The description of Shannon Newby's outdoor installation Incarne reads: "Abandoned refrigerator, light, and sheep casings stuffed with acrylic gel medium and shredded Bible pages set in the forest of Leavenworth, Washington." The sheep casings hold words of scripture, and the surrounding trees make their own dark scribbles against the remaining light in the sky. Newby writes, "The materials are like tactile stand-ins that have the capacity to point to more ethereal, intangible constructs." With Incarne, it's as though we were meeting the New Testament in forested dusk. The eternal dwells in what is broken and temporal.
Chicago mints blues artists like a factory spits out widgets. Not all of them pass inspection, but Nick Moss has passed the tests of time and substance, and here he delivers a potent working-man's blues-rock blend. His version of Chester Burnett's "Louise" is a bare-fisted boogie with just a touch of southern-rock swagger.
Here’s your Ash Wednesday story. A mother carries her tiny daughter With her as she gets ashed and the Girl, curious and wriggly, squirms Into the path of the priest’s thumb Just as the finger is about to arrive On the mother’s forehead, and the Ashes go right in the kid’s left eye. She starts to cry, and there’s a split Second as the priest and the mother Gawk, and then they both burst out Laughing. The kid is too little to be Offended, and the line moves along, But this stays with me; not the ashy Eye as much as the instant when all Could have been pain and awkward But instead it led to mutual giggling. We are born of dust and star-scatter And unto this we shall return, this is The Law, but meantime, by God, we Can laugh our asses off. What a gift, You know? Let us snicker while we Can, brothers and sisters. Let us use That which makes dark things quail.
Between 1990 and 2010, Iowa lost over 500 churches. The numbers reflect migration from rural to urban areas and the fewer number of people who identify with a faith community. The decline in churches is having a direct effect on the social fabric of the state. According to research at Iowa State University, nine out of ten rural people said they rely less on their neighbors than they once did. Surviving churches have gone back to older patterns to find leadership, engaging itinerant pastors or lay leaders. Some are surviving through cooperation with other denominations or with ethnic Christian groups (Pacific Standard, January 20).