We come here to remember.

Elijah was two years old, and Aaron was five. Two brothers in a day care center, dropped off by a loving family member on a beautiful spring morning in Oklahoma City. Killed when Timothy McVeigh drove his bomb-laden truck into the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 am. 168 people dead; hundreds injured.

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As a mom of two sons, the horror of this shakes me again even these 21 years later as I visit the Oklahoma City National Museum and Memorial. “We come here to remember” is the theme. The outdoor part of the memorial has chairs engraved with the names of all who died. The children’s chairs are smaller. I happened upon the ones for Elijah and Aaron whose lives I had read about inside the museum. “We come here to remember.”

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Evil is a total disconnect from the human experience. A complete disregard for what it is to be human. A depletion of any emotional connection to those who are discarded as if they were simply non-existent. Timothy McVeigh showed no emotion about his actions.

“We come here to remember.” I have come to Oklahoma for the first time in my life. I understand now that I am coming here to be reminded to remember.

Oklahoma is home today to 39 Indian tribes.

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I am remembering how our country treated the First Nations Peoples as if they were simply non-existent and disposable.

Most of the tribes here today were forced to migrate to Oklahoma from their ancestral lands.

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The Cherokees were rounded up and marched more than a thousand miles to designated “Indian territory.” “The Trail Where They Cried” reveals more than the often used “The Trail of Tears.” Those tears belonged to real people who cried. Let us not sanitize our language as if tears simply fall on a trail; let us remember the painful cries of the people from whose cheeks they fell. We have a long history of making them “savages” and therefore, less than human so we could disconnect from their humanity. And from ours, as we destroyed their lives.

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 “We come here to remember.”

We are in the midst of a strengthened movement within our country to “otherize” and dehumanize people who are not part of the dominant white and Christian culture. So that we can continue to treat them as less than human, disposable. Do not doubt that this is a movement of evil. It is a movement we have seen before in our own country’s history as well as elsewhere in the world.

 

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Let us take seriously our responsibility to remind each other that “we come here to remember.” We come to this moment in history with a choice. A life or death choice. May we remember how to choose life.

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Children’s tile wall at Memorial

 

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Post by Diane

 

Good morning, Amarillo

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Good morning, Amarillo.

It’s 6am. We wanted an early start for our drive to Oklahoma City today. I’m startled to find it’s still dark outside. I’m disoriented. It hasn’t been dark at 6am since March in Seattle. We crossed another time zone yesterday. We also crossed a terrain new to us; the Texas Panhandle.

 

Some highlights. Wide open landscapes and huge windfarms. A billboard that encouraged us to buy the “Obituary App” so we could track obituaries anywhere in the country. “Picnic stops” and “Parking stops” but no “Rest stops.” There were no restrooms in either the picnic or parking stops. There are not many bushes to pee behind. I guess that’s why there are so many truck stops along Interstate 40.

Truck stops have become our friends. Wide bays for maneuvering RVs to get gas. As easy grab of another Frappuccino to keep the driver awake. Clean bathrooms. Brief conversations with people you’ve never met. AND, at Santa Rosa, New Mexico yesterday, we paid $1.96 a gallon for gas. They all have fast food places attached which can be useful if you’re desperate but the fried food smell can be obnoxious to smell after several stops in a day.

I didn’t appreciate the smells of the cattle yards as we drew closer to Amarillo.

I did appreciate the storm that created a lightening show and cooled the temperature with rain. I was glad we had just settled into our RV park for the night when it occurred. I was surprised by the strength of the wind that came later in the evening and rocked our trailer some. We were watching President Obama give his speech at the Democratic National Convention. As he talked of our country, the rocking seemed appropriate.

The biggest gift Amarillo gave us was a night we could sleep in the cool without any fan or air conditioning on. It was the first time for that since we left Idaho and entered Utah and New Mexico and temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s.

The day ended with a beautiful sunset and grateful hearts for all we have experienced.

 

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Diane Schmitz

 

Skyscape: clouds, wind, and thoughts on our country.

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“We have ever-changing skyscapes” said a family member in Albuquerque, NM. “Walk around the block and the weather will change.” Monsoons let loose in one part of the city while the sun shines in another. The wind dances gently with a nurturing breeze and then in minutes erupts into a frenzy that rearranges the clouds. It’s grand when it does what we want and unsettling when dark clouds crowd the horizon and bolts of lightning start.

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There’s a U.S. flag in the RV park where we are staying. I’ve seen it wave in the sunshine and in storms, and sometimes lay still when the weather is more stagnant. I’ve been pondering the state of our country. Every day I see both signs of threatening impact and the potential for winds of change to transform who we are.

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I watch the sky. I watch the news. At night my dreams are restless as if being bantered about.

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After a thunderstorm, things calm down a bit and there is an opening for fresh air and perhaps some new perspectives.

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As I write these final words, the clouds have burst open. The hardest rain we’ve experienced is pounding on our trailer roof and dampening the books laying just inside the window screen. It caught us by surprise; we thought it had blown through. It’s dark and we can hear, but not see, what is happening.

These are times for deep listening. To open spaces in our heart that seem fragile when exposed. To acknowledge that not all parts of ourselves or of our country are beautiful landscapes. There are scarred places that have something to teach us if we are willing to look at them boldly and with vulnerability.

I don’t know what the clouds all mean. I do know they are always changing. Somewhere in those changing spaces is where hope lives.

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Post by Diane

It’s just down the road.

 

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If journey is the movement from here to there, start to stop, begin to end, then place is the moment/moments between. We are the chroniclers of journey’s moments.

We note and remember Place because Place is in the dominion
of consciousness: we are, at every instant, located/situated in some
“place” – in the particular. And that location, and we, are in
constant flux.

Each place is defined by its stories.
Every story is embedded in a place.
There is no place, I repeat, there is no place that is
insignificant or unworthy. Everyplace is filled with stories. We are their
chronicler.

Missoula, our first night just on our own. Our first
huckleberry shake. Watching a virtuoso fifth-wheeler navigating a tight gas
station. The loveliest RV park we’ve stayed at.

And so it goes for every day that has followed.

Every morning, as we start to some new place, I answer –
unasked – “it’s just down the road.” Well, it is…

And there is a story worth telling.

Bill Stalder

 

The red dress

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The red dress was a gift from my husband, bought at the Pike Place Market years ago. Its vibrant tie-died color stretches down its ankle length fabric. I loved it but it was not an everyday kind of dress. Its boldness called out for special occasions.

It was in the pile of clothes to leave in Seattle as we began our new life on the road. Living in 21-foot travel trailer meant every item had to earn a place in our new home. Qualifiers were beauty and utility; ideally both in the same item.

The beauty of the red dress was clear. The utility of it, however, was a stretch. We’d be in campgrounds and RV parks most of the time.

Then, I redefined utility. It’s so easy to let others decide what is useful for us in our lives. Starting this new chapter in our lives was an act of resistance to those voices of ageism and scarcity that would encourage us to value safety over living a meaningful life.

I decided the red dress was what I would wear as we left Seattle to begin our adventure.

Our first stop was just over the mountains to Ellensburg to see a friend who was visiting there from Florida.  It can be helpful to have your first step of a big life change be a small step. As we parked at the campground, I helped Bill set up while wearing my red dress.

Early the next morning I went outside our trailer to journal and Karen stopped by to introduce herself. Karen was one of a group of people who were camped around us. They had all attended Central Washington University and gathered yearly to celebrate their continuing friendship.

“I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing you in your red dress yesterday,” she said. “Every woman should have a red dress like that.  I am going to buy myself one.”  We talked of the roles women are given and how easily it is to lose oneself. We agreed that a red dress could be a helpful reminder that, first of all, we belong to ourselves.

The red dress, it turns out, is both beautiful and utilitarian.

Diane Schmitz

 

 

 

 

The longest journey ends with the last step.

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We all know something about a journey. The movement from here to there. To start, to be on the way, to end. We know and we don’t know what it is to leave, let go and move on. To lose a sense of place, of the familiar and the known and to start a journey to something and someplace new. We have to let go of the old and predictable endings and grasp on to the sure knowledge that this life, which is the journey, will be and will end in some new way.

Let us be clear-the journey is not optional, are we alive for only a moment or many decades, it is, nevertheless, a lifetime. A lifetime bounded by start and finish. Our feet are always on the path. At root, the journey is not first in the realm of the conscious mind, of the “I”, but rather begins with breath, with breathing. It begins with our first breath and spans to our last. The space between constitutes the passage, the travel, the journey.

Bill Stalder