18 February 2019

Walking the Walk

I was watching the Netfilx show Tidying Up based on Marie Kondo's books and saw a section on working with kids to go through toys and it reminded me of lessons I learned from working with my daughter on cleaning her room when she was little.

1. If she went through her toys, books and stuffed animals and wanted to get rid of something that I was attached to, then I had to own that attachment and move the item to my space instead of requiring her to keep it when she was ready to let it go.

2. It was always unpredictable what she would keep and what she would want to get rid of and I needed to learn not to assume that what I thought she would value was what she would value. It was important to let go of my preconceptions and let her process and choices stand on their own.

3. (and an over-arching theme of the first two) I had to let go of my own ego when it got in the way of her process. Even at a young age, she knew if she was ready to let something go. Any time I second guessed her I risked undermining her developing clear ideas of how she wanted her space and what was important to her. She knew, and her choices were right for her.

In short, I had to learn to walk my own talk. I wanted her to learn how to clean up after herself, how to maintain her own space, and how to manage her possessions in a way that served her.

I came to the task of teaching her with preconceived notions of what she would want to keep based on my own experiences and my own emotional needs. I ended up learning a lot more than I ever taught.

In one of today's lessons from the Daily Office Lectionary we have a reading from John:

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.
~1 John 1:3-11

It is difficult to walk my talk at times. I may think that I want to bring my daughter up to be independent, to be able to make her own decisions; but in that moment, when she was little, it was very hard to realize that if I really wanted to teach her those lessons I would have to let go of my own ego, my own idea of the Right Way to clean, or to live.

If I sabotaged her process by telling her that she had to keep a certain book or toy, then I would be crippling the very independence I hoped to foster.

That was a very hard lesson to learn.

So, in today's reading we have a simple instruction: look for people who walk their talk when it comes to following in Jesus's footsteps.

I would say that the process of learning to have one's ideals match one's actions is lifelong. It's very easy to think about living into the words and life of Jesus and a lot harder to actually do the work to make it happen.

As a kid, I used to wonder why we said the confession of sins every week. How much trouble could I get into in one week? I tried to be a nice person and not be actively mean to anyone, why would I need to confess?

As an adult I realized that the ritual of confession does more than wipe my slate clean for the week. It, and the entire communion service, serve to remind us of the things Jesus asks us to do in our daily life. The process of reading the lessons, saying the prayers, making confession, and celebrating the eucharist brings us back to the essentials and reminds us of the fundamental relationship between us and God.

Learning to live into the ideals that Jesus gave us, is like me trying to teach my daughter how to clean and maintain her space. We come to it with preconceived notions, with our own egos, with the desire to be right.

Letting go of all of our egos and expectations is an on-going process. Having a ritual that reminds us of the ideals we are trying to manifest in our lives can help us more consistently walk in the footsteps of Jesus and learn the lessons he tried to teach while he was on earth.

If we have drifted away from the two great commandments, if our work out in the world has ground us down, then coming to church or engaging in deliberate ritual of prayer can be a touchstone, a way to reset our relationship with God and the world.

It acts a reminder that our goal is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to walk his walk.

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Bible citations are from Bible Gateway using the NRSV text.

09 February 2019

Who Gathers the Outcasts

The Old Testament reading for the Friday in week 4 of Epiphany spoke very strongly to me. I am used to thinking of the Old Testament as the historical documents of Christianity. They inform my understanding of the history and tradition that Jesus and his immediate followers would have been exposed to, but they are not the focus of my own faith. That said, the inclusiveness of this passage, startled me:
Thus says the Lord:      Maintain justice, and do what is right,for soon my salvation will come,      and my deliverance be revealed.Happy is the mortal who does this,      the one who holds it fast,who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it,      and refrains from doing any evil.Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,      "The Lord will surely separate me from his people";and do not let the eunuch say,      "I am just a dry tree."For thus says the Lord:To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,      who choose the things that please me      and hold fast my covenant,I will give, in my house and within my walls,      a monument and a name
      better than sons and daughters;I will give them an everlasting name      that shall not be cut off.And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,      to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
      and to be his servants,all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,      and hold fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain,      and make them joyful in my house of prayer;their burnt offerings and their sacrifices      will be accepted on my altar;for my house shall be called a house of prayer      for all peoples.Thus says the Lord God,      who gathers the outcasts of Israel,I will gather others to them      besides those already gathered.
~Isaiah 56: 1-8
What struck me the most were the particular examples used of 'outsiders' who could be gathered in were eunuchs and foreigners. From the context in the poem, both groups are 'outcasts of Israel'. Now God says that the eunuchs will be given: "a monument and a name better than sons and daughters;" and the foreigners: [God] will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar."

Both groups are assured of not being separated or cut off* from God's people as long as they keep the sabbath and the covenant and refrain from doing evil.

I wonder if part of the reason they would have a 'name better than sons or daughters' is because, presumably, they chose the relationship with God and a commitment to the covenant. Unlike the children of Israel, who were raised in the faith and learned from birth all of the rituals and rules of the faith. The outsiders bring other traditions and life experience with them, and yet still choose to bind themselves to this particular God and the way of life that entails.

I was raised as an Episcopalian, not quite from the cradle since I was a toddler before my mom got around to baptizing me, and other than a brief experiment with Tarot Cards when I was in college, I've been an Episcopalian my entire life. To some extent, I have always been 'in'^. At least, I've always known the rituals, what books to use, when to stand, when to come up to the altar, etc. There has never been a time when the ritual life of the church was foreign to me. However, I think that, similar the way that learning a second language can enrich my understanding of my first language, coming to an understanding of God and with God later in life can enrich that relationship.

The closest I have come to that feeling, is to attend Anglican worship services in other countries and in languages that I am not fluent in. The structure of the worship that I am familiar with is still there, but all of the little details are different. The cues I am used to aren't there and it changes the experience of worship for me. Nearly every time, it has made the experience both more powerful and awesome. It has given me a window into the massive mystery that is God, in a way that going to my home church did not.

For me, this reading has a similar effect. Just when I think I've got God in a box and that I understand everything about my faith and relationship with God; God unfolds another aspect of gods-self and enfolds me in a Mystery.

For all of the complexity of God, the relationships are always simple: Love and inclusion are at the heart of them.
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*Apparently either the translator or the original writer couldn't resist a little word play.
^With the exception that as a queer/bi person there have been times when I had to stand up for my place in 'my' faith.

© 2019 Kristin Fontaine

12 January 2019

Unpacking from the Journey

In denominations like our own Episcopal Church, each new church season is a chance to set out on a journey. In Advent we journey with Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph through the season of preparation. From there we set out for the 12 days of Christmas, starting with the birth of Jesus and ending with the arrival of the wise men and the beginning of Epiphany.

So it goes, through Lent and Easter and into the summer of Common time (and Vacation Bible School* for some).

I just came home from a visit with my dad where I help him put away the nativity set, pack up the ornaments from the tree (making sure to pick up every last bit of tinsel since it turned out dad's cat likes to try to eat it), and stowing the lights until next year. 

As I was unpacking from my trip, it occurred to me that many time in the liturgical year I spend a fair amount of time preparing to set out but very little time reflecting and unpacking from a season as it comes to a close.

When I get back from a trip, I put my clean laundry away, put the dirty laundry in the hamper, unpack my computer, and my knitting, and put away all of the odds and ends that I end up hauling around with me. Sometimes I bring home projects to work on for my dad. My latest project being a cover for a chair. When I do, I spend some time making a plan for the project so I don't forget to work on it between visits.

All of this is important maintenance between journeys. If I didn’t unpack, do the laundry, and put things away, packing for the next trip would be a lot more work. Also, I learn things about how to pack and how much, or little, to take with me the next time. 

This makes me think that making a spiritual practice of 'unpacking' from a liturgical season before setting off on my next metaphorical journey might deepen and improve my experience of each season. 

Perhaps this year, I can take some time as each season ends to reflect on what I experienced during that season and what I can take with me as I 'pack' for the next one.

Jesus was on the road a lot during the time of his ministry on earth; but even in those few years he took time to rest away from the crowds. He didn't just jump from one experience to another.

Taking time for quiet reflection helps solidify experience and helps clear the decks to make space for the next adventure.


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*I know, it's not an official part of the liturgical calendar, but Vacation Bible School was a bit part of my life growing up and for the people who put it on. It is a season of work unto itself.

© 2018 Kristin Fontaine


29 December 2018

Gifting Burdens

As regular readers know, I'm not a regular church go-er even though I have significant connections to it.

Mom used to tell me that I was the reason she got back into the church (a path that lead to national leadership and eventual ordination). I was closing in on my second birthday and she felt the need to get me baptized (or 'done' as her priest-friend said). 

Through her I was active in church through my teens. I attended church every Sunday, was the first girl to be an acolyte in my church. I was active in our youth group, went to diocesan convention as a youth delegate (and had one of my resolutions adopted), was a counselor at church camp and then took all of those good habits and off with me to college. I found a church and went regularly (though no longer every week as transportation was an issue). My husband was baptized and confirmed at that church and we married there.

Then we moved to Texas and had a very mixed bag experience at the church we attended there. We met some great people who were friendly and welcoming but it was also the church where the priest stood up and gave a sermonabout AIDS being god's punishment to gay people. I met with him that week to tell him I how incredibly hurtful his sermon was. 

Looking back on it that was the beginning of the end of my having a regular church home. It was another 10-15 years before I came to terms with the fact that weekly church attendance and all the attendant relationships just weren't for me.  I would come away from every service feeling like a burden to 'do more' and 'be more' was being piled on me.

I have had similar feelings since my mom died. I have been surprisingly okay since her death. She and I had a good relationship, I was able to help and support her (and dad) in the way that she needed and in a way that gave her comfort, which in turn gave me comfort. I do miss her and have the occasional sneaker-wave of grief when I see something that reminds me of her, but I have successfully reframed those times as it being a good thing that I miss her and still wish I could share my life with her—because those feelings are a manifestation of my love for her.  As I've written elsewhere, she told me directly that she didn't want me to be spending my life pining for her, she wanted me to be fully present for the people who are currently in my life.

However, some folks project their own loss and grief onto me. They say things like: you must really miss your mom, or you must be devastated, or I miss her so much I can't imagine how you are coping.

Part of me understands that they are trying to be supportive and empathetic, but another part of me bristles at being told what I 'must be' feeling. Much like my experience being a weekly church go-er I am being burdened by the expectations of others. Or in this case, by their projection of their own feelings on to me.

Something to think about as we move into the new year (both church and secular) is what burdens we place on others because we aren't really taking care of our own needs.

Jesus says: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."

It can be easy to place burdens on those around us without realizing it. From telling people what they should feel, to how they should act, or what the 'right way' is-- it is frequently easier to project our feelings and needs onto another person than it is to confront our own feelings and needs and deal with them constructively.

While Jesus was not always an easy person to live with, he was consistent in three ways: he didn't ask more of his disciples that he, himself was willing to give, he understood that not everyone could follow in his exact path, and he welcomed the outcast and downtrodden to just be. He gave them much-needed permission to lay down their burdens—especially those imposed on them by the greater society. 

I personally don't believe there is only One Right Way of doing things, but I do believe that the story of Jesus shows us A Right Way and that way has love at its heart, not expectation and not projection, just Love.

Maybe as the New Year begins and the sun returns, we can learn to recognize when the gifts we try to give are really burdens in disguise and learn to let go of them loving ourselves and others in all our brokenness.


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© 2018 Kristin Fontaine

15 December 2018

Expectations


We are coming to the end of Week 2 of Advent and as I write this, I'm reflecting on spending this season without my mom.

My experience with Christmas has varied a great deal through my life. There were the early, childhood years where my focus was mostly on the gifts I would receive. However, Christmas also meant snow, the annual children's Christmas pageant, and refurbishing the giant papier-mâché nativity that belonged to the church. 

The nativity was about 1/3rdlife-size and included a camel. Each piece was made with shaped chicken-wire coated with papier-mâché and then painted. Every year all of the pieces would be moved from storage to the parish hall where they would be inspected for damage (there were always new holes to patch), repaired and then placed. I don't remember now if they were used in the sanctuary or set up in the parish hall, but they came out every year for several years in a row at least. I also don't remember how long this particular tradition went on. 

Looking back on it, the refurbishing of the communal nativity was both an early crafting experience and a way I connected with the story of the nativity. Part of cleaning and repairing the figures included talking about them and their part in the story to come. I still remember the smell of the aging paper, glue, and the paint used to cover new repairs.

Christmas was never the most joyful of holidays in my family.  As I grew up, met my husband, and formed my own family I created my own Advent and Christmas rituals. One thing that was constant through all of the change was contact with my mom. We would talk about setting up our nativity sets, her latest sermon, my plans for my daughters December birthday, what gifts to get the next generation as they came along, and anything else that caught our attention during the season. 

This year I am facing a change in that fundamental part of my life. Mom died back in April and even then, I wondered what the holiday season would be like without her. 

I don't have a full answer to that question as yet but so far, I'm at peace with my life. I spent a week with my Dad helping him get his house ready for my east-coast brother and family who will be spending Christmas with Dad. We got a tree and put lights on it and got the box of ornaments out so my nieces can decorate the tree when they arrive.  We put the lights out around the door and Dad made a lovely swag out of cedar branch's, holly, and a red bow he saves to re-use from year-to-year. 

Going through this process of re-examining and re-inventing a major family event reminded me of Mom's work around the Blue Christmas movement. Blue Christmas services are way to acknowledge the fact that Christmas can be a tough time for people, especially people who have lost or are losing loved ones, or who are facing other major stresses in their lives that make living into a "Merry Christmas" difficult-to-impossible.

Back in 2007 Mom wrote an essayabout Blue Christmas and how it can be used to help people find a way to be present during the Advent and Christmas seasons without feeling like they must be 'merry and bright' to fit in. The last thing people who are feeling sad, anxious, and overwhelmed at any time of the year need, is to feel isolated and like they are the only ones who are struggling. 

So, in memory of her, I encourage everyone to live into your messy, complicated lives. Don't worry about being perfect or trying to create a perfect experience. The cat will break the glass ornaments, no matter what you do and Christmas will still come into that brokenness.

You don't have to be merry for God's grace to surround and uplift you.

You don't have to be whole for Christ to come.



17 November 2018

Active Waiting

As I wend my way through this year I have seen over and over again the power of waiting. It has not been so much a matter of 'good things come to those who wait' more a series of erratic stoppages in my life.

In the early part of the year it was waiting with, and on, my mom as she entered fully into dying. I had brought several knitting projects with me because I always bring projects down to my parents' house to work on, often times more than I could ever do in the week or two I plan to stay. Dad sometimes teases me about the number of bags or boxes in my car, but he also helps me carry them in the house when I arrive.

As I have written elsewhere, I found certain types of knitting a great antidote to waiting to do the Next Thing for Mom. I could feel like I was getting something done and keep my mind active, even as I was waiting for Mom to express her next request.

Several times she said variations on "I'm sorry to interrupt your work…" before asking me for help or to get her something. My answer was always that the project was only to fill time between requests, I was there for her first and foremost. We eventually agreed that she could say she was sorry for interrupting me as often as she wanted, as long as she went ahead and asked for what she needed with worrying. It sounds strange now, but it worked for us.

Over time, I came to realize that, for me, knitting a simple project that didn’t require my full concentration was helping me to stay in the moment. It gave my naturally worrying brain something to focus. If I was going to spend energy worrying anyway, I might as well focus that worry into keeping an eye out for dropped stitches; rather than what the next day or two might hold. I can (mostly) control the stitch count of a knitting project, I can't control how well someone will sleep or what the side effects of medications will be.

Having a focus that was outside of myself filled the waiting minutes but didn't distract me from the moment that I was needed to take action.

Other forms of waiting this year have been less fraught. I took over a crafting project to repair a blanket and for several weeks I was able to work on it actively as I figure out what stitch pattern and gauge was used to make the pattern. However, once my investigation was finished, I was left with the difficult part of the project: finding yarn that matched the existing project. Not only did the color need to match, but the fiber content, sheen, and weight needed to be close to the original. Commercially produced colors change from season-to-season and from year-to-year. Colors that were everywhere suddenly vanish into thin air. Add to that the fact that colors fade and change over time and finding a match becomes as much a waiting game as anything. I couldn't will the yarn I needed into existence, but I could keep an eye out for it, waiting as stock changed, or as I spotted new places to look for older yarn. I was actively waiting for the right yarn. Letting time pass while also keeping myself open to finding the right thing in an unexpected place.

Now I am in a new time of waiting. My favorite season of the church year, Advent, is almost up me. I have started my own tradition of getting out my Advent candles and my nativities in the week before Thanksgiving. This year Advent in the Episcopal Church starts on Sunday, December 2nd, so if I stick to my schedule, I'll be ready to light my first candle ten days early. 

I started my practice of setting up early for Advent because I frequently would miss the first week in the confusion and busyness surrounding Thanksgiving. Having everything set up in advance of the first Sunday in Advent make it easier to intentionally mark the start of the season and enter into the quiet the season brings.

Back when my own daughter was born, I wasn't a knitter. I did sew, and I made her a little, slightly weird, baby outfit of my own design. Maybe this year, I will spend some time knitting while my Advent candles burn through the dark time of the year.  They can light the way as I actively wait for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

03 November 2018

A Road to Guide Me

He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
~Psalm 40:2

This time of year, in the Pacific Northwest the sun sets by 6:00 p.m. and it gets very dark very fast. This is in stark contrast to the late sunset and long lingering twilight of summer, when I can frequently see well enough to work in my garden past 9:00 p.m.

I was reminded of this as I drove from my home in Washington State to visit my dad on the Oregon coast. I was on the road by mid-afternoon, but typical terrible traffic meant it took 2 ½ hours to go the first 50 miles of my 200 mile trip. So instead of having daylight on my side for most of the drive, I ended up doing the darkest and most rural sections of the road in rainy, winter darkness.

The up side of being out on the road later on weekday meant there wasn't much traffic on the roads, however that also made me feel incredibly isolated. At times, it seemed as if my headlights were not just illuminating the road in front of me, but bring it into being before my eyes. This was especially true on the twisty and hilly sections of the road as I got closer to the end of my journey. As I approached a hill the road reflectors would glow from a long way off, but as I crested the hill or approached a sharp turn the road would seem to disappear, giving the impression that it would drop out from under me if I kept going.

Needless to say the lack of road was an illusion that was revealed as I started down the hill or around the curve and my lights caught the next set of reflectors. However, for the brief moment it lasted, it was disturbing.

I had faith that the road would be there. (Though I did sensibly slacken speed on some hills and curves-- there is faith and then there is being reckless).

As I was driving I thought, how in my faith, the trinity of Jesus/God/Holy Spirit is the road at night. I can't see beyond my headlights, but the road is still there. The road can't keep me from having an accident or doing something ill-advised, but it will not vanish from underneath me just because my headlights are no longer on it. The road exists independently of me, but I depend on it to keep me out of the ditch. I follow the fog line faithfully, even when I am blinded by the high-beams of on-coming cars.

And sometimes, even on an infrequently traveled rural road, I gain a companion in the darkness. For some time I am followed, or I follow another car. I can see their glowing lights in front of me and together we light up more of the darkness than we could alone. Or I am the leader and, as with tonight's drive, I spot a hazard in time to stop and warn the driver behind me with my brake lights*.

Time passes and my fellow travelers peel off to their own destinations and I am left alone again in my pool of light with the road firm beneath me. Without the road, I would be lost. With the road I am guided safely to my destination.

-=-=-=-=-

*A deer or elk was crossing the road in the dark and I spotted it in time to stop safely.

All bible quotes are from the NRSV text at Bible Gateway unless otherwise noted.

20 October 2018

Eternal Stories

My daughter and I watched a lot of nature TV shows about human evolution. As a species, we seem to have been telling stories through art since the dawn of our time. Cave paintings, jewelry, body art, pigments, stone circles, and carvings are all things that have been left behind by human and proto-human societies.

We have a drive to make art, to tell stories, and to develop rituals that goes back to our beginning.

It comes to us at our end as well. One of the many things I learned as part of helping to take care of my mom during her last weeks was that it is common for people to start using metaphorical language. They talk about: going home, packing for a trip, or they might ask about their passport or airline tickets.

This happened to me when I was sitting with my mom in her last days. She suddenly asked me if she was all packed for her trip. Even though I had read the hospice guide many times over the previous week, I was still caught off guard by how clear and cogent she sounded when she asked the question. This was one of the few times I was unsure of what to say. However, since she seemed worried about it, I decided to address the worry and not the words. I told her that everything was taken care of and that she didn't need to worry. She relaxed after that.

Even though I had been prepared for the idea that Mom might use a journey or travel metaphor as she neared the end of her life, it still hit me harder than I expected. We had already had a lot of frank and sometimes difficult conversations about her coming death. She and I were able to talk about death and dying in a very straightforward (if sometimes darkly humorous) way; and, while it made me sad to reflect on losing her, I rarely had a problem talking about death and all of the related logistics. So I was surprised when I had such a strong reaction to Mom's almost unconscious use of metaphorical language to tell me that she was ready to go.

This past week, my husband heard from his parents that his grandmother has started talking about 'going home' and she pretty clearly isn't talking about trying to move back to her apartment from the nursing home.

It makes me both wonder and appreciate our human ability and need to tell stories.

Humans throughout the ages have made up stories to explain the world around them, we have created rituals to re-tell and re-enforce those stories. We use just about anything we can get our hands on to make art that tells stories. Even Jesus tried to communicate his teachings through parables, telling stories to try to get his disciples and followers to more fully understand what he was trying to say.

And when we reach the end of life, our minds, bodies, and spirits work together to tell one last story. The story of leaving everything behind and going on one final journey.

Neither Mom nor I really believed in an afterlife-- at least not the ideas of 'heaven' that seem to have grown up around Christianity over the past 2000+ years. Mom was a big proponent of living and working in the here-and-now. She said many times that we should be working to create heaven on earth and not be waiting around to go to heaven after death.

I don't have any good answers to what might happen after death. I don't know if Mom's spirit went anywhere or if she lives on only through the love of her family and the friends that remember her.

I do know, like millions before her, she set out on a journey and for once I couldn't go with her.

However, while she may be traveling beyond my reach on earth, I maintain my connection with her and with all of our human and proto-human ancestors by telling stories.

-------- Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.

06 October 2018

Why does my garden grow?

I have been fortunate enough to live in the same house for over 21 years; enabling me to completely transform our suburban yard into a haven for my family.

I turn 50 this year and have started to think about a two-pronged reality. One, even if I am lucky enough to live the classic four-score and ten, there are some plants that I will never see fully mature. Admittedly at my age, those are mostly trees, but still, the point stands. Two, if I ever have to move or when I die, I will leave my garden behind and the next people to live in our house might rip it all out and start over. Both prospects include melancholy (which my-dad-the-Buddhist would tell me is a sign of attachment and, likely, ego, so I probably should work on that). However part of the reason the idea of leaving my garden behind makes me sad is that it is not just a garden, it is memories of love made manifest.

Nothing in my garden beds or in the yard is planted just because I like it. Almost every plant has a second, emotion laden, meaning behind it's place in the yard.

The roses come from my Dad's attempt to keep roses alive in Wyoming winter after winter and from my husband's grandmother, who gave me a cutting from a rose that had been planted by my husband's, grandfather's, grandmother after she bought it from a peddler.

The twenty-plus evergreen huckleberry bushes come from my husband's side of the family. His grandfather would go huckleberry picking every fall and come home with gallons of berries to be made in to preserves for the coming winter. He had his own secret locations he would head off to each fall. Even when he needed two sticks to walk with he would climb into his truck and disappear for the day to fill his gallon buckets with berries.

The raspberries were planted after a trip to Norway with my mother where we met my grandfather's cousin. He took us to his hytta (basically a cabin) and we picked raspberries from the long lines of bushes he planted and carefully tended. Both my mother and my grandfather's cousin are dead now, but I still have the memory of that moment and it comes back to me every year when I eat raspberries from my own bushes.

The herbs in pots on the deck and nestled in some of the flower beds were planted when my daughter wanted to have an herb garden. I've continued to keep them both because they remind me of her and since I have started to do a lot more baking and it seems _right_ to have herbs to use.

There are many more, for as I say, all of the plants have a meaning beyond the fact that they are native, or good for bees and hummingbirds.

My plants allow me to commune with memories of my past, remind me of the contribution others have made (and continue to make) in my life, and ground me to the hear-and-now with the continued care that they require.

Working in my garden, reforges connections with people who are dear to me. Weeding is never just weeding. As a work around the plants I want to keep, I automatically think about why I planted them, what I love about them, and what love inspired me to plant them in the first place.

In some ways it is my own 'Communion of Saints'; a place where I go to relive memories of past joys.

I hope, when it is time to put my trowel and garden knife down for good I will remember that, while I am leaving my physical garden behind, it is the memories and sense of connection to my family and friends that I have truly cultivated.*

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*Though I do hope those who come after me keep the huckleberry bushes, because nothing else will grow very well under the big evergreen trees in our front yard and it takes 20 years to grow them from gallon- sized plants to three-foot tall bushes.

27 September 2018

Change we can start now

When abusers violate consent, the burden should fall on them. Women carry a huge burden in that we are expected to restrict our lives in order to 'protect' ourselves in ways that men are not. We need to raise the next generation of women to say no to living in fear and restricting their lives. We need to teach them from day one that anyone who violates their consent is responsible for that behavior. Women as a group have been silenced and shamed by the actions of men who have treated them as props rather than people. The burden of shame and guilt currently falls on the survivor rather than on the abuser. That has got to change. We may not ever stop sexual assault but we can stop, as a culture, accepting 'boys with be boys', giving males (especially wealthy, white males) a pass when they abuse. We can start believing survivors when they tell their stories. We can press for rules that make it more likely that abuse that is reported gets investigated. We can make sure that laws actually cover all forms of sexual assault. There is a lot we can do to curb sexual assault and pretty much none of it is: make potential victims live in fear that this might happen to them and that it is their fault if it does.