Friday, October 16, 2009

Moscow, mon amour...

Moscow, Idaho, that is! (Pronounced Mos-co, not, as a friend pointed out, Mos-cow as I mispronounced it.)
From the SF bay area, fly to Seattle then Pullman, WA. Sally Perrine and Jerry Swenson, of The Palouse Peace Center, met me at Pullman and we drove together to Moscow.

Flying over The Palouse for the first time was sheer wonder. As far as the airborne eye can see, contoured farm land without the unsightly circles indicating irrigation. Instead, a landscape of golds, beiges, assorted browns, even shades of black in some places. Here are natural hieroglyphics that communicate directly with the heart.  I'm still searching for words to describe how seeing The Palouse affected me. This is more about feelings and less about logic though; the geomorphic message bypasses the head and goes directly to my...well, yes, soul. I look forward to seeing it in the green shades of spring- and growing-season -- although these shades of fall are soothing and spectacular.

Moscow is small, coherent, university town that has its peace and justice people as well as its more extreme religious and militant (yes, the right word is "fundamentalist") factions. In other words, it is like most other places in the world where people strive to make sense of their lives as they make a living and, at the same time, mesh conflicting worldviews.

An aside about small towns and big cities. 
I like small towns because they are suited to what humans beings can "manage" about community life and still feel like they are managing. It is not easy to get lost in a small town. This, of course, is what so many of us like about city life - "getting lost" allows us to experiment, try out different ways of being, try on new ideas, all the things that small towns, often, disallow.

City life is excellent if people feel as if they city is serving them and not that they are serving the city. It is very easy to get lost in a city.  As has been said before, "small is beautiful" and I see "small" coming back in vogue. Our cities will become more neighborhood oriented - more like small towns - and still allow experimentation of various sorts.

A story about Moscow. 
Recently the town decided it was okay for residents to keep chickens in their  backyards - chickens,  not roosters. (This is happening in other US towns and cities too. Some bay area cities now allow households to re-use gray water - essential to fight our ongoing drought and to encourage backyard vegetable gardening and so on.) The family that hosted me in Moscow added five chickens that contribute an egg a day to the household.

One morning, I overheard a brief exchange between daughter Mattie who trains dogs for sled races, and her mother.
Matiie: "I'm going out to visit the girls."
Her mother: "You mean the chickens?"
Mattie: "No, I mean the dogs."
That snippet said a lot to me about the seamlessness of life, that other creatures - here dogs and chickens - are part of our family, that we are part of a larger whole, that each creature contributes to the coherent community of our planet. And that is something I like to get behind.

Thanks for Sally Perrine, Jerry Swenson, Corrie and Lynn of U of I Social Forum and to Martha and Dan who shared their house and their hospitality. And to Moscow.

Leigh and Sallie - the faces behind the voices of Radio Free Moscow.

Jerry, Susan, Sallie, Dahr, and two friends

Jerry, Stephanie, Dahr, Susan, and Jack, veteran of The War on Terror.

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