*Afterthought #78 – The Plank in My Own Eye

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Margaret Renkl, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, published a piece just yesterday (July 30) that is a meaningful afterthought to my post, Going Further to Stand With People of Color. Based in Nashville, TN, Renkl writes about flora, fauna, politics, and culture in the American South. In “How to Talk to a Racist,” she references Matthew 7:1-5 with this advice:

So take a breath. When you encounter a person who believes he’s merely honoring his ancestors by driving a car with an image of the Confederate battle flag on the tag, when a Facebook friend announces that it’s disrespectful to take a knee during the national anthem, when you sit down next to someone at the church picnic who genuinely loves and respects the black people they know but who consistently votes for politicians with overtly racist policies, stop for just a moment and take a breath. 

Before you say a single word, think of all the times you made an assumption about a stranger that proved to be untrue. Think of the times you found yourself feeling uneasy in the company of strangers of another race — think about how you were forced to interrogate that uneasiness. Think of the plank in your own eye. 

To begin a real conversation about racism, start there.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that plank in my eye, and I have a lot more to do as I study Fit for Freedom, Not for Justice: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice by Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel. Writers like them and Margaret Renkl are good companions.

 

 

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.

Going Further to Stand with People of Color

A second load of laundry is on the line after emptying suitcases last night.  I had unpacked slowly, thinking about the four-day gathering with Friends (Quakers) we had just returned from. This year’s North Pacific Yearly Meeting at the University of Puget Sound focused on racism and featured Vanessa Julye , the coordinator of the Ministry on Racism at Friends General Conference.

Vanessa has written extensively about her journey toward eliminating racism in the Religious Society of Friends. In this short video from QuakerSpeak, she talks about Quakers and Racism.

Vanessa is also co-author, with Donna McDaniel, of Fit for Freedom, Not for Justice: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice.fff cover

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I’m still digesting all that Vanessa presented and that we all shared with each other in response to this query:

How can we European-American Quakers go further in standing with all people of color and in sharing the power that has been part of white privilege?

Conversations about the ways European-Americans have benefited from white privilege and white supremacy were tough for me. I need to consider what I heard and to take a close look at how I’m complicit in racism. In the coming weeks, I’ll strive to take more steps to stand with people of color.

Biking Naked (Not)

It had been a long time since I’d let out a “Woohoo!” while riding a bike. But fifteen years ago, that’s the word that escaped the first time a friend’s electric bike gently boosted my pedaling up my gravel lane. Ever since then, I’ve been breezing through headwinds and up hills on my own electric hybrid bicycle, inhaling the sweet smell of lilacs and manure as I sail past grazing sheep and cows on my way to town. Although Lopez is known as “the flat island” and “the biking island,” it still has plenty of hills to tax my aging knees and lower back.

My first e-bike, an artic blue Merida Powercycle, had a 24-volt lead-acid battery pack. That kind of power meant the energy most people expend to walk briskly will propel a bicycle 13 miles per hour on level ground. And with such a crank-drive bike, you only need moderate pedaling to get up hills that even a serious cyclist might push a standard bike up. Or, as a friend who recently received an electric bike for her birthday says, “It’s like having an angel at your back pushing you up a hill.”

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My IZIP, Penny, loaded with groceries

A few years ago, after many miles of riding—and replacing two batteries—I decided to upgrade to an IZIP Trekking electric bike. This pedal-assist model is powered by a 24-volt Lithium-ion battery integrated in the copper-penny frame with its specifically-designed down tube. The IZIP a bit lighter weight than the Merida, and it gives me that same angelic nudge when the road upslopes. Sorry, IZIP no longer makes the Trekking version, but their newer models offer the latest advances in e-bike technology.

And no, I don’t bike naked.

But I do feel some of that metaphoric exposure I describe in my memoir, Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance. For one, I’m free of the steel shell of my Subaru that blocks the scent of Nootka roses, temperatures that warm or cool my skin, and the brush of wind on nose and lips. Even when rain dots my glasses, I relish the tactile encounter with the elements. More importantly, though, my pedaling and panting stimulate thoughts and ideas. Sometimes the bike leads me through uncertainties and questions that perplex; other times, the combination of exertion and sensory input opens me to insights, clarity, and calm.

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Penny’s down tube holds the battery – and wise words

I could use some of that inspiration when a bystander shouts as I pedal past, “Hey, that’s cheating!”

I’m searching for a quick comeback like the one I’ve developed in response to questions I frequently hear when talking about my book:

“Did you really hike naked?” My husband did.

“Isn’t that painful?” He says it’s not.

“Are there pictures?” No (but there’s one in this post).

My simple reply is, “It’s MOSTLY a metaphor.”

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As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing dishonest about that “angel” at my back when I turn into a headwind or approach an incline. As I sail past the snarky commenter, I’d like to smile and let my jet stream hold a few words that set the record straight.

How would you respond? Any suggestions are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Afterthought #77—Ferry Haiku

My “thing for ferries” surged again this month when the Summer 2018 Washington State Ferries Schedule arrived on the vessels (and online). The state agency frequently sponsors contests for artwork on the schedule cover, and the 2018 search was for a haiku. This short, Japanese verse form is ideal for the space on the schedule cover, and I was delighted there would be such a poem this year. With a print run of over 985,000 schedules, selected art is seen by loads of people.

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 12.33.29 PMThis wasn’t a typical writing competition, though. Entrants were to post submissions to @wsferries on Twitter so they could be reviewed by Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna. She narrowed the field to three submissions; the final selection was made via Twitter, #WSFHaiku.

The talented winner? Lisa Salisbury from Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA.

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Claudia Castro Luna (l) and Lisa Salisbury (r) – admiring a “large print” schedule

The dramatic black-and-white photo on the cover, taken by Douglas Treuting, is of Wasp Passage off Shaw Island.

 

 

Lisa SalisburyI had the pleasure of meeting Lisa at the recent Chuckanut Writers Conference and to congratulate her in person. She’s a Friday Harbor School librarian with over twenty years of experience in education. And clearly, she’s a fine poet, too. I told Lisa about my upcoming stint as Writer-in-Residence on the Interisland Ferry, and I can imagine some collaboration with her in the future. I’m sure we’ll talk about it when we schedule a time to get together—on the ferry!

Congratulations Lisa and Douglas, and thanks, Washington State Ferries.

 

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.