Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Meme Meme Meme Meme

     Memes. Clever little rascals, at least sometimes. And some of them seem to get thousands of likes and shares even when they are irrational, misspelled or just plain dumb. I suppose I am too serious about the whole thing, but I do envy the "going viral" bit. I decided to make a meme. I thought it out carefully. I was pretty sure it could change the whole "whose life matters" conflict in America. Elevate the discourse. Calm the overwrought. Open avenues of communication. Trigger a regular spiritual revival on this continent. I posted it on Facebook. It got seven, no, wait, ten likes. Oh, and one cryptic comment: "That's very aristocratic." I'm still scratching my head over that one. But here's what I did. 
You see, I wanted something like the Black Lives Matter fist. I found a Rubens  painting of the crucifixion of Christ and picked out the hand. That's how Jesus showed His power, see? By sacrificing Himself for us. And He did it to take the punishment we deserved for our sins. Your life matters to Him. Very much. That's the ultimate important truth. And wouldn't it be a good thing if thousands of people were out there in tee shirts with this image on them? Every one of them ready to pass along the good news? Grumpy Cat thinks so. And so does that Japanese dog with the funny grin. And Jesus will know whether you share or have no                                                                                 heart. Can I get an amen?

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Bad with the Good Friday

     Maybe it's a good thing to have a bad experience on your last day in a place you love, so leaving is easier. Though, as "bad" goes...
     I calculated the bus schedule carefully to make it to the Good Friday service at Christ Church PCA, Santa Fe. The bus placed me there half an hour early, so I sat in the sanctuary and listened to the "chorale" practice. A couple of people said good morning to me, but I thought a stranger at Pine Ridge probably would have been engaged in conversation. Maybe it's different at regular services. The pastor came over and addressed me by a name I didn't know. I told him I'd never been there before. I learned later that I resembled an artist who sometimes came to services with a hat over her long hair. I rather liked that. 
     The service was about as different as it could have been from PRPCA, thoroughly liturgical, some of the scripture readings done in a singsong, like I've only heard in Episcopal services before. The pastor broke a large wafer as he introduced Eucharist. (We pass a tray of torn pita bread for the Lord's Supper.) People went forward to take a piece of wafer and dip it in a chalice. 
     I told the pastor afterward how different it was, though the same Spirit, and that Pastor Bill would have choked up at the same points that he did. (He knew Pastor Bill's name from General Assembly.) I also told him I'd learned something. He'd said in the service that Barabbas was probably not a popular figure with the Jews--- more of a Timothy McVeigh than an Ethan Allen. To me, that made it all the more significant that the people chose him over Jesus. Total innocence versus destructive violence? Give us original sin. 
     So far, so good. I walked around the corner to catch the bus back to town, found the bus stop sign readily, and settled in to wait the twenty or so minutes. It turned cloudy and breezy, and it was pretty cold. Finally saw the bus coming, pulled out my day pass... and watched the bus drive by. It was the right route number at the right time, but it did not stop. I raised my hands in disbelief. There wouldn't be another bus for an hour, so rather than wait, I started walking. A good mile. On rough dirt, gravel and uneven sidewalks. In boots. They're good boots, but still. I wore a hole in my silk sock liner. (Thin socks worn under the wool hiking socks to avoid blisters, marketed to serious hikers and campers. And old ladies with difficult feet.) 

     The funny thing is, I couldn't work up a good "mad" over being jilted by Santa Fe Trails. I'd just listened to a service based on the stations of the cross. This was hardly a Via Dolorosa. Just a Via Inconvenienta. A certain Spirit was helping me keep perspective. I did take another nifty door photo. And the socks were old ones anyway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Lexi and the One Drop Rule

     The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is featuring Lloyd Kiva New, son of a Cherokee mother and Scots-Irish father, who led the way for young Indian artists to build on their ancestral culture, but not to be bound by it. New designed leather handbags with metalwork bearing traditional images that became all the rage in the fashion world-at-large in the 1950s. His screen-printed fabric designs reflected the Southwest, and he made sought-after dresses, shirts, even tuxedos from them. Some artists, buyers and curators at the time wanted Indian artists to stick with tradition and produce only what they deemed "Indian" art. New and his friends saw that as an offense against the spirit of the artist. 
     I suppose the Indian Child Welfare Act of the 1970s was a reaction against too-casual removal of Indian children to Anglo homes, but today it violates the human spirit, especially the spirit of a little girl who has been taken from her Anglo foster family after four years of belonging as daughter, sister, niece and grandchild because she is "1.5% Choctaw," and to some, "tribal identity" comes first even though her drug-addicted criminal parents relinquished custody. (Why did they not entrust her to the relatives in Utah who now claim her?) 
     What on earth does "1.5% Choctaw" mean anyway? Of her 100 immediate ancestors, was one full Choctaw and another one half? Or maybe three out of the 100 are half Choctaw? I'm old enough and Southern enough to remember the "one drop rule." That meant, if you had "one drop" of black (they used to say Negro) blood you were considered black. Segregated schools and back of the bus for you. And certainly no marriage to a "white" person. Related: Melanin Mysteries 
And for Lexi, whose last name ought to be Page, it means no more of the people who cared for you, taught you, gave you a community and loved you. Those are the necessities of the human spirit. She had them. Cram her back into an ethnic category, and you offend that spirit. And, come to think of it, the Great Spirit Who created her as a human being. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Christmas in Santa Fe

     All the cognoscenti have breakfast at Tia Sophia's in Santa Fe. It's where the movers and shakers and locals eat. This morning, I had the requisite breakfast burrito, filled with scrambled egg, bacon and potatoes, smothered with melted cheddar and both red and green chiles ("Christmas" to those who know.) Actually, it wasn't as hot (temperature-wise) as it should have been, but the chiles made my nose run, so that's all right. 
     I also read both the Santa Fe and Albuquerque newspapers they had in the wooden rack up front. Local papers seem to me a symbol of American freedom and uniqueness. As they used to tell us in journalism school, anybody with a million dollars to lose can start a newspaper. An added fillip out here is that in the 1800s, people brought printing presses in by mule and set up shop in whichever little town struck their fancy and started a local paper, usually including humorous commentary and fanciful art. When they got bored with each other, the publisher would pack up and move to another town. 
     Anyway, my waitress was kind and tolerant when I couldn't understand her accent. She spoke slowly and laughed. At another table, an apparently local mother, grown daughter and grandchild sat. The daughter knocked over a large glass of orange juice. The mother leapt to her feet and began to berate one of the staff for failing to move quickly enough to get a towel. Several people were mopping the mess and bringing a new glass while she continued her rant. "She's an employee. She didn't even move. She should have brought a towel right away." Good grief. A minute later, the woman was speaking to everyone in the sweetest of tones, to make up, I suppose. Too late, though, lady. No one in Tia Sophia's will ever be glad to see you come in. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Crow’s Song

     Nobody liked the crow.
     “You have no beautiful colors,” said the toucan.
     “People set nectar in their gardens, just so I will visit,” said the hummingbird.
     “I glide on the wind, not like your foolish flapping,” said the hawk.
     “You can’t even sing,” sniffed the lark.
     “Caw,” said the crow.
     But humans were the worst, he thought. Fly overhead, and they say, “Bad luck!” Die by the road, and they say, “That’s good!” Land on a house, and they say, “Death is coming!” To someone they hate, they say, “Go to the crows.”
     One day, when he was tired of eating worms, the crow tried to snatch some corn from a field, but the farmer shouted and threw a rock at him.
     The crow flew until his wings were tired and took refuge in a tree next to a very tall gray wall. As he glared at a dim window in the wall, a light suddenly shone from behind it. Blue, red, green and gold glowed in the glass, and the crow made out a figure in it. A man in a white robe. He was holding a lamb.
     Then voices flowed out too, human voices, not angry like the farmer, but full of happiness and love. The crow had never heard such a thing before, and his thick beak dropped open. From his throat came another sound he had never heard before, a racketing, clacketing, chirruping mix of clicks and clacks and rumbles.
     He didn’t even know how long it went on before he heard a chuckling from below. He jumped a little when he saw a man standing under the tree. “You sing like me,” said the man. He was dressed all in black, but had a white band around his neck. Like a thrush, thought the crow. Or a kingfisher.
     “Here, share something else with me,” said the man. He held up his hand and reached as high as he could toward the crow. The hand didn’t hold the rock that the crow expected. It held a piece of bread.
     The crow hopped to a lower branch and cautiously stretched his neck toward the bread. As he plucked it from the man’s hand, the man cried, “Oh! Look at your new colors.”
     The crow wobbled on the thin branch as he swallowed the bread and turned his head from side to side, trying to see what the man meant. Finally, he spread his wings and saw. Every glowing color from the window had spread across his wings, blue, red, green and gold.

     The man began to sing, very badly for a human. And the crow began to sing, very well for a crow. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Dean'sWatch

It's been a while since a book caused me to shed tears, but it happened-- on an airplane-- as I finished The Dean's Watch, by Elizabeth Goudge. I'd started out annoyed with the paperback version I bought because the cover illustration makes it look like a trashy romance. Reading it in public, I tried to keep my hand over it and control the urge to tell adjacent passengers, "Not what it looks like. Really." And the blurb inside quotes the one hot kissing scene as though it were the heart of the story. It's fitting that the label on the front covers the title, because the publishers definitely covered up the actual story with their heavy breathing. 
It's about a dean, Adam Ayscough, the head man of a cathedral in an unnamed English city, The City, and his watch, a marvelous bit of craftsmanship and art which he regularly drops or over-winds so that it comes into the hands of Isaac, a talented watchmaker, who is annoyed with the dean for mistreating the watch, but also grateful, because he loves to work on it. 
The dean is a big, ugly man who considers himself a failure. He had been a pastor, but a poor preacher. No one understood his sermons full of of theological terms. He became a schoolmaster, and was much admired and respected, but faulted himself for failing to connect with the boys as human beings. Now, as dean, he is held in awe by residents of the city, and a little feared. He has one true friend, an elderly lady who never married and made the decision that her contribution to the city would be to love its people and pray for them. She tells him not to be afraid of joy.
An "accident" causes him to talk to the watchmaker and thank him for his work. By fits and starts, they become friends. The dean forces himself to drop in at Isaac's house. Unheard of! People call on the dean; he does not call on them. But he has tea in the kitchen with Isaac and Polly, the maid, (I think that's supposed to be her on the cover.) and finds that it's... fun. At least until Isaac's uptight and extremely proper sister arrives home and is scandalized that they've entertained The Dean, The Dean of the Cathedral, in the kitchen. Now he must find a way to mollify her and to overcome his dislike. That's one of the most interesting themes in the book-- how to love the thoroughly unlovable. 
The dean also tries to help the often-beaten apprentice who loves Polly. He soon finds how complicated it can be to insert oneself into other people's lives. And he struggles to find a way to heal his own cold marriage to a much younger beauty, who seems to think of nothing but her beautiful image. It involves a clock, probably the most beautiful and perfect in the world, made by Isaac. None of it works out the way one might guess, at least not the way I would guess, but it works out beautifully, because Goudge is a master at portraying God's mysterious ways. Faith, lack of, and growth of, is always a part of her work, like the most well-known, Green Dolphin Country (also published as Green Dolphin Street, and made into a lousy movie you need not bother with.) And part of that working-out is what made me dab at my eyes. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Guerrilla Docent

I've said before that one of these days I'm going to get into a fist-fight with a museum docent. It could even happen in Santa Fe, and it will start with eye-rolling. In the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum today, I heard only the wrap-up from a docent and thought it pretty much contentless. Granted, the previous pronouncements may have been brilliant, so I didn't actually do her any violence, but I got to thinking about what might happen if I lived in Santa Fe and volunteered as a docent. How much trouble would I get into? I reject a lot of popular interpretation of her work, especially the Freudian frenzy engendered by her flowers. No, Virginia, she was not sex-crazed. She simply painted what she saw. She said so. It's on tape. Why not take her at her word and realize she applied that same direct vision to bones and mountains and mesas and mission architecture. Since I believe the same Creator made the reproductive organs of plants and those of animals and humans, it isn't a shock to see that the reproductive parts may resemble each other. So stop with the smirking and tittering. 
It struck me especially today how O'Keeffe focused on edges, borderlines, where things meet. A charcoal sketch from 1916 shows the meeting of a fabric drape with what may be a plaid dishtowel, itself folded into many little canyons. That was the year she leapt into modernism. The theme turns up again and again decades later in her landscapes and things like "The Black Place."
It's a real spot in New Mexico where the edges of mountains fold together, and she painted many versions of it, this place where things meet. I think it's important that there is no sky in this image. For a long time, she emphasized close-up objects with seldom a glimpse of sky, except as background, but as she aged, that began to change. And as I age, I think I understand it better.
And here's where I became the Guerrilla Docent. I heard a young teen girl ask her father why O'Keeffe would have re-painted "City Lights," a view of New York City originally done in 1926, fifty years later, and made it twice the size. Dad had no opinion. I swooshed over to her-- OK, crept with some trepidation-- and asked "Would you like to hear an old person's answer to your question?" She and father said yes, so I opined. 

The first version looks through the canyon formed by the skyscrapers, with a tiny streetlight at the bottom. The 70s version looks upward to a prominent sky and its bright stars. She's looking at another sort of border, the one between this world and the next, something old people tend to do. It shows in the more abstract paintings she did at the end of her life when she had to have assistants hold her hands up. The sky is now the beyond, mysterious, a place of its own, which borders on this world. 
The dear girl studied the two NYC images and said, "You're right!" I could have kissed her.