Monday, May 28, 2007

Eyes Wide Open

If you're in the SF Bay Area, come to this event remembering the war dead in Iraq tomorrow.

Cut-and-pasting from the Facebook page:

Event Info
Name: eyes wide open
Tagline: remembrance of the war dead in iraq
Host: quakers
Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Time: 10:00am - 1:00pm
Location: federal building, 450 golden gate and larkin, San Francisco, CA

empty shoes and boots represent the nearly 400 californians, over 3,000 americans, and 600,000 iraqis who have died in the iraq war. there is a press conference at 10 a.m. bishop marc will be among the speakers"Eyes Wide Open" exhibition in front of the Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate & Larkin

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Five--Habits

1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it.

I used to keep a prayer journal daily during Lent--but I haven't done it for ages. I just got up early, and made myself do it. Sounds easy... it was, then, though I didn't always want to. I really ought to do something like that again.

I'm taking a book of Ignatian spiritual exercises to the Ranch with me this summer; that'll be a good time to start experimenting.

2. "If only there were a 12-step program for Internet surfers!"

Given unstructured time, I do this way too much. I'll be better this summer, because I'll be outside a lot, and I don't think about it when it's not available... but it's a really unhelpful habit.

3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us.

I drive as little as possible, and I walk as much as I can. That's partly economic, partly out of global concern, and partly because, as a student, I don't get any other exercise.

4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y.

I don't talk about people I love behind their backs--and I wouldn't even if I didn't know that some of them read this. But someone I used to be close to drove me bananas, by taking long phone conversations when I was visiting. If I called her when she had company, she'd tell me it had to be quick. I never got the same courtesy, however.

That's not why we aren't close anymore, but in retrospect it's a sign of things not having been right.

5. "I'd love to get into the habit of getting up early to pray in the morning.

Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality?

Two steps: Leave my laptop on my desk, and go to bed by, say, 11.

Bonus 2: Try it, and let us know how it goes in a future post!

I shall.


Thanks, Max... I think! I skipped a few questions; here is a random bit of surrealism for you.

1. What's in your pocket?

A BART pass that I have to remember to put back in my wallet.

2. Is the pork ready?


3. Do you like onions?

Yes, cooked--but I don't like chopping them.

4. So, how big is it?

<--THIS--> big.

5. Budweiser or real beer?

Neither (and particularly not Budweiser, ick). I do like wine, though.

6. What do you feel about your nose?

I'm thankful for Claritin.

7. Children: Baked or broiled?

Actually I really like kids... and I've never eaten one.

8. Do you like it when I do this?

What? Send me silly memes? Sure--but I would like you no matter what you did.

9. Do you like the sound of chickens?

Not particularly. Frogs and crickets are just fine, though.

10. Would Beyonce clip her own toenails?

I've lived under a pop-culture rock for two years; I barely even know who she is.

11. Do you like pork?

Yes, but not half as much as sushi.

12. If the butter is soft, does the bus arrive on time?

Q: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: A fish.

13. When do you get up?

Way up in the sky, the little birds fly
While down in their nests, the little birds rest
With a wing on the left, and a wing on the right
The little birds sleep, all through the night.

SHHH! They're slee-ping!

The bright sun comes up, the dew falls away
"Good morning! Good morning!" the little birds say!

14. How did you survive childhood?

I read like a fiend, and spent summers at Girl Scout camp.

15. What do you do before bed?

Put my jammies on and brush my teeth, silly.

16. What are your hidden charges?

A friend told me once, "You have more power in your life than you think you do." She was right.

17. Who's behind you?

Many good, compassionate people.

18. Does George Bush replace the toilet paper tube?

You're assuming he knows how.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I love my bishop

...because he's not afraid to speak for justice.

Go here to see what I'm talking about.

Thank you, Bishop Marc.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Everybody's doing it

...why not me?

Here is some Saturday catblogging, posted because I was just on the phone with the human attached to said cat. He was on her keyboard, "helping" her post a comment on Jane's blog.

This is the Apostle in Exile's cat of many affectionately-derogatory nicknames, asleep on a sweater given to them by her then-rector for just such a purpose. I took the pic last January. He now prefers sleeping on her desk.


Talking about NOLA, again

Last night, the Younger Adults group at my parish got together for dinner in the Castro. My rector mentioned that he was speaking about Katrina today at a UTO function at St. Timothy's, Danville, and asked me to come and share my experiences. With one day's notice, I tweaked what I had already prepared, and added a few more stories.

I am loving doing this. I have really found a piece of my calling.

I went to New Orleans because my friend Michael invited me. What I found there changed me forever. I met God, and God’s people, there.

I went with three other CDSP students, over our Spring Break, during the last week of March. We worked with a local grassroots nonprofit. Michael gutted houses, which is still the most needed physical task there, as taking people’s houses apart from the inside, down to the studs, preserves people’s property rights should they want to return. Judy, Vivian, and I divided our time between a women’s shelter and a distribution center, in the 9th Ward. We met people whose stories will stay with us forever.

We met Joanne, a cargo worker at the Port of New Orleans. She was staying in a three-bedroom house with 16 other women. Her second home since Katrina was condemned, two weeks before I met her. The storm pushed sea water underneath the city. Nineteen months later, the water was still underground. The water corrodes the pipes, ultimately destroying the plumbing. The problem is extensive, and costly to fix. Joanne has been all over the world. New Orleans is her favorite place. She loves the city—but she struggles to survive there, after the storm.

We saw signs everywhere that read, “We are rebuilding. We are New Orleans. We are coming home.” The more I learned about the geographic realities and the political situation there, the more that made me wonder. But many could not afford to leave. Some who did evacuate are coming back. New Orleans just last week passed the halfway point of their pre-Katrina population. I’ve read the writings of some evacuees who stayed in Houston or Memphis or wherever they landed. They miss New Orleans so much. It’s not just a city on a random map of the U.S. It’s a culture unto itself. And it is their home.

Joanne led us to Bill, the rector of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church. Joanne had told us that she was drunk for a year after Katrina, and that this church had led her back to God. We attended Eucharist on a Wednesday night, drawn both by her witness and by the Mission to Musicians benefit potluck they host every week. Bill said that he, along with most other New Orleanians, simmered with anger underneath the surface. But when I asked him what he would have me take back to California, he said to me, “Peace. Hope. And send us money.” Musicians in New Orleans are craftspeople. They lost half their income in one single day. Churches there are very active in relief work. They are working to help the people, and the culture, survive.

I remember sitting in church that night, sobbing. We’d been in the 9th Ward for several days, meeting and talking with the people, hearing their stories. Sitting in this church, being part of the service, listening to the music, it all crashed down on me. I realized, people can suffer so much, and still be beautiful. I had several experiences there that confirmed a calling in me to work in forsaken places. I spent a lot of time there honestly horrified. This night is when I really fell in love with this city.

We took a day to play, and had lunch in the French Quarter at the New Orleans School of Cooking. When they found out what we’d been doing, wealthy locals out touristing thanked us just as whole-heartedly as the residents of the 9th Ward had, just for noticing them. The chef thanked the out-of-town tourists as deeply as he thanked us. If any of you are thinking of going to New Orleans, please do. It’s important that you witness to the devastation in that city. It is also important to go and have fun there. There’s a lot to make you think, in New Orleans. There’s also a lot to love. The Quarter is still a really fun place. Tourism has always been important, and that’s even more true now. Putting money into their economy helps them survive, and it will help them rebuild.

I thought I knew what poverty was. I didn’t. No amount of reading, or seeing photographs, could have prepared me for block after block after block after block of empty, flood-damaged houses, or for being out driving, for hours, in absolutely no traffic. Nothing could have prepared me for the shock of standing in the kitchen at the shelter, being shown a map of the city, and coming to really understand the geographic, economic, and political causes of this flood that took six weeks to pump dry. I came face to face with a deep sense of forgottenness in the people. Volunteers have come to their city to help them. The government has not. I met so many people who were so poor and yet so faithful, who lived with their souls almost visible. They were so grateful to be seen, to be spoken to, to be helped, to be remembered. We were a sign of hope to them; a sign of God’s presence. They were a sign of God’s presence to us.

Going to New Orleans changed me forever. I have a new commitment to mission, a new understanding of the political and economic forces in my own country, and a new empathy for people in all third-world situations. I had to keep consciously reminding myself, "I am in a major American city," because it did not look or feel like that. I’m planning to go back in January, to do an oral history project in connection with the Diocese of Louisiana. I urge you to go, if you can, to help out, to meet the people, to experience the place. Keep thinking about them; keep praying for them. Thank you for what you have given already.

Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Why the Louisiana Coast Matters

Scout Prime at First Draft has asked bloggers to link to this piece in the Washington Post by John Barry, the author of Rising Tide, the story of the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River Valley.

I link it here because it's important, and because Grandmere Mimi asked us to.

Full text of the article follows:

Our Coast to Fix -- or Lose
By John M. Barry
Saturday, May 12, 2007; Page A15

There has been much debate in the past 20 months over protecting Louisiana from another lethal hurricane, but nearly all of it has been conducted without any real understanding of the geological context. Congress and the Bush administration need to recognize six facts that define the national interest.

Fact 1: The Gulf of Mexico once reached north to Cape Girardeau, Mo. But the Mississippi River carries such an enormous sediment load that, combined with a falling sea level, it deposited enough sediment to create 35,000 square miles of land from Cape Girardeau to the present mouth of the river.

This river-created land includes the entire coast, complete with barrier islands, stretching from Mississippi to Texas. But four human interventions have interfered with this natural process; three of them that benefit the rest of the country have dramatically increased the hurricane threat to the Gulf Coast.

Fact 2: Acres of riverbank at a time used to collapse into the river system providing a main source of sediment. To prevent this and to protect lives and property, engineers stopped such collapses by paving hundreds of miles of the river with riprap and even concrete, beginning more than 1,000 miles upriver -- including on the Ohio, Missouri and other tributaries -- from New Orleans. Reservoirs for flood protection also impound sediment. These and other actions deprive the Mississippi of 60 to 70 percent of its natural sediment load, starving the coast.

Fact 3: To stop sandbars from blocking shipping at the mouth of the Mississippi, engineers built jetties extending more than two miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. This engineering makes Tulsa, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and other cities into ports with direct access to the ocean, greatly enhancing the nation's economy. The river carries 20 percent of the nation's exports, including 60 percent of its grain exports, and the river at New Orleans is the busiest port in the world. But the jetties prevent any of the sediment remaining in the river from replenishing the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts and barrier islands; instead, the jetties drop the sediment off the continental shelf.

Fact 4: Levees that prevent river flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi interfere with the replenishment of the land locally as well.

Fact 5: Roughly 30 percent of the country's domestic oil and gas production comes from offshore Louisiana, and to service that production the industry created more than 10,000 miles of canals and pipelines through the marsh.

Every inch of those 10,000-plus miles lets saltwater penetrate, and eat away at, the coast. So energy production has enormously accelerated what was a slow degradation, transforming a long-term problem into an immediate crisis. The deprivation of sediment is like moving a block of ice from the freezer to the sink, where it begins to melt; the effect of the canals and pipelines is like attacking that ice with an ice pick, breaking it up.

As a result, 2,100 square miles of coastal land and barrier islands have melted into the Gulf of Mexico. This land once served as a buffer between the ocean and populated areas in Louisiana and part of Mississippi, protecting them during hurricanes. Each land mile over which a hurricane travels absorbs roughly a foot of storm surge.

The nation as a whole gets nearly all the benefits of engineering the river. Louisiana and some of coastal Mississippi get 100 percent of the costs. Eastern New Orleans (including the lower Ninth Ward) and St. Bernard Parish -- nearly all of which, incidentally, is at or above sea level -- exemplify this allocation of costs and benefits. Three man-made shipping canals pass through them, creating almost no jobs there but benefiting commerce throughout the country. Yet nearly all the 175,000 people living there saw their homes flooded not because of any natural vulnerability but because of levee breaks.

Fact 6: Without action, land loss will continue, and it will increasingly jeopardize populated areas, the port system and energy production. This would be catastrophic for America. Scientists say the problem can be solved, even with rising sea levels, but that we have only a decade to begin addressing it in a serious way or the damage may be irreversible.

Despite all this and President Bush's pledge from New Orleans in September 2005 that "we will do what it takes" to help people rebuild, a draft White House cuts its own recommendation of $2 billion for coastal restoration to $1 billion while calling for an increase in the state's contribution from the usual 35 percent to 50 percent. Generating benefits to the nation is what created the problem, and the nation needs to solve it. Put simply: Why should a cab driver in Pittsburgh or Tulsa pay to fix Louisiana's coast? Because he gets a stronger economy and lower energy costs from it, and because his benefits created the problem. The failure of Congress and the president to act aggressively to repair the coastline at the mouth of the Mississippi River could threaten the economic vitality of the nation. Louisiana, one of the poorest states, can no longer afford to underwrite benefits for the rest of the nation.

John M. Barry is the author of "Rising Tide" and secretary of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East.

Monday, May 07, 2007

NOLA story project--good news

I was instant-messaging last night with the priest we met there. I told him that my advisor said I could get cross-cultural credit (required) if I go back in January and do oral histories. I need to find funding--but what I most need is a place to crash for that month.

He was excited about it; he gave me names of people to contact, and told me that if those don't work, to talk again with him.

It was probably a five-minute IM session. It made this idea really feasible. I can cover food for myself, if I need to, and I can get cheap airfare--particularly if I fly out of Sacramento instead of Oakland. (Without yet asking the person I will ask, I'm sure she'd drive me.) Grant organizations don't often give funds for transportation, anyway. Housing can be really expensive. If I don't have to worry about that, then this is easy. Once I get there, I can use what remains of their public transit system, or rent a bicycle.

In other, tangentially related news: Some of my words about NOLA may be about to be published in an unlikely place. I don't want to say where, before it happens, because the person who wants to publish them does not walk in lockstep with her organization, and her job's been under threat.

I told my friend Molly about it--she was my mentor last year, and is still an Aidanite. After she got done laughing, she said to me, "I knew as soon as I met you, that you were going to be shining the light into dark places."

I asked her how she knew.

"I don't know; how do we know anything? It just pours out of you."

That really hasn't been something I'm aware of. Maybe it should be. Either way, I can live on this for weeks.

Friday, May 04, 2007

On incense, progress, and inclusion

I am, among other contradictions, an asthmatic seminarian. CDSP is nothing like Nashotah House; we use incense, but only on high feast days.

Last night turned out to be one of them. My advisor, also Dean of the Chapel, was installed as the Kaehr Chair for Liturgical Studies (I think that’s close to her title). I couldn’t go to the liturgy, because I knew there would be incense. But when I went to congratulate her at dinner, she told me why they’d made that choice. The Kaehrs really love incense, and were very clear in their hopes that it would be used at her installation. Up to that point, they hadn’t been planning to.

I would have loved to have been at the liturgy, and Lizette knows that. She also knows that I’m impressed that she thought of me. She’s pastoral, hilarious, and I love her to pieces—but I was not aware that my breathing issues influenced chapel decisions. I’m really glad that they do, both for myself and for other people. I have one more academic year here. I’ve been told I wasn’t alone—my mentor last year was fantastically supportive—but I’ve often felt on my own in this. I haven’t heard of any others who share my experience, or who are vocal about it. I know that there will be.

I’ve spoken up often, but I’ve tried to be clear and calm about it. Mostly I just say when I can’t participate. If the sacristans are looking for last-minute volunteers, I write back asking if there’s incense (if I’m not sure), and offering to help if there isn’t. It was harder for me emotionally last year than now. I am still excluded by the presence of incense, but I don’t take that personally, anymore. Today, I’m thrilled to have been thought of last night. People are basically good, and well-intentioned. I’m glad that my presence changes their approach to issues of inclusion/exclusion, even if that doesn’t lead to instant change of action. Awareness is a very good thing.

One of the people I love the most here is entering a new phase of “fraudulent retirement,” and we honored him and another retiring faculty member last week in chapel. I had thought there would be incense, because the rota read “Thurifer TBA,” and so told John I couldn’t go. He would be preaching. I went home after class, and he went to rehearsal. He called me to tell me they weren’t using it, and I could attend. I went, happily, and thanked him.

Both last week and this, when my inability to participate because of incense came up, John has suggested I stand outside so I can listen. I won’t do that—it feels even more exclusionary to watch from afar, and not to be able to come in and receive Communion. It’s really not a compromise at all. I haven’t told him that, though, because the presence of incense wasn’t something he could change at the last minute, and I know he means well. He wants me to feel free to participate in any way I can, and sees that as a way I could at least listen to the liturgy. His heart’s completely in the right place. To me, however, standing outside is analogous to being in the Court of the Asthmatic Gentiles.

I’ve been breathing comfortably at my parish since I landed there; other people blazed that trail long before me. One couple in particular are good friends of mine, and we talk about this often. Their concern is not only for themselves and their friends; they worry about the rise in childhood asthma caused by air pollution. They sent me a stack of articles related to incense and the church, which I haven’t had time to read closely. There are some interesting angles, though, and again I’m glad it isn’t just me. Other people have asked me, incredulously, how I could consider entering the clergy if I can’t tolerate incense. The answer to that is easy: I would be up front with my limitations, and I would seek positions in safe churches. Before I came to California, incense was rarely an issue. My parish is safe, as is the one where I’m considering interning a year from now. I know there are others.

To me, it’s all about inclusion—not only of myself, but of everyone. We build ramps so that everyone can enter the building; we experiment with the words used in worship so that those who have been excluded can fully participate. I’m doing my best to raise awareness that people with asthma still love the church, still want to participate in the worshipping community, and still are called to serve God here.

People are hearing me, and I'm glad.