Since the middle of May, I’ve traveled to Detroit, Honolulu, Chicago and Plano (twice), Seattle, Louisville, New York City (twice), and occasionally I’ve been here in Washington. On Monday, I leave for Hot Spring, South Dakota.
It has been a month where I’ve been with great friends and colleagues and have seen and experienced so many wonderful things…but they do have a tendency to get jumbled up when you spend so much time on planes and trains. So forgive me if I have a famous monk playing some wonderful slack key guitar along the way.
Here’s my grab-bag – in no particular order – of things sacred, wonderful and (perhaps) absurd from a month on the road.
Cyril Pahinui is the Epitome of Cool
I was in Honolulu to work with colleagues and partners to try to save the Natatorium, a beautiful if neglected saltwater pool and war memorial.
While there, my colleague Brian Turner and I – both lovers of roots music – made it a point one night to find some slack key guitar. Why not – we were in the home of this uniquely Hawaiian style! And we hit the jackpot.
Cyril Pahinui is as close to slack key royalty as you’ll get. Son of the legendary Gabby Pahinui, Cyril is a slack key master in his own right. He has won three Grammys and his music is soulful.
And I’m here to say that the man is the epitome of “cool.” We talked with Cyril prior to his set, and he was gracious and gentle. He played a guitar with beautiful koa wood. He was never in a hurry, but always warm and welcoming. For our part, we were relaxed and enjoying life sitting at the feet of a master.
Thomas Merton’s Revelation
On a completely different topic, I was walking downtown in Louisville earlier this month, when I came across this:
It is my experience that historical markers about spiritual revelations aren’t found on every street corner.
When so many historical markers in the South are about wars (Revolutionary and Civil), it is refreshing to see one about social justice. Thanks to the good folk of Louisville.
And speaking of social justice…any day you get to hear John Lewis speak is a good day
Earlier this week I was participating in a Juneteenth event the National Trust was co-sponsoring on Capitol Hill when Congressman John Lewis made an unexpected appearance. In five eloquent minutes where you could hear a pin drop, this “icon of icons” spoke about his recent visit to the site of Mount Zion Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Today – June 21st – is the 50th anniversary of the brutal murder of three Civil Rights Workers who traveled to the church to investigate its burning by white racists determined to stymie voter registration of African-Americans.
Congressman Lewis spoke about the power of place and the importance of memory. His life has been lived in a way that gives his words added strength and meaning. When we think about the relevance of history, we need only turn to the words of John Lewis speaking about James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner – and how their sacrifice led to a thousand college students coming to Mississippi in that fateful summer to register voters. The place has been remembered and remains a force for change today, as we still struggle to provide voting rights not just to the rich and powerful, but to all Americans.
The Struggle for Rights is a Long One
In Detroit, there was much to see in a city with a proud history and a difficult present.
On a walk between meetings at the National Main Streets Conference, I came across this riverfront sculpture which commemorates the Underground Railroad. The slaves and a “conductor” look across the Detroit River to Canada – and freedom. When we think of Detroit’s troubles today, we do well to recall that Americans have long dealt with difficult issues against impossible odds. I recall the words of historian David McCullough speaking at a National Trust conference shortly after the 9/11 bombings. His message: history can tell us that we have dealt with adversity throughout our past – if we will only listen. Those who trumpet current issues or political fights as the worst or most difficult ever simply don’t know their history.
Dinner for a Cause
A sustainable food system is one of those challenges we’re facing in today’s world. A group in our area working to build that system is the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture. On one of the few days I was home this past month, Candice and Andrew joined me at Arcadia’s annual Spring Farm Dinner – a fund-raiser for their mobile market and other efforts to provide healthy food in the food deserts of Washington.
Held in the farm field at Woodlawn Plantation – a National Trust Historic Site – the dinner was a culinary delight. Chefs Nathan Anda and Ed Witt of the newly opened The Partisan and Red Apron butcher shops were the featured chefs for the evening. Meat was a big part of the evening, although I was most taken with a “coddled egg.” (Yes, Andrew and I had some sophomoric fun trying to top each other describing the ways to coddle an egg. My best was, “You allow them to drop their dirty clothes all over the floor” which may have been too close to home for Andrew.)
It was a wonderful evening for an important cause. Thanks to the good folks at Arcadia for all their great work. We’re proud to support you.
So at the end of this rambling set of remembrances, join me in island time, with a video of Cyril Pahinui’s beautiful rendition of Gabby’s signature song Hi’ilawe. Aloha.
More to come….