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Well, it’s been over three years since my last post, and for those of you with faith enough to continue signing up for subscriptions, I commend you! Since that last post, I’ve graduated theology school, gotten married, and joined an intentional community, in that order—much to celebrate! Lisa and I got married in July of 2014 in Fresno, California, where we lived for two years (she had been there a total of a dozen), before moving to Casa de Clara San Jose Catholic Worker a little over a year later, in August 2015.

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From the beginning, our aspiration had been to live communally, sharing prayer and living and serving among those on the social margins. We gave ourselves a minimum of a year before making that move, giving ourselves time to build our own “community of two” before joining with others. In March of 2015 we made our first visit to Casa de Clara and were inspired by the vibrant life we saw and felt in the many guests, friends, and volunteers we met, who were clearly nourished in their varied relationships with the community. We were inspired to join especially by the unique balance of prayer, hospitality, and activism: at Casa de Clara, our day begins at 7am for an hour of silent common prayer and ends with brief evening prayer, plus a Friday night prayer group and monthly Mass; we provide temporary housing for women and women with children experiencing homelessness, with whom we sit at table for dinner family-style each evening; and we participate regularly in peace vigils, protesting the manufacture and trade of weapons of mass destruction at Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms Tablemanufacturer, among other activities that make up our daily round. In other words, we live a way of life integrated by and expressive of our deepest faith commitments: following Jesus’ way of solidarity with those on the social margins, economic simplicity and sharing in community, and nonviolent peacemaking.

We’re still neophytes, having only been part of the community a little over seven months now, still adjusting, sensing whether this is something to which we can commit for the long haul. Like any communal experience, depending on which side of the bed we happen to wake up on, the very things that seem so life-giving one day can feel unbearable the next: “We live where we work! We work together as spouses! Our schedules are flexible and malleable from day to day! We live with others in community!” Our first concern was architectural: how were we going to downsize from a rented 1200 square foot house all to ourselves, to a 130 square foot bedroom in a shared home? I had great fun designing our room and building a queen-size loft, floating shelves on the walls, and basically anything else I could think of to maximize space and build a comfortable nest. Having established physical space, we’ve been DSCN2024slowly easing in, finding our place in a core community of four (including ourselves) and a fluctuating community of 4-7 guests, including children! So life for us is good, challenging, hopeful, and we are grateful to have found a concrete way to live out our aspirations. We are clearly on the path I named in my previous post: integrating social action and contemplative practice in community.

I have more to write but I have decided to write elsewhere, because it’s time to officially bring Emerging Communities Ancient Roots to a close. My life today is so shaped by what I learned and experienced, and by who I met on my tour of communities, that in some sense it hardly feels over and done. At the same time, I am living a very different kind of life from that period of mostly solitary itinerancy, punctuated by brief stays in communities—I am now married and seeking to plant roots in the kind of life that the tour inspired me to live. So, once again, I extend my deep gratitude to all of you who have followed, supported, hosted, befriended and shared your stories and wisdom with me along the way. And if you want to follow me as I continue to reflect on integrating monastic spirituality as a married person and a Catholic Worker, meet me over at my new blog, 6th and Julian. See you there!

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Christmas Poem

by Mary Oliver

Says a country legend told every year:

Go to the barn on Christmas Eve and see
what the creatures do as that long night tips over.
Down on their knees they will go, the fire
of an old memory whistling through their minds!

So I went. Wrapped to my eyes against the cold
I creaked back the barn door and peered in.
From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,
and the beasts listened – yet they lay in their stalls like stone.

Oh the heretics!
Not to remember Bethlehem,
or the star as bright as a sun,
or the child born on a bed of straw!
To know only of the dissolving Now!

Still they drowsed on –
citizens of the pure, the physical world,
they loomed in the dark: powerful
of body, peaceful of mind, innocent of history.

Brothers! I whispered. It is Christmas!
And you are no heretics, but a miracle,
immaculate still as when you thundered forth
on the morning of creation!
As for Bethlehem, that blazing star

still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.
Caught in its light, listening again to its story,
I curled against some sleepy beast, who nuzzled
my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me
the best it could all night.

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Bicycle’s good to go! A Vision R40 outfitted with full camping gear and all the gadgetry for on-the-road multimedia blogging/podcasting.

Fully-loaded, soon-to-be mobile home.

Speaking of gadgets, thanks to a SON delux dynamo hub attached to a BioLogic ReeCharge power pack (see pics below), I will be generating my own electricity! One bicycle tourist claims to have generated enough from a similar combo to charge an iPhone approximately six times on a single day’s ride with a 26-inch wheel. My smaller 20-inch wheel means more rotations hence even more energy. The power pack can charge anything compatible with a USB plug and detaches easily from the bike so that I can charge a smartphone and all the batteries I’ll be using, save for camera and laptop, in my tent at night. If any of you techies out there can think of a way that I can make an AC plug compatible with a USB port, please let me know. A simple adapter should do it, though I haven’t found one or even know if such a thing exists.

SON delux front dynamo hub.

BioLogic Reecharge power pack.

For now, however, I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from biking. I ship the bicycle to Seattle tomorrow, to meet up with it again in early June. In the meantime, I begin a 10-day Centering Prayer retreat at Saint Benedict’s Monastery in Saint Joseph, MN, on Tuesday the 24th, then leave from there to visit family in Florida. On June 7th, I fly to Vancouver, BC, to visit the Servants Vancouver community, among others, before busing back over the border to begin the West Coast leg of the bicycle tour.

To Seattle and beyond!

Special thanks to the guys at Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis, MN, for building both wheels and custom adjustable-length handlebars, and to the ever-helpful Jessie Bostic and crew at Hostel Shoppe Recumbents in Stevens Point, WI.

Update on the Son Delux/BioLogic Recharge combo, March 3, 2012: 

Since a lot of people arrive at this post after searching for “son delux” or “BioLogic Recharge” or some combination thereof, I thought I’d give a brief update on the products. Overall, I am satisfied. They’ve held up for over a couple thousand miles, withstanding rain and wilderness camping without a hitch. A significant fact to mention in this regard is that, because the placement of the battery pack on my bars differs from that of an ordinary upright bike, the connection port for the wire coming from the hub is more exposed, at least potentially, to water entering from rain. Even so, I’ve had zero problems in wet weather (which is more than I can say for my odometer/speedometer, which always takes the first drops of rain as a signal that it’s time to go to sleep!).

I am somewhat disappointed, though, with the amount of charge I am able to accumulate per day. Now, I may be wrong here but I had the impression that my smartphone battery (LG Optimus S) held its charge for longer periods of time and also charged more quickly at the beginning of the tour. I say “maybe” because I wasn’t paying any kind of systematic attention to how much battery charge I was getting from the BioLogic Recharge at the end of the day. This was in part due to the fact that I wasn’t using my smartphone much in those early days. My smartphone use has increased dramatically since then, however, after discovering Words with Friends :p

Now, I estimate that I get a little over 1% smartphone charge, maybe as much as 1.25%, for every mile I peddle. Keep in mind that this is on a 20″ tire, so if you’re using a 26″ or 700c tire, you’re going to get less rounds per mile and hence less charge generated. I would have to bike approximately 80 miles, therefore, to charge my phone completely from 0. This has worked out fine for my purposes but is drastically less than I had estimated from (perhaps misinterpreting) the information I gleaned from the blog post linked above.

I will also add that, not only has this combo proven ultra-durable and rain-proof but also extremely user friendly for bike-camping. The battery back slips off the bicycle handily enough, fits in your pocket, and charges your phone or batteries (AA, AAA) while you sleep.

In sum, these two products combined have met or exceeded my expectations in all areas but one: the amount of charge they’re able to impart to my smartphone per mile. With that qualification, I still highly recommend them.

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