Thursday, August 16, 2018

Bolivar's Horse



I thought of you two today,
about when you were kids
and we lived on Juan de Vargas Street
in Miraflores. Surrounded by buildings,
we used to cross two busy streets
to get to the Plaza Triangular
where you would run around
or ride your tricycles on the uneven pavement.
A huge statue dominated the plaza,
some Bolivian military hero
--Bolivar perhaps, yes, certainly
it was Bolivar—mounted on an antsy
but stationary stallion. The horse had one hoof
raised, head lifted back, while his master
held the reigns tight, not quite ready
to plunge into battle. The tail was tense,
high in the air. We dared ourselves
to sit on the base of the statue, just under that tail.
We held our breath and waited to see
if any cement turds would fall on our heads.
They never did.
But they could have. They most certainly
could have.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Running from the Witch


When I was eight we lived in Clevenger Canyon
in a forested lot with a dirt driveway.
The wooden house, dusky red,
seemed to grow right out of the forest floor.
It conversed at night with the whispering trees.
As the oldest kid, I got to stay up
one-half hour later than my brother and sister.
That meant at bedtime I had to travel alone
down a long dark hall to reach the bedroom we shared.
Every single night a witch chased me.
Black cape, frazzled hair, wicked grin—she wanted
to get me real bad. So I ran down that endless hall,
tried to quietly open and close the door,
dashed to the bed shedding robe and slippers,
dove in and pulled the covers over my head.
Only then was I safe.
This perilous chase took place every night of the year
we lived in Clevenger Canyon. She never got me. But it was close.
Now, every once in a while, I see the witch
peeking out between racks of clothes at the Goodwill,
slipping among the pews at church, or driving over the speed limit
on the freeway to Springfield. She winks.
I grin back.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Peter explains Minecraft


Here’s a pit of witches, Grandma.
I give them levitation. They float up.
When it wears off they crash down
and die. Dead witches look like squiggles.

When horses levitate and then fall down,
they die. They take full fall damage.
The red flash lets you know.

But when cats levitate and it wears off,
they don’t die. They fall down
but they bounce back.
Cats don’t take fall damage.

Watch me make a pit of cats.
They try to get out. See them yowl and fight.
I’ll take one out, put it on a leash and give
it levitation. It’s a cat balloon!

Now about worlds,
you get to a different world through a portal.
There’s the home world
and then there’s the netherworld.

The netherworld is full of darkness and fire. Scary.
The End is under the netherworld.
It’s floating green islands in the black sky
with dragons.

Isn’t it good, Grandma,
that kittens don’t get hurt.


(From notes on a conversation with Peter, nine-years old)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mexican mariachi in a Bolivian celebration for two Oregonians


The past two weekends we’ve been heavily involved in gatherings of Friends leaders from around the Bolivian yearly meeting. Our history team has been sharing some of the findings of our investigations, especially of the past 28 years. (We talked about earlier periods in previous meetings.)
We’ve all been concerned about the lack of growth of the church. For the first 75 years, the Friends Church here added numerous congregations each decade. But since 1990, we’ve hovered right around 200 congregations. Some of the confusion comes in realizing that while the national missionary movement has added churches in new areas, at the same time an equal number of churches in other areas have closed.
So we’ve been talking about this, analyzing and reflecting, trying to discern causes and figure out how to move into the next 100 years (or at least the next 25 years) in a healthy way. The discussions have been hard, but necessary.
But even with this hard stuff, the Bolivian Friends Church is a celebrating church. And last Saturday afternoon, after a long, exhausting day of wrestling with the issues, we celebrated. Hal loves to visit with people after meetings and we’re usually the last to leave the premises. This time, as we were talking to Palermo and Hipólito, Reynaldo came and told us to hurry down to the fellowship hall for tea before we left. He then took us by the sleeve so we had to accompany him.
As we walked into the large room, a Mexican mariachi band began playing and people opened up a path for us. There in the front of the room was a three-layer cake with the words, “Happy 50th Anniversary, Hal and Nancy!” We were totally surprised. People clapped and yelled and made a lot of good un-Quakerly Latin American noise.
The celebration lasted a while, with everyone lining up to personally give us an abrazo and a blessing. The cake was yummy, the people even better. The band played the whole time. We learned that they were from the Cordillera Quarterly Meeting, a Bolivian Quaker mariachi band!
With all the hard stuff, the church is still the church. Lack of love is not one of the reasons for lack of growth!
(This was the third 50th anniversary celebration we’ve been treated to so far this year by Bolivian Quakers. And our actual anniversary isn’t until August.)

Words of congratulations by Friends president Hector Castro

Friends women bless us

How good to celebrate with friends!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Pizza at Martinni's


What could be more natural
in this high Andean city
with its cobblestone streets,
open-air markets, and cacophony
of languages than pizza
at Martinni’s? Pizza, the ubiquitous
nourishment much modified
from its Mediterranean origins,
accompanied, of course, by another
universal—Coca Cola. This is true
comfort food, reassuring us
that wherever we wander
this spinning globe, in the heart
of things we are at home,
part of the family of man.

We relax into our meal while
Señor Martinni tosses and spins
the circles of dough. Later we walk
up Santa Cruz Street to our apartment.
Above the traffic lights and neon
signs, glitter the invisible
ever-present stars.



Friday, February 2, 2018

Meet our team


We are now on the final stretch of our latest Bolivian adventure, trying to bring the Bolivian Friends history project to a good conclusion. None of this would be possible without our team. We’ve been together five years now, investigating, writing, filming. It will take most of 2018 (and possibly beyond) to come up with the final products of two books (in English for a North American and European audience and in Spanish for Latin America) and one documentary film.
Right now we’re in the tropical city of Santa Cruz, staying with the Tintaya family. David and Arminda are also part of our team. The family has consented to let me tell the story of their family, back four generations, as a summary chapter for the history book. So this last week I’ve been interviewing and writing. It’s inspiring to see the faithfulness of God through the generations.

We’ll head “home” to La Paz on Sunday afternoon and try to wind up this phase of the project. We’ll be spending that time with our team. Let me introduce you.

We celebrated together at Christmas.

Reynaldo Mamani, here with his wife Basilia and daughter Abigail, coordinates the Bolivian team. (Hal is over all coordinator.)

Humberto Gutierrez is chief investigator/writer for the book in Spanish. With him is his wife Petrona and myself (chief investigator/writer for the book in English).

Felix Huarina is our film producer, here with wife Clementina.

David Mamani, here with wife and son, is our technician. He set up the office and keeps the computers running.

Marcos Mamani, here with Elizabeth, is our treasurer and accountant.

Vicki Tazola is our archivist and has done a wonderful job putting the years of national church archives in order. Her daughter, Naomi, sometimes comes to the office to help her.

This is the La Paz team at our apartment, still celebrating.

We're with David and Arminda Tintaya in Santa Cruz, celebrating their 34th anniversary and our 50th.  Our team eats together a lot.

We thank God for these men and women. Together we just might get this task completed!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Still good at 50 years

Hal and I celebrate our 50th anniversary this year. I never really thought I’d be old enough for this event, but here we are. We’ve decided to celebrate all year long, especially on the 23rd of each month. The real date is August 23.
When we became engaged we decided that we’d celebrate each anniversary with a poem. I’d write one for him and he’d write one for me. I still think that’s a wonderful idea. Very romantic. But real life is not always romantic, and if you want to know the truth, Hal owes me 49 poems.
Here’s one I wrote for him, years ago.

EVERLASTING

Long a connoisseur of the commonplace,
I flick cathedrals like lint from my sleeve.
Scholarly tomes slip-slide through the cracks
in my mind, leaving no trace.
Monuments (cheap, plentiful, easy to construct)
I erase from memory without compunction.

But the way you look at me
burrows deep, sequoia thick.
Your slightest touch leaves an indelible mark.

The lights in your voice are forever.