Folks have been calling, writing, texting. It’s the holidays after all. And way more often than I would have thought, they queried about my blog. Where did it go? Why haven’t I written? They enjoyed it so much and then there hasn’t been a new one lately, they explain. It’s ironic that I’ve experienced this from a dozen or so of my 14 readers because apparently, according to author Farah Mohammed, blogs are dead. They take too much time to read, the thinking seems to go. Folks only like to look at FB posts for 1.7 seconds each…although I know personally those 1.7 seconds can sometimes accumulate to 20-30 minutes with almost NOTHING to show for it. Whereas anytime I read a good blog, I walk away with a new idea or a new insight or just feel inspired. So while I love FB, I don’t mind reading blogs if they are interesting and different and fun. So I hereby declare good blogging is not dead!
I admittedly broke the cardinal rule of blogging…I didn’t do it consistently through the autumn. I could give a bunch of excuses…a lost gall bladder, a purchase of land far away, a wedding or two, a sick dog, too much teaching, then too much coaching, then too much socializing…etc etc. But really, I just didn’t take the time because I wasn’t sure I had something to say. And now, after reading Mohammed’s article, I’m even less certain that anyone is reading…but apparently there are a few of you who think this is a good blog, and I like doing it. So apologies for my lapse. Onward.
Let’s get back to that “having something to say.” At the end of this last semester as I perused my course evaluations (which are often VERY funny…one said “this class almost killed me, but then it didn’t, so yay!”), I noticed 2 young women wrote something along the lines of “you made me feel like what I said mattered and I had never felt that way before – maybe ever.” After completing some work, a painter at my house recently said, “I rarely feel respected when I do work, especially for white women, but you were really different.” Our neighborhood’s homeless man (who carries all sorts of treasures in a dilapidated shopping cart) said to me when I returned from vacation (to that land far away…more on that in a minute), “I’ve missed seeing you… No one else says hello.” Chinle likes him too, by the way. So all of this got me reflecting on the year gone by and about the crux of what seems all too infrequent in our world at the moment…genuine respect. I’m not acting like I respect the painter. I really do. Those young women think what they say matters because it does (#metoo). And the homeless man is no less deserving of a hello than my fellow, middle class dog walkers. And yet, it would seem to me that in 2017 we spent a lot of time thinking about what divides us and that focus on difference too often kept us from being able to respect one another. I won’t go into the political landscape in which we find ourselves in this tired, aging democracy…but it seems to me that almost all of the strife is about a mishandling of difference.
We recently bought some “property” in northern New Mexico. It sits on an old Spanish land grant in what would become the United States. That land was steeped in difference that often erupted in violence. Apaches raiding Pueblos; Spanish killing Apaches; Anglos enacting slow violence with their legal wranglings. Stolen from the Taos Puebloan people and “given” to Spanish settlers by the Spanish crown, the land grant was a “peaceful” acquisition that then saw radical changes to the use of the resources. The ancient source of water was summarily channeled into a manmade ditch and named acequia (a word your computer’s dictionary doesn’t even know) and the essence of all being in that desert region became controlled in a way it never had before. Cows (domesticated and sold) took over the lands that had once been sowed only seasonally by the indigenous peoples for legumes and corn. I now “own” part of that acequia. The cows are mostly gone and the association of acequia users has won conservation awards, and I’m proud of that recent legacy. But the legacy of colonialism justified by ideas of difference sits uneasily with me, and I often reflect that I am just part of the problem, many generations removed…or maybe no generations at all.
I mentioned this to an old friend not long ago and he reminded me that that legacy is also full of cooperation – of intermarriages, of accommodating of faith traditions, of little acts of kindness and community that went largely unrecorded in the day to day workings of things. Even the re-signing of the original grant in 1715 was a compromise agreed to by the Puebloans so long as they could harvest their beans. In many ways, the families that used the land for all those centuries before me, whether Native or Spanish or Anglo, just wanted to harvest their beans. Of course, what that harvesting meant differed wildly. It often included selling those beans at market for a profit…a nefarious if necessary activity in the modern age. But nonetheless, for all the differences of all those who have come and gone on my 6 little acres and of all the uses of the water that flows off the high mountains, most all (human and non-human) ultimately just wanted to “harvest their beans” in one way or another.
I thought about this as we talked into the wee hours of the morning over the holidays sipping hot buttered rum. Group after group warmed our home and engaged in important conversations about where we go from here in our nation-state, in our global community, in our personal lives. How do we bridge the differences that have been always present but seem extraordinarily obvious and insurmountable in this moment in history? As corny as it sounds, maybe one step is to think about the “beans” we all have in common…to recognize the essence of common humanity – to greet the man whether he has cans in his cart or nothing at all. And perhaps we should all try to be more aware of how many beans we crave.
I promise I won’t morph this blog into a polemic on “politics” but this is what is on my mind after a few months away and as the Wolf Moon rises over a new year’s eve spent with young people who will inherit our world of difference. My New Year’s promise (to myself if no one else) is to write every month and hope I have something to say that you will enjoy reading. Long live the blog.