The Secrets of Spinning Straw into Gold?

Carol A. Hand

What is the best you can imagine? This may sound like an easy question to answer, but it has proven to be extraordinarily difficult for the students, staff, and communities I worked with in the past to respond in affirmative ways. It was far easier for most people to list all of the problems and reasons why it would be impossible to change things. You know, the “yes – but” response that is voiced when discussing potential solutions. It’s equally difficult for me to answer this question for myself at this point in my life. And yet, it’s one I need to ponder. All of my initial answers share one common thread – the need to focus on feasible future solutions rather than problems. It’s crucial to have some awareness of past and present issues, and past and present attempts to solve problems. But even more important is the ability to imagine what could be.

Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner with my daughter and grandchildren left me pondering which of the four possibilities for solution-focused action feels “right” for me now. (One of the underlying tenets of Ojibwe culture is the principle of “doing things when the time is right” – having the skill and patience to read one’s environment and undertake projects when the time has come.) I have already explored the feasibility of actually taking on each of the flowing four possibilities as a project during the past three years of retirement: healing historical trauma; transforming local education; providing elders with a forum for sharing their life stories; and sharing the legacy of Ogimaa’s efforts to protect Ojibwe children. (Ogimaa means leader or chief.) Only one feels “right” for me now. Perhaps when I finish, the time will be right to take on another.

But today, it occurred to me that it was important to share these ideas because I may not have time to do them all. Yet they may be things that encourage others to think about possibilities for “spinning straw into gold.” I know from experience it can be done without sacrificing one’s first-born child to Rumpelstiltskin – but of course it takes courage, passion, and a great deal of work. Magic comes from the love one breathes into one’s work. And honestly, even hard work and love don’t guarantee “success” in outcomes – they merely mean a more rewarding journey …

straw into gold

Photo Credit: Spinning Straw into Gold

The choices all involve observations from past projects – two from my work with tribes, and two blend my observations in retirement with my prior program development and policy experiences. All involve weaving or reweaving the sense of community that brings people together to create and all are based on the realization that everyone is an important community member with unique gifts that are necessary for the well-being and survival of the whole.

Over the next few weeks I plan to share more about each of these possibilities in hopes that others will find them useful. In the meantime, I will be focusing primarily on the fourth idea on my list – working on the next chapters of a book based on my research about Ojibwe child welfare. I feel the need to share the stories of community members and describe Ogimaa’s efforts to protect children and preserve the community. His example demonstrates how to spin straw into gold by blending the best of the past and the present to reweave community visions for the next generations. It’s something all of us can do. I hope you will check in for the next installments.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

19 thoughts on “The Secrets of Spinning Straw into Gold?

  1. I for one can’t wait to read what your ideas for future projects will be, Carol. You have me thinking pretty intently already about time running out and how do I prioritize the things I want to accomplish. Sometimes frustration overrides patience and I feel nothing will get done. Thank you for this post and reminder to slow down and contemplate and the choose the order of importance…I feel better already! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mandy, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. It does often feel like thinking is a waste of time – but it helps to take the time to reflect on where you want to go first. I know you are aware of this from your many accomplishments. And speaking of accomplishments, congratulations on finishing your book! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree, taking time is important. All my life I’ve tried to hurry up. Now that I’m getting toward the end of the line, I’m starting to understand the concept of slowing down! Thank you, Carol for your comment about the book. I’m finding out it’s true: you find out when it comes time to publish that writing the book was the easy part, lol! But I will feel the accomplishment when that happens!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I look forward to learning more about the next stage in your journey of publishing, Mandy. (I’m just beginning the process of returning to work on my Indian child welfare book. I think I have the outline worked out, and several chapters drafted.)

          Liked by 1 person

        2. You have such a gift for writing, research, and life experience, Carol. I know it will be a wonderful book. I’m so thankful for “later years” opportunity to spend time on projects like these. I can’t wait to see the progression of your book!

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  2. Beautiful words, Carol. I agree, imagination and possibility, freedom and destiny intertwine to create something more alive. It gives us a chance to shape the world and express our own insights…and that can be a relief in an unjust world. I’m looking forward to your next installments and the constant inspiration you bring.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. All those things which come from your heart are always a challenge, I think. If we are moved, then we have to go into new spaces. The work brings crisis and change. It’s never easy…just worth it.

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  3. So much work has to be done to protect and sustain the native culture as well as the people. I think anything you can do, as an expert in this matter, will be welcome.


  4. I really liked the comments above…you are an inspiration. I have been thinking about how I can do more for my community…time is always a factor:-) I look forward to your “next installments”….I tend to start going in too many directions…I need to pause + just slow down for nothing gets done going too fast!


    1. Robbie, you’re an inspiration to me ❤

      It's easy to feel overwhelmed these days. There are so many things that need to be addressed – in the meantime, gardens help make the world healthier and more beautiful and touch the lives of others in ways we may not ever know 🙂


    1. On my good days, I agree whole-heartedly, Eddie. The challenge is taking the time to make all days good ones despite all of the distractions and suffering in the world.


  5. Carol, you are prolific with your writing. You have the gift. This book will be so helpful to future generations. I applaud you and will keep good thoughts while you finish each step to the end. Much love.


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