Monday, August 24, 2015

Zen in the Valley

You (O Lord) are justified when you speak and upright in your judgment. Psalm 51:5

The deer have been mostly absent from our yard this summer. During the winter we see them at least three times a day; they seem to come grazing through for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In early summer we don’t see them nearly as often as they must have better places to go, have their babies, and eat. Now that summer is two thirds over and the fawns are a bit larger and stronger, the deer are back to their old grazing habits.

Our back yard seems to serve three primary purposes for the local deer-herd. First, they enjoy eating the grass, which must be quite satisfying to them, as we do everything we can to keep it lush and green.

They use our lawn upon which to bed down for their afternoon siestas – again, because they must find it soft, cool, and comfortable in the mid-day heat of summer. And why not? We keep it well watered, so the ground is soft, and I set the mower blades a bit higher than I prefer, because it is better for the grass not to be chopped as low as I would do it if I wanted it to look well-manicured.

Finally, they use our lawn as their own personal litter box, which is unsightly (and seems quite unsanitary). I’m not overly fond of having to clean up after them, but it is what it is, so we each do our part and life goes on.

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that my Valley Girl tomatoes are doing better than they were the last time I spoke of them. A month or so ago I had written of my disappointment with her woeful lack of production of tomatoes. At that time there had only been three tomatoes that had bothered to show themselves to this novice gardener. Today there are at least eight, and a few are beginning to show signs of some color other than green.

Of course, they will no doubt ripen while I am away on vacation. Fortunately, I have asked a couple to babysit Valley Girl for us, so they will be free to take advantage of these locally grown and harvested delights. I am hoping production will continue past our return, at which time I shall hope to provide you with a full and complete update on their health status and taste.

On another note, it seems traffic has been much heavier than in my previous summers here in the Madison and Ruby Valleys (and points in between). I am wondering if our Fisherman triangle in Ennis shouldn’t be converted into a traffic circle.

I know people complain about such circles as being confusing, but that is simply because we don’t have enough of them in this area for drivers to “get used to” them. They are really much more efficient at enhancing traffic flow than intersections with traffic signals (and does anyone REALLY want signal-lights in Ennis at the Y?).

If you have been reading this column thus far, you’re probably wondering what deer, tomatoes, and traffic lights have to do with life and faith – the raison d’etre of This, Our Valley.

The answer is a simple: Nothing!

While I generally try to have a reason or focus behind each column I write, every now and then I just like to go with the flow, and see where the flow takes me. I am not very Zenful, and yet every now and then a bit of the Zen universe will touch me – or tackle me – and what can I do but live in the now and confess that not everything that happens has a purpose upon which to propound.

In some ways, life for the sake of life is its own purpose. There is no higher calling than to live in the here and now, for there really is no other time. There is no future / there is only now / there is no past / just our memories, holy cow!

The point is: the deer, tomatoes, and traffic do their thing, and there is nothing intrinsically moral or immoral – good or bad – evil or holy about any of it. They simply “are” – and I enjoy keeping an eye on them in this, our valley.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Curious Sight in the Valley

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle ... – Jesus

One morning Barb and I were sitting in our living room enjoying a cup of coffee when we looked outside and saw a car slow down to a crawl in front of our house. The occupants were chattering excitedly and pointing at the house and I wondered if they were staring at us, as we were not exactly dressed for company.

I knew from experience that was not the case as our windows have a reflective quality about them that makes it difficult to peer inside from outside during daylight hours. Still, their staring made me a bit self-conscious and curious, so I stepped over to the window and glanced outside, but I could see nothing noteworthy in our yard making a slow-drive-by necessary.

The car moved on and as it did so I stepped closer to the window and noted a fawn resting peaceably right below our window. THAT’s what the folks were looking at! Now it made sense.

I was correct thinking it couldn’t be us; I knew it couldn’t be our landscaping (if you can call what we have out front “landscaping” to begin with); and I was pretty sure it wasn’t our log-sided house which, while nice, is nothing to write home about. There was simply something out of our view that was attracting attention, and until we were willing to either step closer to the window or actually go outside, we would never have known it was there.

I wonder what we can learn about ourselves and about life in general from this. What leapt to mind for me was the matter of racism about which we’ve been hearing so much lately. Most of us live within the context of our own skin, and so it is hard to imagine life within the realm of someone else’s experience.

I am a white man, but I never think about being white, nor about being a man. I’m simply me. I am the only person I’ve known as well as I know me (and I confuse myself a lot, even at that).

I would love to think I haven’t got a racist bone in my body and yet I know that when I speak, I inevitably display all sorts of ignorance and stupidity with regards to other people. That’s normal, so one shouldn’t be afraid to admit it.

I know it irritates me when I read or see in the news that “a black man was shot by …” I wonder why they can’t simply report that a man was shot. Is there an ulterior motive in identifying the race?

No; I do not think that identifying race is part of some liberal agenda or storyline the media are trying to perpetuate. Like it or not, statistics help identify trends or issues that might otherwise be lost in the cloud – allowing injustices to continue unexamined and unabated.

One key to getting along better with one another is to avoid denying that we are different – all of us. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your thoughts mine,” says the Lord, so maybe we ought to be honest enough to admit it.

Not all cultures are the same, whether at home or abroad.

I grew up in the north, but I love grits. Many people don’t know what grits are, and so are reluctant to give them a try or, having tried them decided they aren’t their cup of tea. That’s fine. Having good taste doesn’t make me better than you (tongue placed firmly in cheek) – just different.

One day some years ago I made reference to “Orientals” in a sermon. I was told afterwards that the proper term is “Asians.” I am not big on political correctness, but I do strive to be sensitive and inoffensive. My friend corrected me gently, not harshly, and I found that helpful.

When challenged to respect the dignity of every person, it is helpful to be gentle, for upon the foundation of gentleness we can build relationships that improve life for all. Being aware that others often see, feel, and experience what we ourselves cannot or do not, perhaps we can be humble enough to step up to the window with less judgment in this, our valley.