October, 2008 Archive

Coon Creek-Oat’s Peak Loop, Montana de Oro

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I needed a day off from Jan’s City Council campaign and from websurfing about the national election.  I kept remembering my Yom Kippur retreat in the woods, longing to return from the life of action to the ways of pleasure and contemplation.  So, on another “impulse from a vernal wood,” I decided to head for the coast with camera, journal, and a new book that just arrived from Amazon, Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist.

The inland morning fog was lifting as I left San Luis Obispo, the first time in a week that the unseasonable Santa Ana heat has abated.  I looked forward to moving in and out of the marine layer during my walk through the intertidal zone of the air and to watching tricks played by the Autumn light.

At 9:00, I start from the parking lot and head up the Coon Creek trail.  It meanders around crazy sandstone formations at the canyon’s mouth and tunnels through thick vegetation stuffing the watercourse. (more…)

Parental Pride

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Hi Guys

The race in Nevada was great.  Desert.

here’s a link to the sustainability conference coming up in SV: http://www.sunvalleysustainability.org/sus_tour.php (scroll down to fifth item)
Our spec is on the tour.

If you get a chance to go to Barnes and Noble see if they have a copy of Sun Valley Home.  Our house and family is in the latest issue.  Check the last page. http://www.sunvalleymag.com/Sun-Valley-Home-and-Design/Fall-2008/Urban-Urbane/index.php?cp=2&si=1#artanc

I hope the campaign will be followed by champagne.

Love,  JOE

One email, two links.  Our son, age 37, has earned professional fame and recognition.  He’s become an architect without architecture school. The author of the article in Sun Valley Home and Design Magazine calls the staircase he created “an almost transparent work of art.”

Though still an off-road motorcyclist, he’s become a green builder. His blurb at the Sun Valley Sustainabiity Conference tour says, “We are treating LEED as a necessary component of responsible development, not an expensive additional feature.” He builds “relatively modest” homes in one of the world’s most exclusive locations.

Though still one of the boys, he’s a family man.  The magazine article brings honor to his wife and children.  And through a June article in the Idaho Statesman featuring him as outdoorsman on a backpacking trip, he brought honor to his son, his nephew and his dad.

God and Nature: The Poet’s Vision

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

An Address to the Estero Bay United Methodist Church
October 19 2008


Thank you for inviting me here to speak today. I’m honored to be part of your series on Religion and the Environment.

I’ve taught courses at Cal Poly on Environmental Literature and on the Bible as Literature and in Literature. This is a place where those topics converge.

Two Books: Scripture and Nature

There’s a powerful idea set forth in the writings of St. Augustine and earlier, that God created the universe as two books: the book of Scripture and the book of Nature. Scripture and Nature are both expressions of God’s word; both are intelligible codes that decipher and reinforce one another. This idea of the two books has been propounded by thinkers who attempt to reconcile theology and science, from St. Thomas Aquinas in the twelfth century and Galileo in the seventeenth, to present day exponents of creationism and intelligent design.

But rather than as philosophy or theology, I’d like to explore the idea of the two books as a poetic metaphor”a figure of speech that stimulates the imagination. Here it is elaborated in Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

The statement that the heavens express the greatness of God includes an enthusiastic outpouring of figurative descriptions of the sun: it’s a bridegroom before or after consummating his love, it’s a race horse in action. These go beyond just elaborating the point about God. With sound effects and imagery they awaken the experience of the sun’s brilliance and energy in the reader’s mind. Both nature and the author of scripture are exuberant poets. Both the world and the word are books of poetry.

A close look at its language as poetry illuminates the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1. It chronicles the process of the creation as an orderly, intelligible, symmetric, and progressively more complex sequence of steps, each building upon the previous one.

And it characterizes the process as the creative effort of a poet:

the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”

The creator starts with a dark confusion over which he hovers tentatively, gathering his wits, perhaps waiting for inspiration. Then he finds words, then he utters words, then he materializes the words, then he evaluates the outcome, then he names his first creation like the title, or a section of a larger structure.

Genesis dramatizes the work of the creator in carrying out this process: it is deeply satisfying. He regards each of his accomplishments separately as “good,” and at the conclusion of the whole process, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” The effort is also depicted as tiring. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”

The language of the narrative draws attention to itself, becoming more expansive and lyrical as the story proceeds from the 48 sparse words of the first day, which differentiate light and darkness, to the sixth day’s 260-word description of the ecological web of relationships among all living creatures. Yet it also retains a uniform pattern of meter and parallelism to emphasize the coherence between the parts and the whole.


Yom Kippur 2008

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

The holiday began with Ian cutting chard leaves and eating them cooked, then playing the letter game with me on the floor after supper.  A return to the rapport we used to share when he spent more time here, not just intervals between school and home.

I’ve anticipated this holiday for weeks, though  I wasnt sure I’d be able to get away.  I didnt pack my gear until just before leaving last night. I’ve been longing for a respite from the campaigns–Jan’s and Obama’s–and from my own compulsive clicking on  the news of world economic collapse.  I’ve found surcease only while working in the garden and on my upcoming talk on “God and Nature” for the Methodist Church in Morro Bay.

After Dennis took Ian home last night, I pedaled across campus toward Poly Canyon.  Car, bike and pedestrian traffic bustled on the approaches to the new residential complex at its mouth.  The parking structure, swimming pool and athletic field lights cast a garish glow on the huge eucalypti and the mountainsides, but halfway up the canyon it was replaced by moonlight and the hooting of owls. Beyond the Peterson Ranch buildings, I crossed paths with two other bicyclists wearing headlamps as bright as an automobile’s.

I parked the bike by the dirt road near the junction of the south and middle forks of the creek at the base of Cuesta Ridge, a spot insulated from noise and open to a broad sky.  The cricket sounds were overtaken by the rising and falling roar of a crowd way back on campus, probably a soccer game.  By the time I’d finished unpacking and fiddling with my camera, the roar disappeared, and the chorus of crickets returned, now with its own throbbing pulse, like the sound of the stars. Through my binoculars I saw black shadows of mountains on the bright side of the half moon’s dividing line and white summits peeking through the dark side.  As I settled into my sleeping bag, a family of coyotes yodeled to one another across the valley.  Overhead, a shooting star stitched in and out of existence.

I awoke at 2:30. The moon had set and Orion stared down at me. I rested my camera on my shoe and took a fifteen second exposure with manual focus at 1600 ISO.