Tuesday, October 31, 2017

#Write31Days 31 • Home

day 31: worth coming home

This Celebrating Place series has been exclusively about places I've experienced first-hand and remember clearly, though I've yet to write about many possibilities on my original list.

Day 31 – the final day of the challenge – is home, because that ultimate place we yearn for and need on every level is a place to belong. More than our attitude or desire, home's about ways others welcome and include us. It's physical shelter and psychological safety. It's careful listening and eating together at the same table. In the city, in the country, along any beach or on a suburban street. Where's your home today?

Tamika, our host for the FB "Too Awesome to Categorize" group I joined, gave us this end of challenge graphic. Yay, everyone!

we did it!

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Monday, October 30, 2017

#Write31Days 30 • Cities

day 30: cities and the city

And The City

It's always been about the city, but it's ironic that I named this blog I began immediately after I finished the Community Economic Development certificate after the desert, and not after the city or the cities. It's long been about the desert, but for even longer, my life and passions have been about the city. My first formal online endeavor was creating an urban group in the old MSN groups. Although MSN disbanded (trashed) its groups, I had the foresight and the smarts to save what I'd posted and the conversations I'd had on that page with cousin Torrie from Hio and Aisha from Georgia.

Cities are central to shipping and commerce. The city is the place where cultures and styles intersect and intermix, where languages mingle and combine into pidgins and creoles. In most cities you can find any food and any music you desire. Cities usually have at least of touch more urbanity than even close by suburban or rural communities; there's something about life in the big city with all that exposure to all those ideas and possibilities that raises one's attitude and makes for sophistication. The city often dishes out or at least leads to too much most people would rather not have: poverty; crime; disappointment; high prices; hopelessness.

Is it still time to celebrate the city?! Well, yes, it is! Scripture reminds us a garden well-tended grows into a healthy city. Scripture tells us God's name first dwelt in the city of Shiloh:

Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting {tabernacle, the portable place of God's presence} there. The land lay subdued before them. Joshua 18:1

One of my fave city graphics I'll try to find and add to this says, "Celebrate the city! Where the mind sees more than the eye!" Is it time to celebrate cities? Cities often are places where being different, being the other, being on the edge is safer than it typically is elsewhere. In spite of and because of, the city has, the cities have potential and a future no other type of settlement can match. Celebrate the city?! Yes, and amen!

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

#Write31Days 29 • Garden

day 29: back to the garden

And Gardens

Balboa Park, San Diego, August 2013Gardens everywhere! Flowers, fruits, veggies. Today I'm particularly considering flower gardens—apartment window boxes, city parks, annual exhibits or Flower Shows, flowers to admire, and flowers to pick, take inside, and arrange into bouquets. When I worked downtown in the CBD, street vendors sold fresh-picked bouquets all year round, usually at an affordable price. Blooms lined up and ready to offer a splash of color, an opportunity for joy in your home or my home, created types of gardens, too.

Joni Mitchell's classic "Woodstock" – made part of the soundtrack of our lives by CSNY – insists we need to get back to the garden. After the majestic, ordered, creation account of Genesis 1 (that for some reason extended through Genesis 2:3 after they divided scripture into chapters and verses), in 2:15 we read, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it." Eden must have been a basic multi-purpose garden for growing everything. The New Testament ends with the garden well-stewarded and grown into a city, but in-between we have the garden of resurrection that's the opening scene of the New Creation. So God has taken us back to the garden, given humanity another chance to plant, cultivate, and harvest gifts from the ground to help feed everyone, to beautify everyone's places and spaces.


Whenever possible I blog my own photos and art. Back to the Garden header art is from my 5-part Whimsies series; photo to the left of my words about gardens is from Balboa Park in Previous City San Diego during August 2013. Charleston, SC window box is from RGB stock. To my knowledge I've never been in Charleston, but I've heard so much about its flowers, its doors, its style and southernness I had to include something Charlestonian with this post. "Charlestonian?" Yes. Breaking with my intention to include only places I'd visited and remembered. When I took The New South class, our first assignment was to write about our experience with the south. One of my classmates explained she was not primarily a Southerner, a South Carolinian, or even an American. She was Charlestonian.

Charleston SC window box

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

#Write31Days 28 • Desert

And The Deserts

day 28: desert scene

For over fifteen years, this site, desert spirit's fire, has been the main place I write as I consider theology, life, ecology, and almost anything else that comes to mind. For Israel, the desert was not the place promised to Abraham; a desert was not the place of homecoming from exile. But for Israel, the exodus desert they trekked across post-Egyptian slavery was the literally inescapable place that shaped and formed their identity as a people of God, the place that taught them trust, that "where" they began to learn to live today and not in a past that in essence never would return, not in an unknown – yet still assuredly promised – future. In the desert Israel received bread from heaven—for day's hunger only. Water from the rock—solely for that thirst.

Many of us need a physical, geographical desert in order to assess "what's really important," to get stripped of nonessentials, to regain gratitude, to recognize the threats of consumerism and empire, to relearn the promise of life. Although I live in a coastal desert, the hot Sonoran desert is my place of bountiful oasis away from hectic urban coastal existence. Just as it did for Israel, the desert restores and reclaims me, reminds me of my identity. You can word search this blog to uncover more of my desert-focused posts; I also have an Arizona travel blog.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

#Write31Days 27 • Planet Earth

day 27: planet earth

This Celebrating Place series has been exclusively about places I've experienced first-hand and remember clearly. I've yet to write about many possibilities on my original list, but easily could have included the state of California or the commonwealth of Massachusetts; the city of Tucson, Detroit, Santa Monica, or Boston. Possible neighborhoods could have been Clairemont, Ashmont, University City, or Tierrasanta. Regional places? Cape Cod or San Fernando Valley. I may add those and a few more if or when I pull this series together as a book.

But today... Planet Earth could have been my next to last post, right before Home, or it would have served perfectly as the series conclusion, intro/opener, day 01, or anywhere in between. Despite this Write31Days being exclusively about the continental USA, any place we celebrate's always also about all of the earth we live on, the land God owns and has loaned us. Whatever our longitude and latitude, all creation is completely interconnected and interdependent, so Every Day is Earth Day Everywhere. Celebrate!

every day is earth day

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

#Write31Days 26 • Beach

And Beaches

day 26: teal beach scene

More than anything else, The Beach and The Beaches supremely have been recreational places for me. A simple list of favorites and {at some point in space and time} most frequented would include Windansea, La Jolla, San Diego, California; Earle Road, Harwich, Cape Cod; North Pacific Beach, San Diego, California; Malibu East—a narrow strip beach near the Savin Hill neighborhood of Dorchester, Massachusetts. All the beaches I remember have either been East on the Atlantic Coast or West along the Pacific Coast, though anecdotally I know I've splashed in the Gulf of Mexico.

My #Write31Days2017 illustrates a house smack dab on the beach at Truro, Massachusetts. Please take note of the many place names transplanted from UK to USA: Harwich; Dorchester; Savin; Truro...

During summer months, for me the beach as in "beach the vernacular" mostly has meant basking in the sun, listening to music, listening for breaking waves, reading a book or writing in a journal. On overcast days or when summer's gone, beach has meant walking along water's edge where sand meets surf, where place has become liminal because I'm no longer on land yet not in the sea.

On this site I've written almost endlessly about water and rivers; more than just rivers, only streams, ponds, or arroyos, The Ocean forms the best icon of the womb of creation, represents most tellingly the event that drowns us into our first death, incubates and resurrects us into new life in Christ. The early church always baptized in the water of a river that's always in flux, never changeless, yet on both east coast and west coast, many churches baptize in the ocean—what an image; what an experience to remember and live into!

beach splash

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

#Write31Days 25 • Brave

Porch Stories :: Brave

porch stories: brave

It's Wednesday! I'm coordinating my October-long Celebratimg Place with Kristin Hill Taylor's Porch Stories as she reminds us Brave doesn't always mean big. Last Wednesday I blogged about my passion for the city and cities, about my interest in their restoration, revitalization, and redemption into beautiful spaces for living, working, and playing. I especially singled out Detroit, where so much needs to be done! Detroit has been majorly devastated, but every city has pockets of neglect that need attention—as do many smaller places.

I often point out that the sum of individual actions, hopes, prayers {and sadly, sins of omission and commission} tends to be synergistic, adding up to more than the sum of the parts. Most people's involvement in civic affairs starts out at the very local neighborhood level—often beginning only on the block where they live, frequently inspired by too much trash, or traffic noise, by a vacant lot or brownfield that might resurrect into a garden or a playground. Helping out at the microlevel initially doesn't look as if it will affect the entire city or even that whole neighborhood, but if enough people get involved at their own ground zero... it begins to add up, and just as wonderfully, actions and the results of action often inspire onlookers and passersby to do something similar.

Trusting that a series of small actions gradually will grow and more than add up to impact a major or overwhelming problem is an immense act of bravery. Each incremental move to change the whole takes more trust and more bravery; even with careful planning and prior experience, no one can see into the future, no one knows the results of any plan or project. As in every aspect of life, God calls us to be faithful and persistent... and to start small. What else can anyone do?

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Monday, October 23, 2017

#Write31Days 23 • Farms

And The Farm

day 23: farm

With activities and production all administrated up, timed to the second, counted to be sure it all got done, Egypt sure wasn't the place God promised to Abraham. The exodus desert's shifting sand couldn't be the place–what can you plant, what on earth will grow in such an arid space? That place of promise had to be land you could seed, nurture, and harvest; fertile ground that would provide the most basic human need. To paraphrase Walter Brueggemann, "Justice is important, but dinner is essential"

For immigrants from almost everywhere, the New World's open prairies became the main incentive for leaving the familiar {in some case even their families} in order to make stable new lives for themselves as farmers. Scripture and experience demonstrate how a well-tended garden eventually grows into a city, yet some agricultural land must remain for people to be fed.
15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." Genesis 2

22As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Genesis 8

Food and farming are so necessary, God explained the land belonged to him, was a not-fir-sale loan to humanity; land was not and still is not human "property." The gift of tillable ground came with a charge, a commandment to farm it well.

I need a song, but the spring is for sowing.
A word to the wise that the earth must provide.
A tune to unravel the riddle of growing;
First things first when you get to the land.

by Peter Yarrow and Peter Zimmel // Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

earth must provide

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

#Write31Days 22 • Los Angeles

yellows in Grand Park

Los Angeles has been "Current City" on this site during the past 2+ years; before that, it was the big city a few miles due north where you might visit for a day at MOCA and LACMA, or you could AmTrak to Union Station and then go to the Port of Long Beach to disembark on your next cruise. LA's the second most populous city in the USA—more people means more excitement, more networking possibilities, and potentially more opportunities for contributing to the greater good, for individual growth, and even for career enhancement—even in the current economy. Population size and density alone kept intriguing, calling me, and drawing me to LA.

I've lived in Current City since late June 2015, yet the high cost of housing has kept me in short-term living situations. However, in my tendency to put the best construction on everything, couch-surfing and room-sharing in different parts of the city has given me a good sense of what's where and how to get from here to there. Given my own history and general human tendencies, LA is the first place I've ever moved to where I've felt so immediately at home I haven't longingly glanced back at the previous place. That may be because I'd given Previous City too much time to yield what it never would... and had come close to choking on the depths of my discernment, but I'll never know.

Ongoing highlights of living in this city by the sea include lifestyles and sartorial styles of Westwood and West LA. Architectural treats everywhere you look. An easy westward ride along Wilshire Boulevard to Santa Monica's fabled beach and shopping and hiking and coastal style. Free of cost and low cost meetups that address every interest imaginable; so far I've done only music and museum ones, but easily could attend several each week. Weather, too. Overall climate's similar to Previous City San Diego's and makes me happy I haven't yet sprung for anything less sunny, more overcast, chillier, or potentially snowbound. One keeps hearing how LA contains the most cultural, ethnic, and human diversity that's ever been anywhere, so you easily can access fast food, slow food, or fine dining to fulfill your gustatory cravings.

Besides museums, high culture, popular culture, and food, LA specialties include many municipal parks. A shoutout again to DTLA's Grant Park; the stunning yellow street furniture in my header pic contrasts well and blends beautifully with the park's colorful landscaping. Also in DTLA you'll find the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles, with daily noonday liturgy specifically scheduled for people who work downtown. The cathedral plaza is a gate of heaven, the cathedral interior? Heaven on earth.

bread and cup Los Angeles cathedral
Los Angeles Cathedral, plaza vista

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

#Write31Days 21 • San Diego

along the 8 Mission Valley San Diego spring 2015

Along The 8 in Mission Valley, San Diego

City of

Also known as "Previous City" on this site during the past 2+ years, the city of San Diego is any surfer's heaven, a locale that pretty much expects people to laze away a lot of their time, a location where real estate carries a Sunshine Tax in the form of high mortgage payments and high rents. In retrospect {and even while I still was there} I have that feeling I stayed in San Diego for too long because what I hoped would become a life turned into a holding pattern. At several junctures along the way I looked back and realized After this much time in town, anyone would have expected ... even making allowance for Southern California and the 21st century where life moves along at a slower, almost country pace, where anonymity and difficulties making social and professional connections long have been the norm.

Yet. I. Stayed. Even as almost everything deteriorated and unraveled. Because San Diego is gloriously sunstruck, full of activities, full of fun people, and full of life. My San Diego County provides more details... but in that case, why did I finally decide to relocate? I'll reveal a little more soon because Los Angeles, also known as Current City, will be the next place I celebrate in this series.

Mission Valley flowers spring 2015

Posies in Mission Valley San Diego

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Friday, October 20, 2017

#Write31Days 20 • Discover

desert sun 03

Five Minute Friday :: Discover

This week's Discover Five Minute Friday prompt from Kate Motaungs gradually aging FMF home is perfect for Celebrating Place!

Take Five {Minutes}:

One of my favorite exclamations is "Celebrate the City! Where the mind sees more than the eye!" With my somewhat extreme urban propensities, that would be an excellent start for five minutes of considering discover. Diversity of every kind is a hallmark of any metropolis, and in fact, variety belongs to any definition of city. But that's not my direction for this FMF. How many times have I mentioned the surface of the desertscape appears almost lifeless and unchanging, yet you don't need to be a biology or ecology expert to know the extreme amount of animal and plant life that teems just underneath the surface. I can't begin to estimate the times I've reminded my readers and myself how the exodus desert was the original constitutive experience for God's people on their way to the land of promise where they'd become settled and agricultural, where they'd rely on the earth become land to yield to their skills in farming, to respond to the life-giving and life-sustaining rivers that flowed through Canaan.

Life-giving and identity-restoring remains our experience in the physical, phenomenological deserts of this 21st century, in our relational and spiritual ones, too, as God in the power of the Holy Spirit of life nudges, directs, and strips us down to essentials. Despite all those palm trees everywhere and the Pacific Ocean right down the street, it can be hard to remember my current place of residence in southern California is a coastal desert. Visiting the land-locked Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona long has been one of my best reminders to look and discover what God has been doing underneath the apparent dryness and drought, to dig deep in all directions to celebrate the place of renewal and hope, the venue of God's unwavering presence that's the desert.


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Thursday, October 19, 2017

#Write31Days 19 • South Central

#smile south central

Los Angeles

Since mid-March 2017 Roxy Kitteh and I've been staying in South Central LA; there's no point in describing the situation beyond saying people have reminded me, "it's a roof" and reminding myself the cost of housing in these here parts is sky-high, yet I trust something affordable and healthy eventually will surface.

Dis be da hood, so the immediate area's sparse on standard retailers and has more than a fair share of storefront indie businesses {and churches}. Life in South Central has meant relishing six {6} months of almost daily fresh local blueberries, along with the opportunity to enjoy Edward Hopper-style lighting effects {I cannot get enough of} on nearby houses during breakfast every morning weather's not overcast. So that part's been very very good.

All in all? Smell the Roses, Savor the Berries, and #SmileSouthCentral!

south central crenshaw / slauson

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#Write31Days 18 • Sorrow

porch stories: sorrow

...For the City and the Cities

Porch Stories

Today is Wednesday and another Porch Story opp from Kristin Hill Taylor; this time Kristin writes about Ashleigh Slater's new book Braving Sorrow {Loss, Grief, Disappointment} Together. Yesterday I wrote a little about ways cities bring me to life, emphasizing the...
...description of my currently less active {than this one} Preservation Project blog, it's about Neighborhood revitalization, brownfield reclamation, storefront transformation, infrastructure rehabilitation... about surrounding the city with beauty, encouraging nature with window boxes, backyard gardens, kitchen herb gardens, community gardens. Flowers and veggies, beauty and nutrition all over the place! Getting artistic with murals on brick walls and wooden fences. Creating new signage.

The story of God and God's people opens with a garden and ends with the city of the new creation with the river of life flowing through the city streets, with the tree of life laden with fruits for healing of all the nations. A properly tended garden will grow into a city!

I grieve and mourn for population decline, broken infrastructure, overall urban decay {and I don't mean the makeup line}, schools that don't educate, political carelessness, and other serious sorrows of too many cities in the USA and elsewhere. My heart particularly aches for the once splendid city of Detroit, that sprawling urban prairie once known as the Motor City and as Motown. I've blogged about Detroit at least a half dozen times {update: at least 16 times} over the life of this blog; my memories include days at Belle Isle Park and my first ever MLB game at the old Tiger Stadium {8-track tape, that one}. Less than five years ago, Detroit declared bankruptcy, yet love and caring that began quite a while previous to that event are helping revitalize and resurrect Detroit. Enough people cared deeply enough to come together in their sorrow and loss. They held onto hope, did a lot of plain hard work, and helped revive Detroit into a Renaissance City, a place of rebirth, a place to wildly celebrate again!

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#Write31Days 17 • Alive

city fence scattered flowers
city fence gathering flowers


For day 17 I'm breaking again from writing about discrete physical, geographical places, and picking up What Makes You Feel Alive, the suggested day 17 prompt from #Write31Days host Crystal Stine. Alive reminds me of Howard Thurman's {career, vocation, recreation} counsel not to ask what the world needs—ask what brings you to life, because the world needs people who are fully alive.

What makes me feel alive? Sharing a meal with almost anyone else! Teaching ... almost anything? Well, not quite. Teaching something I know about: art, music, bible, theology. To tie alive into 31 Days of Celebrating Place, what places, large or small settings, types of towns, or particular geographies bring me to life? Cities. Noisy residential neighborhoods. The CBD at lunchtime. I still have that Preservation Project passion, or maybe Restoration Project would be more accurate. To cite the description of my currently less active {than this one} Preservation Project blog, it's about Neighborhood revitalization, brownfield reclamation, storefront transformation, infrastructure rehabilitation... about surrounding the city with beauty, encouraging nature with window boxes, backyard gardens, kitchen herb gardens, community gardens. Flowers and veggies, beauty and nutrition all over the place! Getting artistic with murals on brick walls and wooden fences. Creating new signage. What brings me to life? Digging into dirt. Pruning, weeding, raking, harvesting. Getting real dirt all over and not minding it at all after the first five minutes. Planting, harvesting, growing, and greening can happen almost anywhere you can dig into the dirt, and it's most noticeably abundant outside the city out in the countryside, across rural farmlands. What brings me to life? Sharing a meal, especially a feast full of ingredients we've planted and picked ourselves, prepared together, and blessed together. In the city, In the country. Anywhere.

city fence gathered flowers
city flowers gathered scattered flowers

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Monday, October 16, 2017

#Write31Days 16 • Salt Lake City

Mount Olympus Utah
Mount Olympus

Days of 47 Utah Sego Lily Utah


This is day 16, the exact middle of the 31-day challenge!

Salt Lake City forever will remain a place I need to rationalize what went right because by most human standards so many things went wrong during my time there. This series featured the state of Utah a week ago yesterday; like the rest of Utah, SLC and its immediate surroundings are packed full of natural wonders. SLC possesses the biblical number of seven canyons; creeks that flow through SLC's more urban canyons {City Creek, Mill Creek, Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley's} have been in the process of becoming literally daylighted and restored to health rather than continuing as canals. Larger canyons Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood were – and still are – near enough to the city for even a short escapade up the canyon into big sky wonders.

Whether or not you've visited SLC or other parts of the intermountain west, maybe you know Brigham Young announced the Salt Lake Valley as "the place" the Latter-day Saints would settle. Pioneer Day that commemorates that event every July 24 is a major Utah holiday. Some years I watched fireworks a few streets up the hill from where I lived, other years at Liberty Park. You've likely seen pictures of Temple Square at Christmas time, and you may recognize the SLC LDS temple. Nearby Abravanel Hall is home to the Utah Symphony Orchestra. I had the joy of attending some Saturday evening concerts with a friend some of the times her daughter had to work and couldn't use her ticket. I also attended some Finishing Touches open rehearsals.

I trudged through CROP walks or the local equivalent during non-CROP years. Most of Utah's land mass is rural, most of the population, urban. I could walk to the Utah State Fair from my apartment on The Avenues! Getting to the fair was a longish walk, but easier than inconveniently parking and then walking for a half mile, or taking more than one city bus a relatively short distance.

Because I served on the board of three non-profit organizations and was active in at least two others, I participated in more than my fair share of activities that were politically, socially, and culturally broadening and enlightening. I never bothered to count my sound bite appearances on the late evening {10 pm in Utah} network affiliate news! Alongside my activist endeavors, I sat in on classes at the U, joined Toastmasters in order to become a better speaker, always attended the annual Poverty Conference and the Neighborhood Conference. I even had the smarts to find computer classes and start digitizing my design! That's the short list, so maybe SLC was more of a growing and learning space than a place of sorrow and disappointment?

Would I visit SLC? Only if someone I knew still lived there. I reconnected on facebook with next door neighbor Laurie, who currently lives in Provo, not far from Brigham Young University or "The Y." Would I vacation in Utah again? In a heartbeat—and I already have!

Avenues Utah Apartment Building

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