Wednesday, August 29, 2007

first day jitters ...

Where will I park? How am I supposed to carry six books around with me? Will I be able to "compete" with the MDIV students - many of whom actually have a theology background? Why can't "Praise in the Pub" be earlier on Wednesday nights? Will I get along with my major professor?

Just a few of the questions swirling around in my little brain this morning. First day of classes. I'll keep you posted on how things go.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

it'll do

Sunday I was supposed to take Will up to the north shore for a couple of days of camping. After spending the entire day (it was a good day) in St. Cloud on Saturday car shopping and picking up those last few items for school I was beat and didn't feel like making the 5 hour drive to Silver Bay. Still, with grad school on the horizon, I've made a pledge to myself, and I guess Jeanne and the kids as well, that I won't neglect spending time with them. So while, Will was disappointed to be sure, we did manage to scrap out a little trip to Glacial Lakes State Park about 30 miles from home. We chose a back pack site out on the prairie to set up camp. For a backpack site, it wasn't too tough hauling in our gear (we did purposely pack light on this trip) and the site was pretty nice - tucked into a small grove of cottonwood trees over looking a small pond. Upon a little exploration, we found that some settlers had probably thought the site was nice as well. A few yards from camp was what remained of a rock foundation. Now, Sunday was very, very windy out on the prairie but we managed to set up our tent with little problem - we were actually quite proud of the feat! We unpacked and Will made it his job to set up the sleeping arrangements inside.

Glacial Lakes is a seldom used park. It lacks a big lake for recreation and doesn't have the big, north woods feel to it. It's a prairie park. You can climb an esker or a drumlin and see for miles and miles; across a landscape that is as open as one can imagine. I love being able to see great distances and am particularly fond of watching the waves of grasses moving like the ocean. I get jealous of the native people that lived on the great prairies of this continent and were able to see this as one large unobstructed landscape of grasses and flowers. (I get a bit angry that through our pioneering spirit found it necessary to plow up 99.99% of that landscape.) I think more people should spend time on the prairie, looking at how it changes subtly with elevation, water and lack of water. The diversity of plant life is amazing. I hope that Will will gain an appreciation for the prairie someday.

We arrived at the park, to find the office closed. (One of the pitfalls of a lack of visitors.) This wasn't a big deal except for the fact that we needed firewood! Technically, you're not supposed to collect firewood in the park, but we didn't think picking up some cottonwood branches in an area that had been burned would be a big deal. So, we scraped together a little pile of sticks and some bark. Now, I'm not an expert of fire building but can usually manage to get a flame going. But I'm telling you, cottonwood doesn't like to burn! ( We bailed on the fire idea and settled down for some reading instead. Once it got dark enough we headed inside, put on our head lamps and continued reading. We talked some but mostly we just hung out together. During the night the wind stopped. The silence was eerie and loud enough to wake me up! We got up and looked at the stars and the big prairie moon. A great-horned owl settled in a tree nearby shortly thereafter and we listened to it calling to another owl some distance away. As the sun rose, it got windy again and had clouded up. We had intened to watch stars and mars, but the clouds didn't allow much celestial viewing that night. We packed up early and headed for home.

It wasn't waves on Lake Superior or waterfalls on the Baptism River. But for time spent with my son it will surely do.

Monday, August 20, 2007

it always just says "now" ...

I bought a cheap watch from the crazy man
Floating down Canal
It doesn’t use numbers or moving hands
It always just says now

Jimmy Buffett "Breathe in, Breathe out, Move on"
2006 Album "Take the Weather With You"

I love that line, "It always just says now"

What a great reminder to live in the moment.

Last night Alexandria UMC was the venue for the 15th Annual Alexandria Festival of the Lakes Chamber Music Series. World-class musicians took the stage for two hours of beautiful, live music. I've come to realize that music like this is as much a visual experience as it is an audio experience. Watching the passion in which the artists play is captivating.

I once heard someone say, perhaps it was on MPR, that think about music 100 years ago, or even 200 or 300 years ago. Think about how special it was. When Bach played Brandenburg Concerto Number 1, it was the only time that piece of music would be heard that exact way. When someone picked up a violin and played a tune in the evening to calm the kids down for bed, it was there for only that one moment. That one moment, that was it. Think about how people appreciated that, they couldn't rely on popping in a CD and listening to it over and over. It kind of blows me away thinking about it.

Could it be that we've lost that appreciation for the "now", the moment because technology has given us the ability to literally freeze time? (Unfortunately, too many of us don't take the time to use that opportunity to learn from past mistakes!) Do we look to the future, with disregard to the present, knowing that the past will be there - recorded somewhere in some format?

(I can imagine the offense someone might take by leading off a blog with lyrics from Jimmy Buffett and then referring to Bach .... ummm, get over it.)

What does your watch say?

(FYI, the song is about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

I think I'm a student again/back from Rosebud

Today I got an email from my professor, Dr. Bernie Evans, who is teaching "Rural Social Issues" this fall. The email contained my first assignment! Exciting and scary! I'm not too worried about the writing part of class; I write all the time and regularly get called upon to edit things. I am a little concerned about putting things into more of a theological context though. I am fortunate that the first class is on sustainable farming and landuse. I do know a little bit about that and Farm Bill policy. I'm looking forward to that class very much.

I do have to get my books, my ID, parking pass and all those good things. I've been trying to purchase my books online. Its been fairly frustrating, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. I was kind of surprised at the cost of the text books. Most are in the $50 range, a far cry from Organic Chemistry or Fish Physiology texts that cost $125 a crack. The only difference is that I need like 3 for each class. So, I'm still going to have to dish out a pretty good chunk of money to get all the required books.

Last week I was out on the Rosebud Indian Reservation - Land of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate. Rosebud is one of my favorite places. It is full of wide open spaces that I love, big sky, ridges of pine and aspen, and some of the most wonderful people I've ever had the honor to meet and associate with. I spent the week as a VIM through Tree of Life, a mission of the United Methodist Church. Our group did lots of work during the week, repairing things, building things, handing out school supplies, and meeting people. We not only work, but we learn about the Lakota people and their beautiful culture. (One VIM tripper after hearing a couple of presentations from various people remarked that she couldn't believe that Europeans thought they could improve on native culture!) Each time I return from Rosebud my longing to get back gets worse. This week has been difficult. I find my mind drifting back there often. I don't know if I made much of a difference and feel like I should be finishing the job we were working on. I also feel guilty each time I return - not so much about the horrible conditions that exist, although there's a lot of that swirling around in my head too - but guilt for coming back with more than I went with. I learn so much from the Lakota people, they give so much, that it just doesn't seem like I'm living up to my end of the bargain. Last year, after we got back from Rosebud, I gave a sermon at Alexandria UMC on our trip. I closed by saying that we went to Rosebud with great intentions of helping people, and I think we did that. However, I had no idea what I was going to get in return for just being there; I returned with so much more inside than I ever thought possible. I don't know if that is fair or not.

This year was no different, I still don't know.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

And away we go .....

One of my favorite singers is the late Chris LeDoux. I picked up on him during my rodeo "phase" back in the 1990's. Chris's music was a little country and a lot of western themed rock and roll. One thing about Chris is that he always stayed true to his set of values; it probably cost him a lot more fame and fortune but that didn't matter much to him. What mattered was being able to look himself in the mirror each morning, knowing he was being true to himself and the things he believed. Now, I'm fairly certain Chris and I wouldn't have seen eye to eye on a lot things. I'm guessing he was a little more conservative than I am; but that's OK. Anyway, Chris did a cover of Tom Cochran's "Life is a Highway" (The same song that Rascal Flats has butchered recently) a few years back. It's a great road trip song.

Life is a highway. Despite wanting life to be a path, tree-lined and covered with lush grass, I think too often life is a highway. Think about the analogy; we speed along, cutting off the other guy, swearing at the guy that does the same thing to us, isolated in our little cruising machines, totally unaware of what's going on around us.

If you don't believe me think about this:

On the same day that 9 (so far) people died on the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, 18 to 20 million people were made homeless in India and Bangladesh due to monsoon rains. Not to downplay the loss of those people in Minneapolis, the loss and pain their families and communities have felt is real. The entire event is painful and we can (and will) go on assigning blame to various individuals and entities. However, in my mind the real tragedy is that we've had days upon days of coverage of the bridge incident and how that was going to affect a couple hundred thousand people on their daily commutes, yet there wasn't a single mention of the tragedy in Asia. Cruising along, totally unaware of what's going on around us.

I'm about to embark on a new path in life. In a little less than two weeks I'm starting an M.A. program in Theology at St. John's University here in Minnesota. I hope to some day be ordained as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. It's been 17 years since I stepped foot into a class room; I'm excited, nervous, and a little apprehensive. Mostly though, I'm hoping and praying that this path doesn't become that highway that Chris sang about.