PBS ‘Granito’ shows how tiny acts can move mountains

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0623_PBS_POV_Granito_family_in_Guatemala.jpgFrom PBS POV film “Granito”: The Caba family in front of their home in Ixil highlands of Guatemala. The army massacred 95 people in their village in 1982 during the genocide. Photo by Dana Lixenberg.WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO SEE “GRANITO”
“Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” is scheduled for a national broadcast on PBS’s highly praised POV series, Thursday June 28. Check showtimes and learn about seeing the film for free on your iPad or iPhone at this POV web page. For more information about the film, including links for discussion guides and other resources, visit this POV page dedicated to “Granito.”
For more information on POV’s 25th year, including previews of upcoming films, visit the main POV site. NOTE: Even if you don’t get broadcasts of POV in your part of the country, the website continues to post updates about watching these films for free online or on hand-held devices.

Why ‘Granito’ inspires hope everyday

Reviewed by ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0623_Mayan_woman_in_PBS_POV_Granito.jpgFrom PBS POV film “Granito”: Rosa Cana in Ilóm, Guatemala. An Ixil Maya, she says red in her clothing represents the blood shed in the genocide. Photo by Dana Lixenberg.Feel your daily labors aren’t making a difference? Ever fear that the your most cherished beliefs and fondly repeated stories are becoming irrelevant with time? Tune in PBS’s POV series this week (or watch this week’s documentary on your iPad or iPhone) and you will see a shining example of small actions that truly matter on a global scale.

The inspiring message of “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” lies not in the nailing but in that very first word, Granito—Spanish for “a tiny grain.” PBS’s award-winning POV series is entering its 25th year with a lineup of documentaries celebrating the power of nonfiction video to change the world.

That’s the real theme behind Granito. Although entirely factual, the film unfolds like a detective thriller about an international effort to bring a Guatemalan general up on charges of genocide before the 86-year-old man dies and forever escapes justice. This film by long-time documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates actually is a sequel—three decades later—to her 1983 film “When the Mountains Tremble.” At that time, a rag-tag rebel force was locked in a civil war with Guatemala’s U.S.-backed military regime. At that time, Yates was young and tough. She grew up in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania and ran away from home to New York City when she was only 15.

When she set out to make a documentary about the civil war in Guatemala—clearly aiming to support the revolutionaries against the American-backed military forces—she proved her courage by surviving a near-fatal helicopter crash. Her 1983 movie was celebrated by progressive journalists and human-rights activists around the world. It was screened at the first Sundance Film Festival. The film was told through the voice and viewpoint of Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous Guatemalan woman who went on to win the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize as a result.

So, on one level “Granito” is reminding us all of the power of preserving and retelling important stories. The rebel force Yates documented in her movie did not succeed in the way Yates hoped in the 1980s—instead, hundreds of thousands were wiped out in a genocide focused on indigenous families.

However, her film about Guatemala did wind up moving mountains. It was truly a tiny seed that now is flowering in unexpected ways. That is the second and entirely new story that “Granito” tells, focusing on a major human rights case unfolding in 2012. After many years of persistent international efforts to bring charges of genocide against the main military leader, General José Efraín Ríos Montt, an international tribunal in Spain agreed to take testimony and pursue the matter.

As reported recently by BBS News: “An estimated 200,000 people were killed or went missing during Guatemala’s civil conflict, which ended in 1996. Gen. Rios Montt’s 17 months in power are believed to be one of the most brutal periods of the war.”

The case is far from over, but a central element in making these charges stick is evidence gleaned from Yates’ original film and from the many canisters of out-takes that have been freshly explored by forensic investigators. This is where “Granito” becomes part CSI and part Law & Order. Suddenly, Guatemalans and international activists are discovering that Yates’ 1983 film has even more potency than they dreamed. Among the key scenes, she captured Montt on film boasting that he controlled every action by his military forces. That’s important evidence of his culpability in the genocide.

In the course of the new film, Pamela Yates provides a crash course on recent Guatemalan history, freshly reminding viewers why we should care what happens in Latin America. More than that, Yates argues that we should take heart in our own seemingly small efforts to do good in the world. Even helping to pass along true stories of courage and compassion—like watching “Granito” with friends or sharing links on Facebook—can make a difference, she shows us.

Her opening words in the film are: “Sometimes a story told long ago will come back and speak to you in the present.” A moment later, she poses the central question of “Granito” to viewers: “How does each of us weave our own responsibilities into the pattern of history?”

Don’t miss this stirring story!

WATCH A PREVIEW: PBS’s POV provides this 3-minute preview of the film. Click the video screen below to watch it. A brief commercial message comes before the trailer. If you don’t see a video screen in your version of this story, click here to reload this ReadTheSpirit story and the video should appear.)

Watch Granito: How to Nail a Dictator – Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.


This Spanish-language site was established by the filmmakers and their friends in an effort to connect with more men and women who might share stories about the era under investigation. The site’s Spanish introduction says, in English translation: “Welcome to the memorial and public online archive of armed conflict in Guatemala. This memorial is to start talking about these facts and avoid repeating the past. Here we can join each of our memories and help restore our history. We invite you to share your two cents about their experience of that time. Contributions may be in any way that represents your memory – you can add video clips, photographs, letters, art, or something else, and can be added anonymously. This site is for us—to save our memories, to create our history, and to educate the new generation.”

ReadTheSpirit publishes the memoir of Odawa elder and teacher Warren Petoskey. As in Yates’ film, Native Americans were subjected to human rights abuses long after the world thought the warfare in our Great Plains was over. Warren’s inspiring book includes the story of Indian boarding schools, where thousands of Indian children were held captive and often abused under federal policies to quash Indian culture.

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.


Review: Facing the Storm, Story of the American Bison

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0422_Albert_Bierstadt_Bison_Head.jpgCan the buffalo survive?
In this new century, we all are asking: Can America survive as the world’s greatest democracy? Instead, we ought to be asking other urgent questions, including: Can we preserve the American bison—better known as the buffalo—the symbol of American majesty and the true fruit of America’s plains from sea to shining sea?

This is a perfect season for releasing the documentary, “Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison.” Millions of Americans are thinking about Earth Day, marveling at rebirth across the northern hemisphere—and are planning for summer travel. You can see a shortened version of the film, this week, on the PBS Independent Lens series (that is, if your local PBS affiliate carries the series, which you can check here). Better yet, you can purchase the entire Facing the Storm documentary on DVD from Amazon (and get another half an hour of this gripping slice of American history and contemporary culture—78 minutes on DVD vs. the slightly more than 50 minutes that PBS will show in the film’s network debut).


https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0422_DVD_Facing_the_Storm.jpgClick the cover to visit the film’s Amazon page.THE HISTORICAL REASON: As we quickly learn in this dramatic retelling of the American bison’s story, there is no greater symbol of America’s wasted abundance than the buffalo. Through relentless hunting, the population went from more than 30 million to a tiny handful left in a remote valley of Yellowstone, before preservation efforts began in earnest. Certainly, Americans ran dry on other natural resources and drove other animals toward extinction through the centuries, but the buffalo’s value to the first Americans makes it a different case. The buffalo defined—and made possible—the daily life of the Great Plains’ original human inhabitants. Yet, by the late 1800s, the Kansas-Pacific railroad was selling tickets for kill-a-buffalo tours of the plains. The trains would slow to about five miles an hour, the windows would open and passengers would blaze away from the comfort of their seats, slaughtering and leaving buffalo carcasses to rot in vast quantities. Filmmakers Doug Hawes-Davis and Drury Gunn Carr argue in their film that the destruction of millions of buffalo was a deliberate part of U.S. policy to force Indians into reservations. So, the first reason we should care about the American bison a.k.a. buffalo? Because Americans collectively committed crimes against the natural world and against the people who depended on that ecology. Now, we need to encourage serious efforts to repair that damage.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0422_Pawnee_Bill_buffalo_show_poster_1903.jpgPawnee Bill’s 1903 poster.HISTORICAL NOTE: The antique design of the DVD cover actually is borrowed from a Wild West poster that celebrated the buffalo as the crowning symbol of the American West. The original poster was used by Pawnee Bill, who did work for a while with Buffalo Bill, but mainly produced his own shows.

THE CONSERVATION REASON: In short, this is the hunters’ and ecological-activists’ rationale for preserving the buffalo. Hunters are eager to bag the huge prize—even though one critic who appears in the film calls the “sport” of buffalo hunting about as exciting as “going out and shooting a couch with lots of people to help you find the couch.” Nevertheless, big-game hunters are among the Americans pushing to save bison for future generations. The film’s segment on hunters and their confrontations with ecological activists is unsettling enough that viewers might want to consider whether small children or people sensitive to graphic scenes of big-game hunting should watch the film. This footage is not as gruesome as gory scenes in some recent food-related documentaries, but we do see real film footage of animals being killed—and scenes of activists risking their lives to prevent that from happening.

THE ECOLOGICAL REASON: The historical portion of the film is intriguing. The conservation segment is gripping. But, the section of the film about the work of Dr. Frank J. Popper from Rutgers and his growing network of Great Plains planners and activists is absolutely fascinating. This is almost certainly a fresh story for Americans who haven’t been living in the heart of the Great Plains controversy over the past couple of decades. What Popper, his wife and colleagues recognized in the 1980s has been documented by other sociologists, anthropologists and planners as well. The Great Plains has been losing population for years. Scholars draw this conclusion: The outward migration from farms and small towns is discrediting the 19th-and-20th-century notion that the plains could be turned into Indiana-and-Ohio-style farmland. Many entire plains communities have vanished. For more than a century, we now are realizing, Americans have been running counter to the overall ecology of the plains. Starting in the 1980s, the Poppers proposed restoring a wild bison herd in a natural portion of the Great Plains as the only pragmatic way to respond without further damaging the plains themselves. One terrific outcome of watching this film would be for groups nationwide to start talking more about the Poppers’ idea for a vast Buffalo Commons area in the Great Plains.

FILM REVIEW by ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm

Care to read more about Native American perspectives?

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0422_Dancing-My-Dream-Front-Cover.jpgThere are a number of Indian perspectives shared in Facing the Storm.
ReadTheSpirit actively encourages greater awareness of Indian teachers and writers who are working today. We publish Dancing My Dream, a memoir and reflection on restoring Indian culture by Great Lakes-area writer and activist Warren Petoskey. Click the book cover, at right, to learn more about Dancing My Dream and Warren Petoskey’s work.

Care to watch a trailer for Facing the Storm?

Click the video screen below for a 3-minute preview of the documentary, which collects a broad sampling from the film’s many scenes. This video clip’s soundtrack is mainly music; the actual film has lots of narrators explaining the history and contemporary issues.
(NOTE: If you do not see a video screen in your version of this story, click here to reload this story in your Web browser.)

Please help us to reach a wider audience

We welcome your Emails at [email protected]
We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, AmazonHuffington PostYouTube and other social-networking sites. 
You also can Subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS feed.
Plus, there’s a free Monday morning Planner newsletter you may enjoy.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Traveling new roads with ‘Wolf nor Dog’ Kent Nerburn

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0301_Backroads_with_Kent_Nerburn_of_Wolf_nor_Dog.jpgLongtime readers of Kent Nerburn’s spiritual adventures are likely to picture him in motion—driving along back roads, walking in the woods and, of course, taking us with him as companions on these journeys. At the heart of it, this is the enticing spiritual voice of a Nerburn book: Dare to open the cover. Risk reading the opening lines. Don’t even pack a bag—just travel with Kent.

The newly released Ordinary Sacred: The Simple Beauty of Everyday Life, opens with these words: “Years ago I was traveling across the great Saskatchewan prairies—a young man, alone, with a love the road and a dream in my heart. Evening was approaching, and long shadows were darkening the draws and skeching like fingers across the rolling golden land. A rancher, passing in a truck, saw me walking and stopped to pick me up.”

With those words, Nerburn readers are hopelessly hooked—once again. Where are we headed this time? In Part 1 of our coverage of Ordinary Sacred this week, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm talks with Kent about using this book as a Lenten reader. The unfolding sacred adventure between these covers fits perfectly with that reflective season of the year for 2 billion Christians around the world. But the truth is: This kind of spiritual journey is timeless.

Remember that powerful little sentence in Genesis 12 that kicked off the Western world’s love affair with spiritual journeys? “So Abraham went.”
Or, recall the words of Homer that raise the curtain on The Odyssey: “Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”
Generations of American students have marched through the opening lines of Beowulf: “Forth he fared at the fated moment.” And, of course, millions have tagged along on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a boy who is brow-beaten by a home-spun sermon about the need to try to reach Heaven (and avoid going to Hell). In the face of such pressure, Huck defiantly stakes out his claim to the American journey: “All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn’t particular.”
Then, of course, there’s always Frost: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”

Right now, Kent Nerburn and his wife Louise Mengelkoch (a writer and editor who taught for years at Bemidji State University near their home) are quite literally on the move again. The next generation in their family has relocated far to the West, so Kent and Louise are planning to migrate in that direction.
Kent is even thinking of selling a landmark he created for the woods around their current home—a large wooden body of Christ that Kent sculpted and painstakingly weathered over many years. Countless Americans know Kent as a popular author, especially of Native American and on-the-road stories, but he was trained both in theology and in the fine arts as a gifted sculptor.

David Crumm speaks with Kent Nerburn in:


DAVID: I love the mental picture of what’s unfolding now, Kent! You and Louise are on the move, once again, but first you have to figure out what to do with Christ. Right there in that one line, we’ve got the story of your life. And, having visited you and Louise in your home—I know this is quite literally true. You are, indeed, planning to move from your little Eden in the Minnesota woods, but first you’ve got this life-size wooden representation of Christ that has to go somewhere. What are you planning?

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0302_Kent_Nerburn.jpgKent Nerburn, courtesy of the author.KENT: Well, I could move it with me, but I’d really like to find a church that would agree to buy it—and maybe help me pay for my kids’ education. Really, I would like people to have this piece and see it as a part of their community. I’m thinking of it as ideal for a church to purchase and place at a focal point for people to contemplate. I don’t have any offers at the moment, but I’m open.

DAVID: Perhaps we can suggest to our readers that they email us ([email protected]) if they’re interested in a major artwork for a Christian house of worship. This whole process you’re undertaking feels to me the plot in one of your books.

KENT: My whole life has been traveling but Louise just retired from Bemidji State at the first of the year, so she’s just getting her sea legs under her. Moving West is a difficult decision in some ways, but both of us are so smitten with our grandkids. Now, it’s time for us to fold up our tent here in Minnesota and move to the Pacific Northwest.

DAVID: Your body of writing and this book, too, explore American restlessness. I know that, overall, you’ve been trying to help sketch a kind of American theology—a spiritual sense of what it means to live on the soil and in the waterways of this continent. So, tell us how Ordinary Sacred fits into that larger quest you’ve been undertaking for years.

KENT: Earlier, I wrote books closer to home. A lot of readers still enjoy what I wrote about family and being a father. But, by the time I was working on this book, I wanted to cast a net farther afield. As a result, readers will find stories about encounters near and far. I take readers to Oxford University, to Italy and to New Mexico. I wanted to take people in many directions. My love of art is clearly a part of this book, too, and I invite readers to think about art with me at one point. Beyond the title on the book’s cover, you might call this Surprised by God. Through it all, I wanted to end with the core conviction I have that Native spirituality is the authentic spirituality for this American land. So, that’s why I placed the story called The Circle at the very end.

DAVID: I may be one of the few readers of classic writers who is drawn to their lesser-known travel books. I love Mark Twain’s travel writing, especially his remarkable account of visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. I love Charles Dickens’ non-fiction travel writing. And, I was thrilled to see that a little of Dickens’ non-fiction has been revived for his big bicentennial bash this year.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0302_cover_Kent_Nerborn_Ordinary_Sacred_Simple_Beauty_of_Everyday_Life.jpgClick the cover to jump to Amazon for a copy.

KENT: I hope that readers do see the unity in the journey that runs through this book. I put this together from various pieces and I hope that I have stretched the sinews far enough and solidly enough so that readers see it all as connected.

The final story, The Circle, is something that I wrote originally with no knowledge of where it would wind up. Writing that story was like catching lightning in a bottle. I was there at a service and, as soon as I got home, I wrote up the story. Then, I felt strongly that The Circle fit into this book. In the end, that story becomes the linchpin for the entire book. This time, the book doesn’t feel like it is set around my kitchen table in the center of my family. Readers move with me far afield in these pages and then The Circle really brings it all home.

DAVID: This raises the question of ceremony or ritual—activities in our everyday lives that help us to see the sacred in the moment. In the course of this book, readers will stand at your shoulder as you eat with friends, as you tell stories, as you open a toolbox and as you attend this final burial. Part of what you’re teaching us in this book is that recognizing the sacred involves recognizing patterns in our lives that open windows to the rest of the world. Do you agree?

KENT: In The Wolf at Twilight, I write about the difference I see between ceremony and ritual. To me and in the Native sense of this, ceremonies are part of a larger framework of actions that have been honed and proven through generations to bring a person into spiritual awareness. Theologians might debate this point, but this is my own linguistic distinction. I see rituals more as: habit made holy.

Overall, I’m interested in what we can do, each day, through eyes that see the spiritual significance of a moment. Some of these things are very basic. One of the small graces in my life is my first morning cup of coffee. I always hold it, before I take that first sip of coffee. I regard that first sip as the coming of new life for the new day into my body. It’s a small thing but it’s meaningful.

‘Showing kindness … when we don’t feel like it’

DAVID: You have a hugely compassionate heart. In some ways, you look like a big, rugged, woodsy guy and some of your writing is quite muscular. There are strong emotions in your books. But there’s a deep compassion that runs through your body of work. I know that this stems from your childhood and runs throughout your life.

KENT: Yes, my father was the director of disaster services for the American Red Cross in Minneapolis. So, he would go out to all the fires and disasters that took place and would arrive usually at the same time the police and fire fighters were doing their work. I would go with him, starting when I was about 12 years old. An apartment building might have burned down and we’d be there getting ready to distribute clothes and blankets, food and water to the people affected by the fire. Sometimes, if it was winter, he’d put someone in a car to keep warm. I can recall sitting in a car at age 12 with a woman who had just gone through a fire.  She was in her 80s and was sobbing because her cat was left behind in the apartment. I knew that no one could go save this cat, at that point. I remember thinking: What can I say to this woman? So, what I did was: I sat and listened to this woman. I stayed with her in that car. Of course, my daily life as a kid was full of all the other things that fill a kid’s life: school and girls and sports and all the rest. But I found myself, at an early age, called to these moments of empathy. My life definitely was nurtured by those events with my father and the people we were serving. My role was sitting with people and listening to their stories.

What calls me to mindfulness most in my life, now, is making an effort to show kindness in situations where I don’t feel very kind. Showing our good and benevolent values, especially at times when we don’t feel like it—that’s important. This might mean spending extra time with someone, asking them about themselves, and really listening. It’s so easy to start a conversation and use it just as a springboard to talk about ourselves. In fact, this interview is not really natural for me because here I am talking all about myself. I’m glad that you called on me to do this, but on a daily basis I try to spend more time engaging with people about their lives. And, when I have a chance, I try to listen to the people who no one else listens to. That’s the kind of practice that most animates my life: the pursuit of kindness and giving of my time to listen, particularly to people who others won’t stop to hear.


DAVID: Throughout your writing career, you have drawn some extremely loyal fans. You’ve racked up a remarkable amount of 4-star and 5-star reviews on your book pages in Amazon, for example. What do you know about these readers?

KENT: At one point in my writing, I had two separate groups of readers: One group followed my Native writings and one group followed my general spiritual writings. In a way, this has become my own spiritual journey to try to connect these realms in my life. As I’ve said, I am trying to articulate an authentic American spirituality. I’ve followed that path in the sculptures I have created that try to combine Western-European art traditions with this American land. For some years, the Native track in my writing moved so far to the forefront that some of the readers of my more spiritual books felt a little betrayed. Yet, for the most part, they have come along with me because readers can see that I’m trying to inhabit the Native books with the same spiritual ideas that run throughout my work.

Among my readers, I know that I have more women who are readers, than men. I know that there’s a kind of male reader, who I think of as actually gentler than I am myself, who likes to follow my work. I’m seeing some younger readers showing up at events where I appear and I like to see that. People are drawn to my books if they have an eco-awareness, if they are interested in Native spirituality or if they have a Buddhist kind of sensibility about the world. The unifying picture across my regular readers can be summed up as: They’re people who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. More than that, they’re people who embrace the idea that there is a great mystery to life, an overarching creative force and a permeating spirituality in our everyday lives.

Care to read more about Native American life?

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0302_Warren_Petoskey_Dancing_My_Dream.jpgReadTheSpirit publishes Dancing My Dream, a memoir by Warren Petoskey. If you click this link, or the book cover, at right, you’ll find Warren’s homepage within ReadTheSpirit. A beautiful city on the shore of Lake Michigan still bears Warren’s family name.

Please help us to
reach a wider audience

We welcome your Emails at [email protected]
We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, AmazonHuffington PostYouTube and other social-networking sites. 
You also can Subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS feed.
Plus, there’s a free Monday morning Planner newsletter you may enjoy.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Neither Wolf’s Kent Nerburn invites us on a new pilgrimage

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-27_Kent_Nerburns_Ordinary_Sacred_readings_in_Lent.jpgKent Nerburn ranks among America’s beloved storytellers and spiritual guides. His specialties in past books include the natural world, Native American wisdom, the relationships between parents and their children—and the many ways that fine arts are a catalyst to insight. He began his career as a theologian and sculptor. But, he is most famous, today, for Neither Wolf nor Dog, required reading on Native Americans’ relationships with non-Indians (along with its more recent sequel The Wolf at Twilight). Inspirational quotations from Nerburn’s many published works, especially his book on fatherhood Letters to My Son and his Wolf books, are sprinkled liberally across the Internet these days. Even the celebrated guru Eckhart Tolle sings praises for Nerburn’s newest volume.

In Ordinary Sacred: The Simple Beauty of Everyday Life, Nerburn gives us a handy companion for a personal pilgrimage wherever we find ourselves living today. Even this book’s cover with its barn-wood imagery, compact size and comfortable-to-the-fingers matte finish makes it a perfect book for a long walk or a quiet afternoon in a favorite corner.

At first, the vivid vignettes in Ordinary Sacred may seem like disconnected gems. The book opens with Kent inviting us to travel across the northern prairies, an echo of the Wolf adventures. Then, we drop South for a brief detour along a stretch of legendary Route 66. But, wait a minute! We’re also stopping by Oxford University and, suddenly, we’re in Florence contemplating the works of great masters. Around that point in the book, we discover that these aren’t random gems. Rather, this is a string of beads. This is a pilgrimage. And, in the end, when we stand with the author in “The Circle,” one of this slim book’s final stops, the wisdom of this journey comes home to us like a lump in the throat.

That’s what makes this book, at the start of Lent 2012, a perfect Lenten reader. Of course, ReadTheSpirit is urging readers to consider our own 40-day, 40-chapter Lenten reader, Our Lent: Things We Carry. But Nerburn’s 13-part Ordinary Sacred is another kind of Lenten pilgrimage. There’s no explicitly Christian message here, yet this cycle of stories moves through a long spiritual journey toward a death, a burial and transcendence. Truly, these are Lenten themes. At its root, this book and Nerburn’s entire body of work remind us that all journeys are sacred, all places along the way are sacred and, ultimately, all moments are sacred, if we have eyes and ears and hearts to recognize the truth.

Do you find yourself generally non-religious, but yearning for deeper daily connections between your life and the larger living world around us? Or, do you find yourself deeply religious, yet mired in the sameness of your congregation’s weekly disciplines? In either case, Ordinary Sacred is your invitation to a potent journey into a deeper and a wider world.

This week, we welcome our friend and colleague Kent Nerburn back to the pages of ReadTheSpirit, where Editor David Crumm has interviewed the author and artist at the start of this Lenten season. Later this week, we will publish our full interview, but today we share what Kent had to say about …

Ordinary Sacred by Kent Nerburn
… as a Companion for Lent

In our interview, Kent Nerburn says this about Lent …

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0227_cover_Kent_Nerborn_Ordinary_Sacred_Simple_Beauty_of_Everyday_Life.JPG.jpgI would love it if readers took hold of this book as a reader for Lent. When I began writing this book, I thought of it almost as a classic Book of Hours, moving through the day from Matins to Vespers. That became an underlying theme in this book, definitely a part of its spiritual arc. The sections move from Dawn’s Awakening to Night’s Embrace.

These days, I don’t practice as a Catholic anymore, but the Christian tradition will always be a part of my life. These religious traditions have a wisdom far greater than anything we could create on our own as individuals. So, this book really is an effort to touch both religious touchstones and broader spiritual touchstones, as well.

In my own days of theological training, I was guided by the Imitation of Christ and scripture and in these texts you see always see this shadow of crucifixion behind everything. As an artist, I’ve sculpted figures who are caught up in this deep spiritual experience. I came out of pre-Vatican II Catholicism and my life has been a long journey from those early heavy burdens of teachings like original sin toward my own celebration of the joy and mystery of life.

From my earliest Catholicism all the way through graduate school, I took Lent very seriously. It was the season I found that I could enter into most completely. In about 1980 or 1981, I had a chance to live in a Benedictine monastery in British Columbia so that I could do a sculpture for the monastery. I agreed that I wouldn’t sign the work. There was this medieval notion of an artist doing all to glorify God. But, when I got there, these Benedictines presented some issues that I found difficult to swallow. I didn’t like the abbot. He seemed venal to me. He talked about poverty, but I perceived him as living with a wealth like some King Henry VIII. And, I wound up crossing swords with him more than once. I thought about leaving.

Then, at one point, he said to me: “Stay in the machine, Kent. It’ll clean you out.” And, now, that’s the way I look at Lent. I lived with those Benedictines through Lent and shared their life, their rituals, the Mass. I was back to being that Catholic child, where I began life.

I wasn’t the equal of these men. Their Lenten experience, after their years together in the monastery, was intense—so intense that many of them reached Easter and I saw them finally breaking down in tears. These were quiet men, but they had entered so deeply into the cycle of Lent that they were entirely taken over by the journey. The spiritual clarification of that Lent was beyond anything I could have imagined. I was humbled.

But, if we think about it more deeply, we realize that the year’s liturgical seasons reflect the natural course of life. They work on us, if we open ourselves to it, with an almost subterranean power to reshape our lives. That’s why I’d love it if people accepted Ordinary Sacred as a pocket meditation book for Lent. I would be pleased to accompany them in this season.

REMEMBER: You can order Ordinary Sacred: The Simple Beauty of Everyday Life from Amazon now. And, please come back later this week, for our complete interview with Kenty Nerburn in which the author and artist talks about his life, his work and the inspirations behind Ordinary Sacred.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0227_box_Our_Lent_Second_Edition_cover.jpgANOTHER GREAT LENTEN COMPANION?

Of course, ReadTheSpirit is recommending our own new book, the 2nd Edition of Our Lent: Things We Carry, which now is available for all e-reading devices—as well as in a brightly colored new paperback edition as well. Click this link or click the book cover, at right, to read more about this inspiring guide to this ancient season of reflection.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Twilight, Quileute Indians & Smithsonian: Wolves? Yes.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0116_Quileute_wolf_headdress.jpgQuileute tribe ceremonial wolf headdress, made of wood, paint, fabric and cedar. The visually striking artifact is part of the new Smithsonian exhibition on the small tribe in the Pacific Northwest. Photo and artifact from the Washington State Historical Society, released for use with news stories about the exhibit.Smithsonian show
shines Twlight’s
glow on Quileute


JANE WELLS is the author of Glitter in the Sun, a new Bible-study series for church groups that explores timeless spiritual themes in the Twilight series using biblical passages and examples from everyday life.

Finally, the Twilight tidal wave is benefiting the tiny Northwest Pacific Coast Indian tribe known as the Quileute (pronounced “quill-yoot”). The best-selling series of novels by Stephenie Meyer, followed by the hugely popular movie series, initially caused problems for the small band with a population of less than 400 living under the tribal council—and no more than 2,000 nationwide. The largely female fans of Twilight naturally wanted to visit this remote spot in Washington state, where the novels and the films show Indians becoming—werewolves. At first, car loads of fans, friends and families were showing up and nearly overwhelming the small band.

Now, tribal leaders are excited about a major exhibition on their culture that opened this weekend at the Smithsonian’s American Indian Museum on the Mall in Washington D.C. Two fluent speakers of the Quileute language appeared at the show’s opening to tell traditional Quileute tales. This special, temporary Quileute gallery inside the museum demonstrates clearly:
Are wolves important to Quileute culture? Yes!
Do these humans turn into wolves? No!
Now through May 9, the tribe and the Smithosnian are working to set the record straight on exactly what ancient tribal legends teach. Not surprisingly, vampires have nothing to do with it.

Meyer’s series of young adult books chronicle the love triangle between the teen girl, Bella, and her supernatural paramours, the vampire Edward and the werewolf Jacob. Acres of pixels and gallons of ink have been spent on the nature of Bella’s personality and just what a vampire is (as Edward seems to break all the formerly hard and fast rules), but recently interest has turned toward Jacob. In Meyer’s books, Jacob is a member of the Quileute on the Washington coast. In the Twilight world, Jacob is able to shift between his human shape and that of a giant wolf in order to protect his tribe from the threat of vampires.

Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves” is an exhibition that brings together rare works of Quileute art as a counterpoint to the supernatural storyline depicted in the popular Twilight series. If you are traveling to Washington D.C. in the next few months, look for the exhibition in the museum’s second-level Sealaska Gallery.

The Washington Post reported on the new display, explaining legends about the tribe’s origin when the deity Kwati the Transformer transformed a pair of wolves into human shape. As a result, wolf imagery is hugely important in the Quileute culture. However, the tribe and the museum’s comprehensive displays teach that shape shifting back and forth between forms is a fictional invention.

One thing Meyer did record accurately was the size and location of the Quileute reservation, nestled on the Pacific shore. Many of the tribe’s most important buildings, including a school, the tribal administrative offices and many homes are within tsunami range. Right now the tribe is stuck with this situation, mired in a 50-year-old border dispute with Olympic National Park, without higher land or the money to purchase it. One of the actresses from the Twilight saga movies is helping draw attention to this plight.

The Native American media outlet, Indian Country Today Media Network reports on the positive effect of involvement of movie celebrities in Quileute tribal concerns. Julia Jones, the actress who portrayed Quileute werewolf Leah Clearwater, herself a Chickasaw/Choctaw member, has recorded a public service announcement to help raise money so the Quileute tribe can expand their reservation and move to higher ground.

Ironically, the Smithsonian exhibit also displays a map of the Quileute’s formerly vast tribal lands, which stretched from the shore up into the Olympic Mountains.

The Smithsonian exhibit isn’t just a collection of Indian artifacts. Curators also want to show visitors the positive impact a popular series like Twilight can have. The new Quileute gallery includes “a 12-minute looped video that illuminates the history and oral and cultural traditions through interviews with tribal members and teens as they describe the phenomenon and effect of the Twilight films in their own words,” the Smithsonian’s curators write about the new show. “Replicas of items used in the Twilight films include a paddle necklace worn by the character Emily portrayed by actor Tinsel Korey, a traditional Quileute hand drum that hangs in Emily’s house, a shell necklace of Olivella shells that was on the wall of her house and the dream catcher that Jacob gives to Bella as a gift.”

Care to read more from Jane Wells? Learn about her Twilight Bible study book and read an interview with Wells about Twilight’s popular themes.

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Native American news: Have you seen Smiling Indians?

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0318_Ryan_Red_Corn.jpgRYAN RED CORNSuch a serious week! Let’s laugh, today. We’re celebrating the work of young Ryan Red Corn, part of the Osage tribe who gaining national attention this month for his short video, “Smiling Indians.” He’s been featured on National Public Radio and other news outlets. Congratulations, Ryan!

ReadTheSpirit supports honest media about Indian life. We publish the biography, “Dancing My Dream,” a memoir of a Native American family in the Great Lakes. And, in our 2010 American Journey, we visited a traditional craftsman and healer in the northern woods of Minnesota.

What is “Smiling Indians”? It’s Ryan’s brainstorm to combat bigotry. Ryan argues that the world has seen far too many stone-serious portraits of Indians down through the past 100 years—and it’s high time to see some Indians grinning. We think his concept is infectious and we’d love to see some young filmmakers create some sequels: How about Smiling Muslims? We sure could use a film like that, right now, to combat bigotry.

Here’s what Ryan created. Enjoy! (If you don’t see a video screen below in the version of this story you’re reading, try clicking on this link to reload this ReadTheSpirit story.)


We want our international conversation to continue

Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in our global culture. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of our stories—and, please tell a friend to start reading along with you!

We welcome your Emails! . We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, AmazonHuffington PostYouTube and other social-networking sites. You also can Subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS feed. Plus, there’s a free Monday morning Planner newsletter you may enjoy.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)

Listen to indigenous voices from Global Spirit—right here

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-101113_13_Indigenous_Grandmothers.jpgFROM AMONG THE 13 INDIGENOUS GRANDMOTHERS, above, Flordemayo (third from right) appears on “Global Spirit.”Global Spirit TV series picked up by PBS

Over the past year, ReadTheSpirit has recommended the Global Spirit TV series—and we have streamed some of the new episodes right here at our website. Today, Global Spirit has announced that PBS has recommended the series to regional public TV stations, an important new doorway for the series to a potentially larger audience nationwide.

Watch show here Sunday, Nov 14, 6 pm Pacific, 9 pm Eastern

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-101113_Angaangaq.jpgInuit teacher Angaangaq from Greenland.HOW TO WATCH: You can watch the episode live in the final video screen you’ll see on this page. At broadcast time, that video screen will go “live.” Tune in from your computer! (Or, we also provide a direct link to Justin.TV’s home site to watch the series.)

New Title: “The Shaman, the Spirit Healer & the Earth”

The newest show from “Global Spirit” is a conversation featuring two indigenous teachers from two different corners of the Earth. Flordemayo was born in Central America. Angaangaq comes from Greenland.

Want to know more about Flordemayo? Here is her personal website. You also can find out about some of her spiritual activism at the website for the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Flordemayo is in the photo, above. She’s the third woman from the right.

Want to know more about Angaangaq? Here is his personal page within the “IceWisdom” website.

More Native American wisdom?

ReadTheSpirit Books publishes another Native teacher’s memoir: “Dancing My Dream,” by Warren Petoskey. Warren’s book warns about many of the same issues raised by Flordemayo and Angaangaq.

See a preview of Flordemayo and Angaangaq now:

You should see a preview video screen, below, where you can see these two teachers visiting a grove of ancient trees. If you don’t see a video screen in your version of this story, you can visit YouTube to see the clip.

Watch “The Shaman, the Spirit Healer & the Earth” right here:

The final video screen on this webpage won’t go live until broadcast time. Then, you can watch the show right here in the convenience of the ReadTheSpirit website. If you don’t see a video screen below on your computer, you also can click here to visit the Justin TV site directly and view the episode.

We want our international conversation to continue

Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in our global culture recently. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of our stories—and, please tell a friend to start reading along with you!

We welcome your Emails! . We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, AmazonHuffington PostYouTube and other social-networking sites. You also can Subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS feed. Plus, there’s a free Monday-morning “Planner” newsletter you may enjoy.