The Written

/The Written

The Call to Serve

50 yr Ordination of Richard Staats I grew up a PK, a preacher’s kid. Saturday nights my father sat at the kitchen table with one, two, sometimes three consecutive bowls of ice cream to fuel the hand writing of his sermons for the next morning. Draft after draft on a yellow note pad, his crisp printing of a style I yet wish I could mimic. Drawing from the unfolding events of the prior week, in our own community or across the nation, my father told stories which captivated those who attended the service, bringing them to focused place and time where ancient history found relevance in our modern world.

The simplicity of the connections he drew were easy to understand. The characters he brought to life, both biblical and modern, were memorable. He never hid behind the pulpit, but walked among those who came to listen, engaging in a kind of two-way interaction that was both subtle and meaningful, even if his audience was mostly silent. The stories carried messages easily interwoven in our every-day lives.

We moved frequently, a half dozen times in twenty odd years. My brother and I embraced a father whose time and attention was most often devoted to serving those in need. Growing up I was sometimes asked if I would follow in my father’s footsteps, embracing a life in the church. My answer was, “Most PKs either rebel or yes, follow suit. I find myself in the middle.” But now, my response would be that I cherish what I have gained from being the son of a minister, for I have learned what it means to be selfless, at times putting others’ needs before my own.

AZ Republic editorial by Richard Staats Therein lies the real blessing of a life of servitude–putting others’ needs before your own, devoting your life to causes which challenge the political, economic, and social norms. My father protested the Vietnam war, worked with the Sanctuary movement in the 1980s, and within the City of Phoenix to better understand the homeless and the poor. He is a regular contributor to the Arizona Republic newspaper on issues of human rights and political arenas, and has worked tirelessly to improve his own neighborhood through research and planning for improved street safety and sense of community.

With two masters degrees and eight years experience as a social worker, my father has seen a diversity of humanity. He has performed countless marriages and funerals, welcoming those new to life on this planet and helping find closure for the families and friends of those who have departed. He managed an adoption agency for a half dozen years and has been witness to the pain and suffering of an often confusing world, in an era when suicide took the lives of farmers who lost their land. My father has helped many to celebrate the cherished moments in life, to learn to communicate when it seemed relationships were destined to fall apart.

But his lasting legacy is his nearly 30 years dedication to giving a safe haven for the LGBT community. When in 2014 Joe Connolly and Terry Pochert filed law suit against the State of Arizona, and won, they credited my father for having given them support, for accepting them in the church family, and for encouraging them to pursue their legal acceptance as a married couple.

Dick Staats cutting pineapple

Fifty years ago today my father was ordained a Lutheran minister. He walked away from a likely career as a PGA golfer and his university education in mathematics to pursue a life of serving others. While his skills are many, including carpentry, writing, cooking and baking, it is his relentless pursuit of finding justice, acceptance, and peace for those within his reach that I cherish as the most valuable asset to carry with me.

By |2017-04-10T11:17:31-04:00July 10th, 2016|The Written|Comments Off on The Call to Serve

Into the Forest

Once again, I have moved into the forest.

The place where I am most at home, where each hour of each day is mine to own.

Into the forest and the distant, chaotic heart beat of the city is but a fading memory.

Here, the only sounds are those over which humans have no control.

We cannot stop the aspen from quaking, the thunder from shaking, nor the rain from falling.

Into the forest and I feel I am once again … home.

By |2016-06-28T02:33:08-04:00June 28th, 2016|At Home in the Rockies, The Written|Comments Off on Into the Forest

What I Learned from the Road IV

For the first time in four years, I enjoyed a weekend at Joshua Tree National Park. I longed for this time, to return to one of my favourite places in the world. I walked by moonlight, climbed by daylight, cooked simple meals made from simple foods, and slept under a cloudless, star lit dome.

For the past two years living a suburban life in South Africa, and now, temporary residence in Phoenix, I struggle to find satisfaction in the simple things. Cities have a way of drawing us into complex patterns, escalating, upward spirals of complexity. Joshua Tree provided fresh reminder of what it means to live simply.

Living in the city too can incorporate many of the joys of a simple life–growing herbs, tomatoes, squash, and peppers in the space between our buildings, roof-top gardens or window boxes, cooking meals at home, even sleeping out of doors where afforded. But there must be something else, something more we all desire, for so many of us choose to sleep in a tent, cook over a wood fire, and find a different kind of comfort in living with less, even if for just a few days.

Five gallons of water for two people for three days. Two cups of white gas for six meals. A loaf of bread, a tin of hummus, oatmeal, cucumbers, and that was all that was needed. Simple foods, simply prepared. The enjoyment of those flavours was of course, far more nourishing than any restaurant or take out dining.

This is a frame of mind, not a location or special space. Can we learn to take it with us, no matter where we reside?

By |2017-10-21T15:48:58-04:00March 21st, 2016|The Written|Comments Off on What I Learned from the Road IV

Theatre’s End

I am an unknown actor
playing an inconsequential role,
in a production which has no author.

An invisible stage crew,
wearing clouds so as not to be seen,
has elevated this narrow stage to an unnatural height.

Here I witness the moon,
as a canned light hung from a hidden catwalk,
burning to bring us the night.

The chair on which I rest shudders with vibration,
a massive engine suspended from the adjacent wing
which folds only once with the closing act.

The light of the Moon comes to me twice,
once from its refractive regolith,
then again from the curve of the nearby, rotund shroud.

Internal blades spin with incredible precision at an incomprehensible velocity so as to maintain this airborne guild. With me, there are three hundred actors. I am but twenty seven and one. Together, we long for an audience which cannot attend yet will embrace us individually, at theatre’s end.

By |2016-01-20T15:27:35-04:00January 19th, 2016|From the Road, The Written|Comments Off on Theatre’s End

A life disconnected

What have we done, a species so skilled in creation having fabricated such unnatural settings?

What are we doing, creating discontinuity in the name of modernity?

What will we become if we continue to embrace a life disconnected from what we know is life sustaining?

By |2015-12-01T08:30:36-04:00December 1st, 2015|The Written|Comments Off on A life disconnected

A Breakfast for the Body and Brain

Breakfast by Kai Staats

For me, exercise and breakfast set the day in motion. They determine, in some ways, how successful I will be at accomplishing my goals. Therefore, I look forward to each and embrace them as serious fun.

  1. Wake shortly after sunrise.
  2. Glance over the railing at the end of the walkway to determine if the surf is good or a pass day. Change into my running shorts or wetsuit then head down to the beach.
  3. 7.5km, to the second estuary and back again, or surf.
  4. Return to my flat, shower, and change into my attire for the day.
  5. Fire up the computer, music that fits the day (anything from Bach to Enya or Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin to George Winston to Styx).
  6. Fix breakfast and read a science journal or novel while eating.
  7. Check email, code, research, research, research …

Breakfast by Kai Staats Today I prepared a fruit smoothie from a half dozen small ice cubes, juice oranges, apple, avocado, handful of dates, ginger and honey. I cook the onions, garlic, and chilli pepper with 4 eggs in a skillet, topped by mushrooms and tomatoes sautéed in unsalted butter and shredded cheese. Prep to consumption: less than thirty minutes including cleaning, doing dishes as I go. If I prep a few items the night before, a quarter of an hour total.

Delicious, nutritious, filling and grounding.

It does not take a scientific research study to draw the connection between how we fuel our bodies and how our bodies and minds function. Rather, we need to be reminded of what not long ago came more naturally, when our lives were not so fast-paced, when food preparation was a time to prepare for our day.

Everything you see came from the Ethical Co-Op. Not as pretty as the greenhouse ripened, chemically treated, and wax coated fruits and veggies found in the super market, but that’s the point—this is food before marketing decided it should be shiny, BIG, sweet and fun. Many of us have forgotten that food grows in soil. It is wrinkled, imperfect, and delicious in ways an entire generation has never enjoyed.

Our bodies are nothing more than an expression of what we put in. If we expect a cardboard box, a shrink-wrapped styrofoam tray, or a heavily processed “healthy-start breakfast bar” to replace the real thing, we are a victims of advertising designed to sell nothing more than a chemically engineered product made to look like food and sit on the shelf without going bad such that neither the distributor nor the retailer will report lost income to food gone bad.

In the past fifty years, in the lifetime of my parents, we have gone from carrying canvas bags to and from a small, locally owned market to the expectation that everything we consume comes in a box, plastic bag, carton, or container whose sole function is catching our attention on the shelf, and subsequent, easy transportation to our homes where we quickly discard the packaging.

I often consider the fossil fuel and raw materials consumed to package modern food. Farmed trees cut, transported, shredded, pulped, bleached, stabilised, rolled into paper and cardboard then trimmed, printed, and glued into a box to hold what may be consumed in a single meal. Every plastic container began as a fossil fuel formed 300-500 million years ago. Carbon, trapped deep in the Earth released and processed through the complex, power consumptive process of refining, manufacturing, and distribution in order that we can have four, maybe five spoonfuls of yoghurt or quickly unwrap a breakfast burrito on our way out the door.

This is nothing less than insane! Yet, it has become the norm.

Surely, there is a means to return to a life in which we are closer to our food, making clear our consumer preferences through how we spend our dollars and rand. We can visit local farms, and learn how modern farmers struggle and succeed. We can join farming cooperatives, tend to a community garden one afternoon each month. We can grow tomatoes, peppers, and herbs on window sills and balconies, in the narrow spaces between our homes.

We can return to a breakfast that is as enjoyable to prepare as it is to consume, and rest assured we have engaged in a practice that supports a sustainable mind, body, environment and soul.

By |2017-04-10T11:17:31-04:00October 21st, 2015|2015, Out of Africa, The Written|Comments Off on A Breakfast for the Body and Brain

Clouds over Sutherland

I stand in the cool breath of an amorphous white world.

Unable to see but a few meters to my front, rear, and sides.

The silver, white domes presents themselves as subtle outlines,
shimmering into and out of view.

Yet, sometimes, it seems, they are solid

and it is I who disappears.

By |2015-10-07T12:52:05-04:00August 30th, 2015|2015, Out of Africa, The Written|Comments Off on Clouds over Sutherland

Goodbye Galen

Two nights ago, my uncle Galen passed away after a return of cancer. I have said all that needs to be said in a forum more appropriate than this, but he was a second father for me at times; I will miss him dearly.

What I loved most was his direct approach to life. He never held back what he thought. Direct. Even blunt. In our final conversation, just hours before he passed, there was again story telling and laughter.

I am going to miss that. Thank you.

By |2015-09-23T10:46:21-04:00April 26th, 2015|The Written|Comments Off on Goodbye Galen

Silhouette

I know you only by your silhouette.
Walking, running, dancing in the sea’s foam.

I know you only by your outline,
glowing against the rising sun.

I know you only by the shape
of what I hoped we’d become.

By |2015-07-10T06:16:14-04:00March 9th, 2015|The Written|Comments Off on Silhouette

Live Long and Prosper

Mr. Spock

The death of Leonard Nimoy is moving for me. Nimoy was an actor who incorporated the essence of what the character Mr. Spock meant for him, into his every day life.

Having grown up with Star Trek re-runs, even ten years after they had aired (played at prime times throughout the ’70s), much of who I am and what I yet expect of our species was given foundation in that sci-fi TV series.

Perhaps it is a curse, to always compare where we are to where we thought we’d be, but even 100 years from now it seems the foundation of Nimoy’s character Spock will remain an important goal.

He continually strove for balance between the deeply rooted emotional, reactionary side of being a human and the reasoning which enables us to work together, to grow beyond our animal foundation and achieve what no one person can do alone.

Yes, live long and prosper. But more importantly, perhaps, find balance and thrive.

By |2017-04-10T11:17:35-04:00February 28th, 2015|The Written|Comments Off on Live Long and Prosper