Author Archives: watchingthespaces

About watchingthespaces

I like to watch the spaces between the things that other people see, the overflowing gaps and the chock-full emptiness.

Freedom of Speech

According to several major news outlets, 32 religious leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Native American communities were arrested in San Diego yesterday. Organized by a group with Quakery roots, Love Knows No Borders, the entire group protesting was close to 400. 31 of them crossed into a restricted zone and were arrested. One was arrested for assaulting a law enforcement officer.

Freedom of Speech?

Yes, freedom of speech, and their essential message is one I espouse. A compassionate response to what is going on along our border is the only moral response. But then again, we work along the border extensively, and I am part of a network of Episcopalians who compare notes, borrow ideas and encourage one another. We have good relations with the Border Patrol in Arizona. Will the freedom of speech of these well-meaning people negatively impact what we do in Arizona? Will it be harder for us to maintain collaborative relationships with the men and women charged with enforcing our immigration policy now? After all, policy comes from above, but it is enacted locally, and the way the policy is written, there is wide discretionary power at the local level. Will these peoples’ act of bravery and protest pit changing our immigration law (a good and necessary goal) against a more immediate compassionate response to the hurting and terrified people who seek asylum among us? Are these people unwittingly using the immigrants for their own political ends? It makes it more complicated when I agree with their political ends.

Our political machine allows for such ambiguity. Sometimes it’s frustrating, as in the above. Sometimes it allows for creative work to be done, as in what we are doing in Arizona. Sometimes good ends end up pitted against one another. It’s called freedom of speech. However, freedom without responsibility is merely license. The greatest freedom and the greatest power is in the ability to self-limit for the sake of the common good.

Wisdom picks her battles.


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Yesterday in our Adult Forum at church we were discussing the complicated nature of the immigration situation we face in our country. I offered that simplistic answers don’t answer complicated questions adequately. Someone disagreed with me. “It all boils down to a couple of simple answers,” he said, “look at Jesus.”


Then he sent me this link.

The questions are complicated, and the last job in the world I would want is to be an immigration judge. Pressures from all sides urge in opposite or conflicting directions. Life-and-death decisions are made on way-too-little information, filtered through under-regulated dynamics like the personality and history of the judge, the location in the country, and the local politics.


But in another sense, I agree with my friend. The answers really boil down to two: Compassion or selfishness. Which will it be? I will strive to err on the side of compassion and occasionally be abused rather than fall into the complicated life-killing and enslaving morass of selfishness.


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Yesterday’s cold was wet; not that it rained, but the cold soaked through my coat and shirt, skin and bones. It wasn’t one of those dry snowflaky colds where it’s in the 20’s but you don’t even need a cap if you’re not out for long. It was a bundle-up and shiver kind of cold. Today promised rain, and we got a sprinkle, but the sun is shining through grey scudding clouds and the temps are warm enough I put Karisse’s Sulcata tortoise out to mow the winter grass for the day. When I left, she had her mouth so full of greens I couldn’t see her smile.

When I think of the trajectory of the year, December is cold, but the celebrations of the season seem to seek some relief from the sheer fact of the weather. We even sing about it: heedless of the wind and weather, falalalalala, lalalala, and that song about the 10th Century Bohemian King Wenceslaus on the feast of Stephen (December 26,) that includes the verse:

Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger. Fails my heart, I know not how. I can go no longer.  Mark my footsteps, good my page, tread thou in them boldly. Thou shall find the winters rage freeze thy blood less coldly.1

It is said that the Inuit people are great story-tellers and joke-makers, for to lose one’s smile in the dark of winter could be deadly.

Weather is not merely something the sun and clouds cook up. We experience weather; we interpret weather; we live it internally as well as externally. We make it mean something. It’s part of what it means to be human. If you want relief just go find someone and talk about the weather!

1Originally a Finnish tune from the 16th century, English lyrics written by John Mason Neale and published in 1853:

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This morning the clouds draped across the sky in dark grays as the light of the sun painted their edges pink. The dark mountain brooded below. A storm is coming in a couple of weeks and the clouds seem to foreshadow the coming weather.

A humanitarian crisis is brooding. Thousands of people, fleeing violence in their Central American homes, are amassing on our southern border. The San Isidro Port of Entry in San Diego has the capacity to process 300 migrants a day, but they are restricted to 30 by orders from above. Some migrants, frustrated with the delays, have begun crossing by force and we have seen the results. Others are crossing between ports of entry, and if they are picked up by Border Patrol they are deported without due process. Military personnel were ordered to the border and are now being recalled. By law they may not interfere with domestic law enforcement—they were just present. Faith communities, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, are joining forces to offer a more compassionate response and to make their views known to government officials. The clouds are gathering.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?1

Call them Advent clouds, with the pink edge of Christmas hope visible to those who look for it.

1The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

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This morning on Facebook I noticed a post of an article by ProPublica about a 6-year-old appearing unaccompanied in immigration court in San Antonio, TX. The article said that he was the last of the “lost children” who had been separated from their parents and was now being reunited. It did admit that there were others who were being held because their parents had criminal records or had been deported already. This boy’s case was being extended because his father had a previous DUI in Florida, so I’m a bit confused as to what milestone this boy’s case really represents. The confusion was reflected in the comments at the foot of the article that ranged from extreme right to extreme left, with everything in between—some name-calling and flaming going on, but the over-all picture was of a group of people who shared a common passion for the issue, though they all thought differently about it. I didn’t agree with either of the extremes and have opinions of my own, but the fact of the conversation is encouraging. I can’t really say that a lot of true, deep listening was going on, but some listening was, and conversations depend on listening as much as speaking.

A conversation was taking place, an interchange of ideas and feelings and wishes about a difficult topic in a day when we seem to be so polarized. Maybe at the grass roots we aren’t as polarized as the pundits would have us believe. Maybe there is more common ground than what first appears. Maybe that common ground begins with acknowledging that these are issues of common concern. Maybe here our common humanity can be unearthed once more.

And as we converse, if we will but just stop for a bit to try to hear others through their ears rather than our own, maybe, just maybe the seed of the holy discipline of true, deep listening, which makes for true, deep community, might find a place to take root and grow. Maybe…

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I have just received as a gift from a fellow falconer a Gyrmado. Like a labradoodle, it’s a hybrid between a Gyrfalcon and an Aplomado falcon. Of course, what you hope for is the best of both worlds, but these things are always a bit of a crap-shoot. So far, he is very easy to handle, learns quickly and is easily distracted, all good traits if managed correctly.

My sister pointed out something to me. The Gyrfalcon is an arctic bird, large and powerful, the imminent image of the North. The Aplomado falcon, including a small reintroduced population in south Texas, ranges throughout Central and South America down to Chile and Patagonia. From the vantage point of the US, they are an image of the South. I am from both north and south. I was born in Ecuador to parents from Indiana. I speak English and Spanish, and am comfortable in both cultural contexts. In fact, I sorely miss it when restricted to just one. I am a hybrid. What you get from me may be a bit of a crap-shoot!

We are all hybrids. Nobody’s gene pool is pure, not even the First Nation peoples. Our ancestors were wanderers, and so are we. We pick up a bit of this and a bit of that over the centuries and millennia, often so slowly that from the perspective of just one lifetime “normal” seems static. But it’s not. Humankind is a bit of a crap-shoot.

Wandering is still happening. I just learned that migrants from Central America are arriving in remote Ojinaga, Mexico, crossing into Presidio, Texas, and often have nowhere to go and nothing to take with them. The local Catholic Church is doing what it can to give these people a shower, a meal and a bed for the night, but the new arrivals still face bus-travel, sometimes days long, to get to where they are going. They come fleeing violence and an untenable life. They come seeking a new life, just like my ancestors did. What they get will be something of a crap-shoot.

Communities of faith are seeking to make the situation a little less unpredictable and a little more human. I hope we can learn quickly, and I hope we are NOT easily distracted.

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This morning the clouds streaked a red, pink and grey rainbow over Cooke’s Peak, dressing her up for the day with bright foreshadows of the weekend’s promised winter storm. Against the brightening horizon, her black form added to the contrasts. All the while, somewhere in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nogales, Reynosa and Matamoros, at least one child looks up to see the sunrise with mixed feelings. If they see the colors I do, I wonder if they see them like I do? Have the storms passed, now that they have endured La Bestia, the back of the trains that carried them away from the troubles of their homeland, through an only slightly-less troubled Mexico, to the doors of peace? Or is the storm yet ahead when they stand in line, not knowing what lies ahead, hoping against hope that the person in the green uniform will be nice? Will their world be pink or grey? Or black if they get sent back?

I wonder if the farmer in California who stands watching his major source of labor gets squeezed off sees a world of pink or grey?

I wonder if the factory worker in Indiana who sees these people as competition for his job sees a world of pink or grey?

I wonder if the nationalist who sees these people as aliens and have stockpiled ways of repelling the invasion sees a world of pink or grey?

The clouds this morning were not either pink or grey, they were pink and grey. The red clouds and the black of the mountain were in the same painting.

When will we learn?

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