Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Hard Side of the River :: Johnny Payne

The Hard Side of the River: A Novel of Abolition by Johnny Payne on Amazon

Novelist, poet, playwright, librettist Johnny Payne directs the MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles.

Hard Side of the River by Johnny Payne book coverI ducked my head to get under the doorframe, as if I'd arrived home after a long day's work.

And isn't homecoming the ultimate redemption?

You know about timely! Johnny Payne started The Hard Side of The River long before its 2019 publication date and before this exceptional year 2020, but receiving my copy from the author when I did gave me broader perspective than I could have had earlier.

For a while the USA as a whole imagined it had moved past days when some humans bought and sold other humans like chattel; most probably considered their town of residence and place of work (relatively) safe for all comers.

Thoroughly researched with characters that change and adapt as the plot progresses, this historical novel begins south of the freedom line of the Ohio River in 1831, concludes in 1834—three decades before the Battle of Fort Sumter, Emancipation Proclamation, Juneteenth… close to two centuries before a renewed civil rights endeavor across the United States and other parts of the world in the wake of continued unjust treatment of Blacks and other Persons of Color. Each chapter provides first-person narration related to currents of one of four main characters: slave tracker Dan Baskin; escaped slave Jacob Pingram; abolitionist school teacher Dana Curbstone, or abolitionist parson Cal Fenton. The story includes three other important persons: Dan's partner Leora who later becomes his wife; a young girl named Rae who's designated step-daughter by Leora and Dan; Jacob's partner Esmerelda whom he marries.

Water is the womb of this planet's birth, the matrix of our own beginnings. Throughout the history of humanity, water has equaled life. Waterways have carried necessary cargo to distant destinations; ships have transported humans to lives of freedom, and sometimes into slavery. Just north of Kentucky that belonged to the antebellum South, Ohio was free territory. For Jacob and others like him, the Ohio River bordering both those states symbolized the relative freedom he could own if he could reach the Ohio side. On foot at a shallow location? By swimming? In a vessel? The river's width, its torrents, and its openness to spying eyes of slave trackers all could be serious barriers.

Almost two centuries after Payne's historical novel, southern California has become the most ethnically and linguistically diverse settlement in the history of humanity. Beyond life-generating waters, humans must create a world safe for differences, as people finally did for Jacob and for each other on the safe side (the soft side, maybe?) of the Ohio. Making different safe is a beginning. Next? To create a world that welcomes, celebrates, and revels in diversity, where people no longer feel strange, where they know they have arrived home.

Because no one is free until every one is free, everyone still resides south of the freedom line. Preachers and others seeking justice and freedom for all humanity – and for planet earth – might enjoy Johnny Payne's version of when and how it happened at least once.

I ducked my head to get under the doorframe, as if I'd arrived home after a long day's work.

Doesn't everyone long for a place to belong? Isn't homecoming the ultimate redemption for the one who gets welcomed and for the ones who do the welcoming?

Notice of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from the author without any expectation I'd write a positive review. As always, opinions are my own.

Friday, September 11, 2020

911 nineteen years

we will always remember…

celebrating hope
911 2001
911 2020
19 years

Where were you?

WTC image by GLady on pixabay

Sunday, August 30, 2020

August & Summer 2020

summer 2020 june july august blog sandy beach header collage

June 2020 :: Retrospect Prospect – Into the Future

July 2020 • Into a Future

• As I've been doing at the conclusion of each meteorological season, I've linked to Emily P Freeman's What I Learned…

• My lectionary blog continues with virtual Sunday School notes; here are Reflections on Scripture during a Global Pandemic for August.

yellow school bus 2016 school supplies 2020

• Most years my real new year begins when schools start up again in the fall (or August if that's the case). With COVID-19 filling the planet, 2020 has been different, but I'll still claim a new beginning from now into September. I took this yellow school bus picture four years ago; the "cooling at school" sentiment still holds. Like many grownups, I go crazy in any school-office-art supply department in any store. Happily, stores were well-stocked as usual, so as usual I updated my stash with a few necessities. I already had plenty of notebooks, composition books, and some looseleaf paper, so concentrated on replenishing other stuff.

LA Metro Artist Pool

• This announcement belonged in winter 2020—how could I have left it out?! I got into Los Angeles Metro transit system's artist pool! Happily I noticed the call for entries about a week before they extended the deadline, giving me time to choose the max ten pieces they allowed. My graphically designed résumé was ready to go, and a friend helped me refine the artist's statement they required. Good timing, since I then updated my LinkedIn with a modified version!

• Inclusion doesn't guarantee you'll get a commission; it does guarantee they'll consider you and, of course, it's an awesome CV line item. For 'hoods I especially resonate with I listed Downtown, Glendale, Hyde Park, Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Van Nuys, West LA, and Westwood. They probably consider those preferences when they look for people to contribute to certain communities.

new 2020 sun country blueberries

• No matter what, when, or where, berry season can't stop turning every day and place into a sun country space. They're slowing down some, yet still local, affordable, and fairly abundant at Farmers' Markets and conventional retailers.

Vote Joe Biden and Kamala Harris 2020

• With rare exceptions, it's become always #VoteBlueNoMatterWho. Although this year's Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates would be a stellar pair any year, they bring exceptional integrity and deep experience that's needed more than ever. At. This. Time.

• Thanks for visiting! As you may have noticed, no interesting outings or excursions happened during August, but with life gradually opening up, September may feature a few.

Emily P Freeman What I learned in summer 2020

backyard greens celebrating seasons

# # #

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Feast of St Francis

The Feast of St Francis
04 October 2020
Francis of Assisi: Creation Spirituality

Praise the Lord, you sea monsters and all deeps.
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
Psalm 148:7, 9, 10

Season of Creation 4

Season of Creation 4
27 September 2020
The Gift of Water

"…I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb.
Strike the rock, and water will come out of it,
so that the people may drink."
Exodus 17:6

Season of Creation 3

Season of Creation 3
20 September 2020
There is enough for our need, not our greed

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,
"In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt…"
Exodus 16:6

Season of Creation 2

Season of Creation 2
13 September 2020
Protecting the Commons

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians;
and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.
Exodus 14:30

Season of Creation 1

Season of Creation 1
06 September 2020
The Greatest Commandment: Love your neighbor

Owe no one anything, except to love one another,
for any one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:8

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Green Good News | Dickinson

The Green Good News: Christ's Path to Sustainable and joyful Life on Amazon

Green Good News book front coverThe Green Good News is about "green" as in new, about "green" as in sustainable ecological blessings to share. It's about "good news" as in gospel. Author T. Wilson Dickinson lives in Central Kentucky, where (among other activities) he serves as director of The Green Good News, an organization rooted in educating and cultivating communities into joyful ways of creation justice and simplicity.

To heal individuals, communities, and the land, we need to lessen behaviors that violate creation, rupture community, and cause death. At the start of this calendar year, I announced 2020 would be my year of Living Local. Although COVID-19 had started to spread, the virus still was unknown to the USA. But now for everyone worldwide, one of the paradoxical gifts of needing to stay locked down close to home for however long means living local is more necessary and it's easier to do. Having the opportunity to consider the content of The Green Good News The Book has been a timely fit as it reminds us to read food and environmental realities in the bible as they present themselves, and not solely as spiritual metaphors—though most texts easily stretch to include that essential dimension .

"…Mary Magdalene turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus asked her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?' Supposing he was the gardener…" John 20:14-15

The Risen Christ is a gardener! Not exactly a local guy stopping by for his weekly cemetery-tending gig, but Jesus of Nazareth crucified and risen is the ultimate gardener through whom everything was created. He was there at the beginning and has been there all along! Though the entire bible reveals good news about God's reign of grace, we particularly associate God's living Word Jesus of Nazareth with the gospel that incorporates all creation from its start in the garden with a river of life and tree of life to its end where the garden has grown into a verdant city with a river of life and trees of life.

With aspects of autobiography, scripture study, and experience-grounded practical ideas for greener living as family and community, The Green Good News feels like a journal as it interweaves religion, economics, politics, ecology, and anthropology, as it helps us discern the unavoidable link between the environment and justice for all.

Dickinson describes what his own families and communities have done to move away from reliance on empire into covenantal lifestyles that help transform food systems while restoring land and waters in order to heal both individual bodies and the social bodies individuals create. And, of course, those social bodies include the church, the body of the Risen Christ. Your own church or biological family might enjoy chronicling its own journey of greening and resurrecting!

The Green Good News website

Facebook Page

Notice of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from The Speakeasy with no expectation I'd write a positive review. As always, opinions are my own.

Friday, July 31, 2020

July 2020 • Into a Future

July 2020 blog header

Virtual Sunday School

• Since March my mostly lectionary Sunday School classes have been Reflections on Scripture during a Worldwide Pandemic; link's to my four for July.

Fourth of July

Fourth of July Independence Day 2020

• Most people with any smarts and/or common sense had a quiet #SaferAtHome – #StaySafeStayHome Independence Day, Fourth of July, Spirit of 76. Macy's fireworks show on TV felt like the very best ever. I assembled this picture honoring the Fourth out of design elements I got via Creative Market during 2017.

Living Local

Living Local 2020

• Before the world outside China knew anything about COVID-19, I declared 2020 my year of Living Local; necessarily staying local has been one of the paradoxical gifts of this global pandemic. Thanks to a friend's generosity, farmer's market bounty throughout the month has included—partial list:

• Lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, grapefruit, potatoes.
• Eggs, avocados, apricots, peppers, persimmons.
• Blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, raspberries.
• Basil, mint, cilantro, onions, peaches, plums.
• Cucumbers, green squash, yellow squash.
• Radishes, corn, lemons, limes.

Porch Stories

• The upper right quadrant of this month's header features the porch from one of the Porch Stories buttons I used when Kristin Taylor hosted a regular linkup. During July I front porch socialized a couple of times with dinner and conversation, though we kept more distance than in the picture.

18 Year Blogoversary

July 2020 desert spirit's fire 18 years

• To help celebrate, I've claimed a suite of five cupcakes pics from px here; with its preponderance of not chocolate, this one's my fave.

In May 2002 I graduated from the Community Economic Development (inner city economic self-reliance) certificate program at San Diego State with a mini-MBA in entrepreneurship. My future felt expansive because I planned to network intensively and extensively come autumn, but on that sixteenth day of July, beginning a blog felt like the thing to do. For substantial starters, I'd saved a lot of what I'd written on the UCC theology, book discussion, and evangelism forums.

As I sat with Suzanne on the back stoop of the Koreatown place on Catalina four and a half years ago – also known as fourteen years later than May 2002 – I sensed the same boundless future and said to Suzanne, "Was LA worth such a long wait? I need to say, I need to believe yes!"

Eighteen years, four and one-half years, a quarter century or a few more months, what now?

I often remind myself many things can't be quantified. Some things can. At least as often I remind myself scripture constantly testifies to resurrection: the inbreaking reign of heaven is the end of the old, the start of a new almost completely discontinuous with what has been.

Eighteen years have passed too fast.

This year the 16th, that middle day of July literally fell on a Thursday. With Teena in Toronto no longer popping over with reminders, 2020 wasn't the first year I'd ignored this blog's anniversary. Today? During this pandemic I wonder if anyone anywhere has a future, though you might scroll down to the end of this post, and even before pointing out the historical reality of resurrection from the dead, the centrality of hope to God's people, all of us might remember despair and discouragement fall solidly within the traditions of the Psalmists.

What else? "Practice resurrection!" What time is it now? Time to wait, to expect the future God has been preparing.

Ice Cream Day / Year

July 2020 National Ice Cream Day

• It's official! National Ice Cream Day happens every year on the Third Sunday in July! Although I'd planned a Sunday outing with a non-household member (technically forbidden to anyone abiding by statewide directive), instead we did a couple of errands on Monday afternoon with interspersed Hot Fudge Sundaes at BR31. Some insist it's really national ice cream month; can anyone go wrong believing that?

Pioneering Latter-day Saints

24 July Pioneer Day 2020

• Awash in sweet memories of festivities in Liberty Park followed by fireworks later in the day, every so often I "do something" for Utah's Pioneer Day that every July 24th recollects because it can't forget Brigham Young's This Is The Place declaration. This version #3 for 2020 is the only wide one—specifically engineered to accommodate my always centered monthly summaries.


• …not commodities markets. Talk about declarations—Living Local, This is the Place?! Last month's blog header announced Into the Future; for July into August I'll go Into a Future. Despite no big judicatorial gathering this year and as a result I won't have an art workshop, with life gradually opening up I'm in an excellent position to offer activities such as expressive art for almost any age (3rd grade and up… please no tiny kids). As I emailed a friend, I'd like to find a spiritual director. I'm thinking probably a Jesuit because of their reputation for wisdom and discernment. Why do all those protestants (esp so many PKs) attend Jesuit schools? I realize it probably will be masks and distancing until they have a vaccine, and that's fine with me. I cannot abide another virtual anything.

• Every week I open my SS lesson with a prayer—often one I write based on the lectionary readings, frequently the appointed responsive psalm. Last Sunday's was from The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church USA and Native American of the Choctaw People. I counseled my blog readers to "trust God's future" as they prayed.

Something sacred is coming this way.

That is how my ancestors would have said it. In the midst of all this turmoil and confusion, when we cannot clearly see the path before us, when we feel trapped in a situation we cannot control, then I believe the wise elders of my holy heritage would climb to the high place of the heart, draw the circle of reason and faith around them, and stand to sing their prayers into the open sky of the history to come.

They would not shrink into a corner afraid, but rise up to catch the first light of what was coming into being all around them.

We are living in a time of emergence.
We are the witnesses to a great renewal.
The world is full of the fear of birth and change, but that transformation will one day be our blessing.
Do not be afraid, but be believing.
Come to the place where the ancestors are already standing.
Come and see.

Something sacred is coming this way.

• For myself and for all the teachers, preachers, designers, artists, musicians who create, say, sing, play, proclaim, and acclaim what they themselves most long for and need, during the past year I've talked a fair amount about the previousness of God. Exactly as Jesus promises, God always goes before us to prepare a way before leading us there. (During advent we imagine we're waiting for God to show up, but reality's the opposite). God already has been to our future! Your future and my future as individuals. The world's post-pandemic future.

# # #

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020 :: Retrospect Prospect

June 2020 summary header

June 2015 calendar

• What's happened lately? Starting March 2020, weekly Reflections On Scripture During a Worldwide Pandemic on my lectionary blog. Although early in the week notes after our live Sunday discussions are more dynamic and fluid, the new arrangement of a formal lesson with a few questions is easier for someone who wasn't there, and no one is "there" at church these days.

• I've updated all 4 design website content pages; this one has some old, some new client design:

Sun Tree River Design

• What happened then? Exactly five years ago, on Sunday 21 June 2015, I moved into Current City from Previous City because I had to believe the huge metro area would yield a fair amount. My own light shines brightest when I'm helping others uncover their gifts! I relocated to LA to reboot my life; five years later I'm less involved in church and world than during the bleak last ten months in San Diego.

• Needless to say, my current situation only announces this is where my future begins. I'm thankful COVID-19 has given me a little more time to consider the future and more time to figure out long-term housing.

• Maybe you know musician Steve Winwood? "While You See a Chance," one of the many songs where he played all instruments asks:

• Don't you know by now
No one gives you anything?
And don't you wonder how you keep on moving?
One more day your way?

• I do wonder

• The city burned around me. The world protested in the streets, but I'm in so much pain I can't see ahead of me, behind, or to either side.

• Everyone loses some time, but aside from moving forward in the same direction ("One more day your way" as Winwood's song says) that hasn't yielded anything approaching the minimum I'd imagined, is there any point continuing to hold onto and claim my sense of call that never quit but that apparently interests no one but myself? I fully expected to come out in a broad place.

• Surviving through the death of my dreams has been heart breakingly lonely. God has rooted our lives in resurrection. Resurrection means death first. For the apostle Paul, the gospel – the good news! – is death and resurrection.

• Literally everywhere new ministry forms keep springing up in new unlikely places and in old, seemingly rejected spots. Also different configurations in those more expected venues.

• I need help finding a life-giving situation of health and energy—not just what I want but what I need, what can benefit people around me and people I've yet to encounter. To get formal about it, that would include building a long-term community of support, recourse, and connections. I'd like to find a spiritual director but cannot abide another virtual anything, so maybe later after real-life reroots.

# # #

desert spirit's fire retrospect and prospect June 2020

Monday, June 08, 2020

World Oceans Day 2020

world water day 2020 illustration

Throughout the calendar year, the United Nations schedules International Days, some of which emphasize humanity's place on planet earth and remind us of our call to steward life-giving resources well. One month before Earth Day, World Water Day on 22 March primarily celebrates fresh waterways; World Oceans Day on 08 June is all about water with higher saline content.

My illustration for this year's Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean theme includes a beach fence and beach grass photo from px here that didn't credit the photographer and a picture of the Pacific Ocean off Rancho Palos Verdes, California I took on the afternoon of Friday, 28 February 2020.

world oceans day 08 June

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May & Spring 2020

spring 2020 summary header illustration

May 2020 Safer at Home

• It's the end of another meteorological season! Time to link to Emily Freeman – What I learned this spring. It's my third monthly roundup blog in the current global season of COVID-19. And? Today, the Fiftieth Day of Easter that's the Day of Pentecost is the third day of the #LARiots2020, second day so far of a stay at home curfew for all but essential workers. National Guard has been deployed: 500 troops to the city; 500 to the county. Heartbreaking.

March 2020 Highlights

WhenLife Gives your Lemons Make Lemonade

• By mid-March #SaferAtHome and #StaySafeStayHome were in place, so Green Team transformed the long-planned actual World Water Day into a virtual event. "When life gives you lemons make lemonade." See you next year by the river?!

April 2020 :: Lockdown

• I didn't picture either Easter Sunday or Earth Day 50 in my April summary blog! However, I gave both events a solid paragraph and I'd already blogged both days. If I'd been able to get out in the world to celebrate, both festivals would have included many many pictures.

Easter 4 Sunday School notes – "Teaching and Fellowship Breaking of Bread and Awe" Acts 2:42-43
breaking of bread and awe
• Preparing detailed lessons to email to my mostly-lectionary [mostly] adult Sunday School class has become major since the world started #ShelterInPlace; partly for lack of outings and other activities around town, partly because they've been coming out really well, I'm linking to all 5 reflections for May and adding illustrations. Have I said this before? The notes I used to blog (and will again) after interactive Sunday morning discussions were more interesting and dynamic, but for people who weren't there that Sunday, these newfangled lessons may be easier to follow.

Cinco de Mayo 2020

• Every year includes a Cinco de Mayo; no other has happened during a year like this. Here's one of my all-time favorite designs from a previous year in Previous City.

Easter 5 Sunday School notes – "Chosen Royal Holy God's Own People" 1 Peter 2:9

Chosen Royal Holy

Subway Sandwich

• When physical distancing got serious, my nearby Subway franchise stopped offering trays and baskets to customers, then became takeaway only, then closed down completely for a few weeks. A couple weeks ago it opened again for takeaway. With restaurants now permitted limited indoor dining, I wonder if they'll reopen to eat-in, sit-down?

Easter 6 Sunday School notes – "You will get your quilt" John 14:16

quilt comforter

Ascension / Easter 7A Sunday School notes – no illustration for this one.

Day of Pentecost Sunday School notes

they were of one accord     Pentecost Visions Dreams

living local 2020

• In January I declared 2020 my year of living local. So far it has meant no amazon purchases, more fruits and veggies grown nearby, community owned restaurants and other retail outlets. #SaferAtHome has helped make life extremely local… families are doing better at being together; board game sales have increased a lot!

Emily P Freeman Spring 2020 blog linkup

Thursday, April 30, 2020

April 2020 :: Lockdown

April blog header

COVID-19 Quarantine

• When I started linking my monthly summaries to Emily's quarterly blog roundups, I started using her "what I learned in..." tag, though my approach was lists of activities rather than learnings. But after close to two months of required quarantine and home lockdown for non-essential personnel, learning just might describe my own and many other's recent experiences.


• Observing #SaferAtHome #StaySafeStayHome, I've tried to keep current with design work that's plummeted because orders for restaurant and café menus aren't coming in or being updated. I've continued to blog for the adult Sunday School class I facilitate, but instead of typing up the one or two hand-written pages I refer to when we gather, I've been assembling a more detailed reflection or lesson to post late Saturdays. Here's some of what I wrote for last Sunday:
April 2020 the best is yet to come
The Church has Left the Building

• In mid-April church and world celebrated an Easter unlike any Easter we've known. In early March, the church left the building, but not in our usual way of returning to home and work after gathering around word and sacrament, enjoying a tasty brunch, and then venturing out into the world. The church left the building because the authorities told us to, placing countless restrictions on where and how any non-essential personnel could go. The first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox came and went. But it never felt like Easter. We didn't gather on Saturday to polish the silver, to hang white bunting from the ceiling, to arrange flowers. It didn't feel like Easter. It still doesn't feel like Easter. We keep getting updates of county-wide and worldwide COVID-19 cases and deaths. It feels more like the empty devastation of Friday evening, of all day Saturday, as if death reigns, as if the Day of Resurrection never broke into history with the reality of new life, the death of death.

• Most people know the drill: you don't get spring's verdant bloomin' newness unless you've been through winter.

Social... Physical Distancing – at least 6 feet / 2 meters apart

grapefruit duo hibiscus flower citrus tree

• It's generally being called physical – rather than social – distancing because rules of disengagement have helped socially unite many people with activities like home schooling, board games, meal prep, etc. Carla in Tucson sent me pictures from her National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitat® backyard in the heart of the city. Jane, a friend I'd typically be lunching or hiking with, stopped by with some Farmer's Market bounty and a mask made of cute print fabric she couldn't resist when she visited a Fair Trade shop (alone, of course). A note about Carla's yard: she never applied for certification—someone else did, and she'll never know who. When the NWF peeps stopped by, they observed many birds, bees, and butterflies in the carefully stewarded habitat.

Lemonade out of Lemons

grapefruit tree oranges tree

When life gives you lemons make lemonade isn't a phrase and concept exclusive to grandparents, nor is the practice limited to folks with enough years to have acquired a bit of wisdom. As #StaySafeStayHome rolled out across the globe, many people frantically dug into home improvement endeavors, writing the Great American – or Expatriate – Novel, reorganizing from cellar to loft, everything they'd always wanted to do because, even if you had to do your usual work from your home, even when you had to teach your kids so they'd keep up with their class, you still had lots of minutes, hours, and days to fill.

whole lemons on counter lemon halves juice from one lemon

• I've been on break from Facebook since Roxy kitteh's mid-October birthday, but easily can aggregate trends I see on twitter. People are learning to slow down, to do less rather than more, to make that future best seller and renewed dwelling space still happen, though in small, slow increments. Staying #SaferAtHome is having at least triple benefits of protecting vulnerable populations, getting some parts of some of those projects done, being able to tell everyone "What I learned... during the great COVID-19 pandemic lockdown."

Typography Credits

• Shoutout to font designers Des Gomez for SunnyDaysInLA I used for this month's header and to Illustration Ink for ZPFrozenLemonade-Regular on the footer image.

make lemonades blog footer