Barricaded

By Dick Gillett

As I stepped outside my front door last week, anticipating a delicious macchiato at Herkimer Coffee on Phinney Ridge, I was unexpectedly confronted by a barricade. About five or six feet across, it stretched across the handrails in front of me, its multiple strands caught by the morning sun. At its center was a spider, only half as big as the head of a pencil eraser—the architect and engineer.

My wife, ever-admiring of the skill and determination of spiders, was close by and counseled me to leave the spider’s work intact and go out by the back door. I scoffed at her suggestion and crashed through the barrier, the tiny spider sinking to the ground as its net fell.

At Herkimer, I made a full report of this incident to Chad, one of the baristas that I’ve known the longest. He heard me unsympathetically and scoffed at my accomplishment: “Greatest Generation, indeed!” he said.

I scoffed . . . and crashed through the barrier, the tiny spider sinking to the ground as its net fell.

Kelly, the other barista on duty, heard my story and made a face. She related that as a young girl a spider had been trapped in her ear, and later had been bitten by a spider. Little sympathy there, either.

A harmless incident, not worth the telling? Perhaps. Yet as we encounter more and more spider webs these summer months, both my wife and I continue to be astounded by how these tiny arachnids accomplish such immense engineering marvels, the materials for which emerge from their own bodies. Think of their ambition! Even more, ponder their willingness to get up and try again after going down with their creations. Are these lessons worth pondering in our complex and confounding world?

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Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village, a retired Episcopal priest, and a regular contributor to our blog. His many articles include ““Generation Nice” at Herkimer Coffee”, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”,  and “Cell Phones, Conversations, and the Common Good”.

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Back to the Future

(Photograph by Horace Warner-Spitalfields Life)

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Back to let them eat cake
to Oliver wants more
to orphans, hair shorn, lined up, plates out.
to the Dickensian streets
to children lining the tracks, picking up bits of coal,
swallowing down road kill rejected by dogs
—while Oliver slaves in the blacking factory
and Tiny Tim does die for lack of a doctor’s care.
Back to Scrooge, who never went away,
to child labor in the coal mines or coal factories
out of Blake’s dark satanic mills.
Back to typhoid and tuberculosis.
When all the owners care about is cost, people die.

Out of the mist, the fog and soot—
comes the pauper, the chimney sweep, the starveling—
with hungry eyes and dirty fingers,
pressed against the glass of the restaurant window
where you are eating your Christmas turkey.

Back to the return of charity,
of the sanctimonious charity of the wealthy—
like the dimes Henry Ford scattered to the crowd.
And who but Scrooge denies heat to the freezing,
aid to the famished and rest to the tired?

Back to that heartless century, in a soulless city.
To the workhouse with its iron gates,
To smokestacks against the sky
Back to those dank, back alleys where we have taken a journey
to a time and place that are becoming more familiar to us each day
for soon the brown air of London will be ours too.

·     ·     ·

This poem is from a collection called “Foreclosure”, written about collateral damage caused by the Recession of 2008 and it unfortunately appears to be even more relevant today.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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A Mother’s Day Vigil

mothers-day-vigil-2017

Ninth Annual Mother’s Day Vigil at the Northwest Detention Center

By Teresa Burciaga & Dick Gillett

Dick and Teresa’s original article was published in the newsletter of Seattle’s St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the PNA. Please feel free to comment and join the conversation.  

On Saturday, May 13, more than 100 people gathered in Tacoma’s shabby industrial area, alongside the barbed wire-topped chain link fence surrounding a starkly nondescript prison: the Northwest Detention Center. After the crowd had laid down a mound of Mother’s Day bouquets near the fence, a Latino group played music and we prayed and chanted, hoping the prisoners inside would hear us and take heart. “No, No, No Basta Rezar,” the group sang, and we responded (No, it is not enough to pray).

We were gathered at the behest of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, and the Washington Community Action Network. This was the 9th Annual Mother’s Day Vigil at the prison. The Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma is owned by the GEO Group, one of the largest security firms in the world—the same corporation that runs Guantanamo Bay.  It is the nation’s second largest for-profit prison operator, with a capacity for more than 1500 persons at the Tacoma facility.

“They are mothers and fathers who have lived alongside us. They are our neighbors.”

Emboldened by new policies under the current administration, the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency has stepped up raids. These sweeps include men and women who have no criminal record— mothers and fathers who have held jobs for over 20 years; who have American-born children—that are being detained and deported. Civil rights don’t extend to these immigrants being held at the Northwest Detention Center. They can be held there indefinitely.

“They are mothers and fathers who have lived alongside us,” stated Teresa Burciaga. “They are our neighbors. Their children go to school alongside ours. They hold jobs, sometimes as many as three to make a living—and pay Social Security and Medicare tax. They shop at our supermarkets and stores and pay sales tax. They are good, law-abiding people. Now their lives are in jeopardy.”

There were testimonies at the Vigil. One young mother spoke of her hope for a better life for herself and her family. Another mother, a United Methodist lay woman, told us she was there to remember and pray for her son, two years after he was deported to Mexico. Many immigrants come to this country to escape chronic poverty, criminal violence and government corruption. The prayerful community gathered at the Vigil stood in solidarity for love, justice and compassion. As their signs proclaimed, “Love has no borders, ” and “No one is free when other people are oppressed.”

We have an opportunity now to stand up for them and create more sanctuary cities and states. And we’ve recently learned that St. Mark’s Cathedral is proceeding to become a sanctuary church. Meanwhile, we in the faith communities might work to eventually close down this private prison, the Northwest Detention Center.

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Author (Rev. Canon) Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village, a retired Episcopal priest, and a regular contributor to our PNA Village Connections blog. His many previous articles include, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”“”Generation Nice’ at Herkimer Coffee”, and “Johnny Cash & Global Warming.”

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Bella

Bella Abzug

By Marilyn Zuckerman

With her megaphone voice
threatening war
if there is not peace,
shouting a president
into banning above
ground bomb tests,
a Medusa of the vocal cords
a Minerva of pacifism
a postmodern Cassandra
cobbled together from an immigrant stew
and a New York mouth,
she stands before Senator Jake Javits
surrounded by cohorts of Amazons
in her bright red
lacquered straw hat
the light shards reflecting off it
dazzled straight into the eyes
of her antagonist
so he, unable to return the lightning
of hers,
ducks his head to scrape gunk
off his shoes.
Shame, she yells,
Think of all the children you are killing.
Outside a policeman on horseback asks,
Why don’t you women go home
take care of your kids
make dinner for the husband?

Once, lying on a bed at the Chelsea hotel,
I heard her voice over the strident traffic
shrieking, No More War!
loud enough for the pledge
to go echoing down 23rd St
cross the Hudson
and settle into the stones
of the Palisades
on the Jersey side.

·     ·     ·

Bella Abzug (1920/1998) was a leading feminist and anti-war activist who helped organize Women Strike for Peace during the Vietnam War. Abzug became a U.S. Congressperson from New York in 1971. In the poem, when she confronts Senator Javits, I was there and was with her when we were trying to get Senator Robert Kennedy nominated for President of the United States and hoped, as well, to end the Vietnam War and thus bring the veterans home.

From my book, In The Ninth Decade, from Red Dragonfly Press.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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Whale watching: San Juan Islands

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Moving slowly through the natural world,
trying to remember everything before it goes.
We count pelagic cormorants, auks, murres—
migrant seabirds down from Alaska for the summer,
watch the cormorant nursery, arranged along shelves
of a gently swinging bell buoy,
bald eagles lined up along crags
on the opposite shore.
Young auklets—swimming like amateurs—
divide, as we plow through them
and there are dolphins,
But not the killer whales
we’ve come to see.

From the tour boat,
video cameras scan the shore,
trying to get it all down—
the San Juan Islands,
Mt. Baker, Mt Rainer—
a polluted haze swirls around the summit
of the scalped mountain behind them
like a scarf covering
the hairless head of a cancer patient.
The scientist on board says
he doubts the same cataclysmic event,
creating the same bacterial scum
that become us and our whole world,
will ever happen again.

·       ·       ·

When I first wrote this poem, I had just moved from Boston to the Northwest and fell in love with its natural treasures—eagles barely saved from extinction, Puget Sound, the mountains, its forests, and the wonderful stock of wildlife.

Now as spring approaches after the long monsoon- like weather, leaving us in the rain and the dark, I am beside myself with happiness and sorrow wondering if we can keep this
Shangri-La and for how long?

The last lines of the poem speak of what that loss would mean to our children and grandchildren. Dedicated to Earth Day, everyday.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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When Did We See You a Stranger?

fall-2016-houseofhank-me

By Dick Gillett

Angelina (not her real name) has been cleaning our house in Green Lake regularly for almost ten years. Last Tuesday morning—November 15—when I greeted her at the door, she responded with her accustomed cheerful smile and greeting. Although she easily speaks English, we spoke in Spanish, a language I grew up with in my native El Paso.

I asked immediately how she was adjusting to the election results. She put on a brave face, but then teared up. “ We have done a lot of crying,” she admitted. Angelina and her husband are from Mexico, and are undocumented. Their daughters, aged 14 and 11, were born here and thus are U.S. citizens. Her husband is disabled and cannot work.
She said that as the election results became clear, she began to feel ill, and went to bed. Her children started crying and became terrified, but Angelina reassured them: “No nos van a matar,” she said. “They won’t kill us.” Such is the level of fright in our community, especially among children, as a result of the 2016 election vitriol.

“No nos van a matar,” she said. “They won’t kill us.”

Angelina spoke of a neighbor’s anguish after the election. This neighbor’s work ran later than usual that day. Her school-age son, accustomed to letting himself in the house after school, started fearing his Mom had been picked up. Terrified, he went to a neighbor’s house. The neighbors, American citizens, took him in. His mother arrived to find her son gone, and likewise panicked. Finally she located him at the neighbor’s house.

Angelina is an independent contractor whose work must support her whole family.
“I keep good work records, and I am proud to pay taxes,” she told my wife Anne in English. She worked early on to learn English, and her children go to an all-English school, although she speaks Spanish to them at home. It’s clear that a week after the election, Angelina remains deeply shaken.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” responds Jesus lovingly to the righteous who had seemed to doubt their own faith (Matthew 25:36). In these last days, we in the churches have been given the mission of giving thanks for, and welcoming, all the Angelinas and those like her and her family—immigrants, Muslims, people of color, native Americans, LGBTQ people—who make up the human family.

Can we take it on?

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Author (Rev. Canon) Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village, a retired Episcopal priest, and a regular contributor to our PNA Village Connections blog. His many previous articles include, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”“”Generation Nice’ at Herkimer Coffee”, and “Johnny Cash & Global Warming.”

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84th Birthday, redux

84th Birthday Redux| ©2016 HouseofHank.me

By Marilyn Zuckerman

for those who still love peace and seek it

After all these years
of hoping that things will get better—
so this poem is for every child gunned down,
blown up as they walk down in the streets of their villages,
in Mexico
in Sudan
in the Congo and cities in America—
for every child who goes to bed hungry
for the homeless abroad and in the U.S.A.
for the victims of border wars and those kidnapped by drug
lords or pirates,
renditioned by the state itself
for those sent overseas and those who come back damaged
for the elderly, who now must work until they die
for all the species of birds, animals and plants that will become
extinct in a new, Great Dying
for cities slowly drowned by the rising seas, from glacier melt
and bad levees
for the millions of refugees on the road and in camps that barely
keep alive
for those living in failed states, trying to lead lives of quiet
decency
for the dying of the earth and the terror of nuclear disaster
for those who still love peace and seek it
For those who tell the truth and are murdered for it.

·       ·       ·

This poem was written 8 years ago. Tragically things have not gotten better. Events in Syria and Yemen have deteriorated as in many other places. Many people are worse off than before. The question is: what are we going to do about it?

From my book, In The Ninth Decade, from Red Dragonfly Press. Also published in the anthology, Perfect Dragonfly, from Red Dragonfly Press.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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A Place to Share and be Heard

PNA Village writing group

By Alyssa McFarland

If you write—stories, memoirs, poems, haiku, what-have-you—and would like an audience to hear you read your writing out loud, there’s a group for that: the PNA Village Writing Group.

Carol Beach started the group in early 2015. She recalls, “After joining the PNA Village I felt a need to reach deeper into myself and pull out some life stories making them into poems, memoirs, and short stories. So I started the Village Writing Group and found that others felt the same way—a place to share and be heard.

“I think that we all need a space that allows us to explore what we think and feel…”

Typically, members go around the table taking turns reading something they’ve written. There’s no requirement that the work be new…some have read work that is decades old! You can ask for feedback if you would like it, but it’s not a critique group: it’s writers supporting other writers.

Wilma Bishop has shared some memoirs with the group, like the story of her first ride in a hot air balloon. She had previously been part of a memoir writing group that dissolved, and is hoping the PNA Village Writing Group will be just as rewarding.

Terry Cook has been sharing a serial story about a teenager in the 1950s working as a cowgirl. She joined the group to motivate herself to write. She finds it to be a “supportive environment to try out different stories.”

“I think that we all need a space that allows us to explore what we think and feel,” says Cook. “Writing is one way to do that, but being able to share that with others in an open forum validates our musings.”

The PNA Village Writing Group meets at Home Street Bank’s community room on the 4th Friday of each month, from 11am to noon. The group welcomes new members.

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Meat and Potatoes at Olsen Farms

Olsen Farms potato field

By Dick Gillett

Checking out the Olsen Farms stall at Friday’s Phinney Farmers Market, you see two things: a large and varied row of potatoes on one table, and an array of deep-freeze foot lockers on two other tables. Not very picturesque compared to the displays of other stalls—but the proof is in the eating!

Brent and Kira Olsen’s family farm, located near Colville in northeast Washington, comprises about 300 acres plus additional leased land nearby. According to Kira, Brent started farming in the mid-1990s with a vegetable crop, then switched to growing potatoes, then tried hay. Sticking with the potatoes and the hay fields, he then got interested in raising livestock.

Olsen Farms standToday their cattle are raised on green grass pastures and are fed hay and potatoes in the winter. “We feed the cows only what we grow on the farm, no outside food sources or animal by-products,” affirms the farm’s website.  “Our pigs are fed barley grown just across the road from where they live and our lambs are moved throughout the region to remain on pasture for as much of the year as possible.” The farm’s animals are naturally raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics.

olsen potatoesKira Olsen is one of those multitaskers: farmer’s wife, mother, and office worker (including at the farm’s USDA-certified meat processing facility nearby). For Kira, there’s a personal connection to our farmer’s market: she managed it in 2009, then met her husband through that connection. The couple have two daughters, 15 months and 2 ½ years.

Oh yes, about those potatoes…the farm’s huge selection of flavorful and colorful varieties inspire tasty recipes—like “Lena’s Big, Fluffy Viking Purple Potato” and “Ruth’s Breakfast Binjte Potatoes”—which can be found on their helpful website: www.olsenfarms.com.

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Heads up: there are only four more Fridays left for the Market this season! Hope to see you this Friday at the Phinney Neighborhood Center, 3:30-7:30 pm.

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Peppers or chiles, we eat them like apples…

Alvarez Organic stall

By Dick Gillett

Are you hankering for some organically grown chiles or peppers to light up your taste buds? How about being able to check out dozens of varieties —from sweet to spicy—in one place?

Then the Alvarez Organic Farms stall at the Friday Phinney Farmer’s Market is the place to go. I chatted briefly with Erin, who was hovering over a huge assortment. “The peppers are so good,” she enthused. “We eat them like apples at my house.”

courtesy Alvarez Organic FarmsThe 90-acre organically sustainable farm at Mabton in the Yakima Valley also grows a huge variety of vegetables. Squash, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant and corn were on display along with several varieties of potatoes at the crowded August 5 Friday market. “We have three or four harvests in just one year”, said Steve Alvarez, the farm’s wholesale manager as he waited on customers.

Steve and his brother Eddie are the two farmer sons of owner Helario Alvarez, who farmed in the state of Michoacán, Mexico before coming to the Yakima Valley in 1980. “My dad farms the way my ancestors farmed in Mexico a hundred years ago, before the chemicals,” said Steve proudly. “And you know what? Now people are realizing that’s the best way.”

·     ·     ·

Editor’s note: Alvarez Organic Farms was featured in “Good Food”, a northwest film production by Bullfrog Films, focused on sustainable northwest farming. You may watch that clip here:

Please support your local Farmers Market! This Friday at the Phinney Neighborhood Center, 3:30-7:30 pm.

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