In his first feature film, Cary Fukunaga delivers a beautiful and powerful depiction of the lives of Central Americans crossing through Mexico to the United States border. Sin Nombre (Without Name) unfolds mostly on top of trains, and it’s enriched by years of painstaking research, including Fukunaga’s own rides atop Mexican boxcars.
A morning so still. Rain ended while I slept. Light in the east awakened me. A Carolina wren began his “Teakettle” song. By my study window I drank tea, and read. The first Beatitude spoke to me, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” being everything   I need to know. There was nothing on earth I could not let go. Solitude held and sustained me, Emptiness a companion I walk beside. Looking out, I see the clearing sky.
The idea of bartering or battling with the devil for one’s soul is an old one. Cold Souls, a low-budget independent film written and directed by Sophie Barthes, is the first tale I have encountered that deals with soul “storage”—the idea that souls can be removed, stored and transplanted.
The intense debates over health-care reform have brought to mind some poignant memories. When my father was in his early 40s he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our entire family was shaken, but perhaps no one more than Granddad and Grandma Clapp. Moving into their elderly years, they had to watch a son die.
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).