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When my children were young, an older relative gave us a petite set of books by the children’s author Beatrix Potter. With their warm water-color illustrations and sweetly droll humor, the books soon became a favorite of mine. I think the girls liked them, too. So I was thrilled to receive a review copy of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places that Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales (Timber Press, 2013).
Potter’s books are filled with illustrations and stories that gardeners can appreciate, from Peter Rabbit’s forays into Mr. McGregor’s garden (the longer I garden, the more I side with Mr. McGregor) to silly Jemima Puddleduck picking onions and sage for a dinner at which she is to be the guest of honor — and the main course — to country mouse Timmy Willy, who falls asleep in a peapod before he is shipped off to the city in a basket of garden produce. Potter loved nature and the country life and her stories and illustrations show it.
McDowell’s book is really three books in one, and each has its own merits. The first part is a biography of Potter, a shy and lonely girl, who took refuge in keeping rabbits and drawing plants and animals. She was a skilled botanical illustrator (mushrooms were a particular specialty) but achieved recognition when The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published in 1901. Her parents were the demanding Victorian type, and disapproved of her writing as well as her romance and engagement to her publisher, Frederick Warne. Sadly, Warne died in 1905 from leukemia. Grieving and seeking independence, Potter bought Hill Top Farm in the Lake District of western England. There, she continued to produce books (23 in all) and garden. At 47, she married a local attorney and began to buy more property in the area. She published her last book in 1922, and spent the final 25 years of her life as a farmer and conservation activist in the Lake District.
The biography section of the book is entertaining, marked by vibrant prose and an abundance of drawings and photographs. You get a genuine sense of how Potter’s books reflected her interest in nature and her life as a gardener.
The second section takes a reader through the year in Potter’s garden, from the dark winter to the blooming primroses in June to fall and the harvest season. It’s evocative and well-illustrated and gives a full picture of English country life. Through letters and other material, McDowell shows Potter dealing with many of the problems familiar to all gardeners — invasive plants, poor weather, more ideas and work than time. The last section is a short introduction to visiting Potter’s gardens and farms and the Lake District. Potter left most of her property to the National Trust, so there is a lot to see, if you are able to get to this somewhat out-of-the-way part of England. The book is rounded out with resources and suggestions for further reading as well as plant lists, including lists of all the plants that appear in each of her books as well as those she cultivated.
For Potter fans or lovers of English country life that is not of the Downton Abbey variety, this gardener’s biography is a great read. I will be donating the review copy of the beautiful book to the MSHS Library, a great resource for gardeners in Minnesota.
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PLAN TO ATTEND! The NDDC has invited the Strong Towns organization to Northfield for one of their “Curbside Chats”. The event will be held on Monday, February 17, 5:30-7:30 pm, in the Archer House Riverview Conference Room on the lower level. The Curbside Chats are … Continue reading →
Skipulk came at a funny place on the course: I could have pedaled, or at least walked, for quite a bit further to reach the checkpoint, but once I had reached it, I couldn’t move except to hand the Beast to the volunteer who came rushing up and then to climb into the nearer tent and sit down. The volunteer came in right away to take down my bib number and check-in time – 6:10 a.m., or 50 minutes shy of 24 hours since the start. He radioed that info to the finish, then turned on the propane heater on the floor next to me. I eyed the cot next to me, wondering whether I should lie down.
I sat there for a while breathing heavily, listening to my pulse in my ears, and feeling the warmth of the heater spread up my legs. I was wet enough that my pants and then my sleeves started steaming. I hadn’t had any shivering episodes so far in the race, and the blast from the heater let me skip right to the point of being warm enough to talk. The volunteer introduced himself, saying he had started the race but dropped out at Gateway because it was too cold, then decided to make himself useful by helping with the race. At some point as I listened, I broke in and faced him. "Does my nose look okay? I think it’s frostbitten." He leaned in, checking, and then grinned. "Nope. It’s no redder than mine. You’re fine. I’ll take a picture to show you."
I hardly noticed that I looked like hell, but I was hugely relieved to see that my nose was not in fact black with frostbite. Frostbite wouldn’t have been that bad, but getting pulled from the race for frostbite would have been a disaster. (This photo shows why I did later get frostbite on my face: I had Dermatone all over my upper cheeks and forehead, but missed my lower cheeks and nose.) Around this time, my riding partner – who had gone to the other tent when we arrived – banged on the wall of my tent and shouted, "I’m heading out! You’re faster than me, so I’ll see you on the trail!" I think I replied, but maybe I didn’t. I hope I wished him well. At any rate, I never did catch him. He left Skipulk after just a half hour of rest and 53 minutes ahead of me. I finished exactly 53 minutes behind him.
I couldn’t even think about going on yet, but feeling warmer now, I dug out my phone and turned it on, planning to post the picture in case anyone wanted to know how I was doing. I hadn’t had a signal at Melgeorges, so I had been offline for nearly twelve hours – half the race. Once the phone powered up, it went nuts: tens and then scores and then hundreds of messages scrolled past, too fast to read. Fogged, I couldn’t tell what they were – Status updates? Tweets? Notifications that I needed to take my turns in Words with Friends? After a minute, they stopped and let me get to my home screen, where my Facebook icon showed nearly 200 updates. Bizarre! What were they about? I tapped into FB and was shocked to find that dozens of my friends had been following my race all day and all night. Many of them knew more about my race than I did, and all of them seemed to be rooting for me. For probably the first time in a day, I started sweating, but with excitement and even a tinge of nervousness. So many people! Why were they so into how I was doing in this crazy race? And what the hell was this? The Minneapolis newspaper had my picture on the front of the sports section? I showed a FB photo of that page to the volunteer, who had just brought me a cup of chicken soup. He laughed. "Now you have to finish!" I was speechless. I just sat there on my camp chair too close to the heater, sipped my soup, and read messages, feeling better and better with each one.
At some point, I was right again. My heart was full, most importantly, but also, I could feel my feet. The soup – plus some water from my defrosted bottle and one more precious Red Bull – had filled my stomach. Insouciantly, I had even taken off my gloves, revealing ghastly hands: gray with cold, wrinkly from dehydration, a little bit bloody where my fingertips had cracked. Back inside their gloves, though, they felt fine, almost as good as my soul. I posted photos of my face and of my friend the heater and stood up for the first time since arriving. I managed to unzip the tent by myself (something I hadn’t been able to do when I arrived) and discovered, stepping outside, that the sun had come up. Everything was washed in a brittle blue light. It was great to see.
"My" volunteer seemed a little surprised to see me up and moving. I handed him my empty soup cups and started demanding things. "Can you take my water bottles out of my backpack and then fill them with hot water?" He hopped to, pouring water boiled over the campfire into my bottles and zipping the bottles into my pack. Soon, I could feel the heat from the bottles soaking through the bag and to my skin. It felt great, like a bath. I asked him to fill my third bottle, which I stowed in my frame bag, and then suddenly I was ready to go. Readiness just suddenly appeared, fully formed. He checked me out, logging a massive 90-minute stop, and I headed off up the trail, feeling pretty good. If I’d been able to do the math, I could have figured that the race had started just over 24 hours before.
All night long, I had had the official checkpoint mileage card
sitting on my sleeping bag, held down by my brake and shifter cables. As I started riding, I had to move it a little so that I could see the mileage markers for the last leg. This leg was the shortest in the race, just 26.5 miles, and was suppposed to be entirely flat once I made it up and down Wakemup Hill, at the end of the first of two short, early sections. I reached Wakemup Hill in just 30 minutes, which meant I was flying. Or had been: the hill was too steep to ride. At the top, though, the morning vista was so incredible that I stopped to take a picture before plunging back down.
I barely stayed on the track when it turned at the bottom of the hill, but I was feeling really good, and I hammered over the ensuing flats, eager to make it to the next milestone. The Crescent Bar road came up before I knew it, and suddenly I felt like I was almost done.
But I wasn’t. In my exhaustion, I was misreading the card, thinking that I had just 9 or 10 miles after the Crescent Bar road crossing until the finish. Actually, I had 20 miles to go from that point, split into two halves: from the road to the mysterious Shelter #9 and then from that shelter to the finish. The fact that the card had a typo on it – listing Shelter #8 in two spots – didn’t help my reasoning abilities.
And then the warmth and the rest and the nutrition of Skipulk started to wear off. The trail was flatter now, just as everyone had promised, but what the Arrowhead giveth, it also taketh away. The wall of trees that been sheltering me from the wind all night now started to break up, and open stretches – through cutover tracts, swamps, or just boring old fields – became more and more common. My speed tailed off, and I found myself barely moving, even on the flats. At one point, I followed a track that swerved wrong and crashed in slow motion into the foot-high snowbank that the snowmobile trail groomer had created. Going so slow did allow me to notice again all the dog, no, wolf tracks on the trail, and even to note the first birds I had seen since the overnight owl: some little winged bullets that shot from tree to tree ahead of me, and some fat crows or ravens that cawed at me and then slowly flew away. Sauntering, if birds could saunter. Seeing these black birds up there reminded me of the messenger birds in the Game of Thrones books, and I started trying to recall if those birds were crows or ravens. Were the members of the Night’s Watch called crows because of the messenger birds, or because they wore black? You know nothing, Jon Snow. Winter is coming.
I was muddled, almost stationary in mind and body, and the flat white track still stretched out in front of me. I decided, somewhere in here, to have my next-to-last can of Red Bull. Like the previous two, I carefully crushed it in the snow and then stowed the disk in my frame bag. My icebeard was back, so I couldn’t eat anything solid, even if I had had something that sounded good. Somehow, though, I remembered that I had energy gels, and even worked out the fact that if I stuck one in each glove, they would defrost enough that I could consume them.
This breakfast was good, but what was bad was the onset of the first true pain in the whole race: stabbing agony in my ass, which could no longer rest against the frozen seat for very long. Since solving my knee-pain problem on the first leg, my body had not been in any serious trouble. In fact, for most of the race, my body felt like something apart from me, a machine that was working pretty well but that I didn’t need to worry much about. The fatigue had mounted, sure, and I got really hungry, and my arms wavered as I pushed up the hills between Melgeorges and Skipulk, but nothing hurt or wanted to stop. Until now. I would pedal seated for a hundred strokes, gritting my teeth, then almost leap off the Beast to walk a hundred steps on perfectly flat trail. Stop. Breathe. Wait for the pain to subside. Get back on the bike, gingerly. Try to sit on one buttcheek or the other. Pedal more. Stop again. Walk again, noting that I could see at least one other set of boot prints on the trail. If someone ahead of me was walking, it was okay for me to walk, right?
This went on for what I can figure now to have been probably 10 miles. I created games for myself: walk to that tree, ride to that more distant tree, rest. I tried to remind myself that literally every pedal stroke or step, no matter how weak or short, got me closer to the finish line. This, in turn, reminded me of Zeno, but who has Zeno? Occasionally, I reached bridges over some nameless creeks, and even the tiny two-foot ramps up to the bridge decks were taxing. The snow seemed even squeakier than it had overnight, which started making me think that another racer was coming up on me. Many times, I concluded that I was about to get passed, resigned myself to losing a spot at this late moment in the race, and turned around to see nothing but empty track.
Then I would remember all those posts on Facebook. All those people! They were up now, going to work or taking their kids to school. Shannon had seen the girls onto the bus already. She was probably doing chores, or maybe having a cup of coffee. Was she hungry? I wanted a hug. If I were at work, I would be checking email. Did I turn on my out-of-the-office message? Yes, I did. Walk to that tree. Wait, that tree is a sign! A big sign! The sign was actually a map at a snowmobile-trail junction. I rode over and investigated, hoping it could give me some fucking information on how much fucking futher I fucking had to fucking go. It did, and clearly enough that even a drunk snowmobiler or an exhausted fatbiker could figure out the right direction to go. A little later, I came across another map, and it showed me, amazingly, that I now had fewer miles to go. I crossed a road, and amazingly that very road was shown on the course map that had been forgotten in my pack until I dug it out.
When had I gotten the map out? No idea. I was still walking a lot, but I was making progress. I felt warm, and okay except for my butt. As I had with my nose overnight, I imagined what sort of damage I was doing, and the mental picture wasn’t a good one.
But at some point in one of my brief stints of pedaling, I passed a small black shelter that must have been #9, putting me just about ten miles out. Ten miles! I could ride ten miles. Ten more miles! I stopped to celebrate with my last Red Bull and a caffeinated energy gel, which are my secret weapons in normal races. I tried to figure out how fast I had been going since Skipulk, but totally failed to do the simple math of dividing the miles I had covered by the hours since I had left the checkpoint. Instead, I just arbitrarily decided that I was going about five miles an hour, so I had about two hours left. Having a limit, even a totally illusory one, was very helpful. I got back on the Beast and started pedaling again. Perhaps because of the intermittent rest provided by walking or just because bodies are made to accommodate pain, I found that I could pedal steadily again.
In one of the race’s great ironies, I was now encountering the roughest snow I had seen since the start. Getting close to civilization meant that more snowmobilers had been out, tearing up the trail almost to the point of being unridable. But my trails back home were pretty rough, so I was able to keep up some speed, or at least not walk or stop. Then I heard road traffic – the first cars and trucks I had heard since Gateway. Looking at my map, I figured that these vehicles had to be on the last road before the finish line. I groaned up the slight rise to the road and discovered that I had in fact reached that last beautiful ribbon of asphalt. I had reached a spot not on the map or the checkpoint card: Almost There.
Just over the road, I think, was a sign that informed me I was entering the Bois Forte reservation. For a second, I tried to figure out what "Bois Forte" meant, but gave up as I pedaled past. The trail meandered now, jumping across a powerline cut, tracing the base of a hill, running between two ragged orange snow fences, and even paralleling the back of a big concrete building, but I was excited, powering – or seeming to power – through the turns and up and down the little rises. I kept my head up and forward, looking for the finish line. It had be here somewhere.
And then it was: far away, through a slot in the trees, I could see the arching white banner over the finish line. It disappeared as I took a curve, then reappeared, bigger and closer. The banner might have blinked in and out of sight a couple more times, but then I came upon a massive building that I knew, just knew, was the Fortune Bay resort, and saw the banner again, dead ahead, atop a short rise, close enough that I could read the text on it. Having that banner in an unbroken line of sight meant I was done, and I started crying as I pedaled. Up the hill. Up the hill. Up the hill. There was nobody at the finish line, but I kept pedaling and crying until I got there. Then I stopped and tipped over, hard. I just couldn’t get my feet off my pedals and onto the snow. As I crashed down, three guys popped out of the tent at the side of the finish line. "Are you okay? Just lie down, man. Congratulations! You finished the Arrowhead 135! You’re seventh! Congratulations!"
I laid there in the snow for a minute, looking up at this big bearded guy looming over me, talking to me. I was still crying, but I was smiling too. Someone else pulled my bike out from between my feet, and the bearded guy helped me up. "Hey, sit down if you need to. Rest. You’re done." I still hadn’t said anything. Couldn’t say anything. I just thought about how hard that had been. How could it be that I was done? How did I do it? How could I tell everyone that I had finished?
"I’m okay," I said, rolling onto my stomach and pushing myself up on to my knees, then standing up. "What time is it? What’s my finishing time?" The bearded guy tallied it. "29 hours, 9 minutes. Great job! When you’re ready, let’s get a picture of you and your bike!" I stood still for a minute more, then went over to stand behind the Beast under the finish line banner while three different people shot photos (which I still haven’t tracked down). I grinned. I was beyond elated, just a couple notches short of the high of getting married or holding my daughters for the first times.
My bearded friend took the Beast from me and led me over the snow to the hotel. Opening a back door, we entered a cold hallway. There were six other fatbikes in it – the rigs of the previous finishers. He leaned the Beast up against the wall. For some reason, I found it very important to turn off my front and rear blinky lights, so I did that. "Ready?" My friend was waiting patiently. "Your bike is secure here. No worries. Follow me up to the reception room." Walking the hotel corridors to the race HQ, I broke down again, sobbing with relief and joy. He turned a final corner and delivered me into a small, square room crowded with boxes, food, racers, and volunteers. "I have finisher number 7. Bib 31. 29:09." Everyone in the room clapped, even the racers.
Within a few minutes, I had received my finishing trophy, posed for my official finish picture,
started downing all the Coke I could find on the hospitality table, and stripped out of some of my layers of clothes. I also dug out my phone again and posted a message to say that I had finished. I felt like everyone needed to know.
When I checked into my motel in International Falls around three in the afternoon on Sunday, January 26, the night before this year’s Arrowhead 135, the old lady at the counter gave me two things I needed: a huge pink shower curtain to lay on the floor under my bike (“those bikes are so messy, you know?”) and a piece of advice: “Don’t get froze.”
It was easy, and handy, to keep my bike’s crud on the shower curtain that night, as I set up my Salsa Mukluk fatbike – the Beast – for the race. My ride that night was a quick mile or two, over through the race start area, down some of the course to make sure everything was still functioning, and over to McDonalds for two chicken sandwiches to supplement the pasta I had eaten at five at the race orientation. With the Beast dialed in and put back on the shower curtain, my clothing laid out on the other half of the bed, and the alarm set for 5:30, I was in bed around 11.
Keeping from “getting froze” was hard. Even at race orientation on Sunday afternoon, everyone knew the event would be historically cold, and it turned out to go beyond that. Riding the mile or so from the motel to the start just before 7 a.m., I could tell that conditions were exceptional. The predictions had been for temps in the negative twenties at the start, and the northwesterly breeze pushed the windchills down further. I was wearing my standard cold-weather kit, which was comfortable as I followed the line of blinky lights over to the ice arena where we checked in.
The line moved fast, but I was dinged for not having my number plate on the front of my body. As I struggled to fix it, a guy came over to me. “Need some help?” “Yes!” I said. “I need this number plate on the front of my body.” “Oh, okay.” He unpinned the bib from my backpack and came around to pin it to my reflective vest – allowing me to notice that he was the mayor of International Falls, who had made a few remarks the night before at the orientation. Hilarious, and a sign of the race’s homey and small-town character.
I thanked the mayor and headed back outside, where the cold made my breath catch in my throat. Still, I let out a big whoop of excitement, happy that the race was finally here. Actually, it wasn’t. As I picked up my bike, someone yelled, “The bikes just started!” I jogged over to the start area, where I found the skiers getting set for their wave start, and where I could see a long line of bikers’ blinking lights heading away from me. I hopped on the Beast, now in last or nearly last place, and started pedaling. 7:01 a.m. I hoped to be done within 18 hours, or perhaps 24 at the most.
The opening ten miles is a flat straightway with a few easy road crossings. I steadily passed racers who had stopped to adjust tire pressure, fix clothing issues, or maybe reconsider their decision to start. As the sun came up around 8, I checked out my own situation. I wasn’t overheating, and didn’t feel hungry. I had pushed my goggles up onto my forehead early on, when they iced up, but I could see well and my eyes felt fine. My thighs were uncomfortably heavy, but I chalked that up to my session at the gym on Friday, and hoped the senations would subside as I warmed up. On the other hand, my knees felt tight, which rarely happens when I ride. At one of the road crossings, I stopped and raised my saddle a bit. Over the next hour, the knee pain went away, the legs warmed up, and I continued to pick up riders, including a big group who had stopped at the end of the opening stretch, where the trail takes a sharp left corner and starts its southwest run to the finish near Tower, Minnesota – 125 miles away.
In the morning sun, I could enjoy the scenery: deep white snow, conifer and hardwood forests, some open fens, and the endless trail, laced with fatbike tracks. As I crossed Highway 53, about halfway to the first checkpoint, the field had thinned out quite a bit, and I was going long stretches without seeing anyone at all. When I did encounter someone, it was a racer coming up from behind, passing me with a nod and maybe a greeting, and then moving on up the trail. The solitude was nice, though. I reached the 53 crossing well ahead of my own schedule, so I didn’t mind getting passed.
After the highway crossing, the trail began to get much more interesting: the trees closed in, the turns got sharper and more frequent, and some rolling ups and downs started to punctuate the flatness. I ate some of my trail mix and beef jerky (which, frozen, needed to marinate in my mouth for a long time before I could chew it) and even drank some water, though this was surprisingly difficult due to the big icebeard I could sense growing on my face. The sun was pretty high in the sky when I made a sudden road crossing and then followed some signs down a short spur to the first checkpoint, the Gateway General Store, at mile 37.
I leaned my bike up against a post, momentarily admired the dozens of other gorgeous machines resting nearby, and went inside. The check-in desk was immediately inside the door, but the volunteers there were more eager to take a picture of my icebeard than to write down my number and time.
The General Store must be crowded in the best of times, but it was almost claustrophobic with dozens of racers packed inside. I saw one rider bent over a trash can, throwing up. Another was being scrutinized by an EMT for frostbite on his face. Several racers were stripping off their kits and changing into street clothes, including a top-level racer I’d admired for a while. I bought some Gatorade and a Coke and found a quiet spot to sit, in a backroom next to shelves holding fan belts, fishing tackle, shotgun shells, and cans of pizza sauce. The two racers there were trading war stories about the race so far, which struck me as odd given that we were only about a quarter of the way into the day. Over the next 50 minutes, I let my feet warm all the way up, thawed off my “faceberg,” finished my drinks, downed a good amount of trail mix and an oatmeal-chocolate chip-peanut butter “energy bomb,” put coffee into one of my water bottles, and checked out just after 12:30. Back on the bike, the cold was a harsh surprise, but I felt fine or even good as I resumed pedaling.
The next leg of the race would end at the second checkpoint, a cabin at the Melgeorges resort on Elephant Lake, roughly halfway through the race. These 35 miles were probably my favorites of the race. The track continued to be interesting, though it also turned increasingly hilly, and those challenges amplified my sense of solitude, which settled in as deep as the cold. One of the things that had attracted me to the Arrowhead as an event was the chance to be alone in the woods, and this second leg of the race was all about being alone in the woods. My cyclocomputer had long since stopped displaying either my speed or the temperature, so I just watched the minutes and hours tick by – slowly, because the LED was so cold that it took several seconds for a digit to advance.
Gradually, I started losing my ability to hit the hills – mostly, short and steep kickers that a rider on pavement, gravel, or even a trail would hardly notice – hard enough to climb them on the bike. I had been riding by then for nearly 10 hours, so I figured that conserving energy was acceptable, and made the decision to let myself walk the hills. The afternoon light was beautiful, and induced me to stop a couple times to take photos of the trail and my bike.
But the golden hour was short, and when the sun set, it took the temperature down with it. I knew I needed to eat something substantial soon, but my icebeard had grown back even larger than it had been at Gateway, so I couldn’t get anything bigger than a few almonds into my mouth. Too, all my water was frozen into my bottles, so I had to break into my stash of Red Bull energy drinks. I stopped to pound one of them and delicately put some trail mix into my mouth. Chewing the mix, I decided for some reason that I had to crush the Red Bull can, so I did that and stowed it in my frame bag. I also put my headlamp back on, not willing to let only the headlight on my handlebars light up the trail.
Somewhat reenenergized, I got back on my bike for the push to Melgeorges. At the race orientation, the race director had warned us that the lake crossing to the resort would seem brutally long. It did, even though I only realized I was actually on a lake when I started to get buffeted by the wind. The tire tracks wandered all over the trail, seeking the best snow but more often losing it and winding up in a drift. When I could look up the trail, I could see the resort in the distance: cabin windows glowing in the trees, Christmas lights on balconies, even cars moving back and forth. I finally reached the shoreline, where a volunteer was standing in a parking lot next to a big warm-looking building – a bar or restaurant. I hoped that he would direct me inside to the checkpoint, but instead he pointed me away from this building, saying I needed to follow the track to another cabin, “just around the point.” Following a foot-wide path cut into snowbanks was the last thing I wanted to do then, but the promise of the cabin was ridiculously strong. Everything from the race website to the orientation and other racers all mentioned the grilled cheeses that the Melgeorges volunteers made, and I’d been fantasizing about them for hours. Finally, the trail dumped me in a little parking area covered in fatbikes. I leaned mine against a snowbank, carefully turned off the headlight and headlamp to save their batteries, and staggered up the steps to the cabin. A volunteer checked me in at 6:44 – a quarter-hour short of 12 hours into the race. And I was only halfway done.
The Melgeorges cabin is small but cozy space, far different from the closed-in hubbub of Gateway. Within a few minutes of arrival, the women running the checkpoint had directed me to the bathroom to change from my wet kit into the extra clothes I had brought, taken an order for two grilled cheeses and a bowl of wild rice soup, and given me a big glass of Coke. Except for my face mask, which was frozen to my beard for a half hour, my wet clothes disappeared, carried off to a dryer in a nearby cabin. I sat and stuffed my face with the grilled cheeses, a second bowl of soup, my own trail mix and energy bombs, more Coke, and some protein drinks I’d stashed in the bag that organizers brought to the checkpoint. I warmed up slowly but thoroughly, and even talked a little with some of the other racers. A couple left while I sat, and a few more arrived. Many were much more chatty than I was feeling, but the exchanges were nice. Much of the conversation centered on the temperatures so far and into the night. One of the volunteers said that we were already back down to the same temps that we had had at the start, and that forecasts predicted -40 degree F ambient temperatures in the forests overnight. At any other point in my life, I would have been chagrined. Hearing this after riding twelve hours, I just slotted it next to the other challenges I had been facing: eating, drinking, moving forward.
Just as my clothes came back from the dryer, the other guy from my hometown arrived. His wife had been waiting anxiously for him since before I’d arrived, and she was very happy to see him. Unfortunately, he was frozen and decided immediately to drop out. Even before I got back into all my clothes, they had left for the bar next door. Still thinking about the predicted overnight temperatures, I decided not to pack my dry clothes for later, but to put everything on. Over my torso, I put on two base layers, two thermal layers, my heavyweight jersey, my fleece vest, and my wind jacket. On my head, I put on a balaclava face mask, my longest neck gaiter (which I took pains to tuck deep underneath my shirts), my two warmest hats, and the lobster-style mitts that I wear in the worst weather. Going even further, I wedged two chemical hand warmers into each of my boots (one under the toes, one on the instep) and filled my water bottles: two with the hot water, one with coffee.
As I fixed to depart, I asked a volunteer if she knew who was in the lead. She showed me the check-in sheet, pointing to Jay Petervary’s name on the top line. I wasn’t shocked that “JayP” was in the lead, but I was shocked to see, and have her confirm, that fewer than ten racers had gone through the checkpoint to that moment. “So you mean I’m in the top ten right now?” I asked. She nodded, and added, “There are ten of you in the room.”
I was flabbergasted. I had been wondering why I seemed to be seeing so few tire tracks on the trail. Turns out, I had been seeing only fourteen wheels’ tracks! I was shocked to realize that I was going well, and had a shot at a really good finish. I recalibrated my goal for the race from finishing in 24 hours – itself, an adjustment of my pre-race goal to finish in 18 hours – to finishing in the top 20, or maybe even the top 15. Many of the guys in the room as I finally left, at exactly 8:30 (after almost two hours at the checkpoint), looked like tough bastards who would catch me over the next 63 miles.
I stowed what stuff I had brought in and hadn’t put on or eaten, turned on my lights, and climbed back onto the Beast for the race’s third leg, to the final “Skipulk” checkpoint, another 36 miles away. The lights and warmth of the Melgeorges stop disappeared within seconds, and I was alone again on the trail. I rode my bike into the yellow circle of my headlamp, which threw the trees – and who knows what else – along the trail into a fluttering gray shadow. The stars had come out while I had been inside, and occasionally I glanced up at them, almost bright enough to ride by. A slivered moon hid behind the trees, glowing so orange that I mistook it several times for a campfire.
And that was pretty much all I saw for most of the next ten hours, riding through the blackest forests I could have hoped to see.
The energy boost I got from the food and warmth at Melgeorges faded to nothing, though I did not register when it completely vanished, probably sometime around midnight. I felt grimly satisfied that I could pedal all the flats and downhills, and accepted as a law of nature that I could no longer ride even the shortest climbs. At first, I hopped off my bike and pushed it steadily up the hills. Later, I stopped, climbed off the bike, and trudged up. Later still, I stopped, counted ten breaths, climbed off the bike, counted ten more breaths, and then alternated ten breaths standing still with ten steps up the hill. When it occurred to me, I would relate these repeated, grueling actions to some of the interval training I do at the gym, but my sense of being somehow “ready” to do this was more than balanced by my thoughts of the warm, dry, well-lit gym.
Nothing about this leg was fast, but the slow going gave me time to think random thoughts. For instance, I composed a great playlist of songs with numbers in their titles (getting as high as “18 and Life” by Skid Row, though I can’t remember many of the songs now), and thought in great detail about what I would eat when I finished. I hoped to see animals, but I only saw many deer tracks, quite a few wolf tracks (which I kept thinking were actually the prints of dogsled dogs), and one owl, who hooted angrily at me when I passed. Most often, I just thought about my immediate experience. I have probably never been more “in the moment” than I was during the ride to Skipulk. I assessed my fingers and toes (cold, but not numb), took drinks of water and coffee (at least till the bottles froze), and related the absurd times on the clock on my computer to things that would be going on back home – Shannon’s bedtime, my bedtime, midnight, and then the long hours when nobody is doing anything except sleeping, or maybe taking care of sleepless babies. I studied the amazing and bizarre ice formations on my bike, on my bags, on my headlight (which had died long before midnight, leaving me with just my headlamp). When I would stop and exhale hard, I could watch the vapor crystallize in my headlamp’s beam and then fall like snow in front of me.
In short, this leg was manageably brutal. I was not really tired in any familar sense, even though I was coming up on 24 straight hours of being awake under rather difficult conditions. I certainly never yawned or felt like I needed to close my eyes, even in that period from two to five a.m. when human circadian rhythms demand sleep. And I never felt that I needed to quit, though I felt continuously that I wanted to take a break. Just a short one, standing here. Just to look at the trees.
As my fatigue mounted, I did start worrying about a few things. I couldn’t tell if my icebeard was unusually big or if my nose had frozen and swollen, which would mean that the volunteers would have to pull me out of the race at the next checkpoint – a colossal disaster that would mean this was all for naught. And I began second-guessing the distance to Skipulk. I couldn’t remember if I’d seen one or two of the three shelters between Melgeorges and Skipulk. At one point, I saw several bikes’ blinky lights in the distance, and accelerated, sure they belonged to racers stopped at Skipulk. But no: they faded away behind me. They must have belonged to racers bivvying for the night, but in retrospect this doesn’t make sense, as all of the racers who left Melgeorges ahead of me also finished ahead of me. Maybe they were the ghosts of Arrowhead racers past.
What helped the most through these hours and hours of darkness and motion was coming up on another racer, perhaps around midnight. He was walking when I caught him, and immediately confessed to being tired, as if he were disappointing me. I complained that I didn’t want to eat any of my food, but offered some to him. He turned me down and offered me some of his food. I turned him down. We walked the uphills next to each other, saddled up to ride the downhills, and then rode the flats in single file. Sometimes I moved ahead and got away. Sometimes he’d move ahead and get away. We didn’t talk much, but I did share that I was a rookie, and he told me that he’d finished all seven Arrowheads that he had entered, even the “other year it was cold.” He couldn’t remember which year that was, but he was sure it hadn’t been this cold. Something about the idea that he’d never been defeated by the race appealed to me, and made me think, in my foggy state, that I should stay near his lights.
Sometime after my clock displayed the time that Shannon is usually getting up, my riding partner built up a larger-than-usual lead. I could only see his lights on the longest, flattest stretches. Then suddenly I came around a corner and he was right in front of me again, pushing his bike up another fucking hill. He could tell I was behind him, and turned to yell something back to me. I couldn’t make it out. “What did you say?” But before he could reply, I figured it out on my own: we had made it to Skipulk – a scary clown mask on a stick, a picnic table under a tarp, a firepit, and two red ice-fishing shelters. It could not have looked better.
Hyvää Uutta Vuotta from Jyvaskyla, Finland where I’ll be spending the next 6 months or so. Jyvaskyla has about 135,000 people (like Northfield, about 25% of those are students) on about 52 sq. miles in Central Finland. For landscape, think northern … Continue reading →
Is Anybody Else Out There Gay?
Rev. David Bailey Sindt, a gay Presbyterian pastor, provoked the 1974 General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church when he asked this question with a sign held high. Pastor Sindt’s sign was no mere whim. It was part of a calculated strategy, a “ministry of presence,” that Sindt and other LGBT activists within the ecumenical denominations would pursue. By their openness and their presence, they implicitly proclaimed, “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re Presbyterian (or Lutheran, or Episcopalian, or Methodist, or UCC), but we’re not merely the gay issue; we’re flesh and blood human beings.”
Pastor Sindt’s assertive coming out serves as the pan-denominational theme for the seventies, and his courageous action at the General Assembly is credited as the birth of More Light Presbyterians. In the heady movement days of the early seventies, Sindt and Rev. Bill Johnson served on a task force originating with the San Francisco Council on Religion and Homosexuality and recognized by the National Council of Churches. The task force served as resource for the startups of denominational advocacy groups. In 1975 Sindt met with the organizers of the first gathering of gay Methodists, and Sindt was present as resource person during the first national gathering of Integrity, the Episcopal advocacy group, that same year. Three task force members served as resource persons at the 1974 Minneapolis gathering that birthed Lutherans Concerned.
As the decade wound down, Sindt was joined by gay seminarians Bill Silver and Chris Glaser as leaders of More Light Presbyterians. Silver’s request for ordination in the New York Presbytery was kicked upstairs to the General Assembly for “definitive guidance.” The General Assembly responded with the creation of a task force that included Glaser as a member. The task force eventually submitted a gay-friendly report to the 1978 General Assembly, but commissioners (delegates) rejected the report and overwhelmingly rendered definitive guidance that stated, “homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity” and “unrepentant homosexual practice does not accord with the requirements for ordination.” Subsequent decades would witness ecclesiastical trials that extended the scope and effect of this “definitive guidance.”
Pastor Sindt continued his advocacy efforts until his life was cut short as an early victim of the AIDS epidemic in 1986. David lived alone, but his church friends formed a team to care for him in his home during the last months of his life. Each evening, someone prepared dinner, and they shared the meal. His former congregation continues this ministry by taking a Sunday evening meal to the residents of a Chicago House facility. David’s own home became the first Chicago House residence owned by the agency. More Light Presbyterians has named their annual service award after Pastor Sindt. He was one of 13 persons inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Wednesday, October 25, 1995, at the Cultural Center in Chicago.
This is the sixth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in my soon-to-be-released book, Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:
1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)
1970 Robert Mary Clement(gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)
1970-72 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)
1972-77 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)
1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)
A straight ally, Lutheran Pastor James Siefkes, a “rather rotund church executive” in the home offices of the American Lutheran Church (ALC), a predecessor to the ELCA, was the principal inspiration for the founding of “Lutherans Concerned for Gay People” in 1974. That’s the short version; here are the details. Well, even what follows is a condensed version; read Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism for the full story, woven into an overarching narrative.
After a couple of stops as a parish pastor, Iowan James Siefkes landed in the western regional office of the ALC in Palo Alto, California. Rev. Siefkes was a third-generation Lutheran pastor after his father and grandfather. Serving in the San Francisco area during the tumultuous 1960s, Siefkes developed a program designed to introduce clergy and spouses to hot-button issues such as the Vietnam war, campus riots, runaway youth, drugs, and more. His Matrix program offered the streets of San Francisco as Petri dish for clergy to examine life on the edge.
I would set up a program, take maybe thirty, forty people and move them into the YMCA in the Tenderloin in San Francisco and, then, would try to introduce them to what was going on in the Bay Area at that time.
Matrix came to the attention of the ALC home office in Minneapolis, and Pastor Siefkes was offered a position to develop something similar; he was to establish and lead a new ALC department to be called, “Congregational Social Concerns.” So far, so good, but when he invited approximately sixty persons from the Twin Cities (Lutheran and Catholic Social Services, ALC executives, an ALC bishop, the YMCA, the University of Minnesota Medical School, and more) to a seminar to evaluate the potential for ministry in the area of human sexuality, “the milieu heated up,” according to Siefkes. In particular, the scandalized director of Catholic Social Services published an unfriendly report in Commonweal magazine entitled, “Sex, Sex, Sex!”
Undeterred, Siefkes successfully sought a small ALC appropriation of a few thousand dollars:
To enable at least one national meeting of up to twenty ALC homosexual persons plus 5 resource persons to discuss their sexual orientation and their relationship because of it, to society and their church; to the end that they may address the church and the church might respond to them and become less a source of oppression to ALC and other persons with homosexual orientation.
Earlier, Siefkes had been interviewed by a reporter from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Howard Erickson, who was a closeted gay man who also published in the gay periodical, The Advocate, under the pseudonym, Bjorn Bjornson. Erickson’s Advocate article introduced Siefkes to the gay community as an ally, and Siefkes used contacts he attained following that article to invite around twenty gay and lesbian persons to an inaugural meeting in Minneapolis in June 1974. Five persons actually attended the weekend event, including reporter Erickson. Siefkes himself stepped back and let the five persons plus three facilitators conduct the meeting themselves.
On Sunday evening, June 16, 1974, Siefkes and his wife, Sally, joined the others for a social event and report at a professor’s home near the University of Minnesota campus. When he arrived, he learned that Lutherans Concerned had been born, the LGBT advocacy group that would grown in size and strength and become the lobbying force that encouraged the ELCA to revise its attitude and policies toward gays and lesbians. Five LGBT Lutherans and three facilitators would have “an impact way out of proportion to their numbers.” Sort of like five fishes and two loaves.
The conservative Lutheran press picked up on the story and lambasted the “Dollars for Disobedience” appropriation. By printing copies of the organizational newsletter, including the subscription form, the conservative publication unwittingly helped to spread the word. Four years later at the first national gathering of Lutherans Concerned, reporter Erickson would reminisce, “We five had our differences, all right, but it started to look like this nestling we’d hatched just might be around for awhile.”
In 1992, Lutherans Concerned established the Jim Siefkes Justice-Maker Award, to recognize superior and tireless efforts of straight allies on behalf of LGBT Lutherans. Siefkes himself was honored with the 2010 Peace and Justice Award from the Hawkinson Foundation. The award honors individuals or couples who have made significant and sustained contributions to peace and justice. Now retired, Siefkes remains in Minneapolis and helped me with background information to the founding of Lutherans Concerned (now ReconcilingWorks).
This is the fifth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:
1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)
1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)
1970-72 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)
1972-77 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)
In 1970, the Episcopal General Convention authorized diaconal ordination for women, a non-sacerdotal role. Two years later, Bishop Paul Moore, Jr., of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, interviewed Ellen Marie Barrett, an early female candidate for ordination to the diaconate.
I asked her to sit down on the sofa across from the wing chair where I usually sit when someone comes to see me. Ellen is tall, with dark brown hair conservatively styled. She, like many tall people, stoops a little as she walks. Her most arresting feature is her eyes, which appear honest, deep, and welcoming … In conversation, she seems rather soft, until the discussion finds its way into an area of faith or conviction. Then you strike rock.
Though the progressive bishop was impressed with Barrett, he did not recommend her for ordination to the diaconate because she was an out lesbian. Barrett attended seminary. When she finished in 1975, she again asked Bishop Moore to approve her for ordination to the diaconate. He relented, and she was ordained a deacon in December, 1975 before a few church ladies, a few students, and her proud Southern mother. The ordination barely disturbed the church mice even though Barrett had been elected co-president of Integrity, an Episcopal LGBT advocacy group, at its inaugural national meeting earlier that year.
The following summer, the Episcopal General Convention went further; church canons were revised to allow women to be ordained to the priesthood, and many lined up for ordination when the policy would become effective in January, 1977. Deacon Barrett was among the hopeful women, but she and Bishop Moore weren’t prepared for the firestorm that awaited them. TV networks were there for her January ordination, which was a Time Magazine feature story.
The bishop and the lesbian priest were hounded mercilessly with calls, letters, and rejection. The last years of the decade of the seventies degenerated into the “height of homophobia” within the Episcopal Church. Barrett didn’t have a comfortable career and faced crushing depression. Eventually, she joined the Order of St. Benedict as Sister Bernadette.
In researching her story, I located her in the Diocese of Newark, and I asked her to comment. Months passed, and I heard nothing. Then, a long email arrived. With Sister Bernadette’s permission, the entire email appears as a poignant coda to the Episcopal section of my book.
Here’s a snippet:
Would I do it again? Knowing what I know now? That’s not a question that can possibly have an answer. Today is a very different time. I have no idea whether God would have moulded my combination of weakness, pig-headedness, and some talent into what another time would need. I was what I was, and I did what I did, in the context of a particular time and socio-political climate.
Am I still convinced it was the right thing to do? Yes. Done the right way by the right person? Who knows? It is what it is. And priesthood is as much a part of me as green eyes and once black hair turning white.
I am a priest forever. That’s all.
This is the fourth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:
1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)
1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)
1970-72 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)
The Christopher Street Liberation Day parade from Greenwich Village to Central Park on June 28, 1970 was peaceful. Though police turned their backs on the marchers, they honored their parade permit.
Across the nation in San Francisco, police were less respectful at a much smaller event that same day, consisting of a couple of hundred queers at a ”Gay In” at Golden Gate park; police arrested several of the participants. San Francisco was years away from its later reputation as an LGBT friendly city.
Five years earlier, on New Year’s eve 1965, San Francisco police had broken promises made to the clergy organizers of a ball sponsored by the Council on Religion and Homosexuality. When police attempted to crash the ball, the word went out to the clergy organizers: “Get down here and wear your collar.” Lutheran pastor Chuck Lewis kept flash bulbs popping, and his assistant, Jo Chadwick, stuffed his film negatives in her bra to prevent the police from confiscating the photos. At a later press conference, clergy offered the “cloak of the cloth” moral authority, and the eyes of the nation witnessed the reality of police harassment of the gay community.
Five months after the arrests at the “Gay In” at Golden Gate Park, another historic event would quietly unfold across the Bay. Sitting atop “Holy Hill,” the neo-Gothic structures of the Pacific School of Religion (PSR) stand in stately vigil over San Francisco Bay across from the Golden Gate bridge. The stone and timber halls of PSR had long witnessed Christian activism. Founded by Yankee congregationalists from the east in 1866, the seminary prided itself on a “courage born of rashness.”
Four hundred students and others attended a homosexuality symposium in the seminary dining hall on November 11, 1970. When someone made an incendiary comment about gays, a young seminarian found himself rising to speak. His spontaneous comment changed his life and the course of church history.
I am not a faggot, I am not a queer, I am not a fairy–but I am a practicing homosexual. And I can say that with joy–it is an affirmation which I make with pride.
Despite his impromptu “coming out” and over the objections of the seminary president, William R. Johnson continued in seminary and the Golden Gate Association of the United Church of Christ (UCC) ordained him to the ministry in June 1972 around the third anniversary of Stonewall. The UCC had accomplished another historic “first”—the first ordination of an out gay man by any traditional Christian denomination.
Thus began a distinguished career as the pastor to countless gay Christians, including many closeted clergy, and as the pan-denominational prophetic leader of the movement toward full inclusion. Rev. Johnson served as inspiration and strategist for the fledgling LGBT advocacy organizations that appeared in Protestant denominations during the 1970s, including as founder and first leader of what came to be known as the UCC Coalition. Later, he served for many years in the UCC home office.
Pastor Johnson has only recently retired. Elmhurst College, his alma mater, has honored him with an annual lecture series in his name. Pastor Johnson has also been a fact-checking source and supporter during my compilation of Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism.
He offers this endorsement of the book:
“I have always known that this historical overview of the religious LGBT movement was needed not only to tell our movement stories to the masses but to make same-gender loving people aware of a significant but often overlooked part of their own history. This is a significant work by justice ally Obie Holmen — a singular contribution toward the full inclusion of LGBT people within Christian community and society. Many will be surprised by the breadth and depth of the movement in the Church.”
On a June summer’s evening in 1969, a gay Catholic priest and his partner heard a disturbance a few blocks away from their Greenwich Village home. It seems a routine police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, had gone awry, and the queers didn’t go quietly. Riots continued for the next couple of days, and the gay liberation movement was born.
A year later, the priest and his partner prepared to participate in a parade to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. A light beamed from the Oscar Wilde bookstore, and as if drawn by a beacon, a few faceless strangers shuffled out of the shadows to gather in awkward silence. By the time the sun first peeked over Brooklyn across the East River, a crowd of hundreds milled about the bookstore that had become the de facto headquarters for the audacious planners of Christopher Street Liberation Day to celebrate the first anniversary of Stonewall. At the time, they didn’t realize they would make history in the first Gay Pride march.
Father Robert Mary Clement, a priest associated with Old Catholicism, a non-Roman spinoff, donned his priestly garb, like he did every Sunday, while his partner prepared a placard and orange flyers that they would distribute at the parade. Father Clement’s presence in the parade garnered much attention, especially by the press and the picture-takers, second only to the drag queens; after all, he marched as an openly-gay priest, in collar and cassock, carrying the banner, “Gay People This Is Your Church.” Meanwhile, his partner distributed their colored fliers inviting queers to attend The Church of the Beloved Disciple.
A few weeks later, the tiny congregation of the Church of the Beloved Disciple paid more than they could afford to rent the spacious sanctuary of Holy Apostles Episcopal church in lower Manhattan, but as the time drew near for the Sunday afternoon service, it appeared that their invitation to the Christopher Street marchers would go unheeded. Father Clement peeked out from the sacristy fifteen minutes before the start and there was no one there, but then:
Two o’clock, we opened the side sacristy door for our procession. We couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t just that every seat in the church was filled, the aisles were packed. That church, which would hold maybe six hundred plus in a squeeze, had over eight hundred people in it, and we don’t know how many people were turned away that day who couldn’t get in.
Because we had all the Protestants, the Orthodox, the Catholics. And on top of it all, you had, the most incredible thing, we had Jewish people, a lot of them. Because they wanted a home. Even though it was Christian, people were seeking God, they were seeking a relationship to the divine, and they would come to us because everyone else had rejected or turned them away. They had nowhere to go. [emphasis added]
In the early years of the decade of the ‘70s, the Church of the Beloved Disciple would be a safe haven for gays and lesbians of lower Manhattan. Father Clement and his partner would later relocate to California where Father Clement became an archbishop for an independent Catholic group, and he has remained active in the interfaith LGBT movement on the west coast.
This brief biographical sketch is merely a snippet, and Father Clement’s story receives greater treatment in Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism.
Queer Clergy recounts the journey toward full LGBT inclusion in the church, and readers will encounter many pilgrims along the way. As we countdown to the release of the book (now looking like the end of November), I will provide brief biographical sketches of some of the wayfarers who criss-cross the pages of the book.
Troy Perry was born to a family of bootleggers in the Florida panhandle, and he exhibited a youthful bent toward preaching. Perry became a Baptist preacher at age 15, married a preacher’s daughter at age 19 with whom he fathered two children, and was assigned as pastor to a Pentecostal Church in Santa Ana, California at age 22. Six years later he attempted suicide after he had been defrocked and divorced, and then life got interesting.
In October 1968, 8 months before the Stonewall riots of Greenwich Village marked the birth of the gay liberation movement, Perry held a worship service in his Los Angeles home for members of his gay community. Twelve persons dared to show up. They sang. They read Scripture. They prayed. Perry preached. They shed tears as they shared bread and wine.
That was the first worship service of what became the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) movement with hundreds of predominantly gay congregations popping up around the country and around the world in what would become the first welcoming church for gays and lesbians at a time that the rest of Christendom, including the mainline, Protestant denominations, remained hostile.
In the early years, the MCC survived several arsonist fires, including a horrendous tragedy in New Orleans that claimed the lives of 32 persons. By the time of Perry’s retirement in 2005, the MCC had grown to over 250 congregations in 26 countries with 43,000 members.
Of course, the book goes into greater detail.
Last week, I read my Queer Clergy manuscript for the umpteenth time. As I tell my wife, sometimes I really like it and other times I think it is fluff. This latest re-reading of the manuscript marked up by Pilgrim Press copy editor, Kris Firth, was positive. Perhaps it was her editorial feedback:
I applaud you on your scholarship, writing, and the scope of the material, but also on the excellent condition of the manuscript. It’s obvious that you have had editorial review prior to submission.
Actually, the MS hadn’t been edited previously, except by me, but I confess to nit-picking scrupulosity. In any case, her suggested edits are now in place, and the “page proofs” will be available for final review soon. Galley copies are in the hands of potential reviewers, and I wait, mindful of my days as a trial attorney, sucking in a long, deep breath as the jury shuffled out of the courtroom to begin deliberations.
How To Make an Important Decision
First, realize that there is Always more than one important thing to consider. There are at least two sides to Every story and each side is as important as the other. A third side could be the one.
It is very good at this point to make a list of pros and cons for the issue. Many times we find there are an equal number on both sides. This is the nature of living. Good things and bad things can come of our decisions and actions. At some point we realize that all is life and life is complicated. Try to keep it simple and you’ll be less inclined to err.
Secondly, make sure you have heard the other viewpoints to the issue. Ask an elder, a professor, and a good friend who has gained your respect and who knows about the issue from experience.
Thirdly, don’t make any decisions in haste or out of pure emotions. Heart, head, and spirit must all go together. If one is missing, something is wrong.
Fourthly, ask yourself, is this the right way to choose before making your final decision.
Fifthly, know that you can always withdraw and change your mind when new information becomes available. Don’t stick to your guns just because you made a decision and refuse to change.
Sixthly, if you have made the right decision, and feel good about it, then by all means stay with that until you have been proven wrong.
And, finally, sometimes if we wait long enough, an issue will resolve itself. No action need be taken by us. The resolution might take place almost immediately, or it might take years. It is up to you, armed with information and several viewpoints to decide when to take action and when to let it ride on the wings of fate. Good luck to you in all your endeavors.
Been gone gathering for awhile, but today I am back with a hot tip for cash strapped college students and for people who like a deal while they get to check out some new music at the same time. Doesn’t hurt that there is a Rolling Stone site attached. Have fun!
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/daily-downloadPowered by GreetingCardUniverse.com
Just about a year from now, we will cast votes for the President, a U.S. Senator, numerous county and city offices, and a new Minnesota legislature. I am announcing my plans to, once again, run for a seat in the Minnesota Senate. This election is not about getting my “old seat back.” This election is about reclaiming a voice for Senate District 25 and all Minnesotans. The current party in power in the Minnesota legislature fails to listen. This past summer’s government shutdown proved they are more concerned about their party platform than the constituents who elected them. I worry about the tone of today’s politics and our basic priorities.
We talk about recession…yet ignore the needy
We talk about test scores…while ignoring educational funding.
We talk about wanting quality health care, yet over 400,000 Minnesotans go without.
We talk about local control, yet we starve our cities and counties.
We talk about Republicans and Democrats yet we forget about Minnesotans
I believe the basics include a job, a quality education, affordable college, a clean and healthy environment, equality for all, and a right to grow old with dignity.
We are facing a critical time in Minnesota. We can no longer allow extreme political agendas to divide us — the success of our state and our communities depends on our ability to find common ground on many critical issues.
We can do this together. When we stop working together… government ceases to work. Again, let’s make Minnesota proud!
I recently finished reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. I recommend it highly to those who want to know more about cancer.
It’s a long and challenging read, but it’s worth it. The main thing I learned: cancer is a many-headed hydra. Each type of cancer is a different disease that requires a different type of treatment.
The rich, the well-connected, the privileged, and the powerful have given themselves the society that they deserve. The rest of us deserve better.
On November 22nd, all of the members of Norcoh met for their second programming meeting. These cards with simple but effective drawings helped express their hopes, dreams, and goals for the neighborhood.
The cohousing design discussion on November 5, 2009, was well-attended and lively conversation sprouted afterward. Attendees included ages from very young to retirement-age, which is a perfect match for our goals for our community.
In February, we will be offering a Community Ed course in four sessions for those who would like more information. Also, stay tuned to this blog for more opportunities to engage!