Friday, May 20, 2016

Download PDF to post your solidarity with Congo: #JeSuisBeni

Today in Congo, 7100 people gathered in Bukavu today to say "Enough is enough!" They raised their voices to show unity in nonviolent resistance, to take action, to show up, to cry for justice and peace in Congo.  Please download the PDF (below) and post, or print and take a selfie with it, telling why you #‎StandwithCongo‬, the civil society leaders, and the Congolese people calling for peace and ‪#‎Justice4Beni‬.  Use the hashtag #JeSuisBeni.

To learn more about the massacres that have killed more than 500 civilians since October 2014 in Beni, DRC, including the targeting of children, read Congo Research Group's report here:

To quote Dr. Omekongo Dibinga: "Our destiny is inextricably linked."

I am honored to work alongside Congolese community builder and civil society leader Amani Matabaro, an organizer of the rally.

Amani paused to thank the young man holding a collection of photos of just some of those hundreds of civilians killed in Beni. The man sat on top of a car, sharing the story of Beni, showing the images to people in Bukavu, Congo who have no internet, no way of knowing the horrors that continue to be committed in Beni.

"You must be tired now. We need someone else to help you hold the banner," Amani told him.

"How can I imagine to be or feel tired," the young man replied. "I am 23 years old and have only seen violence, this cycle of violence must stop. I believe in showing these photos we will all revolt and say NO, NO!"

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Longer the Candle Burns: How to Take Action, Demand Compassion, and Create Homes for the Homeless

The wind died down, and quickly we formed small circles to light one another's candles, crowding Hollywood & Highland, our poster-board signs demanding action and compassion on behalf of the homeless held between our knees as we used both hands to cup the fragile flames. As the wicks caught fire and burned down, the wax dripped onto our fingers and splashed the Hollywood Stars beneath our feet. The longer the candles burned, the better they stayed lit, and we held the lights above our heads. They required attention and care; when the flame started to flicker, my boyfriend and I lowered our candles, protecting them with cupped hands against the wind, until each one grew strong again and could be raised on its own.  The homeless man next to me guarded his candle behind his poster-board sign, completely transfixed by the flame that lit his face with a golden glow.  

Photo by Cynthia Vance, view here on her Facebook page.

It was a bizarre picture for the foreign tourists visiting Hollywood & Highland. Their Instagram feeds had just been full of celebrity names on sidewalk stars, selfies with wax tributes to movie icons and Disney princesses and men painted gold and Michael Jackson and Marvel hero impersonators. Suddenly their SnapChats showed hundreds of nobody famous: nearly 1500 people holding signs about the homeless crisis, chanting about housing and equal rights. Organized by the Monday Night Mission in a city known for its sprawl of space and the isolation of the car culture, we crowded in, standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers, greeting like-minded people as newfound friends.

“Hey Garcetti: Keep your word! Help our homeless off the streets!” we had chanted at tourists that stepped aside to give way to our wave of protesters marching down Hollywood Boulevard.

At first I wasn’t sure why the Mission organized the march in the heart of Hollywood, and then I got it: Every tourist had a camera and wanted to capture the loud locals demanding love and respect and housing for their fellow Angelenos. Our city’s growing cost of housing and resultant exponential number of homeless is one of L.A.’s most shameful attractions. A countywide survey conducted in January found that homelessness in Council District 13, which includes most of Echo Park, rose 34% from last year, The Eastsider reports. That’s 3,036 persons living on the streets in just a small section of L.A., a few minutes walk from some of the most affluent areas of Silver Lake where we rent.

Photo by Cynthia Vance, view here on her Facebook page.
Every month as I walk, car-free in L.A., I see more and more tents and encampments each month, people taking shelter under freeway overpasses and bridges. According to the L.A. Times, “Los Angeles County has the most homeless people without shelter in the nation, studies have found, and over the years local officials have made tackling the problem a top priority. One tally released earlier this month found that nearly 47,000 people were living on the streets and in shelters countywide, with about two-thirds of those living in the city.”

My neighbors break out in online arguments of how to help, or, on the uglier side, how to rid the city of these people some view as trash. The underlying capitalistic “get a job / pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality infects many of the negative comments in the forum: about being fearful to walk through certain streets, unable to invite friends to your house as they don’t want to be faced with this homeless person, this problem.

Tell me: how should a person get a job without an address to list on the job application?  Factor in the exhaustion of terrible sleep on the streets, a life of uncertainty: will tonight be the night that the city will clear out your encampment, destroy your shelter, toss away any of the few things you hold dear, including your medicine that may be the one thing helping to treat a mental illness or a heart condition that has prevented you from keeping said job?

How are you to vote for the best interest of the marginalized if you don’t have an address to show for your voting rights? Not only have people been stripped of their dignity, forced to find a private place to go to the bathroom, unable to bathe on a regular basis, they’ve been silenced, from choosing their representatives and leaders, from telling their stories. I have no idea why most people are living on the streets. I don’t know if it was the fact that, like most of us, they were one paycheck away from being homeless, and downsizing at a company or an illness or the raising of one’s rent forced them out of their apartment. I don’t know if they were raised by abusive parents who never taught them the coping tools of nonviolent communication, and they landed in jail, losing the life they’d created. I don’t know if they live with unchecked mental illness that needs treatment. 

I do know that, as the organizer of the march and rally reminded us, they were once someone’s son. Someone’s daughter. Perhaps someone’s sister or brother, or mother. That society often calls them trash, and looks the other way, but that they are our neighbors. And that, stripped of their voice, their rights to vote, to speak to the resolutions of this systemic crisis, we must help them regain that voice. We must stand up, and show up. We must demand Mayor Garcetti follow up on his promise of declaring a state of emergency, and then pressure Governor Brown to redefine what that means to include this shameful treatment of humans.  (Read more at the L.A. Times here.) We must continue to show up, to use our voices and our votes to find solutions to the growing housing crisis, to demand affordable housing.

We had shown up, but that was not enough. Callor email your council member, the organizer instructed us. If nothing changes, vote them out, and vote in someone who will enact their campaign promises.  If nothing changes, we will march in Sacramento.  We cheered, emboldened by numbers and the feeling of taking action. The final exhortation: “remember to recycle your signs!” felt hilariously anticlimactic, but every action counts in creating the L.A. we want to inhabit.

We blew out our candles and rolled up our poster-boards. The sun was setting, and the wind was getting colder. I wrapped a scarf around my neck as my boyfriend and I walked away from the rally, looking for a place to get a bite to eat, to get off the sidewalk. Later that night, after the tourists had returned to their hotels, and we were home and safe, tents would be pitched all over Los Angeles.  

Lighting the flame of activism, showing up for change, for a better life for everyone takes each of us lighting each other’s candles, handing out water and signs and marching, walking in the same direction.  It’s a complex problem, and keeping those candles glowing requires constant attention, knowing when to shield them from the wind, when to raise them high to light the way, guarding the flame from being blown out.

“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” ~ The Christophers

Photo by Cynthia Vance: Facebook

(More photos from Cynthia Vance can be viewed on her Facebook page here.)

Monday, January 04, 2016

I'm Kevin.

Running down to the corner market for black pepper & rosemary for a winter stew the boyfriend is creating in our little, warm kitchen, I saw a man perched on the concrete divide, separating the four-lane flow of traffic from the walkway outside the store, lighting a cigarette. I hurried past, hoping he wouldn't talk to me.

On my way out, he asked me for money to help out the homeless. I gave him the dollar I had in cash, explaining that I had used a card inside. "Can you buy a homeless guy a bag of chips on that card?" he asked. "Doritos," he replied to my asking what he would like. Everyone knows that one can't eat Doritos without a drink, so at his request, I bought him a coke, too.

When I gave him his snack, he looked me in the eye and said, "Thanks." Then as I walked away I turned as he said, "I'm Kevin."

I'm Rebecca.  Nice to meet you.

The humanity of that moment continues to resonate. That the man perched on the edge wanted to be more than a homeless dude on the corner, that he has a name.

I turned back and said, "I'm Rebecca. It's nice to meet you." And getting back in the car, realizing that I wish I could have stopped to hear Kevin's story, but as a woman, standing in a dark parking lot, it wasn't safe for me.

And realizing that L.A. has had a lot of cold nights so far, with El Nino rain to come tomorrow. So. One thing at a time, to take steps to deal with the overwhelming feelings of this world being too much.

If you can, give to Recycled Resources to support the work of the Northeast Los Angeles Winter Access Center opened up this month in the All Saints Episcopal Church as the only homeless shelter in Northeast LA.

"The overnight shelter has been using church pews as beds for up to 50 people. But in a sad twist, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has deemed those pews a potential safety hazard, which has disqualified the shelter from receiving emergency funding from the city. According to Eastsider LA, the Northeast Los Angeles Winter Access Center is losing out on about $75,000 in city funding due to the decision.

"Officials with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority declared that the church pews being used as makeshift beds were too narrow, and could pose a safety risk. A spokesman for First District Councilmember Gil Cedillo said the LAHSA was concerned about people "potentially rolling over, falling, and hurting themselves."

"When the city announced last week it would be setting aside $12.4 million in emergency funding for winter shelters, officials at Recycled Resources, the group operating the NELA shelter, hoped to receive $75,000 to maintain their operation through the long El Niño winter. Unfortunately the pew issue meant the shelter was not up to LAHSA standards, and now they will receive nothing. They had counted on that money to pay for food, bedding, and most importantly heat during the cold winter months. They will continue with or without the funding as long as they can. The shelter currently has a capacity to house 50 people for the night, but its resources will be stretched thinner as the 380 homeless in Highland Park and 800 total homeless in Northeast LA look for a warm place to sleep when the persistent rains begin."

Help Recycled Resources meet their goal.  Donate here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Walking in L.A.: Bowing Often, Bells, & Budweiser

It's already after 8 a.m., and, out of cream for our coffee, I lace up my old running shoes, the ones with the worn-through insoles, to make the quick walk through the neighborhood and down the steep hill to the corner market.

I take the corner at my make-the-most-of-every-step pace, and the colors of a small milk container on its side, on the ground, catches my eye. (Did I consider for a second that perhaps someone had dropped an un-opened container of half-and-half and I wouldn't have to hike back up the steep hill?  Of course not.)

By this hour, the city has already been through our streets, emptying the yard and recycling bins that had been parked along the curbs the night before.  The trucks arrive with the birds, beeping as they back their way down our one way street, a bright sign on the truck's side telling us to keep Los Angeles beautiful.  But before the machines arrive to clumsily toss and shake what is leftover from our weeks, our daily routines of unwrapping meats, opening cartons, pouring cream into our coffee mugs, before it is quite light enough to see the movements of morning, scavengers have come. Hard workers load pickup truck beds or grocery carts that have that one wobbly wheel.  They comb through what we recycled. They cart it away, to change into funds for food, for more gas for that truck, for school supplies.

Mary Oliver tells me never to hurry through the world, but to walk slowly, and bow often. I stop and bow, one foot in the gutter, to pick up the empty milk carton, and toss it back into the bright blue bin.
A few more steps up the sidewalk, I meet Olive the dog.  She doesn't want to sit still for a photo, and talks to anyone who will stop to listen to pet her sleek black coat, her voice a high whimper of joy. I bow to pet her, and tell her human to have a good day.

My steps are slower now, and I bow once again, taking a photo of the brown leaves that fell around pink flowers, signs of the mash-up of seasons in L.A.  The bells of St. Francis chime, reminding me that I'm taking longer than I planned, on my walk for cream for our coffee.

At the corner, I wait for the light with tourists wearing shorts and backpacks, who consult the maps on their phones and each other before crossing over to the cafe that smells of pancakes and eggs.

Swiping my card for the carton of cream, I hike back up the hill.  My eyes catch a Budweiser can peeking out from a bush.  I think of Mary, and bow to pick it up, gingerly holding the sticky dirty aluminum between two fingers to toss into the recycling bin.  There is evidence of a dog's morning walk left in a pile. I do not bow.

Retracing my steps, where I'd met Olive the dog, I say good morning to the white haired contractor starting his day, pulling supplies from the back of the Ford F150 that is too bulky for our old, slender street where cars take turns to pass by.  I bow to take off my shoes at the door, set the cream on the counter. The boyfriend, deep in the world of his work, never noticed how long I was gone.
When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
   but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

~Mary Oliver

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How Watching ‘The Visitor’ with Refugees Changed My Life: Movie-watching, Tea Drinking, and Lessons in Connectedness

The sound of someone playing a bongo drum came in through our open window. “Maybe it’s Walter,” Pieter, one of my English-language students, teased. We all crowded around the second-story window, looking down at the pedestrian path of Mother Teresa Boulevard in the center of Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city.  I was teaching English, living in Kosovo that fall of 2010, my third stay in the country.  I’d just shown my advanced class the movie “The Visitor,” in which Richard Jenkins plays Walter, an isolated, grieving widower whose life is upended upon meeting, and subsequently living with two illegal immigrants in New York City: Tarek, a musician from Syria, and Zainab, an artisan selling her jewelry at a street market. I assigned homework for my students to write a few paragraphs in English about the theme, about what they took away from the movie. 

“As I saw and understood this movie I think it helps people to re-open their eyes because sometimes it is difference [sic] between things we see and things that really happen,” wrote Besim, a man in his mid-20s, who had grown up in Kosovo, who had known what it was to be a refugee. 

In fact, it was rare to meet a Kosovar who did not flee from home during the war with Serbia in the late 90s.  On my first visit to Kosovo in 2003, traveling in the role of writers with a team of documentary filmmakers, I met Lulzim, a young artist, writer, and filmmaker.  In his pocket was a photo he had taken in 1999, having packed into a bag those possessions he could carry on the road out of town, the click of his camera capturing the last image he had of his house: a plume of smoke rising from the burning homes of his neighborhood. 

Collecting stories, we spoke with many people through our translator, a boy in his late teens, who spoke at least 4 languages by the time he was 17.  Sitting in his family’s living room, he listened carefully to Habib, his father.  He translated word for word stories he must have heard a dozen times: his dad’s memories of running an underground school for kids whose families couldn’t afford books or supplies, of sharing one pair of shoes with his son, taking turns so they could each leave the house. Habib told of the time the Serbian troops began clearing out their city, how he wasn’t feeling well and had instructed his family to leave him on the road if he couldn’t go far. Our translator shook his head, unable to imagine fleeing home without his father. Habib finished the journey to the refugee camp with his wife and sons.

In another family room in a village outside the city, we sat on long cushions that lined the small, square space, faded colorful rugs covering the cement floor.  The family patriarch and his neighbors welcomed us with stories, while his wife and daughters hunched before us, offering us trays filled with small bowls of pretzels, nuts, cookies, followed by cups of caj, strong black tea served in delicate, hourglass shaped glasses, a small wedge of lemon and a tiny spoon resting on the saucer for us to stir in the copious amounts of sugar added to each glass.

So warmly welcomed, I asked about the hospitality Kosovo is famous for. As Noel Malcom references in Kosovo: A Short History, “there are stories of Albanians sacrificing their lives to protect a perfect stranger who had taken shelter with them for one night.” In response, our host told us a story. 

During the war between the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) and the Serbian forces, both military and paramilitary, entire Albanian villages were forced from their homes.  The refugees would move on to the next village, where the people would welcome them into their homes, knowing that at any moment, they all might be homeless, relying on the kindness of their neighbors. In that sense the phrase “feel free to come and go in my home as you wish,” (the Albanian version of “mi casa es su casa,”) took on greater and more immediate meaning, the tradition of hospitality now a necessity.  He indicated the floor space of the room in which we sat, and said sometimes one hundred people would stay in his house – forty of fifty packed tightly on the floor to sleep. 

Later that month, I played the host, making caj on the wood-burning stove at the house of my American friend, who was entertaining our documentary team during our stay.  We perched on her Western furniture, drinking tea with Ardian and his wife and their beautiful, plump, rosy-cheeked baby.

Ardian leaned back into the soft sofa, in a place of safety, to recall the time he was chased from his home.  He, his little sister, mother and father had had just enough warning to pack their small Yugo to flee their home. In the rush, Ardian’s father brusquely told his daughter that she could not fit her favorite doll into the trunk, and she would have to leave it behind.  As their father turned away, Ardian stuffed the doll into his sister’s bag, barely managing to zip it closed.  They closed the trunk on all their possessions that would fit, and drove away from their home. 

To reach the border, they had to cross a river patrolled by Serb paramilitary.  Choosing a shallow crossing they began to drive across, when true to its reputation, the little Yugo stalled. 

Ardian’s family froze in silence, not daring to look out of the windows, for fear of whom they might see.  His father tried to restart the car, several times.  When the engine finally caught, they continued across the river, only to be stopped by the Serb forces.

Obeying the soldier’s directive to step out of the car, Ardian, his little sister, and mother watched as the soldier ordered his father to open the trunk, allowing the soldier to rifle through their few possessions.  Ardian watched as the man chose his sister’s bag.  Unzipping it, her favorite doll sprung out like a jack-in-the-box.  The soldier’s face changed as he looked from the doll in his hands to the little girl standing next to the car. 

Without a word, the soldier zipped the doll into the bag, placed it back in the car, and closed the trunk.  He turned to Ardian’s father, and directed him to drive straight to the border, not to stop for anyone. 

As they made their way safely to a refugee camp outside of Kosovo, Ardian tried to imagine the soldier’s story.  That perhaps he too had a daughter or a sister, and the doll reminded him of all that connected them as human beings.  Perhaps it looked like the doll he was embarrassed to play with as a little boy.  Whatever the reason, the moment changed the course of Ardian’s story: he saw a fellow human being in the Serb soldier.  He could only guess how the moment may have altered the soldier’s day, or his family, or his life.

It’s been five years since I left Kosovo, since I sat with former refugees who had returned home to study, to work at museums or in an office or to launch a community-based magazine. Five years since we watched “The Visitor” and talked about the character Tarek’s life, and what would happen to him when he was deported back to Syria, where his journalist father had been imprisoned for his writing.  Five years after a myriad of reports of the civilian toll of the civil war and protests in Syria, the world is suddenly aware, awakened by images of drowned toddlers, lives cut brutally short in their families’ attempts to escape the horror. 

Fleeing Syria, did one artist stop to snap a photo, one last look at the neighborhood where he grew up? Where his father had bought a house, gotten married, had children?  Did a little girl try to pack her favorite doll in her small bag for the journey?  Did her mother look back at the remains of the home where she taught her daughter to read? Syrian refugees are running from the rubble of their homes, risking their lives and the lives of their children to escape the horrifying civil war and terrorist attacks, looking back to see their homes decimated, choosing what to pack for their children’s long-journey, not knowing where they will land, but desperate for safety and peace.

We watch in horror on our television and computer screens, not an edited film, but the reality of refugees. We wonder why governments will not open their borders. As my sister Christina wrote, “My emotions stem from my strong sense that people around the world do realize our connection to one another and are acting out of love in spite of the choices of our elected officials. My hope is that we now consider what our true interests are as global neighbors and work to create systems of governance that mirror our real values.”  She then referenced Alan Seal:

"So here’s the fundamental shift available to us right now. If we are willing to step beyond the head’s fears, anger, doubts, and discomfort for even just a few moments and focus our attention on the heart, something changes in our awareness and perception. The human heart has an uncanny ability to embrace the full spectrum of what is happening without judgment and, somehow, to begin making sense of it. Somewhere from within our greater knowing, a new level of understanding begins to emerge."

Watching innumerable refugees stream into cities, it can be overwhelming, difficult to relate to the individual’s story, to see our connectedness, to "embrace the full spectrum without judgment."  To remember what one former refugee wrote in Kosovo: “As I saw and understood this movie I think it helps people to re-open their eyes because sometimes it is difference [sic] between things we see and things that really happen.” 

We watch movies like "The Visitor" and walk away more aware, awake, connected. We listen to each other’s stories to remember a soldier and a little girl’s favorite doll. We welcome the stranger as family, and know one day we may need similar hospitality.  We serve each other hot cups of tea and snacks, create paths for connection and roads to safety, knowing that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Perfectionism vs. Clementines: It's not about the feelings or the fruit, it's what you do with them

I've been struggling with an extra dose of crippling perfectionism in the last few weeks.  Acknowledging the reasons why in an email to a trusted friend (but then, you're ALL my trusted friends, right, people of the internet?) I started to have the smallest of anxiety attacks. My chest tightened, I seemed to have forgotten how to swallow, and my temperature went up a couple degrees.  What the hell, mind?  What is it so afraid of?  I say "it," because I'm trying to remember that my true self is a free spirit, limitless.  "It" doesn't feel that way.  I think it is time to re-read The Untethered Soul, one of my go-to guides, a book the above-referenced trusted, smart friend introduced me to. To practice observing my mind, and training it to go along with my free-spirit self more frequently.

What's happening is this:  I sit in front of my computer, trying to compile a collection of essays, to expand on them, to find the cohesive thread to tie them together into a book, and fear gets the best of me, and I stop.  Fear of having nothing to say.  Of not being as good a writer or as intelligent a thinker as Rebecca Solnit, so why try? Of public mocking.

Standing to fill my glass of water and hoping I'd learned how to swallow again by the time I drank it, I remembered a day, years ago, when I went to see my hair stylist at her little bungalow cottage in the middle of Hollywood.  I can't share here why I was feeling so much stress and pain, but it had to do with helping a friend to safety, and it was hard to think about anything else.  Even my hair.  When she asked simply, "How are you?" tears started to well up in my eyes, and I explained briefly my fears. 

She hugged me, beckoned me to follow her to her kitchen, poured me a glass of water, and placed a small, perfect clementine into the center of my palm, bright orange and easy to peel.  "It's important to feed yourself good things when you're feeling stressed," she told me.

My thoughts returned to this week, my physical anxiety having abated a bit.  The friend I was writing to is one who listens when the universe nudges her, and checks in on friends who are in her thoughts.  The universe gave her a nudge in my direction these last two weeks, and her text message was a shot of confidence for me. I met this friend when she "blog-stalked" me (her words), and shared that she had read my writing and felt a connection to me. We had friends in common: she hailed from my grandmother's small church in Portland, and we'd gone to the same small college, a few years (five?) apart, and after a few of those soul-baring e-mails and coffee dates that I love because I have no filter, we became fast friends, and confidantes. 

Anne Lamott writes how she has an inch-sized square picture frame on her writing desk, an icon to remind her to write just what she sees if she looks at the story through that one-inch square. When you get overwhelmed, Annie teaches us all, you take it bird by bird

I plan to frame a photo of a clementine and place it where my eye can catch it.  To remind myself that when I'm feeling overwhelmed, or I'm letting the voice of perfectionism win, it's important to feed myself good things, to hone in on the good thoughts in my head, and hold the fearful ones tenderly.  I mean, my mind is a rough place for those thoughts to live. I feel for them.  The feelings will come and go. What matters is surrounding yourself with friends who check in, who understand, who place a good piece of fruit in your palm.

(Photo credit:  SFGate - where you can learn how to prune your clementine orange tree!)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Joshua Tree: My love affair with the desert begins.

“I’m not really a “desert” girl,” I’d explain when someone asked why I had never camped out in Joshua Tree National Park.  I grew up in the lush green of Oregon’s rainy Willamette Valley.  The desert just leaves me thirsty.
“I may be a desert girl,” I said to the boyfriend while we sat on the cold wall of the patio of a Joshua Tree house, watching the sun rise over the stark mountain range, the sky slowly turning a baby blue with streaks of golden-tinged pink, quails waking to scuttle across the hard-packed dirt that is spotted with succulents whose beauty is neither flashy nor brilliant, but spare, somehow both delicate and hardy.
And then I entered Joshua Tree National Park, and I GOT IT.  It’s a magical place.
Initially created as an 825,000 acre National Monument in August of 1936, Joshua Tree was designated a National Park on October 31st, 1994 by the Desert Protection Act, adding an additional 234,000 acres to the park. The rock formations look like they must come alive at night, gentle giants that stomp through the park, illuminated by moonlight, campers exhausted from a day of bouldering and hiking too deep in sleep to know. Each rock-monster step shakes the ground, witnessed only by the slow-growing, deeply rooted Joshua trees.

“Yucca brevifolia” the plant species now known to Bono fans and desert-lovers as a Joshua tree was so-nicknamed by a group of Mormons, settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. According to Wikipedia, the tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.
Joshua trees may need more than prayer; the Wiki entry notes that conservationists are concerned that they will be eliminated from the National Park, “with ecological research suggesting a high probability that their populations will be reduced by 90 percent of their current range by the end of the 21st century, thus fundamentally transforming the ecosystem of the park.”
- Read the rest over at The City Farm

(Photo Credit: Rebecca Snavely)