Sunday, September 17, 2017

Suffering from OO

 I can't speak for anyone else but, 
 after 9 months of almost daily opportunities to be outraged -
by the antics of our current President, the Congress and my fellow citizens -
I just CAN'T keeping going to that knee jerk well of response.

I have a serious case of "Outrage Overload".
 For those of you who don't live in St Louis,
you may not have heard of the Jason Stockley trial.

A summary of the case won't surprise you -
you could substitute the names of the individuals involved 
and the city in which the events unfolded
with practically any other urban center around the country.

A white police officer shot and killed a black male in our city.

Police believed he was armed. 
He had been witnessed (by the same officer who shot him) 
in dealing drugs at a local restaurant.
He led police on a high speed chase through the city
before being stopped by a stationary object.
He was then approached by police,
they believed he was reaching for a weapon 
and the officer shot him.

This happened 6 years ago.
During the chase, police cameras captured the officer 
saying he was going to "Kill this motherf**ker."
 Let me repeat, this happened 6 years ago.
(Previous states attorneys declined to prosecute.)

When he was finally charged,
(by a new States Atty)
the officer waived a jury trial and evidence was presented to a Judge.
The verdict was released on Friday; it won't surprise you either -
Not Guilty.

There are many in the St Louis community, 
black and white,
 who are hurting as a result of this finding.
They believe evidence (a gun found in the car) was planted;
they believe this was premeditated murder,
and they see this as yet another negation
of the inherent worth of people 
with brown skin.
They see this verdict as yet another sign of a corrupt and unjust justice system.
 The community had been braced for rioting, demonstrations, protests and civil disobedience 
in the wake of the announcement.
The National Guard was activated before the verdict came out.
Barricades have been in place for weeks around courthouses and government buildings.
Black Hawk helicopters have been seen flying around town.
Events around the city have been cancelled.

Since the verdict came out
Facebook has been on hyper drive
with everyone expressing opinions about what the judge got wrong.
Opinions informed by THEIR prejudices and biases 
with, I suspect, few folks reading the full verdict 
to see what evidence was - or was not - presented in court.

As someone who has testified multiple times in court -
both civil and criminal trials -
I know what it's like to spend hours
being outraged and/or crying 
at the outcome of a trial; 
trials in which 'the facts' seem so clear to me;
trials in which the eventual outcome was not what I believed was 'deserved'.

I'd seen the medical evidence.
I'd seen the injuries to a child.
I know what she disclosed to me 
and how she looked and acted while she did it.
 I know what the perpetrator said happened.
I know how he looked and acted when he told me.
Yet, far more often than I ever would have predicted,
 at an earlier stage in my career,
I experienced stunned disbelief when the verdict of Not guilty was handed down.

From decades of those experiences, I've learned a few things:

*A Judge or jury delivers a verdict
based on their interpretation of the law 
and the evidence put before them.

*'Evidence', like 'truth, is flawed
and it's presented in a court by flawed individuals.

* A Judge or jury does NOT determine 'the truth'. 
*The 'truth' doesn't exist.
It is not a fixed, tangible, concrete entity
defined in universally agreed upon terms.
  
*No matter the outcome,
not once,
has a court decision ever 
brought someone back to life,
captured 'the truth' for all involved,
restored a child's ability to trust,
healed a broken skull or repaired brain tissue,
brought closure to a grieving, or aggrieved, family 
or made the pain of disclosure 
and process of vulnerability  -
on such a public level -
 "worth it".

*No court decision can validate or define the worth of an individual.

*The expectation that 'justice' will be served
and restitution delivered
in this life
by any government entity
now seems quaintly naive to me.

My activist friends will not consider these lessons valid reasons for opting out of outrage.
 But, I've been there, done that, 
gotten high blood pressure and had my soul hollowed out in the process
for decades.

That's why I'm not 'on the front-lines'
chanting and marching
this weekend.

I'm 'adulting'
 (paying bills, doing laundry, caring for an inquisitive toddler)
and focusing on the beauty of zinnias.
I'll leave it to the next generation to discover their own 'truths'
about our justice system.

There are more 'inconvenient truths' in this life
than the ones about global warning.





Saturday, September 9, 2017

Playing with my camera too

My grandson turns 1 in two more months,
although how THAT happened so quickly I can't fathom.
 I decided to make a board book for him 
of the A, B, C's at Grannys house.

Some of the obvious candidates are
his favorites things:
 C for clock
 W for wheel

 M for monkey

  F for Fox

 L for lamb

 Z is for zebra

 M is for marbles

C is for car
 E for eyes

 C is for circles.
 Well, you get the picture.

I like to think that his favorite part of being at my house is
feeling the
 This will be a fun project!
~~~~~~~~~~
I also was able to capture some gorgeous flowers from Trader Joes.
 They labeled them as 'Stock' 
and while they aren't the 'stock' I'm familiar with,
maybe its a newer variation - 
 or maybe they meant freesia.
 Either way, they're beautiful and they smell fabulous.

It's good to be allowing time for play
every day again.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Playing again

I used to make 'playing' a part of my day;
playing with my camera,
playing with paints, markers and ink pens,
playing with vintage photos and words...
activities designed to impress no one;
activities for the sheer joy of experimentation
and letting the furies in my head express themselves
in new ways.

But I stopped somewhere along the way;
maybe when I went back to work full time, 
maybe when I started dealing with auto immune illnesses, 
maybe when our country elected a fascist 
and hope took a long vacation.

As I was taking stock this weekend,
I realized how much I missed it;
how much more joy it brought to me
than scrolling through social media,
reading opinion pieces 
and trying to keep up with all things political.

So I threw caution to the wind
and started again.

I turned off all devices, 
didn't speak to a soul,
ate fruits and vegetables
and enjoyed the hell out of a long weekend.

It was like riding a bike down a hill,
the wind coming fast at my face
and riding with no helmet! 
My glue stick and I had a GREAT time!

My scissors were happy to be used again.

I won't be waiting for another long weekend 
before playing again.

My soul needs it far more often.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Thoughts while splitting wood

 I spent several hours last weekend
with friends,
 splitting wood.
I also gained several random insights while doing it.

The work is physical,
it can be hard on an old back
what with all the bending, 
lifting and stacking;
but it allows the eyes to observe
and the mind to ponder.
 BTW, we're collectively convinced you can tell the gender of the splitter/stacker 
by the 'composition' of the resulting stack.
The ones below were obviously created by male, "get 'er done" types.
 Look at the image above and see if you can guess which ones were done differently.
But I digress -
which is exactly how my mind works doing tasks
outside my usual routine.
 We weren't splitting logs using an old fashioned wedge and sledge hammer; 
that might be a more perfect way to work out aggressive tendencies 
but its not as efficient or as user friendly
as a gas powered splitter.
I don't know the technical and mechanical terms used to describe how it works
but basically you trap and squeeze a cut piece of wood between two metal ends 
until the pressure causes the wood to split 
along whatever 'fault lines' are inside the wood.

Think of it as a medieval torture device for logs.
 I noticed that you could frequently see the 'fault lines' in a piece of wood,
the places where age, wounds or illness had already left a mark,
the voids or spaces which would seemingly make 'the whole' crumble 
under intense pressure.
 I also noticed that in the majority of cases,
that's NOT where the logs split.
The obvious fault lines were, well, too obvious.

Maybe it's that things really are stronger at the broken places;
maybe it's the hidden weaknesses,
the faults we can't see that cause logs 
(and humans?)
to buckle under pressure.
  Maybe it's just that I'm a lousy guesser 
and an inexperienced woodsman.

Just something I noticed that I'm still thinking about.

I also was fascinated by the markings on cottonwood tree branches.
(Am I the only one who hears the word "cottonwoods" 
and hears Debbie Reynolds singing the theme song from Tammy and The Bachelor?
(I hear the cottonwoods whispering above, 
Taaamy, Taaamy, Tammy's in love)
Anyone? 
(Google it)

The variety of Cottonwood on the reservation is usually Populus sargentii,
'The Plains cottonwood'.
It was often the tallest tree found growing on the Plains at the time of western expansion.
It grows from 50 - 75 feet tall
and continues to be a sources of shelter and shade across the reservation. 
 
In the past, 
the trunks provided dugout canoes, 
the trees bark was used to produce both forage for horses 
and a bitter medicinal tea believed to have curative power.

The bark separates very easily from the wood,
but I don't know if that's a function of the fact
that we were dealing with dead wood
or if all cottonwood bark is so easily removed.

In a region with so few large trees, 
stands of cottonwood often served as gathering places and trail markers.

It quickly became my favorite wood to work with - 
but for none of those reasons.

The loose cottonwood bark allows insects to get under it;
in their wake, 
they leave wonderful 'etchings' on the wood itself.
It was fascinating. 

I came to see them as hieroglyphics:
which is defined as
enigmatic or incomprehensible symbols or writing.
What stories they could tell if we could only decipher them;
how much they've seen standing sentry on the Plains,
what they've observed about the earth and its inhabitants;
what lessons they could impart if we had the inclination to listen.

My fascination and thoughts with wood etchings 
obviously influenced my interpretation of a print I saw later that day
in a local shop.
I began thinking about 'wrinkles',
hers and mine,
not as the ravages of time and signs of decay
but as facial hieroglyphics,
indecipherable histories of all we've seen and experienced
in our decades of standing witness to our lives
and the lives of those around us.

Fanciful? Maybe
A romanticized version of the inevitability of skin losing estrogen 
and folding in on itself?
Perhaps.

But it was a comforting line of thought,
then and now.

I couldn't get the wisdom and kindness of her face
out of my mind, so
I brought her home with me.
She'll join the painting of my great grandmother
as another elder,
another crone,
to usher me through this season of my life
which is so unlike any I've gone through before.

I'm grateful for their presence.

Sometimes, if you're lucky,
if you're listening,
chopping and splitting wood
is more than chopping and splitting wood.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

It didn't disappoint; it never does

Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota.
A whirlwind weekend trip back to one of my favorite places;
a place that's beautiful no matter what the time of year.
There's brokenness to be sure -
just as there is on every reservation -
but if you concentrate only on seeing what's wrong,
in ANY place,
you'll miss seeing the strength and beauty that's there too.
 
 I spent two days working with a mission team,
cutting, splitting and stacking wood 
to be used by the elderly during the coming winter.
We also took in the pageantry and beauty of the Fair and Wacipi.

I left my 'good' camera at home,
hoping that a wildly talented local artist/photographer,
Kermit Grimshaw,
would post his images on line.
And he did! 

Sitting, soaking in the sounds and sights - 
without changing lenses and trying to get all the shots I wanted -
was a totally new experience for me.
I loved it.
 The Sicangu Lakota, the Brulee, 
are also know as the 'Burnt Thigh People'.

As I understand it, 
their tribe was forced up against a bluff during a prairie fire
centuries ago
and, in order to survive, 
they had to go out through the fire 
resulting in burnt thighs for the survivors.
I loved how this dancer (above) honored and paid tribute to their history.
 I feel like a proud Aunt.
I've watched this one grow up since he was a toddler!
To see him as this proud, strong, beautiful dancer -
the Champion in his age group in Grass dancing -
was such a treat.
They may say 
"The road to the house of a friend is never long"
but they'd be lying.

It was long,
but it's always worth it.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, but with intention.
So go.
Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

L.R. Knost