O-Burque: First Farm Dinner by Mark LeClaire


First Farm Dinner

By Mark LeClaire


A week ago I was in my kitchen preparing for our first farm dinner – a celebration of local agriculture.  It was mid June and wildfires were raging all around us. Drought loomed. Even the cactus was shriveling. My homie (with two weeks of sobriety and the palpable sense of a fire only just contained) sat pitting cherries at the table.

“You know that bumper sticker that says, ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention?’” I asked. “The new one should say ‘If you’re not scared shitless, you’re not paying attention.”

Add a silence equal parts sad and uncomfortable.


I’m rethinking fear. It seems to me that fear and love are the twin engines driving our survival. Either one alone might not suffice. Great and wise minds have lavished Love with commentary since time immemorial, yet Fear has been largely swept under the rug of our collective unconscious. Perhaps we once had a more nuanced understanding of fear – the ancient Hebrew word yirah, commonly translated as “fear” in most versions of the Old Testament, also encompassed concepts like awe, respect, reverence and devotion.

Consider the spate of “no fear” and “fear this” logos, a trend whose apex coincided with and perhaps found its ultimate expression in Bush’s declaration “Bring it on”, and ask where this hyper-aggressive stance is taking us, culturally and politically.  Better yet, ask a Guantanamo detainee. Ask Daniel Somers. Ask Trayvon Martin. In true Orwellian fashion, these purveyors of the “No Fear’ meme seem to actually epitomize the person who is motivated solely by fear. A Fear Without Love.

Under Love Without Fear  I’d be tempted to file the new age movement and Trustafarians on Phish tour. Or the gradual slide into harmless irrelevance of once threatening movements for social justice.

We should be afraid, and, increasingly, we are. This is the era of superstorms and megadroughts. Of “Terrorism”. Of Terror.

Pema Chodron’s writing on the ancient  Buddhist meditation practice tonglen seems relevant to this line of inquiry  in an interesting way:

The second method of working with chaos is using poison as medicine. We can use difficult situations – poison – as fuel for waking up. In general, this idea is introduced to us as tonglen….The three poisons are passion (this includes craving or addiction), aggression, and ignorance (which includes denial or the tendency to shut down and close up. We would usually think of these poisons as something bad, something to be avoided. But that Isn’t the attitude here; instead, they become seeds of compassion and openness. When suffering arises the tonglen instruction is to… breathe it in, not just the anger, resentment, or loneliness that we might be feeling, but the identical pain of others who in this very moment are also feeling rage, bitterness, or isolation. We breathe it in for everybody. This poison is….part of the human condition. Its our kinship with all living things, the material we need to understand what it’s like to stand in another person’s shoes.

Or, to put it in lyrics: Breathe in the drought, breathe out rain. We gotta face our pain or go insane.

–Mark LeClaire


Mark LeClaire grows food at Atrisco Truck Farm.

Atrisco Truck Farm is a small organic farm nestled in Albuquerque’s historic Atrisco valley. Mark & Travis met in 2009 when they were both working at Martha’s Garden, Albuquerque’s first educational school garden, serving the students at Eugene Field Elementary. They are excited to have the opportunity to grow healthy, sustainable food for their community while helping preserve some of the city’s oldest farmland. They also have an open face book group which you can find at this link.

Photo at header is from Atrisco Truck Farm.

The two other photos of are of one of Mark’s sons living a good life–and in this editor’s opinion, those two photos also demonstrate a bit of the range of useful emotional states for being human: contemplative and somber with the chick; happy with the garlic. How things should be.


ABOUT “O-BURQUE” — O-Burque is a new column forum I’d like to run on the LPG website. This is our first installment. I will be taking submissions also. I’m interested in just sharing voices and stories of this city. Our culture helps sustain our literature–I want to honor it. (And I’m personally excited to be working on a piece titled, “People in the NE Heights Don’t Know How To Take Care of Their Horses.”) Please, do consider submitting prose and a photo and include poetry if you like. Write me directly or use the LPG contact form in the navigation bar at the header.

ABOUT FABRIC OF COMMUNITY– this is another column series I’m running. We’ve already had contributions from Virginia Hampton and James Autio. More will be coming from both. Aaron Ambrose is also working on a submission that should go to press next week. In this series, I am asking working artists and writers to share some of how poetry and performance intersect with life. Feel free to send submissions for that also. 

FREE KIDS BOOKS–If you saw the previous LPG post, then you know that I’m also developing an archive of free online downloadable and printable children’s books. We launched with one of mine, but I’m reaching out to other friends and writers to contribute also. (And submissions are welcome.) I got word today that my nephew pretended to be a frog and leap about when my brother read him what I wrote–and I also got word that a colleague I truly respect from an old creative nonfiction writing group (all women, all with children except me) is going to contribute. I’m hoping the entire group will… and more. And I got permission to publish another old private children’s book  coauthored by kids (which will likely launch tomorrow).

IN GENERAL at the blog, you’ll see a ton of development happening over the next few months. My own work takes me in the direction of activism around disability and violence, as well as writing to heal, and deeper poetics. You can expect pieces related to Sound and Jazz and Poetry as we move in to the two-month-long season of Mark Weaver’s Roost at the Outpost Performance space. And as I learn the ins and outs of options at wordpress, gradually you’ll see clarification of online structures and options. I’m hoping for example, to make it so that you can subscribe to whichever category interests you. My attempts with FYI, ABQ will stall for tech glitches, but what I learned there will let me reshape what I need for these columns.

Enjoy! And garden if you can…. up here in the high desert over 6500 feet, besides feeding the birds, everything I grew was well appreciated by cottontails and shrews and squirrels and woodrats and deermice and at least one bigger critter… And in turn the snakes started over-appreciating the crop of their food I was sustaining. So far over 4 encounters with pine snakes and black-headed wandering, all between 3.5 and 4 feet. Now I think like a rabbit and learn to grow less preferred foods and water weeds I appreciate having around the yard, edibles and beautifuls… 

–lisa gill