Sunday, August 28, 2011

Courage, Bullying and Ramadan

The Old Father's Moon

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Eid Mubarak! The holy month of Ramadan is closing and the Muslim world is celebrating Eid ul Fitr, a massive celebration of family and festivities. People all over the world have been buying new clothes and even new furniture, preparing huge meals and readying gifts for family and neighbors. They will spend anywhere from one to five days visiting family, hosting feasts and distributing gifts to celebrate the end of the holy month of fasting. I get the feeling it's kind of like Christmas as far as a party season is concerned.

Over this last month I have been collecting and sharing stories about the different kinds of people in the world who are Muslim. I have read about the Muslim people of Senegal, Indonesia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Detroit, Los Angeles and many many others. I have read about their food customs (and eaten a number of delicious date concoctions - check out My Halal Kitchen's Dates and Cream), their daily life during Ramadan and their special religious ceremonies during the month. As I read, I kept in mind the charge I set myself at the beginning of the month, to be mindful of God-in-People. A query I asked "Do I speak to and answer “that of God” in everyone?"

One of the things I came to realize as I read these stories is that we as a species can be quite awful to each other. We are very bad at realizing and respecting that of God in each other. I learned a lot of stories about people being oppressed, persecuted and outright killed because of their cultural affiliation. I read about the Uiygar people who's lands were invaded by the Han Chinese in the early 20th century and have been oppressed religious and ethnic minorities ever since. Recent years have seen resistance violence in their Central Asian capitol which has resulted in harsh bans on practicing their Muslim faith. I read about the Kurdish people who, after World War I, had their ancestral lands split between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Their cultural identity has been actively suppressed by the Turkish government and the government of Saddam Hussain in Iraq. Their language has been outlawed, political organizing harshly crushed and even entire male populations of villages killed. I read about the Mughal invasion of northern India, where the new Muslim rulers felt justified in destroying Hindu religious sites because they were heathen, and modern laws and attitudes in Europe and America that make being a Muslim difficult and dangerous. Of course, stories of oppressors and oppressed are not limited to the Muslim world, but it was a theme that came up again and again.

The pastor at my Quaker meeting gave a sermon about bullpuckey, as he called it, the other week. He was specifically talking about bullpucky about Jesus and how Quakers stand in a unique place to see through, and speak up against bullpucky because of our belief in silent worship, personal connection with the divine and speaking truth to power. In worship, I thought a lot about a faith and values based anti-bullying program I heard about recently where the main focus is on helping bystanders to bullying find the courage to speak up. The thing that connects the bullpucky my pastor was talking about and the bullpucky of bullying is power, and writ large the bullpucky of those in power leads to the kind of oppression I see in my study of Muslim cultures. Whether oppressing or being oppressed, misuse of power, cultural bullying and disrespect of human life and dignity is a big pile of bullpucky.

What can we do about this cultural bullying, this disrespect for humanity? Paul Coughlin, the founder of the anti-bullying program The Protectors, says that the most powerful player in the theater of bullying is the bystander. Bullies do what they do because no one stands up to them, no one points out their disrespectful behavior, no one has the courage to say "stop!". A study quoted by Paul Coughlin's group says that 58% of bullying incidents end within just a few seconds of a bystander speaking up for the victim. Whether his numbers are true or not, and whether this study can be scaled up to culture wide bullying, I don't know. I do know, however, that we must do everything we can to shed light on oppression, bullying and bullpucky everywhere.

The Father's Moon energies ask us to think about how we can be mature adults as we interact with our community to make it a better place. How can we keep our community safe, how can we encourage community members to be better people? How can our own resources and gifts be used for the greater good? There are so many things going wrong with our communities that it is easy to get overwhelmed. It is easy to ignore the bullpucky, easy to let the bullies set the agenda. Courage is required to be a good father, and courage is required to use the Father's moon energies to speak up for those who need a champion. I'm not saying I'm any good at any of this, but I'm saying I feel a new call to be mindful of it.

The 10th Anniversary of 9/11 is coming up in the next week and I worry that with heightened emotions there will be extra bullpucky about Muslims, about war and about our cultural bullying. I wonder what I can do to be a courageous bystander.

What did you learn about Islam and Muslim people this Ramadan? I'd love to hear your stories or thoughts. Have you ever found the courage to stand up against bullying, oppression or other forms of bullpucky? What's your favorite recipe using dates? Eid Mubarak!

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This post is not for the Full Father's moon and it is not for the New Nesting Moon, it is for the old Father's Moon. Here are links to other Ramadan posts, which is the main theme of this post. Use the tag for "Father's Moon" to see other New and Full Father's Moon posts from years past.

Ramadan 2010: Ramadan and End of Ramadan

Ramadan 2011: Blessed Ramadan and Ramadan Postings 2011

Photos by Carmen Alonso Suarez, DMahendra, DVIDSHUB and zz77. Please check out their photos on Flickr.

Ramadan Postings 2011

As with last year, I collected stories about Muslim people, culture and history and shared them on my Facebook page. Here are my postings from Ramadan 2011.

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Did you know that Ramadan, the holy month of Islam, begins with the next sighting of the new moon tomorrow or the next day? Like last year, I will be exploring Islam, Muslims and Ramadan as the month goes on. What would you like to know?
1.5 billion Muslims begin celebrating the holy month of Ramadan this weekend. Lets take some time this month to learn something new about this religion, the people who practice it and their many cultures. And keep the people of Libya, Syria, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and so many more in your thoughts this month.. and all months.

Fasting for Ramadan begins the day after the first sighting of the new crescent moon, which could be seen last night. Today is the first day people all over the world are abstaining from food, water, smoking and a few other things for all daylight hours. Instead, they will spend their time praying and reading the Koran. Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Mubarak! A Flickr blog

In addition to refraining from eating, drinking, smoking and having sex, Muslims who fast during Ramadan also refrain from immoral behavior such as lying, speaking in anger, fighting or talking behind someone's back. How often can we refrain from those behaviors?

A Muslim Voices blog post about zakat, or charity. This is one of the five pillars of islam and especially important during Ramadan.

Indonesia is the world's most populous majority Muslim country. People joke that Ramadan is more of a feasting month than a fasting month in Indonesia because of all the family dinners and street bazaars that happen in the evening hours. Rice dumplings steamed in young coconut leaves, called ketupat, are a specialty this time of year.

A photo gallery of Ramadan around the world.

40% of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or 1.8 million people are Muslim. They have been a part of this area's culture since the Ottomon rule beginning in the 1450s. Bosniaks, as they call themselves, celebrate Ramadan with savory filled dumplings called pita and baklava and singing games and competitions.

Last Ramadan, monsoon flooding in Pakistan (the world's second largest majority Muslim population) left 11 million people homeless. Giving charity or zakat is an important part of Ramadan celebrations all over the world, but especially in Pakistan. So are pakoras, or fried vegetable fritters.

A Washington Post slide show of photos of people celebrating Ramadan.

Senegal is a small country on the far west coast of Africa where 90% of the population is Muslim. Islam first came to Senegal in the 11th century but spread rapidly in the 19th century. Today, most Senegalese are Sufi, a mystical branch of Islam. Senegalese like to break their Ramadan fast with pastries and coffee before going to evening prayers.

There are around 2 million African-American Muslims in our country. Islam is attractive to many African Americans both because of the Islamic heritage of West Africa and also for the explicitly non-racist attitude of Islamic theology. Islam, like other world religions, is a wide and deep pool that people of all colors and backgrounds have found meaning in.

"Imam Shareef says there is a strong connection between African-Americans' historic struggle for freedom and equality since the end of slavery in the 1860s, and the Islamic tradition of seeking spiritual freedom. Ramadan, he says, is a chance for Black Muslims in America to remember that." For African American Muslims, Ramadan has Special Meaning.

"President Obama’s may be one of the more highly publicized Ramadan dinners at the White House, we have a teenage Chelsea Clinton to thank for the tradition — a young American willing to study cultures outside her own."
The story.
In 1958 Ramadan, Passover and Easter all coincided. Here is a vintage Toledo Blade article about celebrations in Jerusalem.

In Morocco, like in other Muslim countries, traffic patterns change dramatically during Ramadan. People rush home in the early evening to get home in time to break their fast with their family, often causing traffic jams and frayed tempers. In Morocco, after breaking their fast with dates and milk, families will eat a hearty dinner of harira (lentil soup), hard boiled eggs and briouats (meat pastries).

98% of the 75 million people in Iran are Muslim and 90% of those are Shia (or Shiite) Muslims. Originally, the split between Shia and Sunni Muslims (who make up the vast majority of Muslims today) was a political one based on succession of leadership after the death of the prophet Muhammad. Both groups fast through ramadan, and reshteh-khoshar, a spiced cookie with walnuts and rice flour, is a favorite in Iran for iftar. .

The partition of Pakistan from India in 1947 happened along religious lines but there are still over 138 million Muslims in India. Islam is most common in the north and east of the country, but the southern state of Kerala had a Muslim population since the 7th century AD. Pathiri, a rice flour griddle cake, are a specialty of Muslims in Kerala and a must for Ramadan. A recipe.

Fordson High in Dearborne MI is again holding preseason practices at night to accommodate fasting players. Faith, family and football at its best!
The New York Times article.
In the town of Habbaniya Cece, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites all coexisted for decades. That changed as Al Qaeda began to take hold in Anbar Province. “It was strangers who came and made trouble, trying to plant something between us. But we’re living together now, there’s no problem,” caretaker of the Shiite mosque Khadem Owaid said.
This is history for us, says final Christian family.
Tonight is the full moon which means we are halfway through Ramadan. Fasting for Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, can you name any one of the other four?

A video in which Muslims explain What Do You Think People Most Misunderstand about Islam? Very powerful.
""When accused of terrorism we are Muslims, when killed by looters, we become Asian", a Muslim student explained to me....Most important to emphasise is the extent to which everyone in Tower Hamlets was a beneficiary of streetwise, smart Muslims acting swiftly to protect shops, businesses and communities against looters." Muslims tackle looters, bigots, an Al Jazeera English opinion piece.
Islam is the second largest religion in the United Kingdom with over 2.5 million adherents of many different ethnicities. Islam has been known in England for centuries, one of Chaucer's pilgrims in Canterbury Tales was well versed in Islamic scholarship and Shakespeare's Othello was a Moor, possibly an African or Arab Muslim. Ramadan Festival UK is sponsoring events all over the country this month, including feeding homeless people, music festivals and house parties.

""Ramadan is all about training your self-discipline in order to be a better person," said Habehh, who has made it her Ramadan mission this year to focus on educating families about the importance of foster care in the Muslim community.... Children are exempt from the fast until they reach puberty, but many younger children are eager to imitate their parents and older siblings by taking part in the tradition."
In Muslim families, kids want to join Ramadan fast, good deeds.
"The group’s members — Tyson, Kumasi, Erik Rico and Anas Canon — are all Muslims who aim to inspire with a positive message of beauty, faith and tolerance. Dubbing themselves “hip-hop ambassadors of the 21st century,” Remarkable Current was invited to tour the country at the behest of the US State Department as part of a performing arts initiative."
Rap Ambassadors Spread the Word in Jakarta.

Islam came to Syria in 640AD when the area was conquered by a companion of the prophet Muhammad. Today, 86% of the country is Muslim including both Sunni and Shi'a communities. Like in other Muslim countries, Ramadan is a time for fasting, praying and charity but also a time for family and food. Evenings are often spent playing cards or backgammon, and sweets like knafeh, a pastry of semolina flour with cheese and sugar syrup, are a favorite.

Arabic is the language the Koran is written in, and thus is considered holy to Muslims. Arabic, like Hebrew, is written from right to left and uses mostly consonants with marks to denote vowels rather than letters. People actually learn two different varieties of Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, the language of media and scholarship, and their local dialect. Over 280 million people in over 26 countries are native Arabic speakers.

Sunset in Portland tonight is at 8:20pm. At the beginning of Ramadan the evening prayers, Magrhib, occurred at 8:40 and at the end of the month they will occur at 7:55pm. Autumn is upon is, and so is Eid! Have you been noticing the sunset? Doing anything special to commemorate it?

The Philippines is a predominantely Catholic country but there have been Muslims in the area since the early 1400s AD. One region in particular, southern Mindanao, has a significant Muslim population even today. The Muslim people are referred to as Moros, a word related to the Spanish word moor. House cleaning and tending to family graves are important parts of Ramadan in Mindanao.

Abdul Rashid Abdullah, scoutmaster of Troop 786, said the Islamic faith and Boy Scouts of America are harmonious in philosophy and in practice. "The Islamic ideals and the scouting ideals are the same. They're compatible," he said. "I can easily talk about the scout law and talk about Koranic verses that co-relate to those scout laws, so it makes it really easy."
Muslim community embraces scouting, a CNN story.
The rebels in Libya are flying a flag of red, black and green to replace the solid green flag of Gaddafi's Libya. Green is a special color in Islam, said to represent life and nature and was the color of the prophet Muhammad's banner. 90% of Libya's population lives in 10% of its land, close to the coast which is the longest along the African Mediterranean coast.
A Libyan food blog post about fritters in syrup, a Ramadan specialty.
"At the crowded Los Feliz diner, Abedin and the soon-to-be fasters were crammed into two booths, men and women side-by-side. They scanned the large menu... The waiter — a man named Achilles with a braided ponytail and a black T-shirt that read "Friends don't let friends get married" — asked about drink orders. But the group was ready for food, mindful that dawn would break at 4:30 that morning."
Adapting Ramadan to the All American Diner, in the Los Angeles Times.
An Al Jazeera English video about the football team at Fordson High in Detroit. They practiced during the middle of the night to accommodate fasting students but just switched back to daytime practices. A cool look at Muslim kids and teachers who look and sound just like any other American football team.

The Uyghur people (pronounced "weeger") are a Turkic speaking group from Xinjiang region of Central Asia who have practiced Islam for over a thousand years. In the 19th century their homeland was invaded by Han Chinese and today, like neighboring Tibet, they face great political and religious restrictions imposed by the Chinese government. In fact, the Chinese government is actively repressing the practice of fasting for Ramadan after resistance violence in recent years. No Ramadan for Uighur Muslims.

A repost from last year about female imams in China's Henan Province.
The Kurds have been called the largest ethnic group in the world without their own state. After the US invasion of Iraq the northern portion of that country has been a virtually autonomous Kurdistan but the Kurds of Turkey are still persecuted. The holiday at the end of Ramadan is called jezhn and is celebrated with family, feasting and new clothes like in most other Muslim cultures. Kulicha, a sweet fried dough with a filling of dates, nuts or coconut is a popular jezhn treat.
Anthony Bourdain's episode about Kurdistan on this season's No Reservations was really informative and well done.

Birdsong brings relief to my longing
I'm just as ecstatic as they are, but with nothing to say!
Please universal soul, practice some song or something through me!
Jelaluddin Rumi was born in what is today Afghanistan in 1207. He became a Muslim teacher and judge and later an ecstatic Sufi poet. He wrote in the Persian language and is considered a major cultural hero in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey.
More Rumi poetry in translation.

Muslims believe that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Jibril starting on Lailatul Qadr', a night during the last 10 days of Ramadan. No one is sure what the exact date is, but it is generally believed to be one of the odd dates in the last weeks of the month. The Quran says that night is worth a thousand months, so many Muslims spend extra time in prayer.

Eid Mubarak! Eid ul-Fitr is the first day of the Shawwal and the end of Ramadan. It is celebrated as a huge holiday all over the Muslim world and occurs today! Many people celebrate by dressing in new clothes and attending prayers at a mosque, inviting family and friends over for a meal and then going visiting. What are you celebrating today? What have you discovered over the course of Ramadan?
Photos of Eid celebrations from around the world.

Eid is a week long national holiday in Qatar. People travel home to be with their family, wear new clothes, have fresh hair cuts and even buy new furniture to show how special the holiday is. It is typical to give gifts of food to the poor, of sweets and money to children and other items to everyone else you meet. Cooked lamb and rice is a tradition Eid dish, and like with Ramadan iftars, sweets of all kinds can be found.

A lovely blog post by a woman in Baghdad about what Eid looks like there. A Day of Eid in Baghdad.

Since the Islamic calendar is lunar, rather than solar, each month begins when the moon is sighted.... but when the moon is sighted depends on where you are in the world, the weather conditions, whether you can use a telescope or not or whether you can use astronomical calculations. This means Eid starts in different places depending on the regional customs. NPR's report on determining when Eid begins.
Iftar dates or a glass of cabernet? A wonderful piece by Caroline Jaine on Muslim Voices.
As Eid celebrations continue all over the world marking the end of Ramadan, I ask you to keep thinking about the people of the Muslim world. They are not a monolithic group and I hope that we can continue to see people for their actions and aspirations, not just their religious or cultural affiliation. What have you learned this Ramadan? What will you be thinking about as we move into this autumn?
Eid During the Arab Spring.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fathering, Missions and the Father's Moon

Full Father's Moon

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JUNIPERO'S mode of life in his mission never varied He rose with the dawn He seemed to require little sleep The greater portion of the night he passed in prayer.

At sunrise he said mass and afterwards distributed breakfast to his neophyt
es This task he always refused to delegate to others. His Indians were well-fed and well-cared for. He found time to cut out all the shirts and petticoats needed in the missions and all the little garments worn by the children. During stated hours in the mornings and afternoons he instructed the Indians in the doctrines and observances of the church. In the intervals he taught the women to sew and superintended the labors of the men, tucking up his shabby friar's frock to work himself, the better to show his pupils and to stimulate them to habits of industry by the force of his example. He was always kind to the neophytes although he did not hesitate to punish them whenever he deemed punishment necessary. He refused to overlook, even in the newest converts, the slightest lapse from the strict code of morals he insisted upon, nor would he pardon the least carelessness or neglect in church attendance or observances.

In spite of this severity the neophytes were devoted to him. They saw that he exacted from them no duty which he did not exact from himself with far greater rigor, that the pu
nishments he inflicted upon his own delicate body surpassed severity anything to which they were subjected. An intuition which belongs alike to children and savages taught them that in Junipero they had not teacher only, but a friend, a brother, and champion.

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I'm late in posting my full Father's Moon post because I was on vacation for a week in Southern California, visiting family. My sister and I traveled together and had a great time. We went to the Santa Monica Pier, swam in the ocean at Corona del Mar, visited the Natural History Museum and ate as much ethnic food as we could pack into our five days (I believe the final count was 9 restaurants representing 6 cuisines).

One of the highlights of
the trip for me was our visit to Mission San Gabriel, the fourth of 21 Spanish Missions built in the 18th century in south and Central California. The missions in Alta California, as the area was called in late 1700s, were begun by Father Junipero Serra. Serra was born in Majorca in 1713 and studied theology and philosophy as a priest and lecturer at the University in Majorca. When he was 36 years old he left his home to work as a missionary in Mexico where he worked both among the Indians and in Mexico City for almost 20 years. In 1768 he was appointed the Father Presidente of the Missions in Baja California and in 1770 founded the Mission San Diego in what is today a city that bears that same name. He founded missions all along the California coast for the rest of his life, working to convert Indians and turn the land around the missions into productive farms.

Mission San Gabriel, 9 miles east of downtown Los Angeles (the original Mexican settlement of Los Angeles was an secular outgrowth of the mission), is as stunningly beautiful as any of the other missions. It's exterior walls are a warm and lovely golden sand color and its interior a series of shady gardens and cool, dark buildings. It is reknown for its campanario, a wall with six bells in it and its elegant capped buttresses and tall narrow windows showing the influence Spanish Moors had even half a world away. Inside the church are 18th century paintings by a Native American artist of the stations of the cross, wooden statues carved in Mexico and a copper babtismal that has seen more than 25,000 baptisms. Mission San Gabriel is also the final resting place of over 6,000 Native Americans, and is the eipicenter of the cultural destruction of the Tongva/Gabrielino Indians. Even today the Tongva people are fighting for federal recognition, for respectful treatment of their cultural artifacts and preservation of their traditional lands.

Father Junipero Serra was a perfect incarnation of the energies of the Father's Moon and so my mixed emotions about him are quite fitting. He was a loving but stern figure, very conscious of the need to train his followers, both Spanish and Native. He was very much a man of his era and had no notion of the multiculturalism and relativism that are hallmarks of our own time. He believe in right and wrong, good and evil, heaven and hell, and he knew the correct path to take to become the right kind of person. Annette Hinshaw notes that humans tend to resent fathering, even as we realize that it is important to our own growth. She also reminds us that the role of the father requires commanding respect, not necessarily love or even affection.

As I've traveled this summer I've gotten to see a number of my friends and family members as they act as fa
thers. One of my friends is the gentlest, most loving father I've ever met and genuinely dotes on his daughters. He has a hard time being a disciplinarian and his 6 year old knows it. Another friend seems overwhelmed by economic hardships and, though I know he loves his kids, seems less able to love and laugh with them. My cousins I was staying with in L.A. are Mormon and the father of that family seems so balanced and comfortable in his role as a father. I wonder how much his religion's traditional views on fatherhood actually give him clear role models and standards to live up to in his fathering. He works full time but comes home to his family full of laughter, encouragement and the ability to be the disciplinary backbone of the household. I love getting to watch my friends grow into this so very difficult role. They are good men and they are growing good kids through their fathering.

I think that Father Junipero Serra thought he w
as doing the right thing and that he can serve as both a model and warning to us as we navigate the treacherous pathways of manifesting the Father's Moon energies. He worked alongside his flock but was confident in his role as a leader. He delighted in giving them gifts but knew they had to do their own work as well. As my sister and I were leaving the Mission we passed the large bronze statue of Fra Serra and stopped for a moment. "He thought he was doing the right thing," my sister said. "I hope history judges me for my intentions," I said. From his own point of view, Father Serra really was just trying to be a good father.

What do you think makes a good father? When have you experienced excellent fathering, whether from your biological parent or someone else? Have you ever been to a California Mission? What historical figures do you think are excellent father figures? How is your summer going?

The quoted story is from
Junipero Serra; A Man and His Work by A.H. Fitch. Click on the link there to access the google books version, or check out another online version here. Old Father's Journey by Beulah Karney is another story about Junipero Serra, told from a more modern, but still favoriable, point of view. Steven W. Hackel's article at is much more critical, and a very interesting read.

For more pictures from my trip to Mission San Gabriel, check my
flickr page.

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Full Father's Moon 2009: The Aftermark of Almost Too Much Love
This is one of my favorite posts... check it out and read an awesome Robert Frost poem.

Full Father's Moon 2010:
Robin Hood

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An August Journey

August Eve

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August is here! It is the time in the Wheel of the Year when the Father God sacrifices himself again so that all life may continue to live. It is the time of the first harvests, yellowing grass, ripening fruits and the shorter but hotter dog days. It is the time of manly and physical energies, of Lugh and Osiris, Adonis and Jesus as he fights, lives and dies for his beloved (that would be you, me and all of creation!). Each of these deities go on a journey, leaving their life behind and traveling into death only to reemerge alive again. August is a time for all kinds of journeys, mythical and physical, magical and mundane, godly and very, very human.

One of Portlander's favorite ways to spend a hot summer day is to float down one of our many beautiful rivers. On the weekend closest to August Eve I set out with my sister and a couple friends to float down the Clackamas, a river named after one of the original native peoples of the area. It flows down off the slopes of Mt. Hood through old growth forest and lush farmland into the Willamette, the river in the center of Portland itself. It is a beautiful river that runs swift and clean for many miles just outside the Portland metro area.

The day started out like any other hero's journey, with a call to adventure. This happened to take the form of some phone calls and text messages, but hey, even hero's are subject to 21st century technology. After acquiring our tubes, some river safe sandals and sustenance for the trip we were off!

By the time we finally arrived, packed our backpacks, blew up our tubes and slathered on the sunscreen we were very, very ready for the river. Our first challenge was to face the threshold monster in the rapids right after the boat ramp. We were hardly wet yet and the rapids looked very, very scary. I believe I screamed "we are all going to die" repeatedly as the current took my tube and sloshed it down the rapids. We did not die but were rewarded with a lovely deep pool and rocks to jump off of right after the rapids.

Onwards we went, paddling or floating, through rapids and calm water. It was a beautiful warm day and the water was pleasantly cool, but not too frigid. We saw trout in the river and vultures, bald eagles and osprey overhead. I love how fully immersed in the river you have to be when tubing, both literally and psychologically. The rapids on this stretch of the Clackamas are not so dangerous that doing them on an inflatable tube is foolhardy, but they do pose a genuine risk if you treat them flippantly. You have to watch the water, choose your line through the rapid and paddle your body appropriately to avoid hitting rocks or overhanging trees. One friend banged an elbow pretty bad on one rapid and my sister got tossed arse over teakettle in another. I hit my bottom hard on a rock, but luckily it is well padded and no one was seriously hurt. It makes me feel really alive to feel the river like that, to be so fully engaged with the physics of the universe.

We had a wonderful time, horsing around and enjoying the sights until someone asked if we had passed the pull out where our car was. Oh no. We asked some other rafters if we were past McIver park and they laughed at us. Yup. Crap. In an inspired moment of group-think, the four of us decided to deflate our rafts and head up the bank of the river towards the highway, which we assumed would be close. Like Odysseus facing Charybdis and Scylla or Luke Skywalker and the rebel fighters battling AT-AT walkers on Hoth, we valiantly fought that river side slope. It was covered in blackberries and stinging nettle. We lost sandals in knee deep mud and fell off fallen logs. We were sure we could make it all on our own!

But then we couldn't. We realized that we were not going to get out of this with only our own abilities and wits. Frodo finally decided to trust Gollum and we decided that we were going to have to trust the river and the luck of the hitchhiker to get back home. We re-inflated our tubes and headed on to whatever we might find downriver. Lady Luck was faithful and sent us a guy with a truck to bring us up to the highway from the boat ramp. We walked along the road for a while, worried that we would have to hike the whole way back but then, joy of joys, a car pulled over! It was another river floater who had been picked up by a hitchhiker herself earlier in the day. She drove us all the way back to our car with a smile and a kind word for our weary crew.

Our hero's journey ended, like all good rituals, with a feast cooked over an open fire. We grilled hamburgers and sat on the deck, aching, stinging and sunburned but happy. We had faced the challenges and, with the help of some luck and blessing, made it out alive and better for it. August in Portland is a magical time, and our day on the river was a perfect way to start it off.

What journeys have you made this summer? Which male deity is your favorite and why? When have you ever trusted and had your trust repaid with a boon? How did you spend August Eve this year? What rivers are near your house and how do you enjoy them? Happy beginning of the harvest season!

Photos by brx0, Tom Clifton and Matt.Picio. Click on the photos or on their names to see more of their Clackamas River photos and other photography. Thanks!

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August Eve 2009: August Eve In the Woods!

August Eve 2010: August Eve, The Subtle Turning

This post is also about the Hero's Journey, which I also discuss in the post from this past Journey Moon, Perseus and the Journey Moon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blessed Ramadan

The New Father's Moon
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Once again, the holy month of Ramadan is upon us. Ramadan Mubarak!
Last year I posted about my growing concern about how Islam and Muslims are viewed in America and the West in general. I spent a thoughtful and fruitful month collecting information about Islam and Ramadan and sharing it with my close and distant circle of friends in person and electronically. It is Ramadan again, and again I feel the call to spend the month learning and sharing what I find.
O Marvel! a garden amidst the flames.
My heart has become capable of every form:
it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
and a temple for idols and a pilgrim's Ka'bah,
and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Qur'an.
I follow the relition of Love: whatever way Love's camels take,
that is my religion and my faith.

Ibn Arabi
It has been an exciting year for the Islamic world and a hard one. Revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia are changing the way people in North Africa and the Middle East view their governments and their societies. People continue to struggle for political reform in Yemen, Syria, Palestine and many other places. The struggle has turned to outright war in Libya, and Sudan is probably just in a lull in its long standing civil war. Famine grips Somalia and Ethiopia and the ancient battles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India continue on in their modern forms. Muslims in Europe and North America continue their struggle for economic freedom and acceptance in antagonistic cultures. I can only imagine it must be a difficult time for many Muslims around the world. I know that I can make a difference by helping other people learn about the religion of Islam, get some perspective on the current events in the Muslim world and understand more of Muslim world history.

This year my Ramadan call feels strongly about the people and cultures of the Muslim world. About 1.5 billion people, 20% of the world's populatio
n are Muslim. The Muslim world stretches from Morocco to Pakistan to China, Indonesia, the US and northern Europe. Muslims have black skin, blond hair, brown skin, Asian faces and every other kind of face imaginable. People are Muslim in sandy deserts, lush tropical rain forests, temperate mountains and high, windy plateaus. Like with all religions, people continue to practice their local traditions in addition to Islam leading to various versions even of the same basic activities. So many different cultures, so many different kinds of people.

I tried to find Him on the Christian cross, but He
was not there; I went to the Temple of the
Hindus and to the old pagodas, but I could not
find a trace of Him anywhere.

I searched on the mountains and in the valleys
but neither in the heights nor in the depths was I

able to find Him. I went to the Ka'bah in Mecca,
but He was not there either.
I questioned the scholars and philosophers but
He was beyond their understanding.
I then looked into my heart and it was there
where He dwelled that I saw Him; He was
nowhere else to be found.
As a billion and a half Muslims around the world spend this month of Ramadan fasting and praying in order to be closer to God, I will spend it getting closer to God-In-People. I will spend time studying the cultures of the world and and also the cultures in my own neighborhood. I will cherish and cultivate my relationships with people I already know and love, and cultivate and open heart towards the people I do not already know. Again this year I will sit with queries from the North Pacific Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practices: Do I speak to and answer “that of God” in everyone? Am I charitable with others? Do I practice the art of listening to others, even beyond words? What will you be thinking about during this bright yellow August month when so many others are fasting, praying, feasting and playing?

Blessed Ramadan!

Images by Zolashine, JakeBrewer, Mizrak and NewMediaNormaRae. Click on their names or the photos for more of their amazing work. Thank you!

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New Father's Moon 2009: New Father's Moon
New Father's Moon 2010: Fourth of July

This post is about Ramadan, as are my posts from last August, Ramadan and The End of Ramadan.