And there is a moment at the crest of that hill when you see the face of God. At that split second, when the cars tip the balance and start down the hill, you let go. You let go of the fear, you let go of your expectations, you let go of your breath. You let go of everything and scream. It’s one of the purest moments of emptiness you can experience. And one of the purest moments of joy. To be in that single moment of fear and joy is to see God. Susie B and I joked about that as we were coming into the station after riding the Firehawk—we were both shaking and giddy, not sure how we felt about the ride yet, but certain that it had been a holy experience.

This is what it comes down to: fear and joy in one package. Kevin B did some thinking about that this past weekend at the Young Adult retreat that CORE sponsored at the Cathedral. The decisions we have to make in our lives, the experiences we have, the relationships we form, are all filled to the brim with fear and joy. We never know what will happen and our anxiety can sometimes overwhelm us, but most of us have had the experience of taking a risk and reaping a powerful reward. We sometimes go into a thing, confident in the joy it will bring only to be laid low. Everything is like this—choices, relationships with other people, relationship with God, Creation itself. That moment at the top of a roller coaster is our entire lives. I did get sick riding those coasters, but I also loved it. I loved spending time with some of the youth of our parish who are living a risky and fearful time in their lives. They are becoming who they will be. They don’t know yet who that is, but they are excited. There is joy in the unknown just as much as there is fear.

I have asked many of our youth this question and now I want to ask you: what would you do if you knew you had only six months to live? A year? What fear would you tackle? What joy would you not postpone? How would you serve God? What’s keeping you from it?