02 December 2009
24 November 2009
In 2000, Rick Riordan said it in his book Last King of Texas. He said the same thing that I said in 2001 while living in Gila Hot Springs, New Mexico while standing at the top of a mesa overlooking the twisted scrubby junipers of the desert. In 2001, I didn't know Riordan or that he has written two award winning books in two years. I felt, at the time, that I was having a completely original thought; one that I have held close to my heart since that day on the mesa.
Two months ago, I discovered the mastermind of Riordan last month at a book fair in the children's fantasy genre at Blue's school. Riordan's book The Lightning Thief (and several others) didn't seem to interest my son, but their captive covers and adventure based themes drew me right in. I went home, befriended google and awoke to the world of Rick Riordan a mere ten years after the publication of his first book, Big Red Tequila, which is an adult mystery novel along the lines of Carl Hiaasen, Tony Hillerman and Elmore Leonard.
I immediately took the plunge. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't usually read one book at a time. I may have two, three or even four books going at any given time, but I plugged through Riordan's first two novels ignoring everything else on my nightstand. Riordan is a crafty writer and highly entertaining with a PhD in literature, and as a former middle school teacher, knows how to capture his audience and get his point across.
I came up for air on his third Book, The Last King of Texas, because the long awaited Born to Run by Christopher McDougall about the Tarahumara of Mexico finally made its way down the waiting list at the public library to my name. Today, I grabbed the top book on my nightstand thinking that I was grabbing Born to Run, but instead picked up the Riordan book that I had put to rest a few days ago. Instead of the bookmark doing its job at the beginning of a chapter, I had stuck it in the middle of the chapter telling me that I must have fallen asleep while reading...not because the new book bores me, but probably because the codeine cough suppressant I was taking kicked in.
Not remembering where I was at in the story, I began at the top on the page and came across these words in regards to comparing San Francisco to the character's home town of San Antonio:
"My California friends would not have called this a particularly beautiful place. Those brave enough to visit me in Texas complained of...the harsh flat prairie ugliness. I try telling them that it's a matter of perspective, that San Francisco is like a Monet- any idiot can appreciate it. San Antonio, on the other hand, takes time, patience...But it's beautiful, too. You just have to be more perspective."
I said something very similar just a year or so later with absolutely no concept of the man Riordan or his thoughts. I can remember exactly where I was and the view. Chad stood with me. Sally the dog chomped on some disgusting year old deer jerky hide that she found under a scrub tree and snarled at me every time I came within ten feet of her to grab the nasty thing away. Standing on the mesa, the view was pretty but not astounding, especially for all the work it took to get to the top. I reflected back to Arizona and the year we spent in Flagstaff where the winter was bone chilling for my southeastern bones. During those frigid months, we often trekked down to Sedona's desert for the warmth.
You don't have to be a genius to notice the beauty of Sedona. Thousand foot vermilion rock walls surround the town with gorgeous fine grained red-orange dirt covering every inch of the ground. The sharp clear blue sky and green junipers contrast the overwhelming red to create a delicacy for the eyes which feeds the brain from an astounding sensory buffet. The beauty is so in your face, so obvious, that the mind doesn't have to work, the mouth falls open and drool dribbles down your chin.
From the top of the mesa in New Mexico, not so much. Not to say that it wasn't beautiful, because it was, but it was more cerebral. A quick drive through it may leave one saying, "Oh this is pretty, but where is the OUTSTANDING?" A quick visit wouldn't feed the senses like a Calabash buffet, because the beauty was subtle. Through time and patience its outstanding beauty relaxes the senses like a fine meal served over the course of three hours.
I said something like this to Chad, and I have been looking in my journals all morning for the thought. Surely I would have put something this profound to paper, but out of about a hundred hand written journals over the course of thirty years, I haven't the patience to scour them. I have several New Mexico journals which branch from the Peace Corps year, and it's just a lot of information. Though I'm finding unbelievable fantastic memories like, "was having a nice morning casually walking the dog until she rolled in horse shit...". I could get lost in that stuff all morning, but they are also filled with an insane amount of self loathing that I can't bring myself to relive at the moment.
But talk about synchronicity! What the (fill in your favorite expletive). ***WARNING*** DIGRESSION... When I had this Riordan moment, I immediately went to my journals, none of which are labeled. I looked through one journal that I knew had my New Mexico writings, but found nothing. I picked up another journal that I suspected had New Mexico reflections in it and randomly opened it. My eyes cast down to the story of Sally rolling in horse manure, and I told you about it just moments before. Immediately after writing the above words, I let my eyes wander to the entry above the horse poop entry. ***DIGRESSION OVER***
Written on 30 April 2001 12:22 mountain time, it reads: "Chad was joking saying, "I wonder if this area is a big vortex..." As I sit way up here and look out- it's pretty red out there- it's just not as red as Sedona. That's good because then those fake freaks will stay away-they only look for the obvious as most people do. It's easy to find beauty in an obvious area like Sedona, but it takes true patience and wisdom to find beauty in the not so obvious."
Pretty similar stuff, Riordan and I. Must be a pretty profound thought for it to travel through the collective unconscious to eventually reach a woman on a mesa in New Mexico two years or so later...a women with no concept of Riordan or, at the time, Jung's collective unconscious.
12 November 2009
This week in Knoxville's Metro Pulse, writer Matt Edens gives mention in his Urban Renewal article to The Agrarian Urbanite!
Validation is good.
05 November 2009
I awoke from yet another epic dream filled with so much activity that it wouldn't make much sense to you. For your benefit, I will make it brief...
My parents, family and I are at a Christian Rally. I feel disgusted by their Jesus brainwashing and using God as a fear mechanism.
Eventually, I am standing next to man who is being very nice to me thinking that I am on his wavelength when I speak out and say, "Save it. I'm not a Christian."
His face went purple with anger as he began to yell at me. I said to him, "Is this how Jesus would react? Jesus taught to many even those considered heathens." He became even angrier and became more belligerent telling me that I was going to hell.
My voice became stuck in my throat though I had so much to say to him. Somehow I was able to express what was in my heart. The gist wasn't about his Christianity versus my beliefs, but how I accepted him and his beliefs, though not my own, and that he has a right to practice those beliefs just as I have a right to practice mine. He felt and exhibited scorn and rage towards me for not being of his beliefs. I said that I thought it interesting that he, the Christian, who should be loving, sharing and open was only this way with people who shared his same beliefs and that anyone else was going to hell. I also told him that I wasn't interested in pushing my beliefs on anyone and that we all have a right to the Divine Power no matter how we practice. I finished by saying that it seemed my views were more Christian-like than his because Jesus didn't scorn people for being different, and that He embraced us all.
I wasn't afraid. I had huge amounts of emotion that felt completely bottled up inside me, and it was hard to get it all out, which I did mostly in my brain and telepathically.
In just a few days of each other, I have had two dreams that have both dealt with my standing strong to "authority"...the first was a staunch Limbaugh-spewing type person and the second represented the church. Interesting.
On another note/dream...I had a dream that someone who I loved and admired, who is now deceased, was a secret fascist and even had a photo taken with Mussolini. This was complete news to me! I found it very hard to believe that this person, of all people, a little old grandmother type, had a secret life. My father and the woman's mother became very angry at me for even bringing her memory up (but I didn't know!).
The interesting part...these same people that were raking the deceased over the coals for being with Mussolini were also firm George W. Bush supporters, who to me, was the epitome of a fascist.
01 November 2009
Despite this writer's fight with the flu, November's Agrarian Urbanite manifested!
This month, The Agrarian Urbanite explores the true meaning of regenerative agriculture and gives a brief description of design principles. There are other articles to assist with winter gardening.
The Agrarian Urbanite is a monthly grassroots publication dedicated to providing practical agricultural education focused on sustainable, regenerative and organic techniques.
The Agrarian Urbanite is a guide for creating balanced, healthier and sustainable communities & neighborhoods.
The Agrarian Urbanite hopes to restore Spirit, Humankind and Earth by being a catalyst for folks to think beyond the garden, building foundations of knowledge & inspiring action.
25 October 2009
That's the truth.
Last night, I dreamed of two elves...a male and a female. Both were injured and couldn’t walk. Hundreds of people, including us were attending a seminar at a place that boasted regenerative techniques, but we knew better having been evicted from the place years before. Chad, Blue and I had previously lived at this place which was sort of an intentional community. I walked into the house one day to find all my stuff gone. When I asked Chad, he didn’t give me a reason to our eviction except that it was something between the head lady and me. I sensed tension from her while living there, but never found out what I did “wrong” to get our family evicted and made homeless.
So now, Chad and I are back. I recognize the two elfin friends. She reveals to me that she and her spouse can’t walk. I tell her that we will carry them. The way to enter the seminar is through the house we used to live in and out the backdoor, but it’s a ten foot drop with no stairs. The woman in charge is pushing people out the back door one at a time. I jump out, than realize that my elfin friend will be greatly injured. I catch my elfin friend as the women shoved her a little too hard from the house.
We walk down to the area where the ‘leader’ is giving a talk. He tells us to focus on the light and tell what we see. The elves don’t listen to him and focus on the earth, specifically a two creeks that merge. The man ‘leader’ is responsible for some bad development and has steered the ‘foundations’ mission away from the original intent which was Earth restoration. The elves had been involved years ago with the restoration of the creek…a vital thing for their survival.
In the dream, the creek ran clear. New plant life grew. Regeneration was happening.
Once the man saw what the elves were trying to bring attention to the water, he disbanded the seminar sending people off with group leaders to other areas like young students leaving an assembly at school. It began to rain, and we were outdoors. I carried my female elfin friend to shelter when we realized that her male counterpart was missing. We knew that he was back in the marsh area unable to walk.
He was lured into the marsh by a group of boys. They didn’t know that he couldn’t walk long distances when they quickly fled as the rain started. As I held my female elfin friend, interviewing the boys, one asked. “Is that an…?” I replied, “Yes, and elf. And he’s an elf. We must go get him.”
Their teacher lets me choose one male pupil. From the eager volunteers, I pick a boy with red hair.
I wake up.
13 October 2009
09 October 2009
I am continuously proud and amazed at all the artwork and the students' interpretations of famous artwork. These kids come up with some beautiful pieces. Not only is their artwork displayed, but also throughout the school, there is dancing, singing and instrumental music. You can find something going on in every corner of the school.
The children are from all kinds of backgrounds and socioeconomic classes. On any given exhibit night the crowd of parents, grandparents, siblings and extended families range a wide diversity. It is not uncommon to hear several different languages spoken. While admiring the art work, I heard Spanish to one side of me and Chinese to the other as scores of people with all different skin colors came together for the common theme of honoring our children and their hard work.
This is a brief photo journal of only a small portion of some of the artwork. Lighting isn't always the best, and working with a flash often didn't work well, so some of the pics are blurry...that is solely my fault. All the artwork is beautiful and amazing, and these are a few that caught my eye.
A study of Van Gough's Sunflowers (Fifth Grade)...
First Grade studied pioneer days and made blueberry jam (which was on display to eat), and an American Flag and many other aspects of pioneer life and East Tennessee history. During the last eight weeks, they took field trips to the Ramsey House, McClung Museum and the East Tennessee Historic Society which further enriches the learning...
I love Kindergartners' art work the best. They are still so inhibited and use the best colors. The first series is an interpretation of The Peale Family by Charles Wilson Peale
Kindergarten again...a study of color and emotion (I remember when Blue did this study, it still hangs in our dining room.)...
Fifth graders working in groups painted the next two...there are more group paintings, but I didn't have a chance to document them all.
Third graders completed the next series. I don't remember the subject because I was so amazed at the art...I think it was actually a science study. I'll post details tomorrow...
Second grade study on indigenous masks...
Miscellaneous drawing...Fifth grade.
Let me know if you would like to see more. The photos that I took don't even begin to scratch the surface of the many pieces displayed.
07 October 2009
Very few of us had any experience at drumming, and somehow it all came together. We kept a beat. We danced. And somehow 5 hours slipped by before we realized that we needed to take the kids home. I really think that we went through a time warp.
Babies were sleeping everywhere...and eventually many adults were sleeping where ever they could find a spot.
Can't wait for the next one.
Thanks BB for inspiring the best in us all.
29 September 2009
16 September 2009
My husband ate their last night being wined and dined by a bunch of DC folks who are interested in his research. Nora's is Bill Clinton's favorite restaurant in DC. So, obviously our US leaders are very aware of organic and biodynamic foods (page two) since Nora's touts their little restaurant horn about providing such fare. Yet, they still continue to authorize unhealthy and unbalanced systems for the rest of the US.
Is this a case of, "Not in my stomach! Oh, but it's okay for yours."
So what do you think? You should ask to see your representatives expense account.
P.S. I would have had the Maine Jonah Crab appetizer, the local Boston and Baby Spinach salad and Pan Seared Maine Diver Scallops.
29 August 2009
This month The Agrarian Urbanite raises issues of food awareness as well as offers some great recipes for those summer vegetables. As always, The Agrarian Urbanite reveals to answers to some of gardeners most pressing questions…
The Agrarian Urbanite is a monthly grassroots publication dedicated to providing practical agricultural education focused on sustainable, regenerative and organic techniques.
The Agrarian Urbanite is a guide for creating balanced, healthier and sustainable communities & neighborhoods.
The Agrarian Urbanite hopes to restore Spirit, Humankind and Earth by being a catalyst for folks to think beyond the garden, building foundations of knowledge & inspiring action.
Thanks for reading.
21 August 2009
After a long day on the beach swimming, boogie boarding and flying kites we returned to Sea Camp to cook up some supper. Nothing tastes better after a long day on the beach then an ice cold beer, which we had plenty because we had trekked to the ferry that afternoon to buy some ice.
Well, of course, one beer led to two which led to three. I had also brought some vodka, pineapple juice and cranberry juice for a refreshing alternative to beer. After a few beverages, the smack talk started, "Hey! You better watch out for those horses. They'll eat your scalp off!" or, "Yup, I guess we're smarter than those Cumberland Island raccoons. Y'know they are the SMARTEST raccoons that ranger has ever seen?" We went on and on letting out the pent up frustration and underlying fear.
As we sat around the campfire and the boys played with their light sabers in a reenactment of some Star Wars scene, BB and I decided to take a walk to the beach. And, of course, I had to pee. Now normally I would just go in the bushes, but for some logical reason (at the time but forgotten now), I decided that I needed to walk up to the bathhouse. By this point, the moon had risen, but it was pitch black under the oak hammock.
I grabbed some flashlights (some compact but very nice handheld LED's) and put on my cap which has an LED attachment (not a true headlamp) that has always worked great for me in the woods. SB suggested that we take his BIG flashlight explaining, "It's dark out there. We (he and Chad) had to use it last night when we went out the the beach."
I was all like, "No. We're fine. It's not a long walk to the bathhouse. Besides, there's a very clear trail."
He insisted, "It's dark." I was thinking, "Oh, what a city boy." but to appease SB, BB and I took the light and I left him with one of my flashlights. (Chad had his headlamp.)
As soon as we walked out of our campsite and away from the fire, the woods darkened immensely. I wasn't scared, but I felt slightly unsettled. I switched on my hat light, and it wasn't quite a bright as I remembered even though I had used it only three months prior on a camping trip to the Smoky Mountains. It gave off a dim yellowish light at best and not the hot white that LEDs usually give. I remarked, "Oh, I guess the batteries are getting low." I switched on my small hand held flashlight that cast just enough light to see the path, but not much more. A dark wall engulfed the space just where the flashlight's guidance stopped. BB and I could see the mere outlines of each other.
BB wanted to put on the big flashlight and somehow I convinced her not to, that the bathroom was close and that we could sense our way along the trail with the smaller light. We chatted along the way talking about the Ranger and how he said the Island wasn't Disney World that it was a WILDERNESS and that we had traveled to plenty of WILDERNESS areas where we had to hike in carrying our food and gear on our backs for miles and miles and had camped in the wood for longer periods of time and dug our holes to poop in...yeah, wilderness? I ain't never been to no WILDERNESS that had running water, showers and flush toilets or that we didn't have to filter our own water...this ain't Disney? You sure? It seems that armadillos and shit happens right on cue like you AT Disney World...like a fairy tale...mmm hmm...on and on rather cockily.
We prodded along for what seemed too long when I suddenly stopped. BB bumped into me and said worriedly, "What? What is it?" The outline of her head glancing to and fro. The whites of her eyes showing through the black like yin and yang.
The darkness messed with my eyes. I had concentrated on the trail, lined with the saw palmettos with the night laying around us like a thick blanket, so intensely that I felt confused. I stopped and shook my head out and said, "I think that I wandered into a campsite. I don't think we are on the trail."
We looked around. Panic ensued. Not a scream out loud, we need help panic, but a punch in my gut that said, "Fuck. This IS the WOODS. The Ranger warned us...I didn't believe him...now we're lost just walking to the bathroom and the guys are going to laugh at us."
We decided to turn around and follow our tracks, but even that seemed foreign. If we indeed had wandered into a vacant campsite, which way would we turn when we exited the campsite? Had I accidentally wandered onto the main trail that led to the docks or towards the beach? Suddenly, I felt lost.
We turned and walked back towards the direction that seemed we had originated. Two girls now, not women, shaking; one in her flip flops the other barefooted. Suddenly, stepping on a rattlesnake took on a whole new meaning an seemed very real. I thought, "Dear God, please don't let us get med-vacked out of here tonight. That would just give that old Ranger someone else to make fun of, and I don't want it to be us."
Suddenly a huge bright light filled the forest like the sun had risen as BB switched on the flashlight that SB demanded for us to bring along. I said, "Wow. That thing is bright. SB was right, but don't tell him I said that."
We moseyed on the trail at a creep looking at every little thing trying to get our bearings when we came across campsite marker "C". We found a landmark, but we still weren't quite sure which direction was our campsite nor the bathroom or if we were exiting the campsite. (Really, it was so dark, that my little flashlight did not illuminate the campsite markers.) We took a right which we thought, if we were correct, would lead us INTO the vacant campsite.
Now mind you reader, we are college graduated. One of us is an accomplished attorney who runs a successful law practice and the other is an MS of education who is not an award winning writer yet, but will be, one day. We aren't dummies, but I did feel humbled.
We cautiously walked into what we expected to be a campsite and BB's light shone on the fire ring. An exclamation went out with a huge sigh. We knew where we were. We weren't lost. We turned and went out of the campsite. At this point, we weren't familiar enough with the campground to know which side of the trail that "C" was on. We weren't sure by going right if we would go the bathhouse or back to the campsite...which no way in hell could we do and admit our mistake!?!
We made a turn knowing that either direction would move us closer to familiar ground. We came across the next campsite marker #15. At that point, we knew that we were headed back to camp and only about twenty yards from our own tents. Having our bearings, we, yet again, did an about-face. BB shone the light at each campsite marker. We passed "C", then we got to "B". She stopped, pointer her light and said, "You see that? I see some lights up ahead." What seemed very far away, were some yellow lights illuminating what appeared to be an old worn tool shed.
Inch by inch we walked picking up the pace and feeling a little more confident. We saw the marker "A" and BB said, "Yes this it." We took about 15 paces and the trail completely opened up and there sat the bathhouse (what looked like an old tool shed from the distance through the wood). Seeing the difference in the main trail compared to the path to the campsites, we asked, "How on Earth? What happened?"
We admitted defeat; that Mother Nature had won and that maybe Cumberland Island wasn't Disney World and that it was a wilderness area seeing as we couldn't even make our way to the bathroom at night without getting lost.
I peed, and when I came out, BB stood there pointing at an electric outlet in the woman's bathroom. Fear subsided I said, "Yeah. Wilderness?" and we laughed. Walking back to camp, we decided not to tell the boys of our misadventure, which was really very exciting. There's nothing like getting the heartbeat up and feeling a tinge of fear and panic to heighten a situation.
Like riding a roller coaster at Disney World.
Thanks for reading!
20 August 2009
Recap: bitter disillusioned Ranger gives the fear speech leaving us afraid and weary of everything and we discover that armadillos aren't so scary...
By the next day, the armadillos became the obvious local residents of Sea Camp. They owned the place, but because of the thick underbrush, we never saw them coming until they were under foot. The sequence went like this: walk, walk, walk along the trail; hear movement in the bush; stop and look around for, for, for a raccoon? a snake? anything? then POP! an armadillo would waddle out snooping it's long nose along the ground...it's gray plated armor protecting it from EVERYTHING with it's long sharp claws which are something that nightmares are made of. The POP! was usually followed by an, "Ahh!" Brief sigh, then, "Oh, yet another, armadillo. Surprise."
But they didn't get boring and we didn't take them for granted. They actually became cute and more interesting as we were able to watch them feed and snoop. We even saw one jump.
They really are in their own little world and, I think, completely oblivious to us humans. One popped out at us and when we all jumped and screamed a little bit, I think the little sucker took notice and said to himself, "Oh shit! That thing is BIG!" and it jumped.
During twilight, life comes into itself. The animals really start moving about in search of supper. Because it's not quite dark, you don't need a flashlight, but the light plays tricks on the eyes which in turn plays tricks on the brain. At twilight, one needs to be super alert because things are waking up and stirring.
Aggravated, Officer Fear Ranger told us about a woman who was walking around at twilight and stepped on a RATTLESNAKE (it was probably a normal snake, but because it wasn't caught, we will never know), and the snake bit her which is a perfectly logical defensive move on the snake's part. The true point of the story was that it took several hours to get her off the island with by the time they were able to notify the Ranger and the call was put in to the mainland putting the emergency team into danger because they had to bring a boat across the waterways at dark and...etc etc...etc...told you he was a bucket of laughs.
One twilight, I was not being super cautious. As I returned from washing some dishes and fetching water, my head flopped side to side and I was probably singing a little ditty in my head when CRASH! The palmettos parted in front of me. I screamed and loudly. When I got my wits, I looked around and, you guessed it, an armadillo ran out onto the path...then stopped right in the middle of the path. I really didn't want to get to close to the thing. It was kind of big for an armadillo, but I couldn't get around it because it was hogging up the entire path which was only about three feet wide lined by a thicket of saw palmettos. I was laughing because I had screamed out so loudly, and I didn't know what to do. So I did the first logical thing and that was to tell it to, "Shoo."
Did I feel ridiculous? Yes. Telling a wild animal who is oblivious to humans to "shoo" was about as effective as trying to dig a grave with a toothpick. I clapped my hands a few times, and the creature kind of looked at me but didn't move out from the center of the path. I didn't want to jump over it because I didn't want it to jump up into me. So I waited. Finally the little critter moseyed back into the saw palmettos, and I quickened my pace back to camp keeping a little more aware.
To be continued...
Tomorrow Part III of Cumberland Island's Disney World: "Are You Sure This Ain't Disney World?"
19 August 2009
It's stupid that I didn't get a photo of an armadillo. These things are everywhere, and they have no fear of the humans on the island. If you have seen any of the photos or researched the Isle after reading all my posts, you will know that the only cleared areas in the Oak Hammock are the actual campsites, the few trails, the Ranger Station/boat dock and at the bathroom area. Otherwise, under the hammock it is all palmettos with gigantic Live Oaks covered in Spanish Moss. Seeing under or through the palmettos was impossible because of their thickness.
When we arrived at the Island, the normal person who gives orientation to the campers had gone on vacation herself, so we had the middle aged, grim, disillusioned, I've-been-working-for-the-park-service-too-long-and-seen-to-much-shit-and-stupid-tourists Ranger. One thing that he kept reiterating was the Cumberland Island is a wilderness area, not Disney World, and that we all had to be very aware and serious about the dangers on the island which he went on and on about for so long that we barely had enough time to secure camp before a torrential downpour (and tornado which we found out later had touched down on the north end of the Island).
With thunder grumbling, we made our way to the campsite and secured camp. We then had to walk back to the Ranger Station, return the carts that we used to haul all our stuff in on and rush back to camp (a mile and a half with all three trips there, back and there). By the time we returned to camp, the rain had started to fall in huge drops and lighting and thunder crashed all around us. With no other place to go (like a gift shop or restaurant) most of the group, except for me, went into their tents. I was stupid enough to let myself get caught out in the worst storm the Island had seen all season, if not longer.
After 45 minutes in the grueling rain and wind watching a river of water flow through the campsite (my shoes nearly floated away and the bottom of the tent, I'm told, felt like a big water bed), the storm abided and left a new calm in the forest, Sea Camp and especially number 13.
It wasn't long before the first armadillo showed up. It didn't really show up, it just sort of sauntered out of the bushes keeping its nose to the ground pushing things along looking for grubs. We all freaked out, and we didn't go too close because our ears still rang with the Ranger's substantial fear lecture. By that night though, all fear of the armadillos had subsided leaving a calm like the earlier storm.
That night, an armadillo came right into camp just shuffling along. They don't seem to eat human food, but maybe he was attracted to the campfire. SB got one of the beer boxes that had partially disintegrated in the storm (because we let the beer sit out in the rain...hell, it was cans, nothing could hurt it) and tried to use it to shoo the creature back to the thicket of the palmettos. Well, that little guy wasn't havin' it. It didn't care. It went around minding its own business not hissing or freaking out or anything.
SB kept trying to shoo it when his six year old son screamed out at the top of his lungs (which comes out VERY loud in a quiet forest with no city sounds or buildings around to muffle the noise), "STOP! STOP! DON'T HURT THE WILDLIFE!!! YOU"RE HURTING IT! STOP!"
We all cringed. We knew the neighbors a few sites down heard his bellow. SB wasn't hurting the wildlife at all. He wasn't even touching it. He was very cautiously shooing it with a very soggy beer carton. We very loudly replied so everyone around could hear, "He's not hurting it. He's not hurting anything. He's just shooing it," trying to explain to the boy and the neighbors that we were not throwing things or taking knives to the to the little beast.
There is also quiet hour at Sea Camp, and, well, at any campground across America. At night, every little sound carries far distances. We had no idea what time it was. It was dark and that's all we knew.
We might of got a little stink eye from our neighbors the next day.
As I laid down with Blue to sleep for the night, my scared son felt extreme worry and fear about the wild horses and the raccoons both of which the ranger had gone on and on about for what seemed an hour. Blue repeated what the ranger said almost verbatim. It took me at least half an hour to change the direction of his mind by getting him to think about the funny armadillos. Finally, he drifted off to sleep.
So, by this point, yes, we definitely had to agree with the Ranger that Cumberland Island was NOT Disney World.
To be continued...
18 August 2009
It's quieter around the house as my son is off to spend his days in the government care that we call school. I feel such a sense of melancholy. For I admit, though there were days that I was at my wits end with him, I want summer to go on and on.
As school cranks its gears into motion, I'm still at the beach romanticizing about giant live oaks and wild horses while following bobcat tracks into the wood. I'm still whirling about how much I enjoyed spending time relaxing with another family as we shared duties such as cooking, childcare, dishes, and fetching water. I appreciated the constant conversations, support and openness that seemed flow so easily on the island. I liked being half naked not worried about body image while sauntering around in a bathing suit feeling the sun warming my skin.
A few more days on the island would have had me reverted into a tribal state...my mind was already reaching there wandering and feeling freer and freer each moment. I didn't pick up a book nor my journal once. My senses exploded, and I simply rode the wave enjoying every free moment not concerned with documenting or educating. As the writer, I felt such a sense of relief to release the occasional burden of expression through written word which often haunts me.
On the last night, I wanted to take a shower, naked, at the "rinse off" shower near the boardwalk that leads to the beach. Though the traditional unisex showers were merely surrounded by a few thin walls with hooks, a locking door and simple screen as a roof, I wanted to take a shower amongst the trees.
Earlier that day, BB and I were out on the bikes and found a beach access to what is called Greyfield Beach where the few residents and the guests of the Greyfield Inn go enjoy the sea. After an hour of beachcombing at Greyfield Beach (where residents of the isle get to drive their four-wheelers with their supplies onto the beach...oh, heavens, imagine if they had to walk like the rest of us?), we headed back to sea camp with a few treasures to show the boys. On the main road, nailed to tree, was a tiny little sign posted way up high pointing to the luxurious, notorious and mysterious Greyfield Inn. And of course, we wanted to see it. (Both BB and I live in historic homes in an H-1 nationally protected historic zone. We kind of have a thing for old things.)
We rode up the tree lined drive on our rented beach cruisers, and it opened to a clearing. There were buildings, a few horses grazing on a lawn and, beyond some large live oaks, the Inn. We were going to bike past it (not get off our bikes and try to go in...we were sandy and gritty from the beach and LORD we have more sense then to mess up their lobby!) when a woman halted us. She told us that we needed to exit the property since non guests disturb the privacy of the residents of the island and the guests of the hotel.
I was flabbergasted that I couldn't just bike past the Inn, a historic site and landmark on the island. The night before, Chad and I jumped the broom to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. In all honesty, I was hoping (since I was on the island which is an eight and a half hour drive from Knoxville) to see the Inn up close and personal with ambition to return for a future anniversary. Well, the woman wasn't haven't any of that. There was no getting by this Sentry. She told us that we could see the Inn online at the website, though the Inn sat right in front of me hidden by a few trees.
(Chad told me on the return to Knoxville that he researched the Inn before we left town. They have a restaurant, and he wanted to take me to dinner for our 10th wedding anniversary. The Inn is so particular and illustrious, that one MUST be a registered guest to dine or even sit at the bar there.)
BB and I laughed and complained all the way back to Sea Camp. Of course, we knew that she was just doing her job, but it felt good to blow off some steam as we were slammed and humbled into our commonness and peasant status among the truly Wealthy. We decided though, that peasant-ness was good because we gots the freedom to have fun (even the Wealthy try to slum it every once in while, but we ain't havin' them!).
Back to the shower. It was this truly humbling experience along with my newly tanned beach skin (those of you who know me KNOW how dark I get) along with walking barefooted in a skimpy (yet modest) swim suit covered in beach salt and sand that opened the flood gates for a feeling of utter and complete tribalism. Suddenly, all the common folk of the island and world were of my tribe.
There are many who try to pretend that they aren't of common folk, but there's no denying it. One may have wealth, but Cumberland Island and the Greyfield Inn are of the Carnegie's and Kennedy's. It don't matter who you are, you is common. If you ain't from that "old" money, you is pretendin', fool.
I imagined that I was a servant or a slave on the island and as the Gents and Women dined seven courses, we cooked over an open fire slapping together a feast to rival the best culinary delights. As the Fine People dined with linen cloths and silverware lined neatly and properly at each setting, we sucked down our food with shared or no utensils letting the juices drip from our fingers and chins while sitting around a wooden picnic table draped in a vinyl red and white checkered cloth. As the Wealthy sat in corsets and tuxedos, we let our bare feet and our sons' bare feet collect more beach sand as the sand flies bit our ankles.
And when it was all over, I wanted to take a shower the way a servant or a slave of the 1800's may have had to do it. Outside and unashamed knowing exactly what I came from, like life crawling from the ocean and completely bonded with Earth.
13 August 2009
When we arrived at Cumberland Island, we got an absolute fear talk from the park Ranger in regards to all the DANGEROUS wildlife on the island including the horses that, he led us to believe, would just as much eat your scalp or stomp you as look at you. He instilled an alarm that resulted in near phobia in regards to the horses on the island. With that in mind, uneasiness and trepidation steeped the following experience enhancing it to the tenth degree. It wouldn't have been nearly as mythological without the underlying concern that we could get stomped to death.
The Walk To The Beach
the Moon Goddess beckoned
as all her fullness
hung low above the ocean
in the dark of night
armed with only a flashlight
to the beach
through the woods,
with low thick branches
covered with dangling
spidery spanish moss,
and the sand dunes,
marked with the shadows
reflecting eerie white,
of mystique, apprehension
on the boardwalk
a young couple stood
perched on the bench
toward the water
"horses. the horses
are there to the left."
walked the boardwalk
towards the sandy path
after hearing the horses
running through the Sea Camp trails
the night before
there was no predicting
what might happen
they were spooked towards us
there would be
walking on the beach path
as I clung to the soft sand
on the edge
of the dunes
her excitement rising
with each step
her flashlight caught the eye
of a horse eating
in a dune
to the beach
she continued to close in
my fear welling
in the deepest part of
calling her back
to the region of the boardwalk
the other couple left their perch to stand with us
the male of our foursome
walked alone to the edge
where the horses stood
his girlfriend afraid
that he would get stomped
I called him back
through the wind
unsure if my warning
met his ears
then all four of us
the sandy path
towards the horses
as on cue
the horses lined up
the main horse
stood at the highest point
in a break between two dunes
the other horses
flanked his sides
creating an arc with
behind the sand knolls
awaiting a possible battle
or only allowing the
worthy to pass
we slowly approached
with reverence and
three of the four humans faced
standing no less than ten feet from them
nor slowing my pace
I looked up
made eye contact
and nodded to the lead sentry
in a sign of
and complete awe
then skirted the narrow
between the creatures and
the wide open beach
the beach stretched
for an eternity
as Her Divine Majesty
hung over the water
Her powerful pull
lulling me on
knowing that at any instant
the horses could stampede
and trample me from behind
at once I made peace
with the fate that may mark
the full moon
not filling me
my skin gasping
with every pore opened
thirsting deeply for the
like a mermaid out of water
needing to reconnect
with her home
keeping careful eye
of the tide markings
I deliberately placed my shoes
on the highest ground
walked down to the water
licked at my ankles
looking back to find BB standing close by
I handed her my glasses
I told her not to worry
that I would return
with the water covering my feet
and the overwhelming need
to immerse myself in
I walked into the sea
with the full moon
aligning with my heart
and dove into an oncoming wave
under the water
all was silent
aligning my chakras
with the moon
in the distance
from a cloud illuminated pink
by a storm
lightning hit the water
Thor making His presence known
as the power of the
salt in the form of tears
now flowing from within
I cried out in
feeling my grounded soul
yearning for the touch of
my Earthly bond
and my soul's purpose for this life
filled with relief and calm
clothes, hair and skin dripping water
I turned back towards the land
impregnated with gratitude
ready to begin
knowing that I had indeed
touched the mythical
12 August 2009
First Night Back in the Real World
Back in the world
after 5 days on Cumberland Island
I woke (in my bed) last night
thinking the shadows
on the ceiling
of my room
were the Live Oaks
under the full moon
shadowing my tent
I could see every detail
including the Spanish Moss
(which we learned is neither Spanish
nor a moss
but related to the pineapple
dangling from the Live Oak
I perceived animals up in the branches
and a tiger pacing
like I was in a jungle
I could smell the air
the only thing missing
was the sound of the waves
which is probably when I realized
that I was in my bed
and I returned blissfully
the images of the island
the natural noises
are all fading
like an awesome dream
that you grab at and try to remember
the magic seems so far away
I wish that I had
some time to process
before thrust into
I will have to wait
to recall my island experiences
like a Heinlein novel
i AM a stranger
in a strange land
and i don't want to
ever fit in
my brain is so frayed
will I ever piece this
More Odd Thoughts
I don't want to fill
I want to empty it.
How are you Lady Winckel?
Not the same.
10 August 2009
BB Mumblings at Dither wrote a little ditty entitled Cumberland Island National Seashore so I know that I wasn't alone, and it really wasn't a dream.
There are two places that I have visited that stirred my soul: Mt. Shasta (Shasta-Trinity National Forest) in Northern California and Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia.
Though nothing especially note taking occurred on Mt. Shasta, it's mere size and energy along with the crisp clean air and freedom from burden put Mt. Shasta at the top of my list for one of the most amazing places that I had visited. After standing on that mountain, I felt a shift in me. It's a powerful mountain.
I always thought that I would have to return, that nothing could fill and move my soul like that again.
Enter Cumberland Island.
Cumberland Island is more than magical. It's mythological.
Normally on an excursion, I take hundreds of photos. I took few on this trip, and the ones I took are marginal. I have a few good shots, but nothing more. What I have are images burning in my mind, and just like the wild horses, it's fleeting. There is no capturing it.
I can try to put it to words. That is a writer's job, but I don't know if it is possible. I don't know if I am ready to truly reveal what happened to us out there. It seems and feels more like a fictional novel or an amazing, beautiful and magical dream.
I jotted down, in poetry form (I think it is really the only way to approach it) some of my memories, and those I can share. But first I have some things to figure out.
First Day on the Island
three carts filled
one half mile
to number 13
in the distance
to see through the hammock
half mile walk
to return the carts
half mile trek
to double back
first rain drop
lightning flashes to a count of
in the woods around us
back at camp
huddled around the table
under the tarp shelter
rain begins to fall
5 of the 6
retreat to the tents
and only one remains
to weather the storm
river of water through the campsite
then with no pause
over and over and over
and blows the rain sideways
sitting on the table now
feet on the bench
soaked to the bone
chilled by the storm
and feeling all
Mother Nature's fury
meshing and melting
my own fury
First Night on the Island
horses gallop on the trails
through Sea Camp
"I hear something behind the tent"
flash of light
an armadillo scuffles its nose
along the ground
in search of supper
unalarmed by the beacon
causing its armor to radiate bright silver
then barely audible
the sound of a light drum
on the dunes
02 August 2009
Thanks for reading.
25 July 2009
I think of my five closest girlfriends/confidants, and now there is a vacancy, because one of those five is dead.
I'm not taking this so well at present.
21 July 2009
When someone dies, the living are left with all the questions and the suppose to-s.
We were supposed to have girl vacations together in Mexico. We were supposed to have a farm together so I could grow you fresh organic produce, take care of you and help you get better. We were supposed to get old together forever laughing about what ever in the hell we wanted to laugh about. We were supposed to travel together in search of the perfect beach. So many suppose to-s...
But the illness took that all away from us, didn't it? It robbed us of all our future plans and dreams. It took your laughter and your smile and your quirkiness that I appreciated so much.
I feel frayed, like the ends of the carpet that have come undone. I'm still here, though, and as I experience something new and wonderful I will forever be reminded of how much you would have loved it, too.
Every time I go to the beach or feel a nice clear humid-free day, I will be reminded of the joy you found in those things. When it rains too much, I'll be thinking how much you didn't like the cloudy humid weather, and I'll laugh just because I'm thinking of you.
So many things...
I'll always remember how much you loved the sun, your cats and walks in the woods. You were so giving and had a huge gigantic heart. You were an advocate for the underdog and had no tolerance for the unjust. You saw the importance of Earth and had a true appreciation for nature.
You let me know while you were still alive that everyday is a gift. At that point, you had seen death, and we all thought you were in the clear. We allowed ourselves to hope and dream and laugh and share and remember.
I cried when we last said our good-byes, not because I even fathomed that the illness would get you, but because I wished the distance between us wasn't so far away. I was SURE that we would see each other again.
Now, I'm not so sure of anything as my fabric frays and I allow myself to mourn the future we won't share together in this world.
Am I selfish to want you back? Which returns me to the question that when we die, do we wish for another day?
Of course, we will all know someday.
A good friend of mine lost her battle with breast cancer yesterday at 10:45 in the morning.
Of course the sadness I feel is for the living and the pain that we will no longer be able to share life with her, for she is not in pain anymore.
I wrote often with my friend in mind knowing that she lurked my blog and a secret way to keep her abreast of the activities of my life. It was a way to share thoughts and ideas without the entanglement of engaging in conversation for her illness kept her from discussion, but I know that she could still read when her health permitted. Neither she nor I are phone people and the physical distance between our homes would only allow for such contact if we wanted to verbalize anything to each other. I knew that I could talk with her through written word.
I feel incredible loss and sadness knowing now that she won't read these words and death had ended the special relationship we had through this blog.
Sometimes I would write special things that I knew would make her laugh or wonder. Many times I wrote just for her.
Oh, God, I'm going to miss her. And for the other people in her life, I know that they are feeling the same sense of loss. If I walk around as in a trance, what is her partner of 22 years feeling? What is his sense of loss? He nurtured her everyday since she found out about her breast cancer. He solely took care of her through the chemo and radiation. He stood by her day in and day out. I can't imagine how he must feel right now.
I'm feeling rather spent, quiet and tired. I don't know what else to say right now except, "I'm going to miss you Snorkel Girl."
17 July 2009
The important part was that a very important and special place, a place that is a link between two different places. When I first visited this place years ago, the group in care of it was just starting out and things were very roughed. It was possible to ascend and descend between the worlds, but the route was tricky to maneuver. It also cost money.
The place in now under the care of a fine, soft and gentle woman who loves her place in the scheme of things. She was shown to me as a woman I know in Knoxville, Amanda, who embodies the elements of the Sacred Feminine.
The group, with her influence, has completed wondrous projects and improvements. Their are two routes now. One is a ramp that is steep and challenging, and the other is a hand built ladder that is strong and secure. The routes are open to anyone who seeks them. The place is supported by donations, but they never ask for money.
Despite my trials and tribulations to get my stuff from one place to the next, Chad and another female friend (as the dream fades in my waking mind so does this person, but in the dream she is someone who is prominent in my waking life) showed up to help me out with my struggles by carrying some luggage for me. I felt relief.
In the process, I got to chat with the woman like we were old friends and about the old days of the place. Both of us remembered, like two veterans, at how far the place had progressed compared to its rough beginnings. We spoke in a cheerful and friendly manner as we shared smiles and memories. The place is very comforting and secure with a nice clean creek winding through the natural landscape, which I was able to cool off in.
Is this a metaphor for the changes in me as I continue to strive to the next level or is does it represent something physical in this world? In either case, I believe this dream to be a positive representation of the healing happening all over the Earth.
16 July 2009
I had always considered Blue my Everest. I thought 9 months of pregnancy, labor, natural childbirth and 2 years 4 months 9 days of breastfeeding that I had conquered my personal Everest. I definitely came out the other side a changed woman.
The thought I had this morning rocked my world a little bit and trails back to the Intuitive Counselor I visit. She said in response to my feeling apprehension about the journey to Pine Ridge, "It's normal to feel a push and pull right before you give birth to yourself."
Hmm, birth to myself? If I felt growth by giving birth to Blue, what would giving birth to myself feel like? That's when I remembered that to summit Everest, there are many steps including base camp which is at 17,585 feet through camps 1 to 4 then the final and dangerous climb to the summit at 29,029.
It's possible that my own birth to this world may be viewed as base camp and many people may just hang at this level their entire lives never really striving or reaching beyond it. Content and comfortable. (And I'm not here to judge them. Sometimes I wish that same simplicity for myself, but the restlessness doesn't quite relinquish its hold...be careful what you wish for, right?)
Could adolescence be considered camp 1? or Schooling and my degrees? Marriage? Maybe, but if I have to ask that question, it probably is not. What are the DEFINITE milestones of my life that have truly transitioned me? Blue's birth.
So really, I may be sitting at camp 1 on Everest awaiting for the weather to change or to acclimate so I can venture to camp 2 taking little steps and each experience brings me closer and closer. Sometimes, though, it may be too extreme and I need to retreat to my tent for a spell or further training.
So, as I write, the chaos ensues around me. I hope the thoughts and introspection came out proper. This is rather raw...not polished...a brainstorm...free stream thought. I beg your empathy for feeling rushed, kids running around, questions being thrown at me, talking in the background, TV, the pressure to finish writing so we can go on a hike, having to pee and the craving for a smoke as to excuses for not fully developing these thoughts nor editing for mistakes.
That's okay. I'm not the first to create the analogy of Everest to personal experiences. Maybe, you yourself have done the same.
Whatever the case, thanks for reading.
15 July 2009
Blue was so sick yesterday. All he did was lay on the couch, watch movies and sleep. After a restless night of sleeping, he awoke with a low grade fever. There was just no way that I could selfishly put him in a car and head up into the middle of no where and submit him to a 16 hour round road trip.
He asked, "So we're not going to go see the Native Americans?"
I answered, "No, baby."
He asked, "Because I'm sick?"
I answered, "Yes."
It didn't seem to bother him.
Blue didn't want to make the trip to begin with, and that little bugger, one way or another, usually gets his way. I am sad though that he has a fever.
This morning, our friends' five year old daughter, Anna, wanted us to watch her swim lessons. It was cool out, so we all went to the pool and watched both Helen and Anna. Blue was so sad and wanted to swim, too, but there was no chancing his getting more ill. Last time, in Florida, when we let him swim with a very low grade fever, he got ten times sicker.
After swim lessons, we said good-bye to the girls which was very hard for me. I love those girls and tried to talk them into returning to Tennessee with me. Tonya, Chad, Blue and I headed to downtown Lincoln for a quick look around and some ice cream. We went to their Old City, Haymarket, down by the tracks. I must say that I was very impressed. I must mention how CLEAN Lincoln is in general. Haymarket was equally so.
We had lunch at a cool bookstore, Indigo Bridge, that had no prices, but accepted donations. Today's fare: soup and bread. We had a very delicious West African peanut. The other soup was a gluten free creamy potato. When you order your soup, they give you an envelope and you pay what you can. You can also eat all that you want. Cool. They also have a wonderful bookstore.
After lunch, we scooted over to Ivana Ice Cream where ice cream is made fresh daily. As we walked in, the ice cream vats sat right by the fornt door on display still with ice and water used to freeze the cream with salt caking the sides. I had fresh pistachio on a sugar cone for the fair price of $2.40. Blue's same sized cone had a special price for kids under 12 for only a dollar. What a bargain.
We took some cool photos, but I left my battery charger in Knoxville and was shooting on borrowed time. I think I clicked off a few good pics. I can get lost in a historic district taking photos and Lincoln had plenty of cool sites. I could have used more battery power and more time.
In 1993 I drove I-80 across Nebraska and said that I would NEVER go back. I'm very glad that I had the opportunity to return because not only Lincoln, but when you get off the main roads, Nebraska has a very beautiful landscape.
We left Lincoln around 1 p.m. and headed south on a state road instead of the interstate driving on part of the Lewis and Clark scenic route. The cornfields of Nebraska gently roll and the farmers practice contour planting giving the effect of terraced corn gardens. I almost forgot that we were driving through mono-crops of industrial corn.
We crossed the Missouri River into Missouri on a cool old bridge in Rulo, Nebraska which seemed like such a neat deserted old town on the river. What made Rulo so interesting was how different the terrain was compared to the rest of the Nebraska that we saw because there were so many trees. Agriculture surrounded the town, but the town itself was seemed mountain-esque as it descended down to the river. But I just googled THIS while trying to check the spelling of Rulo. Whoa.
We continued on to I-29 south where we had to quickly pull to the "safety" lane to let Blue out of the car to throw up. As tractor trailers sped by, Blue vomitted. I was so scared standing out there on the side of the interstate, but we had no choice. There aren't many exits in rural Missouri even on the interstate.
We made it to Kansas City without further incident. I'm sitting in my in-laws living room right now. Blue still has a slight fever and now I must weigh the option of staying out another day or trying to make the two day trek home.
I feel disappointed that I didn't get to go to Pine Ridge, but I said to Tonya this morning, "Some people go to Everest with the hopes of making the summit, but circumstances keep them from getting to the top. Many try again. At least I didn't go all the way to Everest!" She added, "Yeah, you only went to Nebraska!"
Hopefully, I'll get the chance to travel to Pine Ridge again, and hopefully, the circumstances will be more on my side. If not, I'll just try again. One way or another, I'll summit my Everest.
14 July 2009
When we lived in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1999-2000, Tonya (pregnant with their first) and Rich came to visit us. It was the first time we had all really met. We instantly bonded and have remained dear friends through the duration of time and space. This is only the third time in my life that I have spent time with them, but it was like no time nor space has kept us apart. I believe that we have a rare bond and seeing them is like returning home.
We were leaving today to head out on the next part of what has become a pilgrimage for me...to meet with a representative of Running Strong for American Indian Youth. This has been in the planning for a year.
We woke up and Blue was acting very cranky, but we hoped in the car and stopped at the local Food Co-op for supplies. Since he seemed to be getting crankier, we stopped at the Walgreens and I bought a thermometer, and sure enough, Blue had a 100.3 fever.
Since the town, Chadron, NE, is 7 to 8 hours NW near the Wyoming and South Dakota border in the middle of no where, we have decided to return to our friend's home in Lincoln to rest and spend another night. If Blue clears up, we may head out early tomorrow, but if not, the trip is canceled. If the next stop was only a few hours out, I would set out on my own. I don't feel comfortable though heading out into unchartered territory alone at this point. I know that Chad would worry imensely about me the entire time.
I'm feeling let down. We have come so far, but things happen for a reason. Right?
11 July 2009
After arriving, I quickly drank two beers in about ten minutes then nursed a third while winding down.
On Friday, my sister-in-law took me to chop off some more of my hair and then we went shopping. I was sad to learn that Olathe Boot no longer has a store, so I'm not getting boots this trip! I have learned that Olathe Boot still makes boots, but I have to find a store that carries 'em.
Friday night we went to Chad's childhood friend's wife's 40th birthday bash. She themed it "College Party Days" and we listened to eighties tunes and played drinking games. No kids were allowed, so we parents were truly allowed to relax and "party" down! We stayed out till 3 am central time (this is a big deal for a couple of folks from the eastern time zone!) Much of this lateness occurred because Chad and his childhood friend, Brad, got a wild hair up their butts at 1 a.m. to bike several miles and wake up their high school friend, Todd (and his entire family!). Todd and Chad hadn't seen each other in ten years. So, apparently they all sat together and had a beer before brad and Chad biked the several miles home. The party was completely over and Liz and I had cleaned up the kitchen.
We drove back to Chad's brother's home watching the most amazing lighting streak the sky. Just as we entered the house, the sky opened. I stormed hard, and I thought we were going to have to hit the basement! But I fell asleep no problem.
After waking up late, we hung out at the house and neighborhood pool. We are now getting ready to have dinner with our sister-in-laws parents. So I need to stop being rude by blogging while were all trying to chat!
Stay tuned. We leave for Lincoln, Nebraska on Monday then on to Chadron to meet with Running Strong representative, Tom Cook.
Thanks for reading.
08 July 2009
About a year ago, I had a compelling urge to visit with the Grandmothers, Beatrice and Rita Long. I haven't confirmation that I will meeting them this journey, but I have made contact with Tom Kanatakeniate Cook, who runs the Pine Ridge field office for Running Strong for American Indian Youth. Running Strong another organization that I discovered a year ago (about the same time I learned of the Grandmothers). I've been wanting to visit and see their agricultural work on the reservation.
I'm very excited about this. Tom has graciously arranged a purification ceremony for the night of July 15th. I'll try to keep you updated as to our journey, but I'm not guaranteed WiFi so you may have to wait till our return.
01 July 2009
I already have ideas for the third, but I need your help. Send your agrarian questions, ideas and short stories/essays/articles (100-400 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading.
30 June 2009
About a year ago, I wrote a series of letters to our local weekly, The Metro Pulse, to comment about an article on restoration in the center city of Knoxville. The original article had a business owner complaining about the prostitutes who parade in front of his business. The business owners reaction was to arrest them all and throw away the key.
I felt miffed by his ignorant statement. At the time, I had finished a series of prostitution research for a neighborhood task force that we enacted to find solutions to the problem in our neighborhood. After a month or two of research, I realized the solutions, so I wrote my response which was a very long and breathy letter.
Someone from Asheville, NC retorted me and stooped to name calling by labeling me a "short sighted prude." So I wrote a second letter. This is probably how Rob Frost came to know that I am very vocal on the subject of prostitution.
I had a very nice interview with JJ Stambaugh, and his three series article had been quite informative, educational and well-written until today's paper came out and he completely misquoted and misrepresented the neighborhood in which we live.
You can read today's article here:
28 June 2009
Last night I went to a purification ceremony led by my friend, Chaska, a Dakota Native American. I did not plan to journal this experience, so I didn't enter the realm in a journalistic frame of mind. I, instead, tried to remain clear minded and open to the experience.
When I arrived, a three men were preparing the site and fire, and I quickly jumped in to help assemble the sweat lodge.
Chaska came out after some time and spoke to us at great length intermingling stories of his own life with general life lessons and native teachings.
Chaska had told me to bring two towels and wear comfortable sweat pants and a top. I donned a thin pair of cotton capri yoga pants and a tank top, which ended up being the perfect amount of clothing. It was comfortable without being overbearing, but I know for next time not to bring such thick or big towels.
Before going into the lodge, Chaska and the others were gracious in their instructions to me, a new comer. I truly felt like a young child embarking on a new adventure with protocols that were unfamiliar. For example, I didn't know that participants bring gifts of tobacco to the singer (Chaska) and the firekeeper. Oops. I had also been told that I may see flying lights or orbs during the ceremony. I was also forwarned about the not so pretty side which is snot running from the nose and coughing stuff from the lungs. That's what one of the two towels is for. The other is for wiping the sweat. A small dish towel would be sufficient for a snot rag and a handtowel might be suffient for the second towel. I was grateful to have a thick towel which I folded to sit on.
Chaska told us that during the purification ceremony, we didn't pray for money or material things for ourselves, but we prayed to the spirits and our ancestors for our family, friends and loved ones. We pray for health and happiness. We go into the hut to humble ourselves and make ourselves pitiful so our ancestors and the spirits will help us.
Before going in, Chaska showed us all a medicine bag that he made for a Dakota medicine man, but the medicine man died before the gift could be given to him. He explained that during a ceremony, the bag, which sounds like a rattle when shook, laid outside the hogan by the door where an alter of sorts was erected. During song, he could here the rattle. Towards the end of the round, the ground shook, and no one knew what it was. When he finished singing and the person went out to get more rocks for the pit, he asked, "Is someone shaking a rattle?" Everyone responded no. They found the medicine man's medicine bag in the water and not on the ground where he left it. The above sequnce happened three more times with each time the medicine bag ending up in the water. Chaska took that as the deceased man declaring that he wanted to be invited into the ceremony. Since then, the bag also enters the hut. It has been known to fly around during ceremony.
We entered the lodge, saying, "All my relations," or, "Mitakuye Oyasin" (pronounced mi-TAWK-wee-a-say) which is a way of honoring our ancestors and is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life. It reminds us that we are connected to these other aspects of Creation, that we share a common kinship in the cycles of creation and life. We entered the hut in a counter clockwise direction with Chaska in the front circling all the way around to his seat by the door followed by four more and with myself at the rear next to Chaska on the other side of the entry door. There was a space between us where the hot rocks were brought to the fire pit in the middle. We sat on blankets on the ground. I'm sure that Chaska put me by the door in case I freaked out and needed to leave. He never said this, but it was a wise strategy.
The fellow handling the rocks brought in ten rocks per Chaska's instruction. While he did this, Chaska tossed sage onto the rocks. After the rocks were in place, the rock handler climbed in and shut the door. He crawled past me and took the seat immediately to my left. Once the door was closed, we sat in complete darkness except for the glowing rocks.
Chaska gave some instruction that we would have three rounds. During the first round he told us to focus on our loved ones and purification, but not to pray which we would do during the second round. He, then sang in his native tongue with everyone else who knew the words joining in.
I soon heard the rattle and when I looked towards the direction of its sound, I saw an orb of greenish yellow light, between the size of a golf and tennis ball, enter the hut at the door and go to the area where the I heard the medicine bag shaking.
Chaska continuously played the drum and sang. I heard the medicine bag flying around. I saw yelowish sparks in the fire pit. Using a buffalo horn, Chaska poured the spring water onto the rocks, and things really heated up. He explained that the rocks are the oldest things on this planet and hold ancient wisdom and knowledge. He prayed that as the water hit the rocks that their wisdom would some out in the steam and heat which he instructed us to breathe in. He said to breathe in through the nose and out the mouth as well as in the mouth and out the nose.
After the water hit the rocks, the sweat began to pour from my body, and I told myself not to freak out. Chaska was good at warning me to let me know every step. I felt that I could handle it, but when in the heat of things, the mind can become powerful and try to enact the flight reaction.
Each round can go for an indefinate amount of time. Each round is determined by the singer who gets his cues from the spirits. The protocol is to follow each session and prayers with, "Mitakuye Oyasin." At the break, only the rock handler goes outside. He opens the back of the hut and the front door to give us some cool air, but we all remained in the hut. Chaska passed around water served in the buffalo horn.
Last night, each round was successively shorter, but this may not always be the case. We went for a total of four. The second and third rounds, we spent in prayer. While Chaska played the drum, we chanted and said our prayers all at once outloud. Everyone spoke at once and was aborbed in his or her own prayer, so even if one was standing outside the hut, no one could distinguish what was said. In the fourth round, we all gave thanks.
We exited the hut inthe same counter clockwise manner. My big towels were a bit cumbersome, because I had to crawl all the way around to exit whereas I had an easy climb in just stopping at that first seat. Upon exit, each one said, or tried to say in my case, "Mitakuye Oyasin." (I quickly added an, "All my realtions," to make up for my poor tonque and pronunctiation.)
We ended with a handshake to all and a gracious, "Thank you," to each other.
A few folks went in for a fifth round, but I just laid on my towel, spent, yet exhilarated. As far as I could tell, we were in the ceremony for about two hours.
After everyone exited, we sat together and shared a meal.
And, then, I got in my car and headed back to town.