Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Tree at Dawn

on the crest
stands a single tree
praising dawn

              ~ CK


Friday, November 28, 2014

A Southern White Boy Looks at Ferguson – Again

Atticus–” said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”
“How could they do it, how could they?”
“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight
and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.”

― Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

“The past is never dead. It's not even past.”

― William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

Back in August I wrote a piece on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In that post, I simply asked readers to listen to the voices of two African Americans, culinary historian Michael Twitty, and novelist Ralph Ellison. I stated that “I cannot pretend to offer any solutions. I cannot even pretend to claim understanding. I have been trying, however, to listen. The only recommendation I can offer is that we stop and listen.”  As you can see, I begin this post by quoting two Southern white people and I offer another brief comment from my own Southern white perspective.

Why Ferguson Is Significant

It is difficult for us white folks to conceive of the world that African American's have grown up in. Furthermore, "white privilege" is a term that is difficult for some of us to stomach in the South because so many of us grew up either poor or struggling working class – we don't see ourselves as "privileged," but in terms of how we benefited from a social system set in our favor, we have been privileged. It is only relatively recently that I have begun to grasp the fact that the nice tidy world I grew up in, filled with caring and generous people at school, church, and on the town square, was paralleled by a dystopian terrorist state that my African American counterparts existed in. Nothing was safe or sure for them, and even their most agreeable times were dominated by fear of what could happen to them or their loved ones at any time and without hope for legal recourse. 

So while my upbringing in the South was full of idyllic moments, I had no understanding at the time of the world that black people lived in. They cooked and cleaned for whites – even raised white folk's children, but they were kept under control by tactics of terror. There were enough beatings and lynchings that were ignored by the legal system, and enough incidents of black people being "accidentally hit" by cars as they walked down the road to act as a warning to anyone who dared to challenge the system. My state even had its constitution re-written in 1901 to keep whites in power and to keep blacks suppressed in poverty and even slave-like conditions. Birmingham, Alabama is, after all, the place that South African officials visited to study and learn from prior to enforcing its apartheid system of government. It is difficult to fathom that my world with such joy and kindness existed side by side with systemic terror and evil. That is why Ferguson is significant. It points out the two worlds that continue to exist side by side in this beloved country.

Photo: Peaceful protest in Durham, N.C. on Nov. 25
Credit: Robert Willett Time News Service


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recommended Recipes: Apple Ginger Pancakes

I found a new recipe online by Adrianna Adarme at the Fresh Tastes blog. It was fun to make and I was able to adjust it to make it into a vegan-friendly recipe.  In addition to making it vegan, the other divergence I made from the recipe was that instead of using an iron skillet, I used a saute pan to prepare the apples, then I used a stove top griddle to cook the pancakes.

Apple Ginger Pancakes

Yield: 8 pancakes
Photo from Fresh Tastes blog


For the Apples: 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 honey crisp apple, diced (about ¾  cup)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½  teaspoon grated fresh ginger

 For the Dry Mix: 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼  teaspoon salt

 For the Wet Mix: 
  • 1 ¼  cups buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 large egg


  • Butter or vegetable oil, for the skillet

  1. In a cast iron skillet (we’ll use the same one later), melt the butter over medium heat. When melted, add the diced apple, brown sugar, cinnamon and fresh ginger; mix until coated. Cook until fragrant and apples have cooked slightly, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. To a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a measuring cup or small bowl, measure out the buttermilk. Add the egg and beat until thoroughly combined.
  3. All at once, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter should have some small to medium lumps. Gently fold in the sautéed apples and allow the batter to stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Preheat your skillet over medium heat and brush with a teaspoon of butter or a teaspoon of oil. Using a 1/4-cup measure, scoop the batter onto the warm skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until small bubbles form on the surface, and then flip. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook on the opposite sides for about 1 minute, or until golden brown.
  5. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a baking sheet and place in a preheated 200 F oven to keep warm. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more butter or vegetable oil to the skillet when needed. Serve immediately with maple syrup and a pat of butter.

Making it Vegan 
  • Substitute the 1 ¼ cups buttermilk with ONE CUP of almond milk (I used Silk Vanilla Almondmilk)
  • Substitute the egg with Egg Replacer, following the directions on the package for the equivalent of one egg.
  • Substitute the butter with Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread (I do not recommend vegetable margarine due to its hydrogenated oil which is not healthy for the body).


Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Music: We Come from the Mountain: Harry Belafonte

Here is a treasure from The Muppet Show, but you have to wait for it. Picking up around 1.35 on the video, Harry Belafonte explains how he found inspiration for this song by visiting a village in Africa and talking to a man about their view of the world.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Autumn Light

in the autumn light
waters reflecting the world
fire of life revealed

                         ~ CK

Photo: Autumn colors reflecting on Little River
Great Smokey Mountains National Park photo


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Perhaps the Answer Lies in the Longing

[This post is re-blogged from The Music of the Spheres]

The Sufi mystic Rumi wrote many poems about the mystery of relating to the sacred. In "Love Dogs," he indicates that one way to understand the spiritual longing we have is that the longing is for the longing itself.  Our crying out is sometimes the connection we need. The U2 hit, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” is an excellent example of this longing. Here it is presented by Bono along with a gospel choir in Harlem. 

(Scroll down to see Rumi’s poem, “Love Dogs.”)

Love Dogs
by Rumi

One night a man was crying Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with praising,
until a cynic said, “So!
I’ve heard you calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.

“Why did you stop praising?” “Because
I’ve never heard anything back.”

“This longing you express
is the return message.”

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.

Give your life
to be one of them.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Music: Tug of War (Paul McCartney)

 "...We expected more, but with one thing and another, 
we were trying to out score each other in a tug of war..."

Paul McCartney released his Tug of War album in 1982. Every song on that album is good. The songs range from serious to playful. "Tug of War," the title track, is one of my favorites from that memorable album. It was also nice to see Paul and Linda together on the video.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Night Skies

visions of the night
liberated from the mask
of blue daytime skies

                      ~ CK

Photo: Shooting Star through Totem Gap near Moab, Utah
Credit: Scott Wright of Scott Wright Photography


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sitting Shiva

Their grief was that I left familiar territory.  
                          My grief – that there was territory.

“I really think that we should have more fluid boundaries,” I said to my colleague at work. We had been talking about her alma mater, Sewanee: The University of the South, a beautiful Episcopal school in Tennessee. She shared how she had been raised Episcopalian but converted to Judaism. She was glad to be where she was, but sad that not all of her friends and family understood. I found her journey to be quite interesting and told her of a man I met who had left the Southern Baptists for Judaism. I had to also share how I had grown up Southern Baptist and became Episcopalian for many years before moving to the Catholic Church. And then there was the young man I spoke with during Ramadan one year who grew up Baptist and converted to Islam.

I have spent much of my life being fascinated by the faith practices of others, which perhaps allowed me to be more open to other faiths. When we see Jews gravitating to Buddhism, mainline Protestants joining charismatic fellowships, and evangelicals finding interest in historic liturgical faiths, we can either lament such things or celebrate the fact that we live in such a spiritually vibrant atmosphere. Recently, when the Dalai Lama came to my hometown, he compared the varieties religions and spiritual practices to a supermarket. Just as a supermarket can satisfy more people with its wide variety of foods, so it is with religion. More people can find spiritual fulfillment when there is a greater variety of spiritual practices.  I would celebrate a world of fluid boundaries where people can allow their friends and family members the freedom to explore other paths.

Crossing Boundaries

These thoughts bring me to a poem I wrote last year, “Sitting Shiva.” I was actually working on this one for several years before I knew it would be a poem. The background is that I had recalled a conversation that some of my friends and I had back during college days. We were all caught up in the enthusiasm of our evangelical faith and someone said they heard that if a Jew converted to Christianity, their family would "hold a funeral" because they considered their family member to be dead. We all thought that was a terrible thing. Fast forward many years when I ended up crossing some boundaries myself. I soon realized that many in my evangelical/Southern Baptist "family" seemed not to know how to interact with me when I left the Baptists for more liberal and different paths. Though I was interested in maintaining friendships, it seemed difficult for some of my former colleagues. There seemed to be some kind of death there.

Alice Walker PBS Photo
Fast forward a few more years to one day last year. I was watching a television documentary on PBS about the writer Alice Walker (Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth).  She mentioned that when she married her Jewish husband years ago when interracial marriages were still a new and shocking thing (and still illegal in some states), his mother had such a hard time with it that "she literally sat shiva" because to her,  her son was dead. (“Sitting shiva” is the week-long Jewish custom of mourning following the death of a family member. Shiva in Hebrew literally means “seven.”) Sitting shiva is the custom my college friends and I were referring to, though we did not know the name for it at the time. 

Those words from Alice Walker brought everything back home to me. I stopped right then and wrote the poem while the documentary was still rolling on the TV. That is much more information than I usually give when I share a poem, but that was what was percolating when the poem came to light. Perhaps there has to be some sense of death when we move on in life, but to the one moving, death is what is being left behind, life is what lies ahead.

Sitting Shiva

I had friends who sat shiva
When I found the open road.
Their grief was that I left familiar territory.
My grief  that there was territory.

William Butler Yeats foresaw my own death –
“Those I fight, I do not hate” –
When I lay down my armor.
I stepped into a broad place
And found new life
While mourners sat by the casket
Of days gone by.

Funny thing about shiva –
You’re never quite the same thereafter.
Those who mourned
Are never sure what to say
When you show up with provisions
For the open road.

                                                                ~ CK

Illustration above: "Clouds, Straight Road, and Prayer" (acrylic on canvas) 
                               by artist Robert Gregory Phillips

The image of the painting featured is copyrighted and used with the artist's permission


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Birmingham Veteran, a Red Poppy, and a Caring Saint

Veteran's Day poster, 2014
Veteran's Day

Today, November 11, is Veteran’s Day in the United States.  The holiday was originally known as Armistice Day. It was in 1918, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month that a cessation of hostilities was achieved with Armistice of Compiègne. The Great War that had caused so much bloodshed throughout Europe officially came to an end with the Treaty of Versailles in June of the following year, but the fighting stopped on November 11.

According to the National Veteran’s Day website, “In 1945, a World War II veteran from Birmingham, Alabama had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans.  It was Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, who led a delegation to Washington, DC urging then-Army Chief of Staff General Dwight Eisenhower to create a national holiday that honored all veterans. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation formally establishing November 11th as Veterans Day.

“In 1982, President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal as the driving force for the national holiday. Weeks led the first National Veterans Day Parade in 1947 in Alabama, and continued the tradition annually until his passing in 1985.”

Thus Birmingham, Alabama has the oldest Veteran’s Day parade in the country. It will happen again today as it has every November 11 since 1947. The parade will start downtown at 1:30 p.m. local time

The Cenotaph in Whitehall
Remembrance Day

In the Commonwealth countries of the UK, after World War II, Armistice Day became Remembrance Day. Like Veterans Day in the U.S., it is a day to remember those in the armed forces who have fought and died in the line of duty for their country. On Remembrance Day, the poppy has become the emblem associated with the holiday due to the poem “In Flanders Fields.” These flowers bloomed across some of the worst battlefields in World War I, their red color becoming symbolic of the bloodshed in battle. 

The Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, was built as a memorial to those who died in WWI. On Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day, wreaths of poppies are laid at the at the Cenotaph Memorial site. 

Martin of Tours shares half his cloak with a beggar

St. Martin's Day

November 11 is also the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin was the first person to be canonized as a saint who had not been martyred, being from that first generation to live in the Roman Empire when Christianity was the official state religion. His father was an officer in the Roman Legion and he named his son Martin (“Little Mars”) after the Roman god of war.  Martin became a soldier in the Roman Legion – a requirement of all who were sons of Roman soldiers.  He managed, however, to get the Emperor to release him from military service. As a new convert* to Christianity, young Martin felt he could not serve in a profession that required him to fight and kill. Martin would later become priest and bishop. In addition to being a promoter of peace, Martin was an advocate for the poor and the common folk. He refused to live in the customary palace that was expected of a bishop, preferring a simple monk’s abode. “Martin” became the most popular given name in France  due to the people’s devotion to St. Martin of Tours.  The name was popular throughout Europe as well, as indicated by Martin Luther of Germany, also named for the saint from Tours.

The website for the Council of Europe states: "Saint Martin of Tours has been part of Europe's collective memory since the fourth century. A tireless traveller around Europe for his entire life, this European ahead of his time, who symbolises the universal value of sharing."

Although he was a soldier and is the patron saint of soldiers, beggars, weavers and tailors, Martin began his vocation as a Christian with his famous renunciation of war. Some claim that it was no coincidence that Armistice Day, which ended the terrible conflict of the World War I, became a reality on St. Martin’s own feast day. 

*From the Wikipedia article on St. Martin's Day:

November 11 is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, who started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying from the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me."


Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Music: Cattle Call (Eddy Arnold)

One of those "Country and Western" songs that leans heavily to the "Western" end of the genre, AND an excellent example of the art of yodeling.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Pine Trees at Sunset

steadfast pines
witnessing sunsets
some will fall

              ~ CK

Picture: Vincent van Gogh: Pine Trees at Sunset (oil on canvas)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Respecting Women

NYC Pride (photo from the website of Hollaback:
"You Have the Power to End Street Harrassment")

My daughter brought to my attention a video that was made by Hollaback to illustrate why women often feel uncomfortable with how they are viewed and treated by men. The video shows 90 seconds worth of the 100 catcalls and verbal harassments that one woman, Shoshana Roberts, encountered in a ten hour walk through different parts of New York City. After going viral, the video began to get criticism. Some said the producers edited the video to make it appear to be a problem among blacks and Hispanics; others criticized the woman for wearing tightly fitting jeans and t-shirt.

Author Steve Santagati, author of The MANual and Code of Honor, in an interview on CNN demonstrated how some men are pushing back against the message of the video and failing to hear what women are saying. His main points were that women should understand that men want to compliment them and that if they don’t like the neighborhood, they should leave. He also obviously thought that women live to be told by men that they are beautiful. In that same CNN discussion, comedienne Amanda Seal made the point that Santagati should be listening to what women are saying about the behaviors they do not like.

A scene from the Hollaback video

Learning to Listen

The point of the video is for us men to understand why so many women feel uneasy with the treatment they get from men on a routine basis. My daughter tells me that it is not a matter of being “offended” by some comments, it is a matter of being fearful for one’s safety. First of all, there is no need for men to be calling out to a woman as she is walking down the street. Second, women fear that responding to such comments could lead to further unwanted sexual advances.

There is a lot that men just do not get. Part of that is due to the fact that men experience the world differently from women. I recall one of the first inklings of realizing that difference in experience when my wife and I first started dating. One weekend, I suggested that we go to one of the parks to spend a leisurely afternoon. The idea of a walk in the park was not a pleasant one for her. I told her that it would be fine and perfectly safe. She tried to explain to me that as a woman, she had to be constantly vigilant in such places because of the possible dangers, and that the park was therefore not a good place to relax. Those dangers would not have entered my mind, and it was only by listening to the perspective of my then girl-friend that I could begin to get an idea of how she was experiencing things.

Stop Blaming the Victim

The criticism of the Hollaback video might also be viewed as the typical response often seen in our society of blaming the victim. Instead of addressing the problem highlighted by the video which is street harassment of women, too many want to focus on the techniques and biases of the filmmaker. Too many want to criticize what Shoshana Roberts was wearing. So many automatically turn to blaming the victim rather than stopping to listen to and address the problem. My daughter brought another video to my attention that was made in India to address the problem of rape. It illustrates how it does not matter what a woman wears, the simple fact that she is a woman in a male dominated misogynous society, makes her in danger of being raped. It also satirically points out the nonsense of blaming the woman in cases of rape. (You can see that video here)

Owning Up to the Problem

Earlier this year I did a blog post on “The Problem with Being Male.” There I discussed the many ways that we see men in all strata of society taking advantage of women. I presented it as “a specifically male problem of men mishandling their sexual drives.” Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution, thinks that it is a problem of modern humans living with “miss-matched instincts.” He says that instincts that served our ancient ancestor well in eons past have become destructive in modern society. Poet Robert Bly, who became a leader in the Men’s Movement, believes that what is missing on our society is a proper initiation of young men with older men as wise mentors. In that same blog post, I said that

It is past time to start holding people accountable for sexual abuse. There is no place for excuses such as “boys will be boys,” or “everyone has their sexual needs.” When we look the other way, people get hurt and we also do a disservice to the larger community. Where can we find the answer to this "male problem?" I do not claim to have the complete answer, nor can we expect a simple solution, but we must acknowledge that the problem lies for the most part in the male of the species. We must also admit that men in power are significant contributors to the problem. As a man, it is not a pleasant thing for me to admit that men are causing such problems. It is a discomforting thing, which may be why we are not talking about the problem enough.

In order to make a difference, the first and most important step for us is to listen to the women who are making the case against the harassment that women are facing in our society. Let’s stop shooting the messenger, and no more blaming the victim.  It is time to stop and listen. It is time to let our laws protect women as much as they protect men. It is time to respect women.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Announcing a New Blog Site for Music

Back in September I decided to launch a new project that I am calling “The Music of the Spheres.” It is a new blog site for the sole purpose of presenting music. I do not anticipate that it will interfere with or take away from what I am doing at Not Dark Yet. As I mention on the new blog page: 

“On my other blog, Not Dark Yet, there is a "Monday Music" feature which each week offers a variety of music including pop, folk, jazz, rock, classical, and sacred. This site is dedicated to sacred music. The music will not be confined to any one faith. I look for music that speaks deeply to the soul.”

So far, I have featured music from Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Tibetan, and Jewish traditions. Some of the more frequently viewed sites so far:

If you are interested in music, or things that speak deeply to the soul, I hope you will pay the site a visit. It is at


Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Music: Birmingham (Randy Newman)

Prolific songwriter, Randy Newman offers a poignant view of a life in Birmingham, Alabama.
It was released as a track on his 1974 album, Good Old Boys. See a live performance below, or hear the studio version here.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Days' End

at day’s end
the cool amber sky
beckons rest

              ~ CK

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