First, there are a couple of things I wanted to add related to the first day of this journey. Some people who read this on the Internet will not have met me. One of the reasons I asked for prayers is that I’m 65 years old and don’t have the physical stamina I used to. And as I mentioned earlier I’ve lived the past 40 years without a personal automobile for environmental reasons and knew transportation would be a challenge when I moved to Iowa a couple of months ago. The bicycle part of this journey thus relates to the theme of stopping fossil fuel infrastructure (StopETP) and making further connections with Native Americans to learn more about their spiritual and environmental practices and support water protectors.
One thing that happened during the bicycle trip yesterday was being greeted with big smiles and waving hands from a group of teenagers I passed along the bike trail near Grays Lake, which boosted my spirits. Another was, just as I was about to get on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, a large barrier across the trail said the trail was closed! Wow, I hadn’t anticipated something like that. I went around the barrier to see what the alternative might be. A little further along, as the trail went under Highway 6, there was a small bulldozer and the trail dug up in front of it. But there was room to go up the embankment and around the construction. Big relief.
I also didn’t write about how very tired I was at the end of the trip—bone tired exhausted. I was really discouraged by the seemingly gigantic hill I had to push the bike up just after I left the Raccoon River Valley Trail, even wondering if I was going to make it to the meetinghouse. The reason I mention it now is because I had just been reading what Martin Luther King had said to a gathering of Quakers in 1958 in a talk titled “Nonviolence and Racial Justice”. He talked about the willingness to accept suffering being an important part of nonviolence, not only because that de-escalates the tension and might shame one’s adversary, but because it changes the person experiencing the suffering, too. I don’t have his words in front of me, but I think he was saying it helps the sufferer connect to a deeper, spiritual place, a closer connection to God perhaps. While my suffering from the exercise might be a little different, I do sometimes express continued fossil fuel use as war (violence) against Mother Earth. Not using a car and exercise might be considered forms of environmental nonviolence.
The second day of this journey began by writing yesterday’s blog post. Actually prior to that was another lesson about energy. When Jackie and I were talking last night, she said she could turn on the hot water heater. When I said that wasn’t necessary, she explained several ways she had heated water when she was living at the cottage. So I heated some water on the stove to clean up with. There is no running water in the cottage, and while there are three bathrooms in the meetinghouse, there is not bathtub or shower. That is often the reason more Quaker meetings are not equipped to offer sanctuary even though they would like to.
I had thought I would spend the day recovering from the bike trip and preparing for the evening program we were going to have related to the StopETP campaign, “The musical activism of Nahko and Medicine for the People”. But I knew Bold Iowa was interested in getting the photos I took at the State Capitol StopETP event. I had edited those photos when I got to the meetinghouse.
The cell phone signal at Bear Creek is very weak and Internet hot spot access not usually an option. Jackie mentioned the Earlham library had Internet access. Though I wasn’t eager to get back on my bike, I rode to the library and uploaded the photos and sent emails to Bold Iowa to let them know they were available, and published yesterday’s blog. It was fortunate that I did this because that night we received an email from the national organizers of StopETP asking for photos from our events. I was able to respond and they replied they were glad to get our photos of the Des Moines event.
The rest of the afternoon I rested, read and reviewed the videos I planned to use last night. Seeing and hearing Amy Goodman’s broadcast of the dog attacks against the water protectors at Standing Rock, and Nahko’s words and songs to those kids just 4 days after they were attacked brought tears to my eyes.
The idea to have an event as part of the national StopETP (Energy Transfer Partners) campaign this weekend came as a vision earlier this week. I felt badly that I didn’t give Bear Creek meeting more time to consider, but email messages indicated it would be OK to go ahead. The only other event in Iowa was the one I attended at the State Capitol the first day of this journey. I wanted there to be more of an environmental activism presence from Iowa, and I was hoping to get connected to a network of concerned people, like I was in Indianapolis, and thought an event at Bear Creek might help with that. I mentioned the Bear Creek event to the people who were at the State Capitol, so they, at least, were aware of our efforts.
I also shared the Bear Creek plans with my friends at the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) that I had worked with for years. They responded they were with us in solidarity from San Francisco.
At 7 pm a small group of Bear Creek Friends gathered at the meetinghouse. My Aunt and Uncle, Ellis and Win Standing, have been active with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, including working on the impact of factory farms on water quality. Jenny Cisar shared her experiences with Native Americans building straw bale houses. Our clerk, Jackie Leckband was able to join us a little later.
I shared some of my experiences related to Nahko and Medicine for the People. The first clip I shared was Nahko saying:
Where my warriors at?
And so I feel like what has been said many times tonight and I appreciate the sentiment that we can say this now in this time and this generation is that prayer is the most G thing you can do homey. And I can say that for my life, in the things that have happened in my life, the anger, for the pain, for the hate, that I’ve carried, that forgiveness, and therefore remembering to pray for those that oppressed us, is the most powerful testament to mankind.
Then we watched the Democracy Now video by Amy Goodman during the dog attack against the water protectors at Standing Rock.
That was followed by Nahko’s concert just 4 days later for those kids who had been attacked by the dogs. Between songs he spoke to the youth:
“Remember that nonviolent direct action is the way to a successful revolution. And that is a hard one, because they are so bad (chuckles). When they come at us you just want to hit ’em, you know? Just sit with that. I know it’s tough. They’re going to try to do everything they can to instigate you. But remember what we’re here for. We’re here to create peace for our Mother. We’re not here to create more violence.”
“When you’re feeling bad, when you’re feeling frustrated, put all your prayer into your palms, put them to the ground, put them back to the sky, honor the Father, the Mother, just know it will be alright.
Are you guys feeling proud, are you proud of yourselves? Because the whole world is watching. The whole world is watching. So whatcha gonna do? Gonna show love? Are you gonna be smart? You gonna think before you act? Take care of each other? Your gonna show ‘em what family does. They don’t know what that’s like.
You gotta put down the weight, gotta get out of your way.
Get out of your way and just look around the corner at your real self and look at all the potential that this beautiful Earth and love has to offer you.
It’s crazy being out in front of you guys. I had a moment there. I was like, I like started spacing out and I’m like oh god they’re looking at me aren’t they? I was thinking about how much happened before any of us were here. You know? There is a lot of history here. We gotta hold that when we’re standing out there. You gotta hold that when you’re on that line out there, too. You’re here for a lot more than just this pipeline.
It’s about rejoicing, it’s about laughter right now. We’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow folks. So, I just want to say I’m so grateful and I’m really proud of you guys. I’m really proud of you. (and then he turned away with obvious emotion).”
The last video we watched was “Love Letters to God” which was just nominated for Best Music Video for the Native American Music Awards.
We finished with some silence.