Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘neighborhood’ Category

First Snow

In Arvada, Colorado, Learning, neighborhood, solitude on October 10, 2017 at 9:23 am

The woman in the grocery store gave me a big smile and said, “It’s a BEAUTIFUL day.” I agreed. The first snow of the season was falling in huge, fat flakes making everything seem peaceful and a little miraculous even in this aging suburban strip mall.

The national news, as usual, made a big deal out of our early taste of winter and people around the country congratulated themselves for not living in a place where winter came in early October. If they only knew. Here in Colorado, we celebrated the arrival of the peak tourist season with a foot or more of snow in the mountains and a few inches in Denver. A couple of ski areas plan to open this weekend.

Today, the snow has mostly disappeared in town with sunshine and warmer temperatures melting the rest before the day ends.

This is fall in Colorado, where a little blip of early snow doesn’t phase us. Some of us (me!) like it. The sun is shining and my maple tree has turned a bright and glorious red-orange. As I sit at my computer I watch the leaves drop slowly one by one. In a week they’ll all be gone for another year.

I’ll never understand those who think snow alone makes a terrible horrible no good very bad day. They live in warm climates and brag that they will never again have to shovel snow. My condo association takes care of that now, but at my house, I kind of liked shoveling snow unless we had a foot or more of heavy accumulation. If my back hurt, I didn’t have to do it all at once, and with my neighbors also outside shoveling and calling to one another, it was a social event. As I grew older, they sent their little boys to shovel my walk for me.

Remember that episode of Northern Exposure where the whole town celebrated the first snow by wishing one another “bon hiver” (good winter)? I wish we had that tradition here instead of having to listen to people lamenting its arrival.

Time to burrow in, light a fire or a candle or burn some pinon incense. Time to bake bread and make a pot of chili. Time to appreciate the quiet time and cultivate interior resources. Time to rest and rejuvenate.

Bon hiver.

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Under the Big Top

In Church, Friends, music, neighborhood on September 11, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sometimes church is just too much fun. Going to church always makes me happy. I love seeing my friends, singing and praying in community, and hearing uplifting words from our pastor. But sometimes, it’s an exuberant celebration of life and love and, yes, God. Yesterday was one of those days.

Once a year, we leave the sanctuary to have our service in a big tent in the parking lot. A local bluegrass band, Thunder and Rain, provides the music. People wander by because it’s that kind of neighborhood and also because there’s a farmer’s market just down the street, and some of them join us for a song. Being outside makes us much more relaxed as does keeping our three or four dozen kids in the service with us. It makes us louder, too.

Many people, not all of them kids, danced in the aisles as we sang “May the Circle Be Unbroken,” “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” “Amazing Grace,” and my favorite, “I’ll Fly Away.” Abby and Scarlett, both about four, played with Abby’s doll carriage and stuffed animals. Several people strolled to the back of the tent for refreshments before returning to their seats.

We learned that the United Methodist Church, with which everyone in our congregation disagrees on at least a few things (*cough* social principles), encompasses members as diverse as George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Sessions. It’s a big tent. We acknowledged the founder, John Wesley, with a bobblehead doll.

Afterward, just about everybody there helped fold and stack every chair we own to haul them back to the church. We’re a family; we all pitch in. Note to self: We need to buy more chairs because the family is growing.

Then, since it was also bike to church day, people took off on their bikes for a short communal ride around the neighborhood park. A glorious good time was had by all.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

In Church, Friends, neighborhood on September 1, 2017 at 6:37 am

Hurricane Harvey caused the worst flooding ever including almost 52 inches of rain in one day, yet Republicans still refuse to acknowledge climate change. They’d rather blame the catastrophe on Houston having a gay mayor or the country allowing marriage equality. Sure, that makes sense.

During times of crisis, it is always gratifying to see pictures of neighbors helping neighbors, although the newspeople report it so breathlessly that you would think it never happened before. The truth is that every disaster brings out our altruistic spirit. We reach out, send money, assemble flood buckets, use our boats and cars and wagons, open our homes, whatever we have to help others.

Unfortunately, disasters can also bring out the worst, as illustrated in the tweeters who praise 45 for his response while criticizing Obama for his response to Hurricane Katrina when it was George W. Bush who botched that effort so spectacularly. Obama was an Illinois Senator who was, in fact, helping people displaced by the flooding in New Orleans.

Maybe the biggest fail of the week goes to Joel Osteen who refused to open the doors of his megachurch to shelter flood victims until he was forced to do so by public scorn. His excuse modified from saying the church was flooded and inaccessible (not true) to “they didn’t ask me to” when it is perfectly clear that Jesus asked him 2,000 years ago.

The Christian response came from Jim McIngvale, the Houston furniture store owner who didn’t hesitate to open his furniture store doors to shelter and feed hundreds of desperate people with nobody asking him to. Also lauded were the four bakers who found themselves trapped at work and spent their time making hundreds of loaves of bread for other flood victims.

The response from local, state, and federal government is being called excellent so far, although experts remind us that it will take years to recover from Harvey. What it takes to build a bridge over these troubled waters will be all of us linking arms like those people who formed a human chain to rescue people trapped in flooded cars. As Anne Lamott said, “Give someone hope, and then there will be hope in the world.”

We need to become a human chain of mercy and compassion.

Sit a Spell

In Church, Denver, neighborhood on July 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

Every other week a small group from my church gets together to talk about current events. This summer, the gathering moved from the church to the parsonage front porch.

Yes, my church still has a parsonage, right next door, which makes the pastor’s commute to work about 30 seconds. The house, built in 1915, sits on a busy street in one of Denver’s most popular neighborhoods and features an iconic wraparound porch.

Our discussions have become more like casual chats, as we sit there and watch people come and go from the pizza place across the alley as well as neighbors out for an evening stroll.

That’s what front porches are for.

Almost uniquely American, porches emerged in the mid-1800s as cities grew and people started living in single family homes. Backyards still contained outhouses, trash heaps, and vegetable gardens, so front porches became the place for families to relax in the evening, catch a breeze, and get to know their neighbors.

In the 1950s outhouses disappeared and television captured the family’s attention inside. Air conditioning and computers led us increasingly to forsake the front porch. Today, while still popular house features (53% of new homes have front porches ), they are typically only decoration, rarely used as intended.

In some ways, I suppose, that makes our pastor a throwback because he loves and uses the parsonage porch. It gives him a unique eye on the neighborhood he serves and lets him get to know people who might not otherwise come to our church.

When I did a google search for front porches, I was astonished to find that the first several pages listed only commercial entities with the name Front Porch, from bars and cafes to realtors and newspapers. The name suggests a relaxed ambiance from a bygone era. Eventually, I found a series, Summer on the Porch, on NPR exploring the role of the front porch.

I also discovered a quotation from the famous fan dancer, Sally Rand, who said, “I’m not the type to sit on the porch and watch life go by.”

We like sitting on the porch and being a part of the life going by.

Y’all come back now, y’hear?