Beholding Creation

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life."
     -- Rachel Carson (on a sign at Eastman Nature Center in Maple Grove, Minnesota)


An Apt Metaphor

It was foggy when I woke up this morning and got in the car to head on my way to spiritual direction at church. It was a thick fog. The kind you have to wipe off the windows of your car. I could tell the sun was up somewhere, but I couldn't tell where.

When I left my spiritual direction group at church an hour and a half later, the fog had mostly lifted. A very thin veil was left which the sun was shining through. That's how spiritual direction can be. The fog lifts; the sun is shining.


On Race

The last two days were MEA weekend in Minnesota (actually it's Education Minnesota Professional Conference, but everyone still refers to the old Minnesota Education Association acronym) when teachers have the opportunity to attend a big teacher's conference. Basically, it means a fall vacation weekend (more people travel this weekend in Minnesota than on Thanksgiving) for most people.

We had two days of an inservice at school. This meant having to find places for the boys to go since I've usually been able to go somewhere with them (I'm very thankful for my sister April and our friend Sara who each took the boys a day). Our Montessori school is a charter school serving North Minneapolis. That means we're very diverse--both economically and racially.

When your community becomes more diverse, it comes with more tension and conflict, but it is quite worth working through for the sake of not having just one group's viewpoint on everything. For example, the adults in my Kindergartner's classroom are from the Netherlands, Somalia, and Mexico. His friends come in a variety of shades of skin pigmentation.

Our workshop the past two days centered around racism, cultural diversity, and white privilege. Race is a created social construct. There are more differences within a racial group that between groups. Race was created to separate people. With that said, though race isn't real, racism is. Racism happens when one group has power over another.

I don't like the thought of "White Privilege"--that as a white person, I have certain privileges other people don't have. It makes me feel defensive, feeling that I haven't contributed to racism. But the fact of the matter is that I do have privileges my colored friends don't have. I may experience racism toward me in my own neighborhood and not always feel safe, but I have the opportunity to move to neighborhoods where I do feel safe (and I don't have to worry about the rent being unfair to me because of my skin color or having to prove myself). I don't have to worry if I get pulled over by the police that I will be detained or face anything bigger than a minor traffic violation. When I speak or do something, people don't usually attribute anything I say or do to my race.

I see the struggle in my neighborhood. It's hard for kids to have hope to escape when they don't have good educational opportunities. Or if they do have good opportunities, they struggle because they don't get enough sleep at home or their parents aren't around to support them. Yes, some of this is because of the poor decisions that are made. Some of it is because of class--poor parents have to work more so they're not around for their kids. And class issues are strongly rooted in issues of power.

There's a lot of deep layers of things. And it's easy to think that I'm not related to the cause of those issues--which may be true. But I also have privilege that others don't have. And if I'm not helping correct that, I'm still a part of the problem. I don't like it, but it's there. I'm not sure how to deal with that entirely yet. I don't have solutions. But I'm aware that I can't keep my eyes closed.


Pictures from the Wilderness in Autumn

A week and a half ago the boys and I took off for a hike while Beth was away on a field trip. We had thought about going camping, but the nights were quite cold and their sleeping bags aren't much for warmth. So we took off to explore a nearby state park that we hadn't been to before. It was a cold, crisp day, but the hiking warmed us up a little. We're working on conditioning the boys for more outdoor times like these for future hopes of backpacking and going to the Boundary Waters. Someday.

I wish there were more weekends like those in the fall. We've been battling with colds and such recently. And many weekends get full with other things that work their way into the schedule. Plus there are all those outdoor jobs that need to get done yet (putting the garden to rest for the winter, raking the leaves, winterizing the house...). The autumnal season is way too short in the upper midwest.
But excuses can't be made. Nature is there. It beckons. 

I read somewhere recently that "wandering in the wilderness" is often used as a way of showing felt separation from God. When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for forty years, they were often trying to do their own thing and neglecting the very God who was leading them out of slavery and into the promised land.

And the wilderness can be that. I can be a place of trial, darkness, harshness. Jesus certainly felt some of that during his 40 day fast. Elijah and Elisha certainly felt that at times in their confrontation of pagan  gods and practices.  

But the wilderness is not just that. Most of the time I like to wander in the wilderness to reconnect with God. I feel Him most present there where I can see the wonders He has made. Not that I'm always mindful of His presence...but I do usually feel refreshed and renewed. Christ often went there to escape the pressures of the crowds and to find renewal in the prayerful presence of the Father.

The wilderness is important for those reasons. Whether we feel connected to God or feel like He's nowhere to be found, the wilderness--with all it's wildness and untamedness--is a place of beauty and wonder. We are connected to the dirt from which we were formed. We are reminded of our frailty, our weakness, our place in the world, as well as our power and the impact we have with each footstep we take.

And so I hope for more fall days to get outside and enjoy the wilderness. As Tolkien told us, "not all who wander are lost."

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renenwed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.” 
 - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


Night-Time Gratitude

Some days with the kids are rough. I think any parent would agree to this.

But I'm grateful for moments that put it all into perspective.

Last night at 3am, Nils came and woke me up because he wanted to give me a hug. I admit, I wasn't ready for it--usually a middle of the night wake-up is because of a bad dream or sickness or something like that. And I don't necessarily need to be shown love from him at 3am again, but it was a touching gesture.

Tonight, Anders had a bit of a tantrum over his clothes for school tomorrow (he wanted to wear the same sweatshirt that he wore today again tomorrow). After he had calmed down, he called me back up to give hugs and kisses. Both boys wanted me to sing "Trygare kan ingen vara" (Children of the Heavenly Father)--the song I used to sing to them at bedtime when they were babies.

I need to remember these times with gratitude and cherish them. So even if reading this didn't mean anything to you, I needed the space to be mindful of it. Thanks for letting me share.