Late Harvest

Church sign in Finley, North Dakota. Photo by Chas S. Clifton
Pastor Flaten displays a firm grip of the obvious, this week when the sound of grain driers dominates the town and grain cars clank on the railroad tracks. That sermon will just write itself, you betcha.

The actual harvest—the one that feeds us—is running late, however.

All of this is prelude to saying that I am on the road, but more serious blogging will resume in a few days.


After the better part of two days on the road, M. and I arrived this afternoon at a Homestead Suites hotel in Salt Lake City, where I will be attending the CESNUR conference.

The trip started off on a sour note, because my previously trusty-if-aging G4 PowerBook laptop developed a series disk-access problem on Monday night, taking the last version of my paper with it.

So, fellow professors, if your students say that the computer crashed the night before their papers were due, sometimes they might be telling the truth. (On the other hand, “grandmother’s funeral” is probably made up.)

I will be reading partly from handwritten notes on Friday, I suspect.

We began with a long detour to Colorado Springs to drop the PowerBook off at Voelker Research, where the service techs considered it gravely and offered a 50/50 chance of data recovery in five or six days.

Ah, Colorado Springs, where there is no east-west through highway and never has been. Eventually by a series of zigs and zags known to locals we cleared town about 2 p.m. Then Ute Pass, Wilkerson Pass, Hoosier Pass, Vail Pass and westward into the desert until we finally called it a day in the motel oasis of Green River, Utah.

Every time I go through Green River I more and more get the feeling that it is picking up the people who cannot afford to live in trendier Moab.

Weirdly, it was raining in Green River today. That must be an event. It turned the land a darker shade of tan.

In fact, it’s raining all over Utah, as witness the photo of the hotel’s back garden, which looks semi-tropical. I was happy to drop the bags, pop the top off a bottle of Polygamy Porter (which ought to be the official beer of CESNUR), and relax.

M. has discovered that Whole Foods, Nordstrom’s, Barnes & Noble, a public library, and a large park are all within about two blocks, so she has everything she needs, she says.

On the Road

I leave today for the annual CESNUR conference on new religious movements, to be held this year in Salt Lake City, so you know which not-so-new-anymore religious movement will be heavily discussed in the presentations.

My paper is a thrown-together mess, but at least it has me thinking about how it could become the introduction to a book that I could write—or co-write, perhaps. More on that as it develops.

On the Road

I will be on the road or in the land of longleaf pine for the next four days, so posting will probably be non-existent until around May 5th.

Yes, vitamin C and oshá are on the menu. I have a magical faith in oshá, especially from the Taos Herb Co. I just squirted some tincture into my wine, which makes it taste sort of like retsina.

Meanwhile, links:

Fifty things every 18-year-old should know. Some of them would have helped me, for sure.

•Here is a Web page of re-creations of ancient statuary — which was not all white marble! (One of the small details that I appreciated in the Oliver Stone’s Alexander, for all its other goofs.)

Midway through AAR

If I come away from this year’s AAR annual meeting with any one Big Idea, it is that I am glad to see Pagan Studies moving away from “Wiccans and Odinists,” as Jone Salomonsen put it, and towards a broader sense of a “a way to think about religion” (or religious behavior). Our joint session with the Religion and Popular Culture Group started the weekend off well, and presenting a co-written work-in-progress paper and slide show there got me thinking about how I want to return to the whole nexus of nature religion, civil religion, and small-p paganism as well as thinking about capital-P Paganism.

Meanwhile, the election that has lasted forever is almost over!

Last night, from the 23rd floor of the Chicago Hilton Towers, I looked down a floodlit, fenced-off portion of Grant Park, where Sen. Obama’s victory rally will be held. The mayor has “suggested” that businesses in this part of town close at 3 p.m. on Election Day. No doubt they expect a riot if Obama loses — and probably if he wins as well, by the same mob-logic that caused violence and destruction in Philadelphia when the Phillies won the World Series.

Food of the Gods

One of the benefits of eating in Chicago’s Greektown is that it almost feels like a religious act when the restaurants are named Zeus and Venus. (“Venus” is Aphrodite — in Greek — on the screen-savers at the waiters’ computer terminals.)

Going out to eat becomes embodied religion. “Corpospirituality,” as Michael York would have it.

My friends are in awe of the Cyprian’s Mousakas Tsoukas.

Crossing a Different Divide

A typical prairie slough in the Sheyenne River drainage. Cookie, a German wirehaired pointer, is looking for sharp-tailed grouse.

I left my hosts’ home in North Dakota on Wednesday for the two-day drive home. On I-94 east of Jamestown, N.D., I saw a sign proclaiming the Continental Divide, elevation 1,400-something feet.

“What the hell?” I thought, being a good Coloradan. “What is the Continental Divide doing here? And so low!”

Then it hit me: I had spent the previous few days along and near the Sheyenne River, which flows into the Red River of the North, which flows into Lake Winnipeg, which in turn discharges into Hudson Bay.

In other words, I had just crossed from the Arctic Ocean drainage back into the Atlantic Ocean’s. Almost immediately the land became drier, with fewer sloughs, and I started spotting a few center-pivot sprinklers. Yikes, the Arctic! And without even entering Canada.

Autumn, however, has progressed farther here in southern Colorado: willows and Gambel oaks are turning color.