This is the continuation of a series of posts about the evolution of my foundational stories, which are related to the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. Up to this point the stories have been from my life in Indianapolis, and about protecting the water and Mother Earth from the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, and all the implications of that.
My reason for doing this is because our world has changed dramatically, in many ways, in my lifetime. And I want to see if I’m doing the best I can today to prepare for increasingly dystopian times. Although it’s taking longer than I planned to get there, it is an important part of the process for me to reflect on the ways my foundational stories have evolved.
At the end of June 2017, I retired from my career doing research in the Infant Pulmonary Function Lab at Riley Hospital for Children and returned to Iowa, where I had grown up, and where my parents still lived.
It was difficult to move away from the many friends and communities I had developed relationships with over my five decades in Indianapolis. And it was difficult to leave a career I loved. Every day brought significant challenges to the scientific software development and medical engineering I was doing. In a lab where most of us had worked together for thirty years.
It was a Spirit-led decision to retire.
Another thing that made this move difficult was knowing I would be living in a small community that didn’t have a public transit system. Living without a car was part of my foundational story, impacting my life in so many ways. And I’d been agitating others to give up their cars. I walked whenever possible in Indianola. But the justice work I eventually found often meant borrowing my parents’ car to drive to Des Moines.
My friends in Indianapolis heard about my plans to use a bicycle as much as possible when they asked about my plans for retirement. I was very touched when a large number of people contributed to help me buy a good bicycle for this purpose, including my co-workers at Riley Hospital for Children, and friends from North Meadow Circle of Friends, and my friends at the Kheprw Institute (KI). In addition, Dr. Robert Tepper, a lifelong friend and the Director of the Infant Pulmonary Function Lab where I spent most of my career, gave me a great backpack designed to be used with bicycles, which included a sleeve to carry a laptop computer. The backpack is designed to hold the pack away from one’s back, keeping sweat away from the pack itself.
I had hoped to build up the stamina to ride my bicycle to Des Moines, about fifteen miles. And perhaps even the forty miles, one way, to Bear Creek meeting!
The following PDF (which can be downloaded) describes the three-day, forty-mile journey I undertook in September 2017 (two months after moving to Iowa).
Bear Creek Friends Meeting
My Quaker meeting, Bear Creek Friends, has struggled to figure out how to reduce fossil fuel transportation when so many Friends live in rural areas or towns without public transit. We wrote the following Minute, which was approved by our yearly meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) in 2017. And below is a pamphlet from Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), which had asked meetings to submit their work on sustainability.
Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles. We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult. This is even more challenging in rural areas. But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.
Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.
Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public
transportation systems. These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.
Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help. We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc. We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation.
One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation. Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles. Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness. This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness. We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths. We can repair and recycle unused bicycles, and make them available to those who have the need.
Minute approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017