Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Consider the Alternative

I want to feel profound in these last days before I leave Santa Fe for a while. Instead, all I feel is cranky, what my friend Judy calls crabby. I am in a pissy, pissy frame of mind and not sure of what to blame.

Could it be my impending 65th birthday? Even though I am overjoyed to be on Medicare in 7 days, my health insurance costs cut in half, along with the out of pocket expenses I have any time I go to the doctor and the monthly drain on my bank account for the three prescriptions I take, one of which is name brand and cost me right at $100 each month, could I be a little mournful and angry that I’m having the really big one in just over two weeks? Plenty of people have advice concerning the alternative.

It could be all of the work waiting for me in Texas—a garden that I’ve neglected for the entire summer, that too-large gathering of it-might-as-well-be-dead inventory that lingers on the back of the barn, in my friend Jim’s barn, in another friend’s shop, or the challenge of managing the results of my more serious treasure hunt for all of these years.

Perhaps it’s the diet—excuse me, eating program—that I’ve been on for two months. I’ve dropped 16 pounds, just about 10 percent of my body weight, on the advice of my new health care professional, who determined in an otherwise sterling array of results from the four vials of blood—I had to lie down for it to be drawn—that I am borderline diabetic. “We can control this with diet,” he advised, and so I went on the South Beach diet. The first two weeks were rigid—no fruit, not even the things that one ordinarily eats on so-called healthful diets, like whole grains, and of course, no alcohol. I dropped eight pounds right away. I’ve continued making progress, but over the last two weeks, I gained back one pound, four ounces of the 16 hard-won pounds. That did piss me off, yes. I blame the solid week of cocktail hour since my New York neighbors have been in Santa Fe for Indian market. Maybe it was the Black Diamond cheddar on Triscuits, my snack of choice, at a couple of these soirees.

Maybe I haven’t been as committed to my two brisk miles each day. Am I bored with the various routes I’ve adopted over the last four months? I’ve hiked only once since my friend Dick and I made the giant haul from 10,000 feet at the trailhead of Aspen Vista, all the way to the top—12,045 big ones. I would have come up short if he hadn’t urged me on.

Modest loss of momentum as I move toward those three more pounds notwithstanding, I’m down more than three inches in the waist. After one premature move to buy shorts that don’t look like Jared of Subway fame—shorts, though two inches smaller, are now too big as well—I’ve decided to wait for the fall clearance at the GAP, or even the much-hated Wal-Mart. What about all those pairs of khakis and winter corduroys hanging in my closet? Do I invest in alterations, or just accept that I’m now limited to the Wrangler and Carhartt jeans I haven’t worn for a couple of years, which I can pull down over my hips if they’re not girted up with a belt.

Maybe I just wish it were all easier. Here I go again. I didn’t build my messy habits over night. Food, alcohol, treasure hunting, conspicuous consumption, even though modest by comparison to others I know—some of life’s great pleasures—become the enemy. And interestingly, the real hunger that wants to be sated goes unmet. I received as a gift when I joined St. Bede’s Episcopal Church here in June a small book titled THE PRAYING LIFE Seeking God in All Things. One of the essays has really smacked me in the face. The author, Deborah Smith Douglas, recalls the words of early 20th century French philosopher, Simone Weil. “Sometimes…we are in danger of starving to death not because there is no bread but because we think we are not hungry.” (p. 53)

Here I am losing weight because my doctor says I must in an effort to avert disaster. I’m celebrating making it to my 65th, only because it means that health costs might become a little less onerous for me. Yes, no, yin, yang, life. Meanwhile, we’re all starving, one way or another. As I lay awake at 2:30 this morning, I prayed thank you, thank you, thank you, and yes, help me. Help me with my crabbiness, help me see the sky through hooded eyes, help me say “yes”, and sometimes “no” in my own best interest. On the eve of my departure for my Texas home, thank you for yet another opportunity to get my priorities straight.

Consider the Alternative—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 25, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Evidence of Change

It must be official. We have various ways of marking off the places in our lives, like summer 2008, and last night the young guitarist and songwriter who entertained the last hour of the evening from the summer bandstand commented that he was a little sad. If we’re playing in the bandstand, “my favorite” gig, and its August, that means summer is almost over. And so it is.

We’ve had a fall preview over the last several days—temps in the 70s, dipping into the high 40s one night recently, I noticed in the forecast a few days ago. I’ve also noticed the prediction of a return to the high 80s later this week. While talking to a neighbor the other morning, I commented, “isn’t this weather great? The air feels,”—“like fall,” she completed.

Around the plaza this morning, where I’m using time while waiting for a gallery where I need to conduct some business to open, some people have on jackets, others have sweaters wrapped around their waists, or loosely tied over their shoulders. Funny how it looks so natural on a young athlete who ties his warm-up jacket in this manner, and so affected on someone who is making a fashion statement. I might as well tie an Aunt Jemima do-rag on my head and pretend that I’m off to work the cotton fields. No, let me not call attention to myself, even though with my bald, shaved head I could well use the protection. An Audubon ball cap, now sweat-soaked from months of use—walking and working, climbing and coming back down, does the job for me.

Fall colors and jackets dress the display window of the companion tony men’s and women’s boutiques just off the plaza. Winter apparel in the windows of Overland Sheepskin is always de rigeur, regardless of the time of year. As I headed out this morning for my ritual coffee and two-mile walk, I gave a little shudder at the front door, my t-shirt just a thread or two shy against the 55-degree temp at 7 a.m. Not for long, though, once I blistered into a brisk pace along what I’ve come to accept is the easiest choice for my routine. I love a change of scenery on a regular basis, but I’ve learned that some constants spare me the anguish of trying to change what already works.

I know it can’t be true, but I’ve imagined a hint of pinon smoke in the air recently. Maybe it’s the roasting of Hatch chiles around town, another sign that fall is on the way, playing tricks with my senses. Several days ago I put my quilt back on the bed. It had stayed there until early June, with May temps still winter-like at night. The floor fan that I’ve used this summer, both for moving the air around and for masking the evidence of neighbors coming through window and door and window in this community of close living, now begs for me a little buffer as it works. A book I’m reading on prayer compares our presence to that of boats on a river. We are so many that we fail to see the river that moves us along, the source of our lives. So closely situated are we, bow to stern to side, that we bump and nose and bruise, by habit when not by intent.

The event that officially marks the end of summer—Fiesta de Santa Fe—will happen a week after I return to Texas. As the nights cool down here—regularly dipping into the 40s—I will exchange floor fan and windows and doors open to the evening high desert air for the comfort we know deeper into the south of the west—the off and on of central air conditioning doing its own work to maintain a constant of 72 degrees as ceiling fans quietly spin overhead in my Texas barn home. There we will continue to await the coming of fall long past its official start on the autumnal equinox. There at night I will keep company with the coyotes who sing at dusk and announce the coming of day.

Evidence of Change—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 21, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Silver and Gold

A couple of nights ago I dreamed about long-time friends, J and E, with whom I’ve been out of touch for a while. It was a strange dream in which each greeted me formally with a handshake. Their faces were not familiar. Last night I received an email from our mutual friend, D, telling me that E had injured himself seriously yesterday, almost completely severing one of his feet. I am told that the surgery to repair this catastrophe went well. Tell me that the universe doesn’t try to let us know what we need to be paying attention to. A phone call and a couple of emails have me tending to matters of friendship, reminded of advice J gave me 20 years ago. The little song went something like this: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” Nostalgia from her college sorority days, perhaps? I don’t recall her saying.

Somehow this reminder of those who have been important to me in my past but with whom I’ve lost touch feels a little like not letting the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26—“Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”) If I’ve been angry about misplaced friendships, I have only myself to blame. Maybe I have just tried to tell myself that I don’t care so much when people go lost—be they friends or be they kin. I’ve had plenty to say about friendship along the way. I don’t use the word casually. Among those with whom I share no blood, I hold dearest the ones with whom I have a long history, and as I’ve said before, they are the ones who have seen the best and worst of what I offer. Thank God for friends, new and old and reacquainted, and for family, who if we are fortunate love us not only in spite of who we are but perhaps more importantly because of who we are. Now that I’m thinking about it, probably the person most likely to be your best friend is someone who values, truly honors, his or her family. If you know what I’m talking about, you are no doubt smiling and nodding your head.

Today I am reminded of the email conversation I had this past with winter with another old friend. I was concerned that I had done something to offend her because I hadn’t heard from her in months. So I sent her an email asking if I had somehow put our friendship in jeopardy. Her reply went something like, “absolutely not”. What she added in closing—“but then how would you know that I love you if I don’t tell you”—lies close to my heart. It is important that we not depend on others to assume an affection we feel but which we fail to put into words. One habit J has, a habit I know well from hearing her side of many phone conversations, she always closes, “I love you.” Borrowing from the pen of Mr. Lloyd Webber, “Love will never, never let you be the same”. I’ll add, be it the love of family or the love of friend.

Silver and Gold—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 20, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis




Monday, August 18, 2008

Midnight Murmurs

For the last few nights I have been awake in the wee hours, and not so much struggling with demons as just thinking. I must add quickly, though, that last night one monkey swung through, “howling and spitting”, as one writer puts it, and I had to set him straight real quick, “kiss my ass”, I murmured, attempting to refuse his intent that I revisit things I cannot change. Talking to myself in my bed in the middle of the night, of course. Who else am I going to talk to?

To give myself a sense that forward movement is at work, my tiny piece of real estate here in Santa Fe is a-jumble as I have begun readying for a return to Texas. My friend Jane from East Texas called late yesterday to ask about my change of plans, to head back early, why. I’ve been told that it’s a Virgo thing, this suddenly realizing that it’s time to go. And I was witness to what on any other day I would call impulse when my friends, Joy and Judy, who have been summering north of Santa Fe for close to three decades, spent the night with me a couple of weeks ago, as they headed back to what they know for the better part of any year. Wednesday morning came, and as we sat on my tiny, tiny balcony, drinking coffee and munching buttered toast, Joy—my Virgo parallel of a kind—announced, “Judy, I’m ready to go.” They were in separate vehicles, but planning to journey together this day to Amarillo for the night, mother and daughter pilgrims, best friends. Not to worry about any of the plans that we had discussed the day and night before. It was time to get on the road, to set things in motion, to be settled, once again, in whatever comes next. I know.

Live in the present, what? Can you say that in Harold dialect? I have to tell myself that some good things are on the horizon, right here, and indeed, the days of cool, dry air beneath sunny New Mexico skies deserve my attention. Those weedy Texas garden beds that I have demonized once again in my mind—not to minimize their reality—will have their way with me soon enough—those mornings that begin with temperatures and humidity not for the faint of heart, and mosquitoes that leave welts the size of a dime on the likes of me. And any list I have made or will make is just another list. It has no power of its own. It’s only a game I play with myself, a way of feeling better about the inevitable. What do we do when the time comes where we can’t do anything about the list, but wait out its last entry? Considering that eventuality should be enough to bring a sigh of acceptance.

As the clock moves toward my return to Texas, I am running my traps, as if I will not have another chance to forage in this high desert place. “There’ll always be another slice of pecan pie,” I have often told myself, justifying my hard-fought battle to say “no” when temptation curls its finger toward me. In this place, now, I just want to luxuriate in the familiarity of what has become my home over the last year—a home that has been hard-nosed to yield anything that feels like kin or a friend who cares about my loneliness. I’m working my way through barbershops, looking for the perfect shaved head, gathering trophies and wrapping them tenderly for the journey south, yearning already at the prospect of seeing aspen and cottonwood on fire from the sweetness that will bring them to brilliance by the time the lone star gives me up again to the high plateau.

Midnight Murmurs—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 18, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If Only It Were That Poetic

My Grandma Fuchs had a saying, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. She also believed that “if you can’t listen you have to feel”. I know these both to be true, for me, whoever the devil the Devil might be. Lately, I’ve been in a rut. Let’s face it, four months in the same place, drinking the same coffee—and not very good coffee at that—seeing the same faces, walking the same concrete, well, it’s called a rut. With no mirror drawing my attention to the trench I’ve been digging, busily, steadily working it, I’ve realized that I am boring myself. That’s not something I like admitting. My standard response to people who complain of boredom—way too many school kids on my early road—well, if you’re bored, change what you’re doing.

Amazing, an entire compound called the Railyard District has suddenly blossomed, while I wasn’t really paying attention. I can see the mountains to the west from where I’m sitting this morning. Classical music, rather than bad rock and even worse not-so-golden oldies, brings a nice sigh to my ear. In spite of my poor choice of a different place to walk my two miles this morning, I’ve landed with a good cup of coffee. I didn’t know my head was aching until the pain went away.

Mr. Frost instructed us on choosing our way. It seems that this now very mature, at least in years, person has been drawn to the hard way, “because it was grassy and wanted wear”—if only it were that poetic—and my reflections invite the memory of my Grandma Fuchs’s caution, “if you can’t listen…” and so on, which I never applied to myself at the time I heard her comment on the choices she saw being made. That was a long time ago.

I don’t know that my maternal grandmother was much of a risk taker. She probably traveled the road carved out for her by her German heritage, the one of hard work, nose to the grindstone, rest when the day is done. That’s what she learned growing up in the early 20th century in rural northwest Harris County Texas. The product of hard-working, hard-headed German stock, first generation Americans, I doubt that she knew much about what my generation of Fuchs derivatives calls fun. My own measuring stick is relatively innocent. I saw my Mother and Daddy work seven days a week, and that’s what I learned. Invited to table games, I’d rather be cleaning the kitchen or digging in the dirt.

In 1973, while on a visit with my partner John and friends to the land and country home newly purchased by my parents—actually a gift from Grandma Fuchs—we  worked on Sunday morning building a rose bed on the east side of the house. My friend Virginia snapped a Kodak of Daddy and Grandma, shovels in hand—at the time he was 62, younger than I now, as I approach my 65th birthday, and Grandma was 76—and Virginia commented to me, “some day you’ll be glad to have this picture”. Oh, how I wish I knew where I put that treasure. For now, it is lost from me.

Work, that’s what we did seven days a week, and when we weren’t working as a family, we gathered as a family for food, innocent celebration, quiet entertainment, something all of us lost and consequently mourn, we have mourned, for a long, long time. Our lives weren’t exciting by most standards, and likely all of us were a little weary now and then, especially my hard-working parents, genuinely weary. Certainly the mental struggle over where to walk and then sit with a cup of coffee—Mocha Java, Mexican Zaragoza Select—was not a part of their experience. A fresh pot of Mrs. Olson’s favorite, Folger’s, or Maryland Club, roasted in Houston, Texas, “the coffee you’d drink if you owned all of the coffee in the world,” and a Lucky Strike plain tip for Daddy, that would have been their way of taking a break, from work.

Daddy didn’t get many years to perfect the art of relaxing after he and Mother retired, not that he wouldn’t have chosen that road long before he lost life’s vigor. His health was already spent. He’d been mining that decline for a long time. And though Mother was blessed with another 20 years of relatively good health before her own decline robbed her of what she knew best, and apparently loved even if not so much by choice, being productive, enjoying the fruits of labor remained foreign to her German nature. As her health failed, and our family of senior citizen children helped her struggle with decline, offerings of food—cinnamon toast and Mexican hot chocolate on a cold afternoon at that place in the country, purchased in 1973—were not so much about celebration, but more about passing the time, hopefully to soothe the heart and spirit.

After four months of time for reflection here in the high desert, I have begun to think about what waits for me on the land in Texas that our grandmother purchased for our parents in 1973. It has been an especially hot, dry summer in much of Texas, and the garden that I’ve worked for the past seven years, building it shovel by shovel, has pretty much had to fend for itself, in spite of the generous efforts of my sister Joan and my friends Jim and Bert. Soon, I won’t be concerned with where to take my morning coffee. And though I could certainly purchase the beans for Mocha Java or Mexican Zaragoza Select, I think a pot of perked Folger’s will do nicely, as I prepare early each morning to go out and do what is in my bones—before the Texas sun, which begins hot, has its way for the day. Because of my choice to while away the summer in northern New Mexico, my work in Texas is already cut out for me, at least for now. The road over there is definitely strewn in leaves no step has trodden black.

If Only It Were That Poetic—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 13, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


One of my favorite spots in Santa Fe is the rooftop of the La Fonda Hotel, the bell tower they call it. From there you can see far to the west and north, and to the east, beyond the Loretto Chapel steeple, the mountains are close enough to touch, almost. Sound, which travels unencumbered in the high desert air, approaches palpable, promising activity below brush of rabbit and lizard and ant, unwitnessed by human eye. The raven perched atop tall lights that illuminate the night is reading my thoughts, understands them far better than I, and KWAAK-KWAAKS his approval that I might be on to something.

After a while, this town can become just another place, where most go to work, in offices, delivering fuel, stocking grocery shelves, enforcing laws, serving and saving lives in every way imaginable. If you give in to the ordinariness of life, to what you expect and what is expected of you, if the sound of impatient horns and angry voices fills your head, you just might miss the lovely quiet chorus happening beneath the mountain brush that you must reach toward to smell from the rooftop of the La Fonda.

It seems that I must reconcile myself to what finally is an ugly truth about this place on the high desert. We are a city of people living in close quarters. I can’t use the word “folks”. It suggests a kindness that doesn’t suit the habits of the willful, those who insist on living their lives squarely in the face of others. Walls that should spare our dignity save us not. Doors and windows left open to fetch the summer air guarantee an audience. Those who are forced to witness turn their heads in embarrassment, cock their ear in disbelief. Is this how it must be? I am ashamed. We should be mortified. We must.

The bells of St. Francis toll the half hour. People rush about on their holiday. Dogs wag their tails in the shade of the plaza. The Pentecost plays out on cell phones. We understand much about one another, but really, very little. The La Fonda rooftop is closed, the view of the Sangre de Cristo called Sun and Moon unseen until that time of day when voices are quieted as awe has its way.

Rooftops—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 12, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Deep in the Heart

Being here in New Mexico continually reminds me that I am proud of my Texas roots. This came home to me a few weeks ago when a friend who apparently considers herself an expatriate, announced in the company of a third person, “I am an ex-Texan”.

“No way!” I protested. “I’m proud of my Texas heritage.”

Fully aware of the sad reputation that new-moneyed folks from the Lone Star State have built for themselves in both New Mexico and Colorado, I of humble means go out of my way not to call attention to myself. That’s my way, regardless of where I find myself. If the question of point of origin comes up, I make no bones about my Texas home. My official residence is still in rural Leon County, even though I have no interest in continuing to be a landowner there. I went there by choice—another story—and now I’m trying to exercise the choice to leave. To where I can’t say because I don't know.

Even though I bought a tiny, tiny patch of real estate here in Santa Fe—on the very brink of the market “adjustment” last fall—to locals, whoever and whatever they may be or claim to be, my TEXAS license plates are testimony to my official residence. And at times I wish those plates said something else.

In spite of our best intentions—and I’m honoring the notion that most of us have good intentions—we sometimes get caught in the crosshairs of someone else’s baggage. Here, your chosen mode of transportation is an easy path to aggressive driving and people with a chip on their shoulders, sometimes the very same people.

Last Sunday, just as I was on my way to church, I stopped by Wild Oats Market. Always super conscious of the difficulty of maneuvering most parking situations here, I tried to park out of harm’s way. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I looked around the lot before climbing into my truck to leave, and as I shifted to reverse to back out of my spot, an old, spent-looking white coupe was at my bumper—butt to butt—from out of nowhere it seemed. I stepped on the brakes instinctively, avoided a collision, but only to hear the cries of a group of foot travelers, waiting for the city bus, “Go back to Texas…You’re in Santa Fe….”

I told this story to a neighbor over coffee one morning last week. My remorse at the time of the incident centered on how easily accidents happen and on my TEXAS plates. And though I automatically thought once again of relinquishing these emblems of my origins, I just as quickly thought, “Hell no!” And I say, “Hell no!” again. I won’t let someone else’s bullshit decide where I claim to be from. Truth is, if it weren’t my plates, it would be my V-8 Ford crew cab truck, or my haircut, or my gender.

A few weeks ago an even more insane incident occurred as I sat at a light on the highway that runs north and south through Santa Fe. I understand that a city ordinance exacts a fine on people who talk on their hand-hell cell phones while behind the wheel. Yet, everywhere you look, people are busily, distractedly on their phones. As I talked to my sister Joan in Texas, a crazed-acting woman pulled up beside me and started railing at me for being on my phone. “You’re breaking the law,” etc. etc. etc. She bird dogged me at every light and along the road as we both traveled south. And of course, it all finally settled on Texas. Exasperated, I bought in to her crazy insistence, indeed, her stalking, and cried, “Fuck you!”. I know, I should have let her vent her spleen without allowing her to take me to and over the edge. “I expect better than that from Texas men,” she crooned sarcastically. “Uhh-uhh,” I shook my head in disbelief. There’s no winner here. I just need to get the hell away from her.

Although I shouldn’t let the behavior of people whose company I wouldn’t seek out shape my own behavior—I shouldn’t take it personally—alas, I fall prey to my own human frailty, my ego, my sense of right, and wrong, in a world turned upside down. Who am I to dismiss those whose lives are not as blessed as mine, those who are marginalized for whatever reason? In this land of contrasts—from the moneyed interlopers living in million dollar plus homes to those barely keeping body and soul together, many failing at this most basic of life transactions—this place where people come to find themselves, to heal, to get lost in beauty, or just to get lost, to be left alone—I see turmoil on this high desert. Having been here much of the last year, at times this place feels like home. At other times, though, I feel like a complete stranger, like one lost and left alone, but not by conscious choice. A friend reminded me recently that happiness is not a matter of geography, and while I appreciate the sentiment, I already know that.

A couple of weeks ago I was a guest for drinks and dinner at the home here of a couple from south Texas. The setting was beautiful, this second home far better than most Americans enjoy daily, the hospitality and company welcoming, generous, and gracious. Everyone present at this celebration of friendship is a Texan, although two have lived here for most of three decades. How nice it was to bask in the spirit of this night. How nice it was to drive up to this place in the mountains and see all of those TEXAS license plates.

Deep in the Heart—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 10, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More on Paying Attention

On the rooftop rack of an SUV in the parking lot of my coffee shop, placed almost out of sight, was the message, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” Attributable to Mahatma Ghandi—“We must become the change we want to see.” From Sanskrit, “mahatma” translates to “Great Soul”. The driver of this rig—which included a homemade-looking trailer, artfully painted with the business name “Earthen Accents”, and decorated with colorful cabbages, turnips, and vines—was a young male. Testimony to his age, and I guess his athleticism, was a THULE brand storage box, the kind seen on lots of vehicles in this mountain area where sportsmanship runs nose-to-nose with raised consciousness. Of course, the rig could have belonged to his brother or a friend. I got the message, regardless.

Every once in a while I see a bumper sticker or slogan other depicted that sends up my antenna:

“I’m for the separation of church and hate”

“Somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot” (large yellow question mark hovering over the Waco area)

“I think, therefore I’m dangerous”

“Born OK the first time”

While not necessarily the standard here in this high desert place, slogans on vehicles are popular, and raised consciences are seen as a good thing—“Saving water is always in season”. Now as the saying goes, there’s a thought you can hang your hat on.

As I drove here this morning, the WIND POWER slogan depicted in rich blue on the rear windshield of a Subaru caught my eye as I waited at the traffic light. I liked its looks, certainly like it message, and thought,  “maybe I’ll get one of those for my truck”. As a rule, every time I think of putting any kind of sticker on my truck, my next thought goes to who would want to vandalize my vehicle because they strongly disagree with my sentiment. Destructive, vindictive attitudes aside, bumper stickers are almost like having something tattooed on my body, almost. I can’t escape the hypocrisy, however, of driving a Ford crew cab V-8. Alas, it is what I drive, high payments over a long term, and in spite of the fuel economy factor—I do get 20 mpg on the highway, with air—it’s one thing to make an unfortunate choice here and there like an expensive fuel-consuming vehicle, or failing to recycle when recycling is clearly an option, it’s another thing to advertise your politics.

For the last several months, people, who either don’t know my politics, or who are painfully caught up in their own, have been forwarding me anti-Obama email. Today I even thought about replying to one from a fellow Texan who perhaps actually believes in Bush #1’s compassionate conservatism, or perhaps also believes the popular notion from the Reagan administration that ketchup is a vegetable, as far as school lunch program guidelines are concerned. I have no doubt this friend is convinced Barack Obama is a Muslim, along with his wife, and that theirs is a Muslim agenda, whatever, “God forbid”, that means. God, save us from people who become fanatical in your name, Christian, Jew, Muslim, and so on. I don’t read, forward, initiate, or promote anything traveling through cyberspace relating to politics. Maybe I’m just so ignorant that I don’t want to have my ignorance show up as evidence supporting the same.

One thing I can put my weight behind is Ghandi’s message that we must become the change we want to see. I know that I spend far too much time worrying over things past and the unfulfilled promise of another day. We are the promise. We are the difference, if we choose to accept the assignment. I was given some good advice many years ago—don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow. I haven’t been particularly successful in putting into practice that advice. Monkey mind nonsense has had its way far too much with me. Maybe, if I want to slap a sticker on my vehicle, one that will bring a smile to some and perhaps cause others to want to know. Maybe something like, “Don’t indulge your monkey” or “It’s 10 o’clock in the evening, do you know where your monkey is”?

More on Paying Attention—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 5, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sharing the Secret

Each Friday morning a small group gathers in front of the altar at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church for morning prayer. Usually it’s the same faces, mostly female, except for a couple of guys, one who is an ordained priest with his own parish flock southwest of Santa Fe. Part of this group then lingers in the common room for Bible study.

Usually I look forward to Friday morning, even though I sometimes suffer my own attitude that causes me to resist this gathering of disciples. I wonder what goes through the hearts of the others as they anticipate, experience, or reflect on the exchange that occurs among us each week. We are who we are, agendas and all, really just a group of pilgrims making their way, stumbling here and there, taking ourselves too seriously at times, struggling with the harsh realities of living in an often difficult and frightening world. But then, hasn’t it always been? And isn’t this what we are promised? Are we not here, indeed, are we not to be here for one another on this faith journey? Aren’t we to learn, as were challenged our early ancestors of the faith, that we must shine a light on the path of one another, extend a hand to one another across tumultuous waters—that we are in deed to embrace one another?

Do we continue to waste precious time feeding our childish egos, believing in pathetic agendas and rules that serve only to separate us? For a moment, forget about loving your enemy, and consider loving—or at least letting go of the instinct to shun or judge, or just ignore—the guy sitting next to you on a Sunday morning, or a Friday morning. Or closer to home, loving your kin, even the ones to whom you are connected only by blood and no other affection, the ones with whom you have few if any shared life experiences that call a smile to your face, or stoke a warmth in your heart. For some of us, loving memories long faded for others somehow remain minor treasures. They are part of who we are.

Yesterday I was reminded during Bible study of the simple, so simple, expectation that our faith asks of us—to walk with one another, to care for one another, to care enough that we want to embrace, even though our customs discourage such familiarity. Some families don’t embrace or say, “I love you”. Some friends suffer the same deprivation. I don’t know what was happening in the hearts of the other five pilgrims sitting at that table yesterday. I do know that as we read the scriptures and shared our stories, and our understanding, that I saw smiles of recognition—a light perhaps—maybe to flicker only for the moment, at least for now. A hand on my shoulder told me, once again, to keep the faith, as we sometimes say, to continue the walk, to get out of my own way if need be, and I am reminded, to trust the journey. As we were preparing to leave, I commented,  “You know Friday morning prayer and Bible study at St. Bede’s might just be the best kept secret in Santa Fe.” In a way, I like the intimacy of our small numbers, the familiarity of the faces, and yet, I feel a need for others to share our secret.

Sharing the Secret—Santa Fe, New Mexico (August 2, 2008)

R. Harold Hollis