land of rest

Land of Rest is a blog of Peter Jenks. Poems, quotes and photos are by Peter Jenks (unless otherwise noted or I miss noting an older post's photo) and are copyrighted, you are free to use these if you acknowledge their source.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Different ways of Sharing

This last year my wife, Emily, has been able to have another person help teach dance at her Dance School - The Rockland School of Ballet. I am always amazed at the people I meet, especially in such a rural location as is here in Maine. Morrigan McCarthy, the new dance teacher, and her partner are also photograhers and world travelers via bicycles. I have added their website to my general links section ( Their group is called Restless Collective and they have some very interesting pictures and stories to tell.

It got me thinking, Restless Collective and the Kickstart program, which they are using to help them raise funds for their travels, is helping people to get their programs started and off the ground - what about helping people with ideas. Perhaps there are people with a heart to do something, but need some ideas to start their wheels turning. While reading their blog I started to wonder whether there were people who would like to do something but are not sure what they might do.

One idea I quickly came up with was to have someone travel around the world to document how modern technology has effected local culture, especially music and dance. Are local cultures being lost to the international venues of communication, or are new ways, sounds and dance emerging. There seems to be various artists who want to tour and promote their work, but it would be interesting to me to have someone travel around to various groups to write up a blog, description and log about what is going on. (My guess is that there is probably something like this already going on, and perhaps someone can link me to it.)

We are living in a very different world because of the way we can communicate and share with each other ideas, opportunities and collaborations. There are some very exciting things going on and I find it inspiring. There are times when I can view my small little rural world as a backwater and place where not much is going on, then I find myself surprised by the vast array of great people doing life changing things all around me. Nothing has changed except my perception in this whole process.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Seasoning Life

Recently I have been made more aware of the blessings and need to eat food which is in season. There is a temptation with our modern age to eat whatever we want, whenever we want because it is available. But this availability has come at a cost. To have apples fresh all year means massive shipping costs. Also it does not allow for the variation of diet. Like letting the field lie fallow for a season to rest. And it assumes that my momentary desires know what is best for me. And it gives me the illusion that somehow I deserve to have whatever I want whenever I want it. There is much to be gained by waiting for those things in due season.
And from this recent learning I am starting to think that there are more lessons to be gained from living “seasonally” than just in my diet. It is cold now in the midst of winter. I live in a world of modern conveniences like furnaces. In a way I have come to expect a world of general comfort. There is a range of temperature that is acceptable to me, and the furnace will keep it that way, or an air conditioner in the summer will bring the heat down to the acceptable range. But is this acceptable range limiting me? When it is winter, it is cold. Am I missing something not to have to put on and leave on more clothes and adapt to the weather in my neighborhood? And likewise, is it bad to be hot, to slow down and perhaps rest in the heat of the day? I find that as I pay more attention to the seasonal weather, I complain about it less. When it is very cold, I remember the hot days and know they will return.
When I live without the restraints of my local food and climate I find that I do not need my local community as much, either. And with this lack of need for those around me I find that I am more isolated. Relying on seasonal food means I rely upon local farmers and not those in Chile or California. While I am trying to stay warm I find myself checking in with others more or wanting to spend more time one on one with people over a cup of tea or coffee. It is a wonderful time to reflect and deepen friendship. The weather causes me to slow down, work harder, and pay attention to what is around me. I would hate to miss the diamonds underfoot while in search for gold elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Bible

Recently I watched a seminar on “Reading the Bible Through Other Eyes”. In this conference each of the presenters was asked what the Bible meant to them or how they read it. I found their answers very revealing as to who these people were and how they viewed life. This moved me to want to formulate my own answer to this question. In doing this I have also found that I am formulating my understanding of my art or my calling.
Before summarizing my answer I want to list a number of ways in which I have heard or known people to read the bible or for that matter other literature. This list is in no way meant to be exhaustive, only what I could think of at this time.

Historical - The stories of what has happened in the past are always engaging and educational. I love to be taken back into another time to learn what went on and how people managed in various times. The Bible has much history and is a great source for our understanding of antiquity.

Literature - There are great stories which are told with sheer brilliance of language. These stories become so well known and told that to change them would cause outrage. There are a number of great stories in the Bible which fit into this category.

Self Help Manuel - Answering the questions we have on how to do something is a very basic form of writing. When they are poorly done we languish, when they are written well we can get on with our lives enriched. How to drive, to cook, to stay healthy, to improve ourselves and how to live better are all such works. The Bible is sometimes referred to as a manuel for life, a book that tells us how to live better.

Law Book - These I find to be the most tedious books of all, yet crucial to a well run and civil society. The Bible is no exception, its rules and laws are sometimes the least read chapters, and only quoted when one wants others to do what they want. It is important to have people who know not just the letter of the law but the meaning and overall intent.

Poetic - Poetry is so often lost in our modern society. It is, though, so wonderful. To express clearly and in ways yet spoken the heart and vision of our being is a great gift. The various Psalms and poetry within the Scriptures has carried millions through their darkest hours.

Inspirational - Perhaps this type of a reading or writing is simply a combination of any of the before mentioned writing, but it is what opens us up to different ways of thinking and to move beyond the oftentimes limited views that seem to encumber our everyday living. Much of the Bible has such writing and I have often found great inspiration from her text.

Mythic - There are archtypes and heros, villians and evil on a level that transcends any one time or place. There are characters that define an action or a story that is retold in thousands of different ways and whose name carries the story. The suffering of Job is a clear example. The Bible has many such stories and these and the stories of myth and archtypes are very helpful in our understanding of our souls and psychologies.

Now to the harder part of this exercise; listing the other ways is an easy distraction. I do read the Bible in all of the previously mentioned ways, as I read other poetry, literature, history, etc. Sometimes the Bible is my beacon and then other times another writer or poet will be my hearts delight and star.

What sets out the Bible for me as more than simply a work of literature or an anthology of great writings is something more unique. There is an invitation in Scripture; a stage has been set with great writers, sinners, leaders, everyday folk, and I am called to join them upon the stage. So many great books end and I want more, the Bible brings me onto the stage with these people who are my companions, not in fiction but in a real and mysterious way, and I need to carry the story on. I am not just the reader but part of the authorship. I am not just an observer but a member of the family, clan, and story itself. It is not just a fantasy of mine to imagine myself in the stories but what I do is in fact part of the stories, it is my story and as it is others my life is made one or understood as part of a larger whole of the experience of life here on this small planet. It is not just a book, but the world in which I live, the love I have come to know; the words put into books with varying translations are simply a reflection or image of this reality I have come to know. Just as we are an image of God.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Life from life

I have been taught recently to read the ingredients. The more the ingredient the less likely it will be good for me and that I should be cautious of food products that have chemical ingredients and not simple food as ingredients. But this has gotten me thinking, all from eating a beet at lunch. The beet was something that was growing, a life energy rooted in the soil that we picked and then cooked. I stopped it growing by picking it. As I ate it I knew I was eating something that was living and in a sense gave up its life for my sustenance. I cannot think of any food that has not done this for me. It is only the foods that we have created in laboratories that might be an exception, but even in this food there might have to be a life energy to make it food. I do not know this process well enough to know really anything about such products. But it was clear to me that we need life to sustain life. As we eat the things of this earth we continue and sustain life. There are those things that have died naturally, an apply falling from a tree that I might pick up and eat. But my eating it keeps the seeds from forming a new tree. The life giving nature of our food is something we give thanks for in our blessings we use as we pause before eating, and the source of life who provides for this bounty. Ultimately it is said we become the food of ants and worms; a friend asked me to bury him with an acorn in so that a tree might grow from where he will fertilize the soil. We need life, other’s life for us to survive. It is not hard for me to carry this thought our further in lines of being raised by the lives of our parents; to the taxes paid by others to ensure my safety, education and well being; to the time and energy the people we love now offer to us and make our life meaningful. We need other’s life energy to sustain us, and with such we need to share our energy, through our prayers and work, in order to make our life meaningful and life-giving to others. It is the relay race, the great procession of a river or the cycle of interwoven energies that makes the one life which is teeming upon this planet made by God, and perhaps it is that collective life sustaining and perpetuating energy that is the image of God, as spoken of in Scripture.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Time Away

Life can be filled with long stretches of waiting, waiting and wondering. Then suddenly everything seems to happen all at once. It is important to pay attention, listen, appreciate and reflect during the sometimes impatient times of waiting. After a very busy Christmas with many of our children, we took our youngest off to college and then a whirlwind excursion to see just about everyone in our family we could make it too. Leaving Minnesota for another time. It has been almost a week back and I still have no idea where I am when I wake up. I do miss going through airport security several times a day, the lines, the ritual of taking things off, hurrying along and being scanned is such a rewarding experience. Then the fast racing to gates and then long waits are good to watch human nature at play. I especially like how when plans stop at the gate everyone seems to get up and get on their mark to exit, even at the back of the plane where it is obvious that the wait will be a long time. I was also amused at how some airports (like LAX) have no way to move from one terminal to another without going through security. It is something that would easily speed up security lines, make peoples lives easier, and help airline schedules with a few buses - which are already making loops outside. I do no believe I am the first to notice this. It is always amazing to think, though, that we can span the continent in a matter of hours. It is truly amazing. Likewise it is amazing to me that I would be willing to get into a big metal cylinder filled with high octane fuel, which is ignited and sent up in the air at very high altitudes. And how so many airports all look alike, leaving one to know where one is by the names of the little restaurants one passes with local style names. All in all it is important to see family, I miss them when apart - which is so very often. Skype is good, but nothing can replace a hug and a smile face to face.
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