Father’s Day or Juneteenth?
June 19, 2022
Father’s Day stirs mixed emotions.
On the one hand, I love being a father and always had. I became one quite early – I was only 20 when Elliott was born. I have loved every phase of fatherhood. Today, I have four living children and one with God. I’m grateful for all of them. Their personalities and life trajectories are quite different from one another, but I am proud of all of them. I love it when they call me. I love their expressions of love. I love who they are.
I honor my son Josh, who is probably the best father I’ve ever met. I hope his kids recognize that.
I also honor my own father, now passed these many years. He gave me unique gifts and insights. He was a Naval officer in WW2, an oceanographer, a marine ecologist, a university administrator, a skilled artist and woodworker/furniture maker, widely read, deeply educated, and good at most everything he did, from coaching baseball to gardening to building radios. He was quiet, introverted and deep. I miss him.
I’m also very aware of the many people who had absent, abusive, neglectful, emotionally distant, or disconnected fathers. I realize that Father’s Day is painful for them, that it stirs up horrible memories in some cases and inflicts deep pain.
So, this year, instead of Father’s Day, I celebrate a more worthy holiday – Juneteenth, African American Emancipation Day.
Slave owners in Texas chose to ignore President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863. Slaves in Texas had no idea that they were free until Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston on June 19, 1865 with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
General Granger issued “Order No. 3,” which read in part: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
President Biden made Juneteenth an official federal holiday on June 17, 2021 when he signed a bill Congress passed the previous day.
Between 1525 and 1866, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America depriving the African continent of some of its healthiest and ablest people.
Slavery began in this country in 1619 when a privateer ship called The White Lion landed at the Jamestown Colony with 20 enslaved Africans. Throughout the 17th, 18th, and half of the 19th centuries, people stolen from Africa were forced to work land, much of which was stolen from Indigenous people.
Enslaved women were frequently raped; obedience was rewarded, and even perceived rebelliousness was brutally punished. A strict hierarchy among the enslaved (from privileged house workers and skilled artisans down to lowly field hands) helped keep slaves divided and less likely to organize against their masters.
Marriages between enslaved men and women had no legal basis, but many did marry and raise large families. Most owners of enslaved workers encouraged this practice because it added to their wealth. Many did not hesitate to divide families by sale or removal, however.
After emancipation, Jim Crow, black codes, red-lining, convict leasing, “war on drugs,” mass incarceration, and unabated white supremacy have prolonged oppression and inequality. No follower of Jesus can ignore that.
Yet, in spite of slavery, oppression, inequality, and racism, African Americans have given us a wealth of art, music, culture, inventions, and achievements. Most importantly, they have gifted us all with a deep spirituality and dedication to truly following the ways of Jesus. My African American friends are gifts from God to me. People like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others, are gifts to humanity.
All of us would do well to learn from them.
From Africa’s heart, we rose
Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose
Survive we must, we did,
We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose
To become the knowledge we never knew,
Dream, we did
Act we must
What if you slept?
And what if,
In your sleep
And what if,
In your dream,
You went to Heaven
And there plucked
A strange and
And what if,
When you awoke,
You had the flower
In your hand?
Ah … what then?
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Where does the soft cloud go when it dissipates into mist?
And where does the mist go after it falls on the leaf?
A photosynthesizing factory played out, the dried leaf falls,
Decayed now to soil, what great trees will it nourish before it washes to the sea?
Trees honed into ribs and planks, shaped into the hull of
The sloop that is sailing
– to where?
Coves and ports until swallowed by winds and storms
That came from the hurricane,
But where does the tempest go?
Is it, perhaps, reincarnated as a soft cloud?
Posthumous praise means nothing to the sailor
Now these many years dead in the sand
Soft white clouds drifting over his bones.
LRT June 2022
The shoreline was covered with strange azure shells
Cast off by unknown creatures from a by-gone era
Which once thrived on reefs blanched into oblivion
By daunting forces unknown to Neptunus Rex
It was an age of cherubim swords and chariots of fire
An age of Houyhnhnms, Unicorns, and Pterodactyls
When the gods walked in gardens at dusk
And silver fragrances wafted towards golden peaks
It was a time when planets resonated in harmony,
The music of the spheres echoing
Across time and space warping into
Surreal improvised melodies
And the elder sat conversing with the eagle
While treefrogs and wrens sang together
On branches of mulberry trees laden with blossoms
And waves rhythmically pulsated with serenity
It was a time of thin places and sincere seekers
Of flaming wheels and rainbow flashes
A time when archangels bowed in humility
As colossal sequoias shared their wisdom
A time long ago when in perfect harmony
All creation heard the reverberation of
I AM THAT I AM
LRT June 2022
Blanketed by cool grey fog mist, a
Throbbing diesel engine driving the
Slowly rotating screws of a
Tug boat more heard than seen
Chugging towards the dredging barge
Undertaking the otiose Sisyphus task
Of navigability, against the wishes of
Artemis and Demeter who
Always and forever win
A gnarled cottonwood tree stands
Sentinel in the sand lifting its few
Remaining branches aloft in salute to
Ring-billed gulls circling above
Directing one another to schools of
Salmon coming to spawn and die
In the temporarily navigable channel
Connecting lake with lake and
Coastline with coxswain
Blue-grey gnatcatcher and warbling vireo
Mingle songs of gentle kindness in eelgrass dunes
Where deer graze and opossums feast on
Disease-laden ticks hunting like Klansmen for blood
While fascist politicians driven by racist ideology
Affix their parasitical jaws into democracy to
The applause of gun-toting triumphalists
Waving flags of oppression over those of color
While ostensively exalting the Prince of Peace
And thus the web was broken and the strings of
Time reverberated in dissonance out of
Tune with the resonating symphony of the planets
That sing in harmonious adoration of Mystery.
Eric Garner and Gaia alike cry for breath,
Choking on the greed of those more concerned with
The unborn than with living children scratching for
Food in landfills as their huts wash to the sea
Parents soon to perish with dysentery
Nurses and nuns, aid workers and missionaries,
Médecins Sans Frontières, chaplains and deacons,
A kind old lady, the gentleman on the bench,
The one stricken with Multiple Sclerosis,
Salesperson and homemaker, landscaper and sanitation worker,
Quietly connect with Mystery, join the hymn of the cosmos,
Lift their lives in prayer, gird their loins, and wash feet.
The army of God knows no weapon but prayer, service, and
Nonviolent cruciform love.
Relentless, scandalous and slow
Divine love melts hearts of stone
Allowing the sweet honey of grace to
Flow across the blighted waters and lands
Thy will is done
Thy Kingdom comes
As in heaven
So on earth
Omnia Vincit Amor
LRT May 2022
The sun rose with gentle enthusiasm after several days of cold rain,
Blowing away gray overcast skies with its golden red glow
Awakening the terns, ducks, gulls, warblers, and cormorants
Beckoning watery sheets to rise and join the skies
And there, as is so often the case, in stillness, while
Campers watch television in million-dollar full-service rigs
Safely isolated from the very nature they profess to love
And the madness of reactionary politics fades (albeit briefly)
From the mind, clearing space for memories to surface –
Memories of childhood sails, the taste of salt, of days
Becalmed and of days pitching in great storms
Sails reefed, hiking from the gunnel, sheets
Burning hands raw to be kissed with sting of health
By Salty Sea, which, eons ago joined in
Holy matrimony with Stardust to birth the very
Humans who, filled with prejudice and greed,
Threaten the planet’s ability to sustain life.
In the peaceful sands and waving eel-grass
It is hard to remember the wars, executions, pandemics,
Gun violence – injustices that grieve the heart of divine love;
Each rusty call of a red-wing blackbird and
Every lap of wave spraying its foam aloft
Is a reminder that Love is the axis of the cosmos
And Babylon will fall to make room for a Bride and her Groom
In the Garden City of Peace
Yet Another Mass Shooting
May 25, 2022
Softly, drifting northward along the lake shore
Wispy whites and greys waved to by
The cottonwood with its arms lifted to the heavens
As glistening drops of passing rain dot the windows
And cool breezes lift waves lapping the beach
In anticipation of a time when all manner of things shall be well,
No one will study war any longer, swords to ploughshares,
Spears to pruning hooks, scrapping of ships, banning of bombs,
And Americans will care more about children than guns
Alas, alas! Hear their cry!
The blood of the innocent
Runs in rivers through the land
Babies in classrooms
Shoppers in stores
Students on campus
Elderly Baptists in prayer
Enslaved children sold
Wars based on lies
Just another poor boy
Choaking on pollution
While the rich get richer
And the populace bows and
Worships it’s gun-god
Wind and rain
Waves and salmon
Ring-billed gulls and snow geese
Redstart and warbling vireo
Trees and grasses, dunes and mountains
Valleys and canyons, dippers in streams
Join the heart cries of the bereaved
Two strikes against her when she began
Life as a Black child in poverty
Air filled with mercury from the nearby power plant
Burning coal, destroying the world and her brain
Daddy shot and killed with impunity by a White cop
Because his old car had a taillight out and daddy
Didn’t show proper deference
Momma overwhelmed drowned her sorrows in
Alcohol and forgot she was a mother
Baby girl so hungry she ate the lead-based paint chips
Peeling off the slumlord’s windowsill,
Cries unheeded while rats chewed off her outer ear
Brain damaged, body damaged, soul damaged,
They mocked her and called her stupid in school
Teachers said she could never learn
Destined for addiction, prostitution, abuse
Until Another came, skin black as night
Eyes shining like the stars
Breasts full of milk
Heart full of love
Temperament characterized by patience
She loved her, nursed her, sang to her, rocked her,
Soothed her, taught her, bathed her, dressed her,
And prayed over her speaking words of tender life
Until poor little Black girl became the
Mayor of the magical city of love
Warm milk of mercy
Graces the soft breast of
Mother-God as she
Suckles the abandoned and
Binds the heart wounds
No balm in Gilead, but
Healing unguent aplenty
Radiates from her soft touch
As gentle voice speaks to
Name the nameless
Frescos and façades crumble
To the wails of “Death! Death!”
Screeched from the throats of
Those who forgot themselves
In order to fit in
Yet there beneath the masks
Beats the trembling heart of an
Infant whose only desire is to be
Loved as he is, for he cannot
Rocking chair softly squeaks
Divine lullaby pure and clear
Fills the air as warm milk
Flows from the breasts of
Perfect pure love
And at last,
All is well