Tulsa, My Tulsa!

 

So many of my close friends have never visited Tulsa, the city that always draws me back from wherever I’ve wandered.  Here’s a promo video that I recently encountered that will give you a taste of this, the classiest part of Oklahoma.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

SONY DSC

 

The challenge this week from dailypost.wordpress.com is to share a post with letters.  I knew what I wanted to capture, but it took a few days for the weather to cooperate.

For as long as I can remember, most likely my entire life, I’ve seen the Public Service Company power plant lit up at night, as you see above.  Perched alongside the Arkansas River  in the middle of the city, it’s hard to miss. Continue reading

We have weather

 

My friend Mark likes to say that we don’t have seasons here in Oklahoma.  We just have weather.

I think he’s right, but this is just plain weird.    Snow, sleet, ice, lightning, thunder and earthquakes all at the same time.  

 

A few days from now we’ll be back to drought, twisty winds and grass fires.  

Ya gotta just roll with it. 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

I may have to try this one a couple of times.  It’s an intriguing assignment!  This week’s photo challenge from dailypost.wordpress.com is called “Threes”.

“IN A NEW POST PUBLISHED SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE ‘THREE.’

If you want to try a three-picture story, great! If not, try three images of the same subject taken from different perspectives, three images of the same thing at different times, […]”

For this post, I’ve chosen one of Tulsa’s most iconic symbols, “The Golden Driller”, a large statue at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds (aka Expo Square) which recounts the city’s storied past as the “Oil Capital of the World.”  The three photos above show the Driller from different perspectives.  It doesn’t exactly tell a story, but he’s pretty stoic and taciturn, so you get what you get.

 

The Monarchs Are Here

The Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) have arrived once again in Tulsa.  They are on their annual migration south to Mexico for the winter.

I discovered these in Tulsa’s River Parks this morning.  They were reluctant to pose for photos, intent on the nectar found on these wildflowers (goldenrod?).

Buen viaje a Mexico! Nos vemos en la primavera!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

I’m a newbie to the Weekly Photo Challenge, thanks to my friend Maria who clued me into the idea.  You can see her posts here. This week’s challenge:

Sea. What kind of emotions does the sea or ocean make you feel? Do you remember the first time you went in the water? Had a wave crash on you? Felt the sand burn your feet? Do you feel more peaceful around water? Do you hate the beach? What’s the most interesting thing about the sea for you?

I took this theme as a challenge to go out and shoot some new shots that reflect “sea”.  Being far from the ocean here in Oklahoma, our “seas” are the wide open plains and grasslands.  I call this shot “Haybergs,” hopefully suggesting a little bit of the feeling of openness and solitude one feels when standing on a secluded beach.  

Yeah, that’s a bit of stretch for any real ocean/beach lovers who might be reading this.  Work with me folks!

As you may know, I just returned from eight months of living/teaching on the north coast of Papua New Guinea.  The ocean was literally less than 75 yards from my room at the school.  However, I have to confess that the ocean has never touched me the way it does others.  It’s too lonely for me, although there are times when a sense of solitude and oblivion can only be had when standing on a beach with the waves rolling in.

I much prefer the mountains which always seem full of life, full of potential, and the awesome touch of God.   I like being able to totally immerse myself in it.  Without always getting wet, that is! I do like taking photos of the ocean, though.  

Here’s a montage of some of my shots from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

 

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Oklahoma

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Home

I didn’t mention it here on the blog, but you might have picked up on the fact that I spent most of the month of May back home in Oklahoma.

St. Fidelis Seminary had a break between school terms and because of some family issues, I decided to spend that time in Tulsa.

My aunt, the only member of the older generation left in my immediate family, suffered a fall during Easter and has been recovering at a rehabilitation facility ever since.  My sister Stacey is currently the closest relative (100 miles away) and has been managing her care and financial issues pretty much by herself.

I decided to use my break time to come home and help out as much as I could.  I’m not sure how much good I really did, but I was able to visit with my aunt on a daily basis which I hope was a comfort to her.

My brother Kevin and his wife Maureen came to town one weekend too, which was awesome.  We don’t all three get together that often and it was unlikely to happen at all while I’m working in PNG.

 

Friends

My friends in Tulsa really took care of me while I was home.  It seemed like someone was always willing to have dinner,  go to a baseball game, throw the frisbee around, see a movie, or just hang out in a coffee shop for awhile.

I thought I might suffer from some reverse culture shock when I came home, but I don’t think I experienced anything of the sort.  Dropping into my home city, driving the familiar roads and visiting the familiar faces was just like putting on a glove.  Of course, I really hadn’t been gone all that long anyway.

What surprised me was how much bigger my friends’ children had grown in the past 5 months.  I should have expected it, I guess, but they’ve all grown up so much.  Cuter and more precocious too!

 

Storms

If you’ve read much of my blog, you won’t be surprised when I say that I have a strong attachment to my home state of Oklahoma.  I’m sure others feel the same way about their states, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s just something special about the people there.

I left Tulsa to return to PNG just after the terrible tornadoes struck Moore, Oklahoma.  It brought back memories of the devastating 1999 storms and actually surpassed them in destruction.  I knew people who lost their homes in 1999, and once again I learned that a college friend and his family lost their home this time.

Oklahoma, for all of its good attributes, does seem to attract more than its fair share of tragedy.  Storms, earthquakes, domestic terrorism, economic depressions, droughts, dust storms, wild fires, and flooding seem to happen with some regularity.

What I find interesting is that the people always seem to rise to the challenge.  It would be hard to find a more giving or more generous people, united by both the blessings and challenges of living there.

Sometimes so many people want to help their neighbors in need that organizers don’t know what to do with all of them. As I was heading to the airport, I heard a story on the radio about a Moore area church asking for volunteers to help clean up their property so they could have a memorial service.  Over a thousand people showed up to help on a Tuesday afternoon.  Incredible.

SinceI left Tulsa, there have been even more devastating storms.  One in Broken Arrow, a neighboring city to Tulsa, was only about 5 miles from my home.  The one in El Reno, west of Oklahoma City, killed 20 people, caused massive flooding after 11 inches of rain, and at one point was making a beeline for Stacey’s house in Edmond.

You would think that many people would be making a run for the border after so many storms in such a short time.  I’ve learned though that this only seems to endear Oklahoma to the people and just makes them roll up their sleeves and work all that much harder to repair the damage, try to learn something from the storms, and be just that much better prepared for the next one.

I know it sounds crazy, but being away from the mayhem is hard.  I’d rather be there in the thick of it, ready to help if I can.  I know there would be people to help me if I was the one needing it.

(Note:  the photo slideshow on this post is just some pasture shots that I took in Craig County near Grand Lake.  Nothing special but they do remind me of home and its wide open spaces.)

Eleven Days An Ordained Man

I just have to share this, it’s too good not to.

My friend Bryan Ketterer, a student of the St. Philip Neri Newman Center at the University of Tulsa while I was campus minster there, was recently ordained to the transitional diaconate.  He’s currently studying at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver and is expected to be ordained to the priesthood next year.

During much of his time in the seminary, now-Deacon Bryan sent out almost weekly emails to his friends with updates about his studies and what seminary life is like.  Almost all of them began with a pretty cheesy limerick, but knowing Bryan you would agree they fit perfectly with his personality.

Although I missed his ordination while I was traveling back to PNG, I read with great interest all the accounts of his ordination, along with the priesthood ordination of Tulsa’s newest priest, Fr. Todd Nance.

This morning, I received the following email from Deacon Bryan and knew that I would have to share it with you.  I know he won’t mind.  He’s said I could post his missives before.  It is wonderful to see such a joy of vocation!

Eleven days an ordained man,
This feels so right; I trust God’s plan.
I’ve much to learn,
And yet I yearn
That God complete what He began!

I’m still trying to make heads and tails of this whole deacon thing, but it has been really profound as much as it has sunk in so far. I really see and think about things in a different way knowing I have been consecrated specifically for carrying out Christ’s mission on earth. It seems odd that this is the case having been a seminarian for six years and basically always thinking in this way, but it’s a significantly noticeable difference. It still feels a little foreign when I act as a deacon liturgically or give blessings, but it also just feels so right. Preaching has been a crazy experience too, knowing that in some way the Holy Spirit is moving through my gift of self in preaching and changing hearts and lives. And at this point preaching really feels like I’m just throwing myself out there and hoping the Holy Spirit’s got me covered.

It’s actually been a little hard appreciating the order I received since now I can’t stop looking ahead in excitement. Priesthood seemed so far off two weeks ago, and almost a distant hope at times, but now my heart has a little taste of what’s to come and I just can’t stop longing for it. I feel so limited in how I can serve God’s people and the world for that matter as a deacon, even though a whole new world has just been opened up to me. I think I have a beginning sense of the insane restlessness Fr. Todd Nance was going through in the few days before his priestly ordination on May 25.

 I know I have more musings rumbling around in my head and heart, but I’ll save them for another day and another limerick 😉

 Blessings!

-Deacon Bryan

 

(Photo credit:  David Crenshaw – Eastern Oklahoma Catholic)

Dust Bowl

I’ve lived in Oklahoma for the majority of my life.  In other years, I lived in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, areas that are environmentally very similar to the western parts of Oklahoma.  The Dust Bowl of the 1930’s has always been talked about, but I don’t think I truly appreciated what happened, until now.  It’s a very blunt lesson of what can happen when a lack of respect for the environment and ecology comes face to face with human greed and ignorance.

 

“The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands in the 1930s, particularly in 1934 and 1936. The phenomenon was caused by severe drought combined with farming methods that did not include crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques such as soil terracing and wind-breaking trees to prevent wind erosion.[1] Extensive deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains in the preceding decade had displaced the natural deep-rooted grasses that normally kept the soil in place and trapped moisture even during periods of drought and high winds. Rapid mechanization of farm implements, especially small gasoline tractors and widespread use of the harvester-combine were significant in the decisions to convert grassland (much of which received no more than 10 inches (250 mm) of precipitation per year) to cultivated cropland.

During the drought of the 1930s, without natural anchors to keep the soil in place, it dried, turned to dust, and blew away with the prevailing winds. At times, the clouds blackened the sky, reaching all the way to East Coast cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. Much of the soil ended up deposited in the Atlantic Ocean, carried by prevailing winds. These immense dust storms—given names such as “black blizzards” and “black rollers”—often reduced visibility to a few feet (a meter) or less. The Dust Bowl affected 100,000,000 acres (400,000 km2), centered on the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and adjacent parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas.[2]

Millions of acres of farmland were damaged, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes; many of these families (often known as “Okies“, since so many came from Oklahoma) migrated to California and other states, where they found economic conditions little better during the Great Depression than those they had left. Owning no land, many became migrant workers who traveled from farm to farm to pick fruit and other crops at starvation wages. Author John Steinbeck later wrote The Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Of Mice and Men, about such people.”

from Wikipedia article “Dust Bowl”

 

Many years later, these devastating years in our young state, bookended on one end by the years of the Great Depression and on the other by World War II, still have an impact on the psyche of our state.  There’s an independent streak in our people, a determination to be self-reliant, and a thin skin when it comes to anything that disparages the image of what it means to be an Oklahoman.  For many, the term “Okie” continues to be a serious deprecation and insult.

 

 

So why am I writing about this?  The master documentarian and storyteller, Ken Burns, has come out with a new project, entitled “The Dust Bowl.”  It aired on PBS stations the last two nights and it was a real eye-opener for me.  This masterpiece captures in a new way the sheer immensity of this man-made disaster and how it impacted so many lives.  The storms themselves were such incredible acts of nature that it’s impossible to put them into any reasonable perspective.  But the storms are only part of the story.  Following on the heels of the storms were plagues, illnesses, psychological destruction, economic collapse, and one of the largest migrations of Americans from one area of the country to another.

If you have an interest in American history, I encourage you to watch this two part series (about 4 hours in length) from Ken Burns.  The full episodes are currently available for free at pbs.org.