Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It's here!

I know it sounds strange, 
but I was thinking this morning about how vacations sneak up on you.
Even for those of us who like to think of ourselves as traveling ‘on the fly’
- picking a country and going -
there can literally be months 
of pouring over guidebooks, 
planning itineraries, 
adding 
then subtracting 
then adding back again 
destinations and points of interest to be included,
comparing hotel and flight prices
and standing in the luggage aisle at your local retailer 
talking yourself out of the latest suitcase 
with multi-directional revolving wheels -
as if the container that held your clothes and accompanied you for weeks
in Spain, Wales, Scotland or England
 isn’t good enough anymore because it’s got ‘wear’.

Then before you know it, 
you’re vacuuming the house, 
dusting one last time so your dog/house sitter won’t shame you on social media,
trading in dollars for Euros and Pounds
and paying the last round of bills 
so if you die in a blaze of glory -
during a plane crash or from driving round the bend on the wrong side of the road -
your kids will have a bit of breathing space 
before the bill collectors start hounding them 
for money owed.
 ~~~~~~~~
Things are about as squared away as they’re likely to get.

I took a deep cleansing breath as I left work
and all that’s left 
is mulling over what to wear on the plane 
and what shoes to take.
I already know that comfort will take precedence over style.

 Going to find what the unexplored part of the 41.4% is all about!

There will be drinking involved while I’m there; 
there will be pictures when I get back.

Feicfidh mé ar ball sibh.




Monday, October 2, 2017

Don't even.

Apparently this is what we do now.

We wring our hands.
We send our thoughts and prayers.
We wonder what we've become.
We question - ad nauseum - 
the motivations and pathology of the shooter.
We watch as news crews revisit the scene of the crime
and show multiple angles of the carnage.

And then

we do nothing.

We blame whoever is 'the other' du jour -
Muslims, Mexicans, right wing, left wing, the mentally ill etc.

We keep electing senators and congressmen who are
bought and paid for by the NRA.
 
We glorify the Second amendment
as though it was carved in marble 
and handed down to Moses
from the mountaintop.

We take a collective breath
thank God no one we love was involved - 

and we go on with our lives.

Waiting for the next round to be fired
and then
we repeat our, by now, all too familiar 
national dance.

I'm sighing in deep despair -
because that's apparently all I can do
in this country I neither recognize,
understand
nor want to be a part of.

I am deeply ashamed at where my country is
and the lack of leadership 
and moral integrity
that keeps us from addressing
this hell of our own creation.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Conundrum

Same conflict different day.
How do you remain a ‘woke’ involved citizen of this country, 
engaged in the quagmire of the participatory democracy we seem to have created 
and not lose either your health or your freaking mind in the process?
Wish I had the answer folks, but I don’t.
Maybe it’s enough to live with the question.

I simply can’t engage in all the nonsense –
*Tom Prices charter flights, 
ostensibly for work purposes 
(conveniently to locations where his son lives and another to where he owns a home).
Thank goodness he solved the problem himself and resigned;
I don't care if that's the true story or not! 
 ~~~~~~~~
*Name calling on a global scale 
with an individual who is as emotionally, intellectually and socially crippled 
 as our president.
~~~~~~~~
*Personal emails AGAIN.
 ~~~~~~~~
*A library of an elementary school in a wealthy town 
rejecting Dr Seuss books 'charitably' donated by the First Lady.
~~~~~~~~
*NFL issues, 
#Take a knee – it’s all SO 1968.
 It wasn’t about a raised fist then any more than it’s about a knee now.
It’s about brown bodies being killed 
because the white power structure needs a permanent underclass.
If you haven’t figured that out by now,
then you’re willfully ignorant – 
and you should take a look at whatever your belief system is that
 allows you to refuse to see it.
PLZ
~~~~~~~~
An issue worth being informed about?

US citizens dying and redefining ‘primitive’ in Puerto Rico 
for over a week 
after the country was destroyed by a hurricane 
before this administration notices – 
and only sends the USS Comfort 
after the suggestion was made by a former Secretary of State on Twitter; 
that’s worth noting, 
praying about 
and supporting with relief efforts. 

 Our president figuring out that an ocean is really big 
and that an island, by definition, you idiot,
means it’s surrounded by that really big  water – 
not exactly a Helen Keller moment 
but it seems like the light is, if not dawning,
at least beginning to filter through the cracks in his head. 
Priceless.

The depths of the arrogance, indifference, 
entitlement and ignorance 
of this Administration 
continues to confound me on a daily basis, 
in matters both large and small.
~~~~~~~
The antidote?
Prayer
Financial contributions to relief efforts
Reading
Titrating the news and avoiding  the comment sections at all costs.
Loving those on my path
Seeing the world through a child’s eyes

Playing with images and words about MY issues



And getting ready to travel
 –to broaden my horizons -
which at the same time also feels like going home 
to discover some roots.
While growing up, 
I would hear that we were "Scots-Irish"
and I literally had no idea what that meant.

Well, now I do.

Excited about what lies ahead and, 
after the past 9 months,
that’s a wonderful feeling to have again.



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.