re-entry: [“i think i know how you feel”]

while walking through prospect park [brooklyn] recently i happened across a tree. a large fallen tree. her roots were exposed in the cold winter air, something she hasn’t experienced before. she was too big to be replanted i think, her roots longer across than i am tall.

not only had she suffered this great fall–for whatever reason–she beat up, mangled and broken in unfixable ways. there is no way to repair broken, and now dry, root structures. (are there?)

it almost seemed rude to stand and study her roots.

but stand, study and ponder i did.

after a few minutes i reached out,

put my hand on the nearest extension that once gave her life,

 

and said, “i think i know how you feel, dear one.”

 

 

Advertisements

reverse culture shock: it hits at odd times

recently the culture shock has been hitting at really odd times–mostly at bed time.

confusion sets in when it is time to brush my teeth. i seem to skip a few beats about where i keep my toothbrush (in the bathroom, in a drawer under the sink). sometimes i am confused enough that i open the door to my walk-in closet in an attempt to find my toothbrush (in kotido it was stored in my little open-reach-in-closet) before realizing that this is ridiculous.

and for the past two weeks, every night, i think about tucking in my mosquito net. last night after turning out my bedside light i even groaned that i hadn’t tucked in the net yet before realizing that there is no net to tuck in, and that i do not require one.

i’m told this is normal…

c25k: brooklyn, take two

while i wouldn’t typically classify myself as a “weekend warrior” i decided to don this title anyhow and run this fine saturday morning.

the sun was out, and things were looking merry as i started off up the hill toward the park. my music of choice for this first mile was some terrible christmas music that was bestowed upon me by housemate. (example of “terrible” christmas music: feliz navidad, donde esta santa and tone deaf children singing anything holiday themed.)

that first mile was still uphill (as it was on my first run in brooklyn) but not nearly as stressful as before–this time i knew where i was going.

after arriving at prospect park i joined the throngs of runners, cyclists, walkers and rollerbaders (i had no idea people still did that in such numbers!) on the road that makes a full circuit around the park. rather than be intimidated by all these fit-people i was indifferent and/or inspired.

we didn’t really acknowledge each other (sort of like seeing another foreigner on the streets in kampala) and yet there was a sense of “we’re in this together.” at least as much as there can be when not acknowledging one another. right.

so yes, it was a good run. i was about half way around this circuit (i have no idea how long it is) when i received a text from eew about the occupy wall street action that was going to be happening that day–to make it to the action in a reasonable amount of time i knew i needed to get back to the apartment in a more timely fashion.

to make a long story of me turning around and being turned around for about 10 minutes short, i eventually stumbled upon center road that cuts through the park and found my way (as quickly as my now 3.5 mile completed run legs carry me) back to the apartment.

the last mile from the park to the apartment is (as you may suspect as the run to the park was uphill…) downhill. this made the last mile much easier to accomplish. go me.

soundtracks for running:

cheesy/terrible christmas music
patti smith
plushgun

reverse culture-shock: reversing the reverse [on being invisible]

for the past few days this traveler has found herself visiting some delightful friends in the great state of new york–specifically brooklyn–and reveling in the variety that is a city of fascinating boroughs.

while i have made many observations (people don’t seem to wear sunglasses, even when its sunny; black is the new black; midwestern tourists are spot-able at 100 paces) my favorite observation may come as a bit of a surprise: i’m invisible.

and it. is. brilliant.

the clothing i wear + my haircut + my smartphone + visible tattoo + nose ring = different just like everyone else. translating to: invisible.

i love it.

[let me explain for new readers: i have been living in uganda, east-africa for the past three years. i’m a white midwestern gal and therefore it is totally impossible for me to blend in to my surroundings in uganda. often [most] of the time while walking down the street there would be a nearly constant soundtrack of people shouting, “mzungu!” after me–when people shout “mzungu!” they are basically pointing out one’s skin color being different than theirs. while, one the one hand, i get it–it was mostly grating on the nerves…i didn’t want people to point out my different-ness. or point. or yell at me [nicely or otherwise]. now i am back in the united states, currently exploring new york city in skinny jeans, boots and hipster haircut…]

walking down the sidewalk or into a store/coffee shop no one takes notice (other than those serving/helping).

no one touches me,
or yells at me.

i do not receive all the attention of any room at any given time.
people forget me when i walk away.

and if someone does notice me?
when there is a double-take,
or a long look–
i’m amused.
i may even laugh (out loud)!

which is different than wanting to punch people in the face.

i love. being. invisible.

c25k: beginning in brooklyn

i put off running yesterday because, as tends to be the my m.o. these days, i was nervous about running in a new place and therefore didn’t make time to do it yesterday. and this isn’t just running in a new place, this is running in brooklyn…and this little girl from the midwest who learned to run in the bush of uganda and has been running in the privacy of her parents basement on a treadmill was nervous to take her leggings-clad-legs out in public.

however when i woke up this morning my body was essentially screaming at me to get up and runNOW.  i’ve ignored my body screaming in this fashion before, and let me just say that she can be a punk. so i listened.

i wish i could report that i sprung from bed, got dressed and bounded out the door excited for my first run during my brooklyn/nyc vacation but this is not the case. i putzed around and made excuses, but eventually pulled on the leggings, tugged on a sweatshirt and covered my ears (that was for you, mom) located some keys and headed out the door with a vague idea of “going left” getting me to the park.

rather than just blindly run into the abyss of concrete and streetlights i pulled out the trusty smartphone (her name is hannalore, you can call her hanners if you like, i know i do) and mapped the walking route to the park. it is exactly one mile up the hill from where i was standing–and so i started out.

no, i did not immediately start running. i was still nervous of being judged by the invisible audience of brooklyn-ers. so i walked, albeit it quickly, for about a block and a half but my phantogram pandodra station helped squash the remaining nervousness and i was off–up hill towards the park.

i forgot my gloves. and my hands were amazingly cold by the time i reached the top of the hill…i saw dogs in sweaters (i’m sorry, i just don’t get that) and other runners also enveloped in whatever was pumping in their earbuds.

there was one moment when i thought i was going to crash into a woman who was walking in front of me–i was on my last half-mile and coming downhill at good speed–she was zigzagging around the sidewalk which caused me to be zigzagging behind her in preparation to pass her. i thought she heard me coming and was trying to figure out which side of the otherwise very empty sidewalk to occupy, but this theory was thumped when i came along side her and she was clearly startled (i could actually hear her music from her earbuds over the music coming through my earbuds). the zigzagging, it turns out, was because she was texting and walking. #firstworldproblems, ftw.

what pithy lesson did i learn on this run? i learned, yet again, that when nervous it is probably just a good idea to go for it.

adventures in organic sheep-farm-intering : [why?]

as i mentioned in my last post my next endeavor is to spend time as an intern on mint creek farm near the community of stelle, illinois. in that post i told you everything that i know about my duties as an intern on an grass-fed-organic-meat-farm (lets just call it what it is). the purpose of this (less crazed) post is to try to answer the question of “why?”

the answer to this question starts about three years ago, when i signed a contract to work with mennonite central committee (mcc). when i accepted the position in kotido, uganda i also accepted all of the culture-shock, learnings, love, hardship, confusion and clarity that came with it. i wouldn’t change those choices for anything–and were i to have the opportunity to make that choice again, i would.

that being said, a lot of my work with the diocese and with mcc was work that wasn’t easily measurable. it was difficult to know if i was making an impact, making a difference, if my work mattered or if it had staying-power. this situation wasn’t assuaged at all by mcc and the diocese having forms requiring some sort of measurable data.

i realize that ministry and the ministry of presence do not typically have “measurable numbers” or necessarily have “measurable standards” and would wail, moan and complain when asked to try to measure my impact in my work. tell me to measure numbers of children impacted, or numbers of people ‘converted’ and this pacifist will probably be tempted to pop you in the bracket. it’s not necessarily your fault, but, i really hate that.

ironically, when i had about a year left on my contract with mcc i started craving something “to do with my hands” between finishing with mcc and starting full-time with the methodist church. as i am so passionate about the ministry of presence, and showing up i was as surprised as anyone at my great desire to do Great Measurable Manual Labor beyond the labor of exercise.

perhaps my appreciation for the rule of st. benedict and brief stay with the trappist monks in south carolina have influenced how i feel about this sort of Work. the rule says:

Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times, at others, in devout reading.*

the devout reading (and less devout reading, too) is constant, but the manual labor was lacking. doing hard manual labor, being bone-weary and not just mentally weary at the end of the day was what i was craving.  so i did what any self-respecting child of this generation would do: i got on the google-machine and started researching.

my internet search began around wwoof-ing (willing workers on organic farms) as it is a world-wide network of organic farms and typically when one works on a farm it is with one’s hands. i love the philosophy and mode of learning that wwoof-ing offered but upon deeper digging discovered that one has to pay to access the full list of places, or see the availability or something of that nature (it was a year ago, i don’t remember which). at the time i was making $74 a month (yes, you read that right) and didn’t necessarily want to pay for something i might not utilize, so i got more creative in my google-searching.

somehow i ended up on a site called picking jobs which lists tons of international seasonal opportunities. while a lot of them were enticing and fascinating the ones i was interested in were quite far from where i’d be in missouri and that whole $74 a month and then working for free makes international travel to pick cherries or peaches kind of financially insane (rather than just mildly financially irresponsible by staying domestic).

eventually i found a site called growfood which essentially is like facebook for farmers. (feel free to geek-out. i know i did/do.) they had me at the drop of their motto: “work. live. learn.” there is a good chance i swooned. so i spent an entire day at the united nations office (using their faster-than-my-internet) opening and reading as many of these options as possible, creating a tab for each position that seemed like it could be a good fit.

i spent a few days reading and rereading these options and began conversations with three farmers about what it would look like for me to show up in about a year to work and learn. it was clear very early on that mint creek was going to be a good fit.

if you know me very well you know that when i make up my mind about something that is usually the end of it. we can converse about it, but when i say “yes” i say “YES.” (strong-willed, stubborn, spoiled…whatever you need to call me, go for it.)

so, why am i going to work in the potential-brutal-cold of illinois with sheep?

because i love animals. being around and loving animals. (yes, even when they are to be eaten! t = carnivore!) i love working until my muscles and bones are weary, especially when there is something tangible and measurable other than my own personal strength–and when working with animals you can see if you’re doing well or not (and arguable that they tell you how you’re doing. we can discuss my animism side another day). sustainable, green, organic living is one of my passions and my liberal-arts-education has taught me that it is very good to be well-rounded and educated on many things. my learning style is that of hands-on get-in-there-and-get-dirty and i just really want to learn how to be with and keep sheep.

i am looking forward to the solitude and quiet of keeping animals. to being cold. to filling my head with knowledge about sheep and cows and goats, how to keep them well and how to communicate with them well.

choosing a farm with livestock was a very conscious choice–i have been living with a pastoralist people in uganda. bishop, my neighbor, kept his cows, goats and sheep in pens in his front garden–so the smells and sounds of animals are familiar and comforting. participating in this internship will literally ground me in this country, but also will connect me with those i love and miss keeping their sheep in uganda. in creating a tie with the land here, i am strengthening my connection there.

i want to learn because i’m interested. because maybe one day i’ll keep sheep of my very own (this isn’t a life-goal, but hey, you never know!). because i want to learn to be as self-sustainable and kind to the earth as i can. and, perhaps most importantly, because it just feels like the right thing to do right now.** the majority of my big-life decisions have taken place because they feel like the right thing to do, and i have to say, so far they have all be excellent choices.

i’m excited.
and i hope you’re excited, too!
what questions do you have?
what would you like to hear about while i blog from mint creek?

n.b. all the jokes about keeping sheep and then becoming a pastor have been made. however, feel free to share any that come to mind–while i generally loathe a pun i am giving you free reign to make them on this particular subject.

*you can find the rule here, if you’re interested in further reading.

**when i shared this “next step” with a friend she immediately went to her bookshelf and pulled a book that has been helping me be able to put more words to the feelings i have about this venture. the barn at the end of the world: the apprenticeship of a quaker, buddhist shepherd by mary rose o’reilley. its one of those books where i read a passage and then ponder how she managed to put my thoughts into her book. highly recommended! (you can probably expect quoted passages when i am reflecting from mint creek–and will probably give it at least one solid reread if you would like to read along. drop me a line if you are and we’ll talk out-line.)

“soooo what’s next?”

before i answer that question let me first direct you to the new* page of this blog “to whom it may concern [letters]” is just up there [[points skyward and a bit to the right realizing this makes no sense to those reading in email or a reader, yet continuing to point like a fool.**]] and there are a lot of letters in there. sometime in the not too distant future i shall regale you three readers of this now month+ adventure letters but until then you can refresh your memory of how this started by going here and here.

onward.

so, you’ve asked when we talk you many of these conversations start with “where are you?” (i won’t answer that as this answer is changing tomorrow afternoon) and then followed with the following:  “hey, t, what’s next for you now that you’re back in uhmerikuh other than misspelling and complaining about your country of origin?”

before i actually answer your question let me explain why i have not offered this next step yet: i have really enjoyed seeing people react when i tell them where i’m heading next. the reaction has been of great surprise, and then usually that resigned look of, “oh, you and your antics!”

however it seems that the time has come to share more broadly as my impending move becomes more…impending and those who are just finding out are becoming a bit offended that they didn’t know yet.

have i built it up enough yet?
if you know where i’m going next are you wondering if i changed my mind?
HAS THE SUSPENSE BUILT?!

on (or around) 7 january 2012 i will be taking the train to a little place called dwight, illinois from where i shall be retrieved by my new guru. he is not the kind of guru that maybe came to mind, but is a farmer of grass-fed sheep, cows, goats, turkeys, ducks and chickens raised on certified organic prairie pastures.

place: mint creek farm

my title: intern.

my job: learn.

my excitement level: through. the. roof.

time frame: at least three months***

my duties, as listed from the website:

Duties: Interns will be assisting with day to day livestock and poultry care, moving portable fencing for sheep and goats, and helping with farmer’s market preparation and sales.  This year we hope to get into raising chickens, ducks, and geese for meat, and we plan to expand our current laying flocks of chickens and ducks.  We also hope to expand our vegetable gardens to boost our own self-sufficiency, but most work will be livestock and poultry related.   In addition there will be farm cleanup work, tree planting, and maybe some fence building.

Interns will be expected to help with cooking and cleaning on a regular basis.

so that is the “what’s next.” and later today i shall post an answer to one of the questions i know you must have: “WHY?!”

nice time.

 

*if by “new” i mean now over a month old… where HAVE you been?]
**alternatively, i suppose you could have just clicked the link i connected to the title. gosh i’m in a strange-blogging mood today.
*** i have my vague start date, and the “intern policy” is “at least three months” and am unsure of when i will be placed in a methodist church in texas (if i, god-willing, am ‘passed’ through the conference level inquisition…er…interviewing and deemed capable and prepared to be in full-time-pastoral-ministry. (if i don’t make it? back up plan? um…barnes and noble? come work for you??)).

down on the farm [photos]

i went for a tromp about my grandparents farm yesterday, breaking in and running some new boots through their paces before my 3-month-stint on a sheep farm (an actual post on this endeavor is pending, fear not) in illinois and of course carried my camera. some of my favorite shots of the day are below. enjoy. (all low-resolution. interested in high-res? purchasing a print? email me!)

 

thin ice

not old, vintage

i sat, and then stood here for a while

untitled number 12

ice flow