Category Archives: Stewardship

Get out there!

I don’t like to tell people what to do.  In fact, except for my kids, who lack imagination where performing necessary tasks is concerned, I’ve come to dislike it extremely.  Well, even then.  But I’ve been thinking lately that Mormons appear to be beeline people, traveling in more or less straight lines between this or that field of responsibility and the home hive.  Work, home, school, home, temple, home, ward house, home, stake house, home, temple, home, Walmart — home, thank goodness!  

Is Mormonism an indoor culture?   

Whether it is or not, Earth Day is coming up April 22, less than one week away.  If at all possible, I hope folks try to get outside, day or night, and have a good look around.  And consider taking the kids.  Even if it’s backyard exploration or a half-hour jaunt to the local park.  Do a little bird-watching — populations are migrating right now, you might see something surprising.  No need to step very far out of your comfort zone, and please, don’t take unnecessary risks.  Keep it simple and close, if that’s your speed.  It’s all call of the wild.

The world’s extraordinary, even when strange, even where it isn’t as beautiful as it used to be, and it stands in needs of us.   Mormons.  Not to save it, but to abide with it, to wind ourselves deeper into its braid.   To change simply by witnessing, to be changed.  It’s the nature of spirituality to rise to the surface at the least opportunity.

So try?  Even for a few minutes.  Stop between buildings.  Wind down the car window.  Think about God’s taffy pull with light, stretching it into being, shuffling land and sea, granting earth permission to sprout grass, sprinkling stars around the sun and moon, invoking the waters to bring forth life, shaping animals upon their bones, and seeing it all as good.

It is good.  Even the seemingly bad reflects glints of good.

Get out and see for yourself.  I’ll be reporting on my Earth Day activities, so if something cool happens to you while you’re out, you’ll be able to post about it in the comments.

Like I said, not to tell people what to do (shudder), but to suggest a possibility.   People can’t have too many possibilities.

The Kingdom of Pissemyre

by J. Max Wilson

East of the cemented waste, the aspen stood, a sapling still,
And there a few aphidian peasants leeched their lives from phloem’s rill.
They lapped the aspen’s sweetest sap; rapt in bohemian blissmare, blind—
And sapped the sapling of its health (though still it prospered of a kind).

Then came the Bishop Barnaby and Stinkfly Deacon forth to feed,
And sanguinary sermons spoke with lurid liturgy and creed.
And so, by priestcraft’s gory glut, their doctrine inadvertently
Restored the tree to verdant form, though only temporarily.

Then from across the crackèd desert came the Piss’myre army, strong—
The ‘nighted nibelungian host marched one-by-one as ‘counts the song.
And up the sapling, up they marched (still one-by-one-by-one) until
With formic might the pissant host subdued the lesser peasants’ will.

The dreaded deacons then received the doctrine they themselves had taught.
The bloody bishops banished were, to starve to death for all they wot.
And in their place the Piss’myre lords set up a new society;
A kingdom grand, a great machine of order and efficiency:

“Divide, assign, to each allot a place, a part, a role to play;
To each his branch, his twig, his leaf, an overseer to obey.
Revoke their freedom every whit, yet to their vice impose no let:
To cultivate and harvest more their sweet, mellif’rous excrement.”

And gladly, gladly did submit the chattel to their slavery,
Contented only to be free to wallow in debauchery.
So nurtured by their overlords the lech’rous population waxed,
And ‘neath the load of sponsored sin the aspen sapling’s blood was taxed.

Through sun-scorched day and dark new moon, the kingdom throve thus for a spell,
And still the tree, all wan the leaves, drew strength from root’s deep, clonal well.
‘Till on a night an august storm with thund’rous wind ‘rose from the west;
The trees all danced ‘fore God’s great breath; from each its wrath obeisance wrest’.

The scent of dawn hung o’re the earth, while sun’s ascent revoked the night,
And lo, what new apocalypse dispensed now was by mourning light?
The jagged edge of xylem cracked; the leaves pressed wet against the ground;
Behold! The Kingdom down is cast! It’s unseen canker now is found!

There! bored by pissants through the pith, an hidden tunnel had been wrought
Up through the trunk, through which the yield of sin-crop might be swiftly brought!
And compromisèd thus the constitution of the sapling’s core,
The aspen could not then endure the storm and tribulation sore.

To ev’ry kingdom, vast or microscopic, certain laws are laid,
And exhortations, prophesies, and types and shadows in them played.
And so a warning sign is raised to kingdoms great and persons small:
Beware the taste of honeydew, lest thou like Piss’myre also fall.


For helpful notes on this poem’s content, go here.

J. Max Wilson’s personal blog, Sixteen Small Stones, may be found here.

Language as wilderness

This piece is more journal-like in its musings than most of my posts.  In fact, parts have been lifted from my hiking journal.  I hope this doesn’t render its structure or possible meanings confusing.  Also, this post plays around with several rather strenuous threads, like I do commonly when I’m out walking alone.  I thought I’d just throw these ideas out there for fun today, but if you have a headache or are looking for something less troublesome to start or end your day on, you might want to skip this one.

Last year(ish), Moab Poets and Writers solicited a bit of writing that would fit compactly into one of the columns of their newsletter.  I’m not happy with the piece I wrote for them; it wasn’t quite focused and in places the language fumbled badly. 

As underdone as it was, it apparently stirred up some folks.  Earlier this year one of the group’s representatives contacted me.  MP&W was designing a brochure laying out membership information and other goodies.   They wanted to include a few lines from that earlier piece in the brochure.  I was delighted to hand it over … more or less.  Like I said, the passage does contain some serious flaws.

This is the line MP&W selected for their brochure (again, forgive my clumsiness): Continue reading Language as wilderness

Patricia and the beetle

November 2008, I sat in Sacrament Service between my two ambulatory children, daughter aged eleven years, son aged eighteen.  As the program moved into the blessing and passing of the Sacrament, my mind began its shift from observation to meditation.

Movement atop the empty pew just ahead drew my eye.  A beetle about a quarter of an inch long followed the ridgeline of the pew’s wooden back, rear end waggling as its six legs paddled its body along.  It had a dark gray carapace and a rounded, yellowish head with black eyespots.  Two short antennae sifted the air questioningly. Continue reading Patricia and the beetle

Cool stargazing project

The Salt Lake Tribune reports an annual event to document magnitudes of light pollution across the planet.  This project invites public participation. 

Every year, Globe at Night asks teachers and students, parents and their children, and stargazers located internationally to observe the constellation Orion, specifically his belt.   The website linked above provides all the tools and information needed, although people will need to employ whatever means they have at their disposal to find their latitude and longitude (Globe provides instructions).

The project runs March 16-28.  Orion appears in the east about an hour after sunset and maintains stellar prominence for several hours until he does a belly flop into the western horizon around midnight.  

When I lived in Payson, UT, Orion and the Big Dipper were the only constellations that had the umph to shine through the Utah Valley light pollution and haze with any consistency.   Where I live now, the Milky Way runs in a flood of shimmer on moonless nights—a beautiful, mind-bending swath of other places, times, and events visible from our front and back yards.  Can’t wait to get out there with the kids and see how our drop-dead gorgeous night sky compares with Globe’s magnitude charts.

Ooo, yeah.  We’ve got dark skies here that go on forever.  Very aesthetically and spiritually exciting.   Anybody not having a similarly clear window onto the rest of the galaxy—I’m sorry, but you’re losing the only view that goes on forever that you don’t have to pay for, the one everybody got for free up until the dawning of the last century’s light craze.  Now we’re paying for not having that view.

My best advice: Do what’s necessary to get back what you can of the night sky as well as reduce your electric bill and possibly even sleep better at night.  For good and workable ideas about why and how, go here.

I’ve also written here about light pollution and its effects.

Bird in the hand

First published at A Motley Vision, this essay explores the nature of stewardship by wondering if we understand what stewardship is or if we’ve merely assumed that we understand.  Are we fully conscious of the needs of other creatures, as good stewards ought to be? Are we imaginative enough to visualize the possibilities of faithful stewardship, which may include providing other species with opportunities for … oh, I don’t know … progression, maybe … or perhaps gaining from them insight that endows our own progression?

An abridged version of “Bird in the Hand” was published in 2007 in Glyphs III, a regional anthology containing writings by local writers and visitors to southeastern Utah’s redrock country that Moab Poets and Writers publishes every two years.  I’ve written more about MP&W here.  

In July 2005 my brother Jim and I threw camping gear into his new Toyota 4Runner and headed for a canyon in the San Rafael Swell. The object of our trip: try out the 4Runner on real four-wheel-drive roads and see petroglylphs at the canyon’s mouth. We arrived at the canyon at dusk and as evening fell helped each other wrestle up tents in a whipping canyon wind. Continue reading Bird in the hand

The fly

Late summer of 2008, I was sitting in Crossfire Canyon (here are parts two and three) at one of my favorite sandstone perches when I became conscious of a persistent buzzing noise. Looking down, I spotted an insect hovering just above the ground about a meter below me. The insect looked something like a yellow jacket, black and bright yellow in coloration, but in morphology it more closely resembled a fly than a wasp. A yellow jacket’s buzz changes pitch constantly as it moves, and it’s always in motion because it has no real talent for hovering. This look-alike hovered like a champ, so it droned at a fairly constant pitch rather higher than a wasp’s.  Continue reading The fly

Welcome to Wilderness Interface Zone

There’s something about walking out of the desert or other wild or marginally wild area that you don’t get walking into it.  Something that you feel in your return to others sharing the fire or that comes from sliding into your vehicle to head home at the end of a hike or campout.  Something about completing the journey on foot, walking through the front door, closing the circuit. Continue reading Welcome to Wilderness Interface Zone