I knew a family who came to Haines from down south-- real south, I think it was Missouri, or maybe Arkansas-- who celebrated Valentine's Day with a Valentine Tree. The branches were bare and draped in twinkling white lights and hung with paper hearts. They all camped out in their living room under big south facing windows on February 14 to celebrate the light of spring. February sunshine, especially here where winters are so dark-- is holy, and loved-- even more so by people who are used to much more light.
Brian Doyle, whose work I'm a big fan of, wrote about meeting Bishop Desmond Tutu in Portland back in 2015, and shared this impromptu riff Tutu gave on faith, "The world will say you are silly! Be proud of that!" Doyle said he didn't write it all down, as he was caught by surprise when the Bishop suddenly began an impromptu "not sermon", but this is what Tutu said, to the best of Doyle's recollection- a paraphrase- but one he believed was worth repeating, and I do too-- now more than ever:
Since you've asked what my schedule is:
I will be giving a reading and answering questions (weather permitting as I'm flying from Haines) tomorrow, Friday Feb. 10 at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau at 6:30 and again at 8:00. There's an interview on KTOO at 3:30, too.
My friend Teresa calls Haines "spiritual boot camp," because it can be so challenging to love our neighbors as ourselves, especially after meetings like the one last night, where many angry people, who had been misinformed and riled up all day, apparently -- sandbagged the Parks & Rec committee at the library. (Which is ironic, as fighting at public meetings is our most traditional form of winter recreation. It keeps us warm and elevates heart rates.) They were acting on a rumor that the committee was banning snow machines and ATVs from 25 mile and up the Kicking Horse valley.
“Being civil isn’t just trying to be respectful toward the people we know. It is also to care about our common life...there’s something that binds human beings together that politics can’t create and it shouldn’t be able to destroy. What we really need to be thinking as people of faith, is how is it that our common life can flourish? Even if it isn’t going to be perfect and it isn’t going to fit all of our convictions, how can we have a flourishing common life together? " ---Theologian Richard Mouw, author of Christian Civility in an Uncivil World.
The first morning in San Pancho, Mexico, I walked down to the corner cafe, a one room affair with two French doors open onto the street so that it feels like a covered porch, to buy a cup of coffee. Inside, there is a small counter, behind which a girl of about twenty-five is making coffee and espresso drinks while scraping the batter for lemon pound cake (a house specialty ) off the beaters of a hand mixer. Behind her, a little wall oven bakes banana muffins that fill the whole neighborhood with their sweet scent.
It was so interesting that the lessons in church yesterday, which are determined years ahead, spoke so clearly about current events, and the proper response to them.
The Old Testament was from Micah-- and ended with: "Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." Psalm 15 offered this advice: to speak "the truth" from your heart, with no "guile", and never "heap contempt upon your neighbor." And finally, there came the Beatitudes, from Mathew's gospel: Blessed are the peacemakers, persecuted, and hungry-- "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth."
Yes, Mexico was wonderful-- the light, the sand , the warmth, the palms and pink and red and white bougainvillea-- I especially love the little town with its solid colorful buildings, the paint and beams and tiles. Of course the fruit and fresh corn tortillas, and avocados are sublime-- and the limes! (With cold Pacifico beer--) but mostly I like the people, who say "Buenas Dias" and smile at me as I walk down the cobblestones to the beach.
This morning I woke up to the windy wet in Juneau in my daughter's guest room. I listened to the sounds of the morning household in the dark-- a baby cried and was soothed, a toddler greeted the day with happy riddles that sounded like he was speaking Thai, and then the radio news, the coffee grinding-- and I thought all is right with this little world at least, so I need to still my beating heart.
I get a bit of travel anxiety.