Tag Archive | environment

A Change of Plans

Sabbatical time for ministers is unique to each minister. We each have to follow our hearts and souls toward what is calling us forward in this time of rest, renewal, and reflection. Recently I listened to a guided meditation containing affirmations “to help you switch on the happiness button in your brain and have a magical day.” One of the affirmations is “I make plans that are flexible and open to the surprises life has in store for me.”

I made plans to backpack on the Appalachian Trail for 30 days … really serious plans! There are countless details that have to be considered for food, shelter, clothing, and so forth. I embarked on my journey on Easter Sunday, starting with an ascent of over 3,000 feet in elevation change over very challenging terrain. Over the next four days I hiked more difficult ascents, navigated steep descents, walked through pouring rain, and found my way through dense fog. I saw great beauty, the devastating effects of humanity where whole forests and mountaintops were burned to the ground, and found hope in the new life emerging in those spaces.

I felt strong, capable, and agile. And, a knee injury I sustained last year kept nagging me all along the way. After four days, four nights, and 30 miles, I came to the realization that if I continued to hike for 26 more days, this could be my last hike. I’m young(ish)! I want to hike for 20 or 30 more years! So, I said, “Yes!” to a future of hiking and came off the trail. I am making a commitment to myself to go on day hikes and overnight hikes several times a year so I can regularly connect with the earth and keep my body strong.

Spiritually, this hike was extraordinary. I can’t wait to share some of the stories with you when I return. I encountered over 270 people hiking north as I hiked south from the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, NC. I had deep conversations with several people, and with each person I encountered, however briefly, I felt the divine spark of connection. I walked with a bigger smile, a lighter step, and a song on my heart after each encounter. It was a great joy to have this experience. I am full of gratitude.

On another note, there is much happening in our UU faith in the past couple of months. Emotions are high as deep wounds from many decades are being exposed, wounds that lay hidden or ignored for too long. I expect many of you are tuned in, and perhaps wondering where we are going. I have a deep and abiding faith in Unitarian Universalism and I am excited for our future … we are finding a new way towards being the multicultural, multigenerational, spiritually pluralist faith many of us dream about. I hold you all in my heart with compassion as we navigate the journeys of our faith, with all the ascents, descents, sunshine, downpours, and fog.

The Standing Ones

I love being in the company of trees, “the Standing Ones,” and I seek out walkways and trails with an abundance of trees. I’m careful as I make my way on trails not to step on the trees’ toes … avoiding their roots that cross the paths. I also avoid ants, beetles, and other living creatures as I step lightly on our earth.

Recently I walked a section of the Appalachian Trail in the Nantahala National Forest. For much of this walk I was surrounded by the remains of trees of many kinds, rhododendrons, mountain laurel and other forest foliage destroyed by what I’ve dubbed “the election day fires” from last November. In the week following the election I was on retreats in and near the Nantahala National Forest as fires, caused by arsons, burned throughout the area. The smoke was visible all the way to downtown Atlanta, and in the mountains it was at times overwhelming. Much was lost in those fires.

                                                          Wayah Bald

I don’t know how the trees can save us, or how we can save the trees, but I know that our mutual survival depends in large part on human action. As I walked through the burned out forest I saw the signs of new life emerging. I am reminded that the earth is profoundly resilient; I hope humanity is as well.

Hello Trees
By Jan Taddeo
Hello trees.
Can you save us?
Can we save you?
Our shared faith is dependent on these hands of humankind,
in the blood that pumps through our hearts,
in the marrow of our bones.
You hold the great wisdom of the earth in the roots that connect you with one another and the earth,
in your strong sturdy trunks that stand strong through the storms of human endeavors,
in every branch that reaches high into the sky
and in every leaf and needle that adorn your gorgeous bodies.
Can we save you?
Can you save us?
Hello trees.

Hiking Haiku-April 23

As I hiked along the Appalachian Trail (and in the middle of the night), I reflected on many things. Occasionally a poem emerged….

First mile behind me
my breathing is all I hear
Stop. Alone. Silence.

Seeing the forest
healthy greening full of life
including burnt trees.

One, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Breathe.
Practice makes progress.

Disciple follows
Jesus. What does that mean? I
should have asked him.

Legs to carry me
courageous heart to lead me
where I’m called to be.

Watching night arrive
gently embracing the fog
rain pours until morn.

One still smells the burn.
Devastation all around.
Still, Phoenix will rise.

Sway under the stars.
Tiny me in the vastness.
My journey complete.

Hiking Haiku: April 15

I’m about to go walkabout for a month on the Appalachian Trail. I will be mostly off the grid during this time, but I will post here as I’m able. I’m thinking Haiku would be appropriate, at least at this stage of my internal process as I’ve been preparing for this sojourn. A few words can speak volumes.

Fifteen years a dream
or has it been forty-three.
Now it is dream time.
This Gadding About
exploring inside and out
is not for wimp souls.
Why trail name True Blue?
Loyalty to Mother Earth,
family, friends, faith.
Ounces, pounds, fractions…
Home on my back begs questions:
Needs, wants, comforts, fears.

December 2016

November has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for most of us at UUCG. In the aftermath of the presidential election, many of you have expressed a wide range of emotions, most very difficult to hold. Some have told me you feel called to action in ways you never have before. The racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia we all knew was present in our country has been exposed, affirmed, and even empowered in ways that leave many of us very fearful. A local high school in Suwanee was vandalized with racial slurs and homophobic threats, with the name of our President-elect boldly painted in the middle of the epithets. We are hearing about such incidents, and worse, all around the country.

I anticipate that those of us who are skilled in creating community, connecting with new people, and building bridges will be called upon in the coming months, if not years. And, those of us who are not comfortable with these skills might learn! As some feel empowered to hate more openly, we must rise up and love more boldly. Our faith calls us stand, roll, and rise up on the side of love.

As I write this, there is an imminent threat to the people of the Oceti Sakowin camp at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Unless powerful people find a way to prevent it, there is a strong probability that hundreds of people will be seriously harmed, or killed, in the efforts to remove people from the camp, and we may see yet another gross injustice towards the indigenous people of this land. I am grateful for this congregation’s support in sending me to Standing Rock, and I pray a peaceful and fair resolution will emerge.

With all this, and so much more, going on in our country, I am finding it difficult to wrap my mind around being away on vacation, study leave, and sabbatical January through July. I have realized how much strength and hope I draw from your presence in my life. I am grateful for this time for renewal and reflection, and I will continue to be working for a more just and loving world while I am away. I am so fortunate to serve such a generous, courageous, and compassionate congregation.

Please come to the Sabbatical Send-Off Party on Sunday, December 11, following the Congregational Meeting. There will be music, dancing, some games to play, and some gifts to be given. It’s a hiking theme, so feel free to wear your hiking clothes to church that day!

On December 18, Paige Varner will lead the service, and I will be there to receive a Journey Blessing during the service (a modified Ritual of Leaving).

I will lead two more services after that: The Christmas Eve service will include lots of wonderful music, and a story for the times. The Christmas Morning service will include “fun” holiday songs and a beloved Christmas story. We’ll have muffins, scones, hot cocoa and coffee waiting for you! Christmas is a time to remember that every child is a blessing, and every being has worth, and is worthy of dignity.

I’ll be sending updates while I’m away, and I’ll be lurking on Facebook now and then, but not engaging. I love you all; I will miss you while I am gone, and I will be SO glad to be back!

With much love…
Reverend Jan