CELEBRATION: the practice of naming

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After picking a handful of wildflowers
later -
Shutting my eyes their beauty is
Still in my head
—Gail Diez
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That Day

Is he alone who has courage on his right hand and faith on his left hand?
Charles Lindbergh

That day is waiting,
Imminently,
Off-stage,
In the wings,
When the mathematics change—
When a given is taken away.

Perhaps they all wanted a nickname,
A moniker, a distinctive sobriquet,
Those changing, giddy adolescent girls
Who gathered at the lunch table
In that small town high school cafeteria.

She wore hers with a jaunty aspect.
Carol became Charlie,
Charlie Lindberg,
The flying ace,
The intrepid adventurer.

Who else would have
A skunk named Artemis?
Who else could twirl the perfect DQ cone,
Or make you laugh just to hear her giggle?
Her face was made for happiness.

But she was more grounded than aloft,
With love of home and church and family;
Chose to be Carol again and never fly
Too far away from roots
Sunk deep in small town soil.

Giddiness fades and high school ends;
Promises of forever are made.
Ties of friendship stretch and fray,
But do not break.

Time
Moves.
Busy with jobs and homes and children
Arthritis and gray hair can approach Unheeded.
Where, you ask, did fifty years go?

I still dream of missing the bus and
Making the honor roll, and
Wondering, will there be a place for me
At the lunch table?
The smell of fish sticks conjures memories.

There is much talk of Heaven
And of hope,
Of faith and coming glory
And God willing, that may be,
But.
No lunch table girl had yet crossed;

Exit stage left.
Second act, perhaps.

That day,
Sadly,
Came too soon.

Jean Doolittle
In honor of classmate and friend
Carol Lindberg Braaten, 1950-2016

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This summer I had the privilege of recording the stories of young people who are experiencing homelessness. Ten youth, aged 16-24, and two case workers, barely older than these youth, came into a make-shift recording studio and spoke the truth of their lives. It was a project of Oasis for Youth, a Bloomington-based organization providing services to youth in southwest Hennepin county who are experiencing homelessness.

Among the youth and staff, ten identify as African American, one Caucasian and one Hispanic. I, a 66-year old white woman from a typical Midwest background, have nothing obvious in common with these young people. Yet, they came with astonishing courage and honesty to give voice to their experience. To name it. That they were willing to do so in my presence is a gift I will treasure always.

They responded to questions such as …
“How did you find out about Oasis?”
“What was happening in your life?”
“What is your greatest worry?”
“What is your greatest joy?”
“How has Oasis helped you?”

Their answers are both completely the same as yours and mine might be, and completely different.

“I was riding the bus and saw the Oasis sign. I wondered what it was, so one day I got off the bus, went in and checked it out.”

“A friend who had been coming to Oasis told me about it. I needed food.”

“For me the biggest thing was housing. When I wasn’t staying with my mom, I was couch-hopping. One time I slept in a park, one night. That was a bad situation. At the end of the day, you never want to worry about where you will sleep. It’s scary.”

“My greatest worry is me flat-lining someday, out on the streets.”

“I often worry about my young guys. I worry that a young person I have been working with will be on the news, being shot.”

“My greatest joy is family.”

“My greatest joy is to be respected, that someone actually cares.”

“I found Oasis, and Oasis lifted me up.”

These youth voices were shared with a generous community who contributed a record amount of money to support Oasis. And, as a community, we celebrated.
—Margo Berg

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A number of years ago, as I was wandering along an evolving path of spiritual discovery and understanding, I began thinking about spiritual traditions and holidays. I grew up in family that observed typical Christian traditions (not that we went to church), and had acknowledged and celebrated such holidays all my life. But I had to admit to myself that Christmas and Easter no longer had any real spiritual meaning for me. I had to admit that I didn’t, in fact, have a true spiritual holiday at all. So I decided to create one. No, that’s not quite right. I decided to try to figure out if there was a day or an event in the year that was significantly spiritual for me. I was going to try to find my spiritual holiday… if I had one.

I began thinking about the year… my annual calendar… the events that happen… but nothing stuck. There was no day or moment that fit. So I starting thinking about when I feel spiritual and if there is a time of year when I feel more so. Then it hit me with great clarity. In the autumn, when the leaves are changing and the air is crisp and smells of… whatever that indescribable fall smell is, and the angle of the sun seems more intense, and the colors of the leave! Oh, the colors! I feel more alive, more connected, more grateful for just existing and being outside. It physically changes me in ways I’ve never been able to explain. It is mysterious, and beautiful. And it is sacred to me… deeply spiritual.

I now celebrate this more deliberately each year. I take time off work. We adorn our house with leaves. We take extended pilgrimages into the woods to worship the leave and breath deep the fall air. I needed a name for it. I tried on several names for size. The one that stuck, and lives with me today as my most sacred time of year is “The Holy Month of October”. Happy Holy Month of October everyone!
— Mark Kotz

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