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?

·     ·     ·

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”.

Do you like what you read on our blog? We’d love to hear from you! Please use the SHARE buttons below and COMMENT by clicking on “Leave a reply” or by clicking the gray dialogue bubble at the top right of each post!

PNA Swoosh

Advertisements

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.

·     ·     ·

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.”

PNA Swoosh

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?

·     ·     ·

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.”

PNA Swoosh

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.

·     ·     ·

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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.58.04 PM

PNA Swoosh

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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.58.04 PM

PNA Swoosh

Behind the Scenes at Tonnemaker Hill Farm

Tonnemakers

By Dick Gillett

Business was brisk last Friday at the Phinney Farmers Market, with Rainier cherries piled high on the table at the Tonnemaker Farm stall. Serving the customers were Kayci and Alana, both from Seattle but both deeply familiar with operations at the 128-acre farm in eastern Washington. The Tonnemaker farm is big on fruit (including several varieties of cherries, with apricots and peaches coming in early to mid-July) and has 60 acres of orchards. A few of the cherry trees are three generations old and still producing. Speaking of generations: four generations of Tonnemaker farmers have farmed in eastern Washington.

Tonnemaker 2Fruit isn’t the only product you can find at their booth. In season are veggies from most of the rest of their acreage, including summer squash, tomatoes, rhubarb, zucchini and cucumbers. Last Friday, one table featured a variety of packaged organic peppers. “Our crops are rotated annually for soil preservation and also keep pests to a minimum,” says Kayci.

But who actually picks the cherries off the trees and the peppers from the plants? Writes a member of the farm team: “Our current harvest crew consists of 2 generations of Tonnemakers, a couple of local long time year-round employees, local high school and college students on summer break, Japanese Agricultural Exchange Trainees and a seasonally variable number of members of 3 Hispanic families, several of which have helped with the short but intense cherry harvest for more than 20 years. Everyone here from the top down is a picker of one crop or another. Hand harvesting crops is hard work and everyone here participates – even 80 year old Gene Tonnemaker insisted on donning a picking bag and pitching in.”

Whew!

Happily for us customers of Phinney Farmers Market, “Life is just a bowl of cherries.”

·     ·     ·

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 12.58.04 PM

PNA Swoosh

 

 

Cell Phones, Conversations, and the Common Good

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee (pnavillage.org)

By Dick Gillett

It was crowded the other morning at Herkimer Coffee up on Greenwood Avenue.  I settled in at its long table with my machiatto and a book titled Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street. (No, I’m not an investor or stockbroker but a retired clergyman trying to understand how economic inequality got so bad in our country.)

Opposite me sat a young man intently reading a paperback book. I immediately noticed that unlike almost everyone else in the café that day, he had no cellphone or other electronic device out, just his book. He appeared to be a “Millennial,”probably on the young end of that age spectrum. Maybe his book was a reading assignment for a class? I made bold to ask him what he was reading.

6751

“It’s a book of essays by David Foster Wallace,” he replied. He explained that the particular essay he was reading was a review of a new dictionary, and that in it Wallace was pointing out how issues of class and power in the modern era are affecting the use of words.

Wow, I thought, this is a subject that even as an English lit major I had never thought about.

Jesse (this man’s name) was not sure he bought the author’s argument.

His mention of the words “class” and “power” led me to comment that the previous night my son and I had watched a little of the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton debate in a pub jammed with young people. “Did you watch the debate?” I asked Jesse.

“No, I had to work,” he responded.

Having pushed the conversation a little already, I resisted the temptation to turn to politics, so I asked him what his work is.

“I work as a host at a Sushi bar,”he said.

I rather lamely responded that I hoped he was doing okay.

“I’m doing OK,” he responded.

19524598We shook hands and I left the table.

Whether or not the politics of 2016 will bring us together as a country, I believe that we desperately need to recover a sense of the Common Good: that we are responsible for each other in our communities, and that “the moral arc of the universe… bends towards justice” (M.L. King).  Meanwhile, it felt very good to have even a brief conversation across the generations that finds common ground—especially without a cellphone lying on the table!

·     ·     ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. He has written numerous articles for our Village blog including, “The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee”, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”,  and “Johnny Cash & Global Warming”.

PNA Swoosh

Regarding “The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee”

By Duke

Dick—

the working class at herkimer coffeeYour picture of the corner café says it all. First off, I think you’re too hard on the harder generation. Your posit—that things have only gotten worse—is arguable. Hitler and the Fascists were taken down, along with the Iron Curtain. Today, more people live on the planet with more individual rights and dignity than at any time in human history. That, because of courageous folks like MLK, Gandhi, Dorothea Dix, Walter Reuther, Mandela, etc. When I locked myself in my San Francisco apartment for one year in 1983 to study the philosophers, I came across an ancient Greek or Hindu God who believed in the cosmic duality of all life. That for every negative there was its dialectical opposite: a positive. Thus, to put it plainly, for every tragedy—at the same exact second—a wonderful creation blossoms, whether it’s falling in love, holding your baby for the first time, or just chuckling wordlessly with a old friend. (I think this is where Nietzsche was before that fateful day in Milan when he lost his mind). And this is how I stayed centered.

Secondly, when I look harder at the younger generation, so welded to their tech gizmos, with nobody talking or looking at each other, I feel only the loneliness of a crowded NYC subway car. When my generation returned from our poverty-laden Grand Tours of Europe in the mid-70’s, cafés almost immediately sprang up all over Berkeley and San Francisco’s outer suburbs, mirroring the café culture of Paris, SF’s North Beach, and NYC’s Greenwich Village. What was striking was the community one found there with political and cultural conversation. At times, one found friendship. One didn’t have to join a formal monthly book club because all the important books were being discussed—informally—at the café table. It would’ve been rude to bring a typewriter to a café, not because of the noise but because it would be such a Private Action in a place of Public Interaction. Now I only go to a café when you and I meet every once in awhile, because I know I’m promised a public interaction, or to put it plainly, a conversation. Otherwise, I seek conversation in other locales or do without. I think Johnson and Boswell would have a stroke if they saw how their tea/café culture of public interaction has disappeared into lonely, private computer cells. As Sartre would say, “It’s nauseating.”

—Duke

·    ·    ·

Editor’s note: PNA Village author Dick Gillett’s most recent post, “The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee”, generated the above response from a reader friend. Dick’s numerous articles for our Village blog include, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”“Johnny Cash & Global Warming”, and “Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard”, and we hope to hear more from Duke in the future!

PNA Swoosh

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee II (pnavillage.org)
By Dick Gillett

Stephen bent over his loom, quiet, watchful and steady. A special contrast, as every man was, in the forest of looms where Stephen worked, to the crashing, smashing, tearing piece of machinery at which he labored.
—From Hard Times, by Charles Dickens

It’s 9:01 on a Wednesday morning as I enter Herkimer Coffee up on Phinney Ridge for my usual caffeine fix. Along the shop’s left wall, an array of people sit at tables, coffee cups within reach, laptops open, heads down—as if the factory whistle just blew and the working class had filed in and bent over their machines.

In contrast, as a “retired worker” I mosey in and take my “work station” in front of barista Chad, who sees me and reaches for the macchiato cup; he knows my drink.
In casual conversation, he and Sean, the other barista on duty, both reveal they grew up as only children, which was my also my situation. (Naturally we understand this makes us special).

This brief palaver serves to lighten me up a bit after reading the print edition (I’m afraid I’m a print news junkie) of The New York Times. The paper continues to tell us about the unending crisis of refuges flooding into Europe, Putin’s Russian jets now in Syria, and the latest special absurdity of much of our domestic political news.

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee (pnavillage.org)

Of course the laptop “working class” image above is my fantasy. But in my mind, it serves to separate me from my fellow human beings of the succeeding generations. (For instance I don’t have a laptop and only clumsily use instant messaging.) But as it frequently does, the sight of younger people at Herkimer’s—busily working away (or goofing off)—fills me with a certain longing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have an intergenerational dialogue? An honest-to-goodness dialogue about our insane world, inasmuch as we are all bound together as citizens traveling on Planet Earth?

On the other hand, there would be those who with much justification—seeing as how we of the older generations have screwed up pretty much everything—would say, “And what do you, old-timer, have to tell us to our edification?” My response might be, “And how do you, one or two generations removed from me, see yourself and your families, especially your children, in relation to our current and future world?”

Could a starting point be a reflection on Pope Francis’ recent visit to the U.S.? I hear that there are intergenerational dialogues going on here and there on such topics, some even within reach of our Phinney Neighborhood Association. Might our own PNA Village be a catalyst for such?

·    ·    ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. He has written numerous articles for our Village blog including, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”“Johnny Cash & Global Warming”, and “Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard”.

PNA Swoosh

Johnny Cash & Global Warming

220px-JohnnyCash1969By Dick Gillett

Heading up to Phinney Ridge the other day on my morning coffee run, I grabbed a Johnny Cash CD as I went out the door. The inimitable, deep voice of this old singer and his wonderfully uncomplicated music flowed from my car’s stereo to the bottom of my soul as he sang “When the Man Comes Around”. This song is chock full of apocalyptic verses from the bible’s Book of Revelation—doom, the end of the world, judgment, good and evil, choice—not a book many people read nowadays, including myself as an ordained minister.

But the pathos of Cash’s music took me immediately back to the conference I’d returned from last week. Called “Seizing the Moment: Toward an Alternative Civilization”, this Pomona College gathering of over 2000 people from around the world included about 130 participants from the People’s Republic of China. The conference topic was global warming—and what to do about it. The mood was somber, if not downright apocalyptic at times. “We live in the midst of perhaps the greatest crisis the world has known,” warned environmentalist and keynoter Bill McKibben, “and it has come upon us very fast.” He called for a “global grassroots movement” to address the global warming generated by the trillions of tons of carbon dioxide we collectively put into the atmosphere each year.

…on this morning, Cash’s apocalyptic music and global warming came together for me.

Theologian John Cobb suggested that “it may already be too late” to save the planet.

So it was on this morning, on my way to coffee, that Cash’s apocalyptic music and global warming came together for me.

Despite the seriousness of the conference’s topic and our global situation, determined participants engaged in several dozen workshops over three days, focusing on specific aspects, projects, and models needed to address the huge complexity of a global society that must eventually move from an expanding economy to a “steady state” economy. Could we imagine a society whose ethic would affect sharing with others instead of unlimited consumption and rampant individualism?

By the end of the conference there was hope in the air as well as the hard recognition of the lateness of the hour. Johnny Cash’s song was for me a call—an inspired call to pay attention! Pay attention today to what can and must be done by all of us who share this precious Space Ship Earth.

If you’d like to know more about the conference and its follow up, please visit: www.pandopopulus.com

·    ·    ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. His previous works for our PNA Village blog include, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”, “”Generation Nice’ at Herkimer Coffee”, and “Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard”.

PNA Swoosh