Late November Reflections – 2021

These days, I do write a lot

as a way to rebalance after reading

volumes of student papers

I do love to work with students,

but I really do dislike grading –

playing the role of gatekeeper

because their future writing

may determine the treatment

and wellbeing of the people

they’ll serve in their jobs

as service providers, advocates,

or therapists for children, families, elders

or even for communities and governments

I wish more of them

would follow the advice

I shared at the beginning

of their first semester

calvinandhobbes

By Bill Watterson, (1993, February 11). Available at GoComics

Sometimes it takes me hours

to plow through each paper

adjusting to each different topic

and each unique experiential perspective

carefully trying not to silence their voices

as I struggle to find just the rights words

to provide thoughtful feedback

without destroying self-confidence or souls

keeping in mind, of all things,

words from “The Fool’s Prayer”

“The ill-timed truth we might have kept –

Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?

The word we had not sense to say –

Who knows how grandly it had rung?”

(Edward Rolland Sill, 1936)

I keep that in mind

when I decide if and what

to post on this blog now

I don’t often post these days

In part because there’s too little time

for me to visit other’s blogs

or even reply to comments on mine

in a timely fashion

There’s another more important reason, too

I have begun self-censoring

what I’m willing to share

when my versions of truth

may be “ill-timed”

and only “pierce and sting”

evoking strong emotions

for no purpose other than venting

without any opportunity to provide

a “balsam for mistakes”

***

The uncensored excerpt from today’s reflection…

November 26

I greeted this morning with wonder, gratitude, and laughter

as I watched a fallen curled brown leaf

that appeared to be hovering just above the earth

sometimes dancing in a gentle breeze

Eager to see if I could capture the moment in a photo

I ran into the house to grab my iphone

As I adjusted the camera focus, I hit a wrong button

choosing video rather than photo which I quickly deleted

thinking to myself, “this would be a real sleeper”

It’s fascinating how quickly perspectives can change

in response to a chance encounter, though

late novemer 2021 dancing leaf

Still, like the leaf, I feel suspended

between different views of what is real

as my heart aches for the world in these tragic times

when myths and false hopes are the only option

governments have to offer to divert attention

away from the real global threats

posed by greed and unbridled consumption

That is no laughing matter –

but the little leaf was still hovering after this long reflection

Perhaps it’s a hopeful sign that things may not always be

as precarious as they appear to be at one moment in time

Work Cited:

Sill, Edward Roland (1936). The fool’s prayer. In H.S. Schweikert, R. B. Inglis, & J. Gehlmann (eds.), Adventures in American literature (pp. 670-671). Harcourt, Brace and Company.

An afterthought – After waiting patiently for hours for me to finish writing my reflection, the little dancing leaf was still standing, so I decided it deserves a debut…

Mid-November Reflections – 2021

November 4

Greeting a cold bright morning

watching a shower of golden leaves

falling steadily from the popple and cottonwoods

frost glistening on wilted grass

listening to the whir of traffic, a distant crow call,

and the rustle of crispy leaves

as they blanket the earth

*

mid-November 2021 1

*

November 14

Yesterday, I wrote down words that flowed through me, a poem of sorts. If it’s accepted for publication, it won’t be posted here. Yet I wanted to share some of the things I realized in the process of trying to explain thoughts and feelings about what we have all lived through during the past two years. I asked a friend to listen to the poem before I sent a draft to the potential publisher. She pointed out that the poem highlighted the advice I shared with her a while ago that had helped her through a difficult time. I didn’t realize how consistently the strategy I shared with her has helped me face challenging situations in my own life.

I learned to repeat a simple mantra in my thoughts.

Just breathe,” I told myself when I faced an audience of 50 people or more, when I stood before State legislators to present testimony, when I lost someone dear, or when I had to resolve conflict in contentious situations. It’s a mantra that helped me survive the challenges of asthma, anxiety, and allergies that have periodically forced me to consciously focus on breathing. It helped me survive an undiagnosed illness in mid-March 2020 that left me struggling for breath for more than a week, returning periodically for several months afterwards. Hopping on a self-propelled treadmill, I forced myself to keep breathing. “Just breathe, just breathe, just breathe.”

It worked. I am here to write these words, grateful to my daughter who delivered groceries to my doorstep when I was too sick to go out and was unwilling to expose others to whatever I had.

As I wrote my poem of sorts yesterday, I relived heartbreaking events. I thought of the Corona virus that continues to strike indiscriminately, disabling and killing millions around the globe as it attacks people’s ability to breathe. And I thought of the masks that make breathing harder but may protect others which have caused so much controversy. I thought of George Floyd’s words as he lay dying during a painful, brutal, police execution on May 25, 2020. “I can’t breathe.” I thought of the fires raging around the globe making the air unbreathable thousands of miles away and devastating so many lives in the process. I thought of the discharges from industries that fill cities with toxic pollution, often located in the poorest neighborhoods throughout the nation and the world. Breathing clean air is a luxury that so many people do not have. Being able to breathe free of oppressive forces interwoven throughout social institutions is even rarer still.

There’s not much, if anything, I can do to change global conquests for control that leave so many people gasping for breath or thirsting for safe water to bathe in, drink, and share with crops to feed families and communities. But I can set aside time each day to breathe and reflect, to envision practical ideas for raising awareness, encouraging caring, and inspiring local solutions that just might mobilize others to engage in concrete, constructive efforts to live with greater care for each other and the earth.

For now, I am grateful I can “just breathe,” and do work that may help others do so, too.

mid-November 2021 2

Late October Reflections – 2021

October 27

My research classes always begin

with a simple but-oh-so important question

when one stops to consider

an essential foundation for research and life

“What did you notice today?”

late october 2021 1

*

Before the last class on October 23

I was reminded of something

that has caught my attention recently

In the early morning or late afternoon

when the sun is just rising or setting

thin shimmering threads that are otherwise invisible

are suddenly revealed as strands of light

covering the lawn, connecting the tips of grass

bridges created by tiny spiders quivering in the breeze

that only they can safely travel

*

Last evening just before sundown

when the light was just right again

I noticed the shining threads were all missing

perhaps washed away by intervals of rain

during the past few days

I am hopeful the spiders will continue to weave

their shimmering threads because it’s their nature to spin

it’s not just the rain that erases their handiwork

I am sure they have had much to repair

after I have passed through their landscapes

unaware of the wonder of their silken threads

*

I am reminded of a poem, The Fool’s Prayer by Edward Rowland Sill (1936)

“These clumsy feet, still in the mire,

Go crushing blossoms without end;

The hard, well-meaning hands we thrust

Among the heart-strings of a friend…

Be merciful to me, a fool!”

*

Spinning creations of beauty and light

through one’s work seems a never-ending task

In the future I will try to remember to notice

the lives that I might unintentionally threaten

 with “clumsy feet still in the mire”

Work Cited:

Sill. E. R. (1936). The fool’s prayers. In H.S. Schweikert, R. B. Inglis, & J. Gehlmann, Eds., Adventures in American literature. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 670-671.

Note:

My attempts to find information on the internet about tiny spiders that spin threads between blades of grass not webs were unsuccessful. I mostly found advertisements about how to get rid of spiders in lawns that I didn’t bother to read.

***

October 27

Rainy day work processing chard

Washing, chopping, blanching

getting it ready to freeze

watching the second hand

make it around three times

on the battery-powered wall clock

mounted above the stove

as I breathe in the warm, misty

chard-scented air

*

(Believing it would save time,

I once tried the timer on my iphone

but being inept with technology

the phone set off alarms

for the battery-backup surge protectors

used for computers and appliances

throughout my house

It’s not an experience I’m willing to repeat

But I digress …)

*

I had time to think during the interstices

as the chard blanched before bathing in cold water

I wondered if what I have done as a teacher

made any difference in the lives of students

reminding me how grateful I am for teachers

who made a difference in my life

all sharing valuable lessons

including those who provided clear examples

of what I hoped never to become

*

‘though teaching seems a never ending task

I feel blessed doing work that may open up possibilities

perhaps mostly in humble, invisible ways

But it’s time for reflections to end for now

The blanched chard is packed in freezer bags,

Freezing…

All too soon, the weather will be doing so, too…

*

late october 3

*

Note:

For more information about chard: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/284103

Early October Reflections – 2021

October 9, 2021

Dearest Mother, I remember

sitting beside you

as you struggled to breathe

on your last day of life

October 10, 2010

I am not sure if you heard me

or recognized that the person beside you

was your daughter

gently stoking your thinning silvered hair

telling you I loved you

letting you know I was grateful

you could finally be free of pain

although I would miss you deeply

for the rest of my life

*

Beloved Mother, I remember

the photos I discovered

that you lovingly arranged in albums

chronicling the seasons of your life

Norma 1 g g

the sometimes forlorn little girl

raised on the reservation by an aunt

until you were taken by federal agents

to be shamed for your heritage

in the process of being “saved” and “civilized”

by priests and nuns

in the Catholic “Indian” boarding school

where you were placed involuntarily

without your family’s or community’s

consent or approval

Norma i g

You survived nonetheless

and lived a life

that made the world a better place

because of skill and compassion

that your healing presence

norma loyola graduation

Graduation from Loyola University

Norma nursing home

Owner and Administrator of Keystone Nursing Home visiting with residents

*

norma community work

Community Engagement

*

brought into the lives

of all those who knew you

august 2020 3
My mother greeting her new great grandson and granddaughter – March 1999

***

October 11, 2021

Sorrow sometimes surfaces suddenly

revealing buried grief

that we believed had been resolved

with passing time

Long life leaves losses

that accumulate through the years

as we say so many goodbyes

to family, friends, furry and feathered companions,

and our youthful dreams of what could have been

Reflective resilience reveals rewards

described in a poem …

“After a while you learn

That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,

Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

That you really are strong,

And you really do have worth.

And you learn and learn…

With every goodbye you learn.”

(original by Jorge Luis Borges, perhaps modified by Veronica A. Shoffstall who is often attributed as the author)

*

IMG_0732 (1)

The final resting place for Cookie, Pinto and two aged willows

***

October 14, 2021

Light sometimes makes its presence known

on the dark and rainy days of autumn

in ways that are surprising

golden leaves that glow despite clouds

or the kindness of virtual exchanges

about topics that are boring to most

which somehow trigger unexpected insights

that help one look back with gratitude

on a long life well-lived

golden autumn 1

A loss of innocence

Tell me again to just look inside

and envision prosperity

so my life will be easier

But I ask you to tell me

how pursuing my own comfort

will change a world of want and suffering

as unimaginable horrors

are visited upon the earth

and on so many people whose only crime

is to be born in places

that are coveted by those in power

by those who will do anything

to consume

and destroy

the wisdom of how to live a life

in peace with each other

honoring earth’s bounty by sharing

grateful for moments

of togetherness,

belonging,

joy,

and beauty

grateful for the chances

to live a simple, meaningful life

walking lovingly and gently upon the earth

*

innocence 1

*

Tell me how we can work together

to banish the windego

that blinds us to other’s suffering

as we mindlessly and heartlessly pursue

our own pleasures at any costs

*

innocence 2

*

Acknowledgement

In gratitude to David for sharing the following information and film and for inspiring this reflection:

https://www.creativespirits.info/resources/movies/our-generation

Reflections about the Importance of Knowing Our History

Years ago, when I was forced to confront the egregious representation of Indigenous People in the public school my daughter had attended, I read an interesting book by David Wrone and Russell Nelson, Jr. (1982). “Who’s the savage?” The school district decided to sue me, along with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as a co-defendant, to prevent the use of “The Pupil Nondiscrimination Statute” to end the demeaning name and cartoonish images they used to promote their high school.

*

logo 4

*

I spoke with Dr. Wrone, who, along with a distinguished list of other scholars, agreed to be an expert witness in the case. They were never called to testify. I was not allowed by the judge to testify, either. Only the courageous pro bono attorney from ACLU who agreed to represent me was allowed to speak on my behalf as I sat silently beside her. The school district won the case, but lost the larger battle in a later ruling by the State Attorney General. Although I could not use the statute to end the school district’s use of racist caricatures, others could use the statute to challenge local school districts in the future, and many did. (My first post on this blog describes the process in more detail.)

I was reminded of this experience when I watched the following video that features a friend, Carl Gawboy, an Ojibwa scholar and artist.

What’s killing Minnesota’s moose?

YouTube suggested two more.

Why the US Army tried to exterminate the bison

And

How the US stole thousands of Native American children

*

I leave you with a question that, tragically, is still relevant today. “Who’s the savage?” Who will benefit by erasing history about the true costs of invasive colonialism across the globe?

Work Cited

David R. Wrone & Russell S. Norton, Jr. (Eds.). Who’s the Savage? Malabar, FL: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company.

Reflections – September 10, 2021

What I noticed this morning …

As I took my morning shower,

I had to fiddle with the faucet

to get the right water flow and temperature

gratitude struck me as the warm water

massaged an achy neck

and I wondered

“What percentage of the world population can take a warm shower in their own home?”

*

Curious, I googled the question and found an interesting list of responses. I think it’s worth sharing the first 9 to illustrate something important – at least it’s how goggle’s search engine assesses my interests. I added links for each entry below in case anyone is interested in some of these topics.

  1. Which Country Showers the Most – https://www.mirashowers.co.uk/blog/trends/which-country-showers-the-most/
  2. 60 percent of the world population still without toilets – https://slate.com/technology/2013/02/60-percent-of-the-world-population-still-without-toilets.html
  3. Bathing Habits of the World – Soakologyhttps://www.soakology.co.uk/blog/bathing-habits-of-the-world/
  4. How Often People in Various Countries Shower – The Atlantichttps://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/02/how-often-people-in-various-countries-shower/385470/
  5. The peculiar bathroom habits of Westerners – BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191004-the-peculiar-bathroom-habits-of-westerners
  6. Global WASH Fast Facts/Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene – https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html
  7. See Fewer People. Take Fewer Showers – The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/health/shower-bathing-pandemic.html
  8. Population and environment: a global challenge – Curious – https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/population-environment
  9. 2.1 billion people lack safe drinking water at home, more than … – https://www.who.int/news/item/12-07-2017-2-1-billion-people-lack-safe-drinking-water-at-home-more-than-twice-as-many-lack-safe-sanitation

This list was surprising to me. I don’t think goggle’s search engine views me as a serious scholar even though I have been online a lot recently looking for research articles as I graded student papers and updated course materials for the undergraduate research course I teach.

I’m curious to know how google would respond to you if you ask this question. I hope you will try and let me know what you find, although it may take some time for me to respond back to you. The first class meets tomorrow via Zoom! A busy semester awaits as the students in my class craft a research proposal and actually conduct a little study. Their studies will need to be done remotely to keep them safe given the current COVID context.

Something else I noticed today:

reflection about privilege september 10 2021

One of the last blooms, a Coneflower or Echinacea, a North American native that is fairly deer and drought resistant

Reflections – September 9, 2021

Greeting the morning from my porch

gazing at the drought-yellowing leaves

highlighted by the rising sun

without a whisper of breeze to move them

muted calls from geese in a practice formation

flying toward the dark western sky

signals of the changing season

reflections september 9 2021

I realize how deeply saddened I am

by the growing distance and silence between us

work is my only solace

as it has been through the years

now especially so during these troubling times

of ever-increasing confusion and fear

looking deeper within for strength and vision

to keep walking this “lonesome valley”

Reflections – August 30, 2021

Grateful for the privilege

to sit peacefully at my computer

while others flee from bombs,

fires, floods, and devastating storms

*

Grateful for small things I can do

to make the world a little kinder

by sharing the bounty my gardens yield

with those who wait in line for food

*

waiting in line for food August 2021

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