I haven’t had time to write the last couple of weeks.
Opal’s Farm takes up most of my time. Things are moving full steam ahead. Spring
is in full bloom in North Texas and I maximize the warm sunny days because rain
is inevitable and unpredictable this time of year. Wednesday’s 2 inches of rain
and the subsequent mud may have allowed me to play catch-up on tasks best
suited to office work, but the lingering wetness is getting old.
A farm volunteer work day was scheduled for Saturday but was rescheduled to Sunday afternoon because it was still too wet to work. Now it’s Sunday and another storm came last night. It wasn’t bad, but it was enough to cancel today’s events. I’m going to take it as a message from the universe to stay home today. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on “me time” and write about something other than work.
Reading is an essential part of what I do, but I read more than I should. Sometimes I read well into time that should be given to other things, but the WordPress community is often too engaging to shift gears. One more story. Just one more article. My morning news feed is filled with your thoughts and stories. You inspire my own thoughts. You challenge me to become a better writer (although the jury is still out on that one…) and all-around decent person. I’m thankful for each one of you. WordPress is a great village!
Porch time has been nonexistent for the last week. I knew rain was coming over the past weekend (after all, it is the Main Street Arts Festival weekend here and it always rains), so I took advantage of the sunny, dry days to work on Opal’s Farm. We had a ninety-degree day, which is fifteen degrees above average for this time of year. I’m sweating (no pun intended) the heat coming early and fast like it did last year. More severe thunderstorms are predicted for this evening. It looks like desk duty is on for the rest of the day…
I was driving home Monday evening and noticed that Saturday’s rain brought an explosion of color to the landscape. The Bluebonnets have been up for a couple of weeks, but the other flowers seemed unsure as to whether they should make their appearance as well. I guess the weekend storms were the signal. Primrose, One-Eyed Susan’s, Buttercups, and Indian Paintbrush: the list goes on. It amazes me how one day they’re absent and the next they’re in their full splendor. Poof! It’s magical…
Thoughts From the Porch: I got up early this morning expecting a heavy rain, but found dry ground and overcast skies instead. I’m not complaining, mind you, but the weather folks were so insistent it’d be raining this morning, I planned to stay home and work about the house. As it is, I’ll take advantage of the dry weather to squeeze another day’s work out of Opal’s Farm. One can never tell how many dry days lay ahead. Such is Spring in Texas…
I thoroughly enjoy my days
at the farm. It can be frustrating being a “start-up”: money is always tight
(and sometimes non-existent – hint, hint…) and grants are difficult unless you’ve
been around a while. I’m so thankful for partners like the White Settlement
Home Depot store and Team Depot, Zimmerer Kubota, Healthy Tarrant Collaborative,
and Container King for providing the support and tools that make Opal’s Farm a
The first year of farming
is the most difficult. It’s extremely labor intensive. There’s infrastructure
to be built and is contingent on the weather and volunteers to help with the
work. We’ve been blessed with volunteers. TCU student interns are working on
social media, fundraising and marketing. Riverside Arts District has provided
neighborhood support for the farm. I receive calls inquiring, “can I volunteer?”
The answer is a resounding yes. You have no idea how much we love our
Well, I’m off to the farm
again. Before I go, I want to remind you to go to Opal’s Farm Facebook Page or
to make your secure donation today.
It’s quiet down on Opal’s Farm. The rain has been falling since the pre-dawn hours and work came to a halt. Jameson the Farm Dog curled up next to my desk when the thunder rumbled earlier and hasn’t moved since. He’s not a big fan of thunderstorms. I’m convinced it’s due to the many nights in a kennel at the shelter. I can only imagine how it must feel to be alone with thunder crashing outside and a hundred other dogs barking. I’d be scared too…
Needless to say, I’m working inside today. You can’t plow in the mud and stuck tractors are not much fun…
Thoughts from the Porch: It’s frigging cold! I huddled over
the trusty old desk in a long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, and the space heater
turned on high as close as I can get it without burning myself. Did I ever
mention my office is the coldest room in the house?
Our home was built in the 1960s. Back then, builders in
North Texas weren’t concerned with energy efficiency and insulation. Since
Margaret and I moved in we’ve made improvements slowly as the money has come.
Rare cold days like today put a strain on the heater and thus my office is
simply damn cold. Anyway, the rant is over. On to other things…
Experience has taught me to look for the positive in every situation, albeit hard at times. It’s usually easier after the fact. I may be wrong, but I believe it was Steve Jobs who said something to the effect that “life is meant to be lived forward but can only be understood looking backward”.
There are times when our ability to believe a lie is a
positive thing. My wife has dealt with back issues and chronic pain for most of
her life. She’s had many surgeries and some post-operative infections over the
years. The doctors have often given little hope of keeping her out of a wheelchair
and are always surprised when we walk into a new appointment. Her philosophy
through out her lifetime has been “don’t tell me what I can’t do”.
Doctors base their truth on the evidence at hand. We tend to
call it an opinion rather than a truth, but it’s an opinion based on facts. The
facts indicate Margaret should not be ambulatory, but don’t tell her that. She doesn’t
believe it. She pushes through and is still, albeit with a cane, walking today.
Her refusal to accept the facts lead her to live a better life and she’s not
Whether you believe man left a garden, or the African savannah
doesn’t really matter. Either way, I can imagine those early humans sitting
around the tribal campfire after a long day of hunting and gathering. Autumn
has set in. There’s a chill in the night air. As they laugh and chat about
their day, a flight of geese heading south for the winter passes overhead.
One of the guys looks up and says, “I wish I could fly south
and get away from this winter. Maybe I can find a way to do just that”. His
other buddies crack up with laughter and tell him how goofy he is. He becomes
the object of ridicule. After all, man doesn’t have wings and can’t fly like a
Fast forward many centuries to the Renaissance. Leonardo Da Vinci is busy drawing a flying machine. Man is still thinking of ways to “head south for the winter”, to fly like bird. If you fast forward to a hill at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and the Wright Brothers finally the first airplane flight. Just a few decades later and we’re walking on the moon. Go figure…
Now the truth is man can’t fly. No matter how fast one runs
across the meadow flapping man-made wings, they fail miserably. I know. I tried
it, but that was back in the seventies and involved hallucinogens which is
another story all together. The fact, the truth, is that man can’t fly.
Before you deem me simple of mind take a moment to think about it. Have you ever known a man to fly? I haven’t but I have seen man create new and better airplanes and forms of flying machines. They fly; sometimes without a human pilot aboard. I know it’s all semantics, right? Still, I’m thankful old Wilbur and Orville believed in the lie that man could fly. Because of their belief in a lie, I can hope a jet for Jamaica in the winter (which I really wish I were able to do today…), soak up the sun, and take a dip in tropical waters. You see, there’s something positive in everything.
By now you’re probably asking what this has to do with “Us”
and “Them”. The truth is humans were created to live in community, to live life
together, and what’s inside each of
us is inside all of us. This sounds
so cliché, so trite, but it’s the truth. The truth is there is no “them”, there’s
My friend Edgar always said, “Show me how you act, and I’ll tell you what you believe”. If I believe the “Them” lie, I can justify all kinds of bad behavior toward others. My belief system is faulty. I believe a lie. Sometimes I think it’s easier to be a duck, but I’m not, so today I’ll try to be the best “Us” I can be and act accordingly.
What do you believe?
“Show me how you act and I’ll tell you what you believe…”
Thoughts From the Porch: The temperature is dropping like a rock and the wind is blowing harder here in North Texas. My office is in the coldest part of the house. Normally, this is a good thing. I tend to be hot when everyone else is merely comfortable. Today’s a bit different. I need to add the space heater next to my desk to my Gratitude List for the day.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe in the literal creation story or if you see it as a metaphor for the beginning of human history; the end result is the same. Man, the rational animal, can act irrationally and believe things that simply aren’t true. I’m no scientist but I’m pretty sure that we’re somewhat unique in that regard.
Dad used to tell me, “Son, if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck”. Straightforward and simple, right? You see, a duck doesn’t think itself anything other than a duck. It waddles down to the pond, takes a swim to find something to eat, and quacks at the other ducks. It doesn’t bark, stalk prey, or run like a cheetah, nor does it particularly want to. It’s a duck! Anyone can see that, right?
Imagine for a moment that you’re at the duck pond, feeding
the dusks, and someone walks up and says, “look at that Canadian Snow Swan”.
You look around and all you see are a flock of Mallards fighting each other for
a piece of bread. Intrigued and thinking the stranger a bit off his duff, you
ask what he’s talking about. He points to one of the less brightly colored Mallards
and says, “see, a Canadian Snow Swan”.
Now you know better. After all, you passed high school biology.
This guy must be confused. You press him a bit more. He explains that Canadian
Snow Swans are very similar to Mallards, but not as brilliantly colored. They
tend to follow Mallard flocks as they migrate to and from, so they are often
confused for Mallards. A seed of doubt was just planted.
A few days later, you’re at the same duck pond. Someone comes up and says, “Oh, look at the Mallards”. You wisely declare that they’re not all Mallards, a couple are Canadian Snow Swans. You proudly proclaim your thorough knowledge on the subject because “they” said. It doesn’t matter who “they” are, but apparently “they” are in the know. Now you one of “them”, and everyone believes a lie.
One of the first questions I ask someone when they tell me “they say that (fill in the blank) is who “they” are. Ninety-nine percent of the time the respondent has no idea who “they” are. The internet is full of “them”, experts in falsehood who proudly proclaim their version of “Truth” and it gets repeated over and over. After all, it was on the internet so it must be true…
Now the duck hasn’t changed, nor has the fact that it’s a
duck, but we now believe it to be something else. Having proclaimed it a
Canadian Snow Swan we now defend our position with a myriad of justifications –
“plausible, but untrue” explanations of our correctness. Nobody likes being
One of the disastrous consequences of false belief is an equally false superiority over everyone who doesn’t believe the way we do. “They” are different rom “us”. Religion is a prime example. Talk about “us” and “them”! History is littered with the wreckage of “us” and “them”. I’ve heard it said that man can survive without a God but he cant’ live without a devil. The devil’s in “them”.
Sometimes I wonder if we can ever get past the “us” and “them”
mentality, the tribalism, that keeps us from being simply one of God’s kids.
That’s my own personal idealism and believe me, I’ve had plenty of people tell
me I’m wrong. The good news is that I’ve met a lot of folks who share that
ideal, so there’s still hope.
I may be completely wrong in all of this. I’ve never been a
duck so I’m not sure what’s going on in those little duck heads. What I know
for sure is that I’m capable of believing lies. I haven’t cornered the market
on “truth”, so I must depend on my fellows to lead me there. Maybe that’s why God
thought community so special: so that we could learn from one another and find
our way to a better place.
Thoughts From the Porch:
It’s been a gray, dreary, and cold weekend here in North Texas. There were
rumors of sleet around us, but here in Fort Worth it was a constant drizzle. I
spent several winters in the Colorado High Country and I’ve never felt the cold
like I do here. It’s the kind of bone-piercing cold that feels like thousands
of tiny needles poking you all at once. Of course, I’m much older now and maybe
it was simply youthful exuberance that made the cold more bearable. Today is to
be warmer and it’ll be seventy in the next couple of days. I’ll quit
I had to run to the grocery store yesterday afternoon. It wasn’t nearly as busy as usual. Everyone must have opted for Netflix binging rather than dealing with the weather. When I got home, I paused on the porch to enjoy what gray light remained of the day. I’d love to tell how I got tom enjoy the quiet at the end of a long, dismal day, but that wasn’t the case. The caterwauling of hundreds of Grackles in the surrounding trees put an end to any idea of quiet enjoyment of the porch. It was so deafening I couldn’t even hear my inner voice, much less the next-door neighbor saying hello as he walked to his vehicle.
Some of you might be
unfamiliar with Grackles, so allow me to explain. The “Great-tailed” or
“Mexican” Grackle is a medium-size bird originally native to Central America.
According to Wikipedia, they’ve increased their range by over 5500% and can be
found through much of the United States. I’m convinced however, that the
greatest concentration of them are in my trees…
I don’t wish to offend
bird lovers, but I don’t like Grackles. If we lived outside the city limits, I
would have no problem declaring open season with the shotgun. Don’t get me
wrong. I love birds. They bring color and song to our quiet little cul-de-sac. Grackles,
not so much. They are, like city pigeons, flying rats. Noisy, flying rats…
Please don’t judge me if
you’ve never experienced a flock of Grackles. They are incredible foragers and
they have little fear of humans. They mock efforts to shew them away. They fly
together in huge flocks, often darkening the sky and even been known to interfere
Several years ago, the
Grackle problem got so bad in downtown Fort Worth that a noise cannon could be
heard going off in hopes of driving them out of the city center. Sundance
Square, the jewel in the crown of Downtown Cowtown, was so noisy and covered in
bird droppings it was difficult to find a safe place to sit and enjoy a summer
evening outdoors. The city sought to drive them away lest they deter commerce
and conspicuous consumption. Unfortunately, they ended up in quiet little
neighborhoods like ours. You wouldn’t believe I wash my vehicles and sidewalk
That being said, I
noticed something somewhat unique to our Grackle population. They were all
yelling (it can’t really be called ‘singing’) over one another creating
incredible dissonance when all the sudden it was eerily quiet. I’m not talking
about the noise fading out. It was as if someone yelled, “lights out” and the
entire flock stopped at once. It went from a din to silence in the flick of a
switch. Looking up I couldn’t see a one.
I guess I’m a bit
simple. Little things really intrigue me. The Grackles may be flying rats but
they’re awesome flying rats. Now I know there’s several scientific and
biological reasons for their unique abilities, but to go from unbearable
dissonance to complete silence in a second is pretty darn awesome. It’s not as
though there were a few birds here. We’re talking about a flock of hundreds of
birds acting as one. Sometimes I wish people were like that…
I sit at my newsfeed
every morning, only to be greeted with all the dissonance around me. Everyone
yelling at everyone else. Everyone shouting how right they are. Everyone
screeching to be heard. Everyone screaming out for their self-interests. Sounds
a lot like the Grackles to me.
Imagine if whole
neighborhoods, whole communities, acted as one. You know, for the best interest
of the ‘flock’. Imagine if my selfishness was replaced by concern for my neighbor,
my community, heck, for my planet. Imagine if, instead of yelling to be heard,
everyone got quiet together, changed the manner of discourse and talked to one
another. I don’t really expect it to happen, but what if…
You’re right, I’m a
dreamy-eyed idealist. Maybe the world needs more idealists. It tends to get
beaten out of children in favor of being a practical, rational adult. It’s a
little ironic that Jesus said we should “become like little children” if we
really wanted to live out the Kingdom of God. Like John Lennon sang, “People say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not
the only one…”