Live blogging from Lake Vermillion…
Autumn’s brush long dry
Warm Winter’s canvas still brown
Spring don’t miss your cue
You already know today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This day always makes me both proud and saddened. Proud that my country celebrates the life and impact of an all time hero of humanity. A man made larger than life as the courageous leader, symbol and martyr of a movement of love and justice. He was an architect, with so many others, of a new system being born while helping an old one into hospice. A person all of us can look up to and be thankful for, no matter what color or creed or culture we call our own today.
It also bubbles up emotions of dark and sadness thinking about the prejudices and hate that were real in Dr. King’s time, before him, and still today in too many ways. It always gets me reflecting on my own prejudices and blinders that are part of me and the way I see the world through the filter of my own worldview and mental models. And, I suppose that is the immortal nature of Dr. King’s message and life–to continually question and challenge my own ways of seeing and being with others in this world.
I had the privilege of meeting and spending some time with the Executive Architect of the recently opened Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial this past October. Dr. Ed Jackson came to Sioux Falls to give the opening keynote at a convention for South Dakota architects that I had organized. How he got there was interesting: I heard him as a guest of Melissa Block on NPR’s All Things Considered (listen to the interview here), defending a design decision that paraphrased a quote from Dr. King instead of carving it verbatim on the memorial’s granite. Something about his demeanor grabbed me, and I thought he might be able to share an architect’s perspective on honoring a national hero in a way that no one else could. So, I googled his name, found a phone number in Washington, DC, and dialed… And he answered! He was so gracious, and said yes to my proposal right there on the phone.
The fact that Dr. Jackson kept his commitment to speak at our little event was remarkable, since that following weekend was the Dedication Ceremony for the new memorial! I enjoyed spending a little time with Jackson, and even walked around Falls Park with him for 15 minutes on our way to the airport. The paraphrased quote issue hasn’t gone away, and in fact the feds have now required it to be changed, somehow. As Ed laid out in his keynote that October afternoon, the decision was not a quick or lite one. It came after consideration and consulting with historians, advisors and Dr. King’s family. His dedication to making this project real–a twenty-plus year effort–is very inspiring. And his bold design decisions are too. Thanks Ed, for influencing me and for building a new landmark to honor a true hero. Congratulations on a masterpiece. I so look forward to walking through the memorial grounds with you for a tour as soon as I get to DC.
You might not know that today is also Marcella Bartmann Day. It’s Grandma’s birthday, and there is no bigger hero in my life. It’s about time I let her know.
I think a big part of what makes someone a hero is the things they practice and what in their being is something you want to be. Probably no one outside her family or friends thinks of Grandma as a hero, but for those of us with her in our life, it’s no question. She’s one of those subtle, solid and grounded heroes. She’s a rock. I love you so much.
She Said it Without Words Be quiet courage and strength, day after day after day. Care for their messes of all kind, prepare the food that gathers them, lead by being love, not loud. Deepen faith, in god and each other. Make it your constant practice. And question it all with power and grace, stand up to find real meaning in ideas and relationships. Live concrete in values, and open yourself to what is different. Seek out the meek and ragged, hold them like they are yours. Be the glue for those you love, and the conscience in the room. Give selflessly so they may find joy or peace, Make music of your sorrows. Find pride in humility, and rugged work. Know the impossible isn't, and the worst lives somewhere else. Make these prayers of contentment and gratitude: the dishes, the clothesline, the muddy floor. Enjoy the art of staying put, and believe in letting go. Watch over the land and lives, as a trusted steward and gardener. Know that what nourishes is scarce, what's beautiful is temporary, and all is becoming something else. Love.
So this is the somewhat cheesy but seemingly mandatory reflection on the year that was. Hey 2011, you got me good. Nice one.
It was a year of upside down in many ways for me. A few, I’ll share. Most, I won’t. You’ll just have to trust me.
The Big Job. To start things off right, I took a real job after pledging I’d never do that again. It was a compelling recruitment, and seemed like an interesting idea at the time. One of those that would later cause Grandma to ask why I always try to do the impossible stuff. A question I’m not sure I can answer. I went from my two years of staying home at night with my family and doing meaningful work that got me jacked up every day to 70+ hours a week of hard, grinding, over my head kind of work. I worked harder and gave more of myself to that project than I ever knew I could. And we opened the shiny new Maroney Commons in August–a super green conference and training center, hotel, restaurant and bar on Main Street in a tiny rural town. Meant to be a beacon of hope and possibility for rural communities and a training ground for people intent on turning their own small towns around, it’s far fetched, too expensive, and amazing. You can watch the grand opening here if you want to, including some tears from me. It’s over an hour long, so skip to the good parts (especially Linda Parry at the end of the event).
I must have accomplished something important, since I am now able to add “communist” and “fascist” to the list of adjectives associated with my name in South Dakota publications over the years. (My favorite is still “that rat from over east.”)
The short of what happened after that is: one day along the way, on the day after Halloween, the other leaders of the organization and I parted ways. I’ll leave the other details out, and just say that I still believe from deep in my heart in the true mission of the Rural Learning Center. It’s an organization and a place that have my handprints as part of its being, along with so many others. I wish I could have seen it through. And so many awesome things are cracking open since it ended for me. I cannot explain my gratitude in the humbling experience of so many friends pouring out support, encouragement and love in the wake of November 1. More to come on the present and future of my work in another post.
Blessings. Some things that turned upside down were really wonderful. I’m so proud of my wife for becoming a full time Mommy this past Summer. It means budgets are tighter and our house is a thousand times happier. And by full time I mean caring for kids, husband and house (and Grandparents) while starting two home businesses. Jaimie has taken to selling fun stuff, so check out Just Jewelry and take the Body by Vi Challenge. Start today; Jaim is one hot mamma thanks at least in part to this stuff.
Those four little monsters running around our house at high decibel levels are major blessings too. They remind me of it every day. Even when I want to say bad words or throw things. I’m still training to be an amazing Dad, and I think I got out of the blocks pretty slow. But I feel a major kick coming in the stretch run of raising our girls. I can’t begin to describe their amazingness. They become the source of every emotion in a colorful spectrum, and that’s just on Tuesdays. I love them to the moon. And back.
It’s upside down how old they are getting, which means how old I am getting. I guess that’s what we’re supposed to do, get old. And we’ve hit one major milestone in becoming old parents–Hope had her first nighttime, longer than 15 minutes, real babysitting gig at our house in the last few hours of 2011 (yes, we ended an 8 year retirement from going out on New Years Eve). As Braveheart and thousands of Dave Ramsey disciples have yelled, “Freeeedoooommmmm!”
A Tiny Smattering of 2011 Poems. I don’t know why I share these sometimes. But I do. A peek through the window at how I talk to god.
poems: (inspired by the Black Keys, and bourbon) sun where there is none moving stillness under night everlasting light Walk About I walk, with slow wonder. A sacred prayer of movement in silence. Quiet the mind and body to awaken. I walk, not to see or find or take. No summit or destination. No seeking, only opening. I walk to listen. To tune this instrument of self. To melt into oneness with even the mosquitos. I walk to be awake. To lose communication, and be in communion. I walk alone, and with all humanity and life. Lenses Clarity of focus, but always in the way. A smudge, a spec, a reflection distorts the clear view of reality. Helpful perspective, and so nice to take them off.
Football. By the way, all you Tebow worshipers out there (yes you Josh): there really is no need to remind me how upside down a year it was to be a Minnesota Vikings fan, ok?
I’ve missed you. Almost a year ago I took on the biggest work challenge of my life, and the 70 hour weeks didn’t leave me much time for sharing unfiltered stories from our lives here in the village. More truthfully, working that hard and stressing that much squeezed all the creativeness right out of me most days. And the few days it didn’t, my creative outlet was secret poems and advice in my “give-to-my-kids-some-day-when-they’ll-think-it’s-neat” journals.
I haven’t had that job now for two months (more on that later). I’ve been throwing everything into creating new work (more on that later too). But hey, here I am now.
Please forgive me. I hope you’ll start reading again. What have you been up to since I started my bartblog sabbatical?