A Knock on the Door

Belatedly posting “old” “news” … 

February 11, 2021

On a frigid dark evening in February, there’s a knock on the door I use during winter. “Come in,” I shout out. But the knocking continues as my little dog Pinto keeps barking. Then I remember. I need to unlock the door. It’s my daughter bearing a gift – a key to the house she’s just bought so we can live together as a family in what we all hope will be a safer and friendlier neighborhood.

An old saying comes to mind afterwards, “opportunity only knocks once.” Still, I wonder if moving is the wisest decision even though there are many things I can no longer do by myself, like heavy lifting.

Sunrise – February 5, 2021

I’ve lived in my little old house for almost 10 years – since October 17, 2011. It’s been a haven of sorts that I retired to, finally alone, after a long and difficult journey. Being here has given me a chance to begin the process of life reflection during a stage of life Erik Erikson characterized as “integrity vs, despair.”

I am grateful for the many opportunities life has brought my way. Sometimes I did open the door when they knocked, and sometimes not. In retrospect, I am grateful overall for the choices I made. Often, the choices to open a door brought daunting challenges, but those were the ones that presented the most interesting chances to grow and to learn.

February 22, 2021

A small part of what I learned has been posted on this blog which celebrated its 7th anniversary on February 11, 2021. I actually began blogging with a partner in 2013, but that partnership ended when I wrote a draft article she wouldn’t approve for “our” blog. After the third rewrite of the draft, “In Honor of Caregivers,” I decided to create a space a lot like my little house, where I could decide how to create and cultivate my own gardens both in reality and metaphorically.

It’s interesting to look back at my old blog posts and see how much I have both changed and become more of myself in the process. It’s also fascinating to see which posts have been viewed most over the years.

Every year, the post that has continued to be viewed most often (now more than 2,600 times) is one I wrote in March of 2015, “When You Think of Health What Comes to Mind?

Carol A. Hand – Community-University Partnership – 2007

This morning as I greeted a bright but frigid morning, I found myself thinking of one of my many culture-bridging experiences. I was wondering why it is so difficult for us to listen to each other and find our common ground.

Maybe it was one specific job interview years ago that made this so apparent to me. In my younger years, I would often get calls begging me to take on a new project – Indian education, child welfare, or addiction prevention to name a few. I remember reluctantly agreeing to consider working on a federally-funded project to prevent chemical dependency in selected tribes. There was only one other Native American person on the research team, and he wanted to interview me to make sure I was “Indian enough.” He asked me about the research I was planning to conduct on Indian child welfare. When I explained that I was interested in learning how Ojibwe people defined effective and ineffective parenting and the systems and interventions they would recommend to address situations they saw as ineffective, my interviewer became impatient and agitated. …

The second most viewed post (more than 1,800 times) is “Context Matters When Teaching Diversity.”

Photo Credit: Diversity Tree

One of my dear blogging friends, Nicki Attfield [who deleted her blog a while ago], asked a thought-provoking question in a recent post – “Can men be feminist?” Her discussion reminded me of a similar question I was asked years ago, and my experiences teaching courses in diversity at two very different universities.

More than two decades ago, I was asked to be part of a panel discussion at a university conference for social work students, practitioners, and educators. The question I was asked to address forced me to think critically about my past experiences and observations. “Can non-Native practitioners be effective with Native American clients?” At that point in my thinking, it was tempting to take the easy route and simply list the reasons why the answer was “No.” But the need to be honest and respectful made me go deeper. Ultimately the answer was really quite simple. Ethnicity and overcoming adversity in one’s life doesn’t necessarily make one more empathetic or a skilled deep listener. What matters most is someone with a kind heart who is willing to do the work to understand the world through another’s eyes. To listen deeply, to see not only the struggles but also the strengths, and to help clients see their strengths, connect to supportive resources, and develop necessary confidence and skills to be able to discover their own answers. To help clients discover they have worth and their own answer to the question – What is the best you can imagine for yourself in the future? …

The third post in line at more than 1,700 views is “The Fool’s Prayer” posted January 3, 2014 (and reblogged on January 13, 2020).

Jester Logo by Lesley-Lycanthropy, on Deviant ART

… Presentation day was one of nervous anticipation for me. I was excited to share what I thought was an important message with my classmates. But my anxiety grew as I sat through the recitation of nursery rhymes and “Twinkle-twinkle little star.” “Oops,” I thought, “Maybe I made a mistake, but it’s too late now.” When my turn came, I walked to the front of the class and began. I don’t remember how my peers reacted as I recited the poem, probably with exaggerated drama, nor could I see my teacher’s expression. She was seated at her desk behind me. All I remember is from that day forward, my teacher treated me as if I were a leper. The first time I talked to a classmate seated next to me after my performance, the teacher singled me out in front of the class. “You may not need to listen to what I’m talking about, but the rest of the class does. From now on when we are discussing reading, your job is to stand by the side blackboard and draw.” …

The fourth most viewed (at more than 1,500) is “Circle the Wagons – The Natives Are Restless.”

 

Frontier Wagon Circle

Years ago, I went to a national conference on Indian Child Welfare issues. It is typical for me to feel lost in large urban areas and packed hotels. I easily lose my sense of direction in cities and winding hallways. As I was hurrying to make it on time for a workshop I wanted to attend, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a workshop on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome-Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAS/FAE). This wasn’t the one I planned to attend. Because the speaker was just beginning, I didn’t want to appear rude by leaving, so I took a seat in the audience of 50 plus mostly Native American women. As the Euro-American speaker began, she let the audience know that her expertise in this area began when she adopted a child who was born with FAS. At first, she felt overwhelmed, until she remembered her grandmother’s saying, “When times are tough, put your wagons in a circle.” The audience let out a collective gasp, yet the speaker seemed completely unaware of the meaning of the audience’s response. She went on to describe her challenges. Accustomed to ignorance and insensitivity, nonetheless respectful and polite, the audience remained seated and silent during the workshop. They exited quickly at the end, without a word to the presenter. What would be the point of making someone feel bad? …

The one post that had the most views (almost 7,000), though, was written at a crucial moment in time by a friend and guest author, Miriam Schacht (RoteZora), “Open Letter to White People at Standing Rock.” I am sorry to say I lost touch with Miriam shortly after the former U.S. President took office and extinguished hope for a reasonable resolution of the controversy over the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Hope has recently been revived according the EARTHJUSTICE, although there is still a lot of uncertainty about the final outcome of this situation and additional challenges as other tribes join the fight against proposed pipelines that would carry the same tar sands oil threatening communities that depend on rivers, lakes, wetlands, and the Great Lakes for safe drinking water along the way.

Open Letter to White People at Standing Rock by Miriam Schacht

I wrote this note while staying at the Two Spirit Nation camp within the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock about a week ago. I originally drove out there to help someone else out, but without the intention of staying, because I take seriously the critiques that suggest that white activists have been taking over the protests. However, I stayed much longer than I intended because it turned out that there was important work to do as a white accomplice–work that addressed precisely the issue of white activists at these camps and these actions. Part of the necessary work of white accomplices is to lessen the burden on people of color. At camp that meant I was asked by Two Spirit folks to give white visitors “allyship 101” or “Two Spirit 101” lectures; this letter is my attempt to keep that work up, and keep taking on some of the burden, even when I’m not at the camp anymore. As requested, I’ve sent hard copies to the folks at camp (there’s barely any internet access there), but I’m also re-posting it here.

Read this, please, with an open heart. If you start feeling defensive, take a moment to reflect on why that is before returning to reading. …

***

Like the decisions I made about blogging, first to give it a try despite the snobbish disparaging view of blogging in academia, and second to create my own blog when my attempt at partnership didn’t work, I have made a choice to leave the little house where I have lived since I arrived in Duluth, Minnesota, and willingly face a new adventure. After almost a year of COVID, I realize life is too short to live in isolation relying almost exclusively on virtual interactions. I don’t want to miss any more chances to be present in the lives of those I love.

No doubt I will miss my gardens more than some of my neighbors, although others were a gift – Chris, Maddy, Dawn, Shirley, Patty, Judy, Bill, Phil, and Linda and her little dog, Cheeto. They shared their stories and their love of beauty, learning, gardens, dogs, humor, and life. I need to be patient, though. I can’t move until the semester ends in mid-May. There are more lectures to plan, papers to grade, and students to support, so much I need to sort through, give away, or pack, and too much I need to do to get the house and yard ready.

I am so grateful for the years in this little house and for the original blog partner who inspired me to continue blogging on my own. Both opportunities opened up a time and place for deep soul-searching and healing. And I am deeply grateful for the blogging friends who have been part of the journey over the years. Thank you all.

Christmas Morning – 2020

Was this the magic of Christmas
or just a snowy wintertime –
this memory of mine
awakening just before sunrise
to a world soft and silent
that soon began to sparkle
with the dawn


moments like this, sacred
with a sense of peace and joy
so deep and all-encompassing
only reverent silence can convey

Sometimes I feel it still
reminding me of what
is glowing within us all
pulsing with the possibility
of the worlds we can create

Sending wishes of peace and joy to all this morning  💜

Memories of My Father

Carol A. Hand

My father was 76 when he died on April 26, 1994. He was surrounded by strangers on the psychiatric ward of a veterans’ hospital when he passed away. I have a haunting photo of him during his last days. (Even if I could find the photo that I’ve misplaced, it’s not how I would want my father to be remembered.)

I was the only one in my family who could have visited him at that point, but I didn’t feel it would be appropriate. As a responsible daughter who could see no other options, I was the one who had to initiate an involuntary placement in the hospital with an order of protection. He was threatening to kill my mother before he planned to commit suicide. He would hold a loaded gun and point it at her. My mother, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, was terrified he would kill her. My younger brother was threatening to kill my father to protect her.

So the responsibility fell to me. Someone needed to intervene in a reasonable and compassionate way. My father’s threats needed to be taken seriously. I had survived his physical and emotional abuse during my childhood and witnessed his violent emotional instability and attempted suicide.

Paradoxically, though, I came to understand his emotional volatility. His bipolar disorder and the deep insecurities he carried given the traumas he experienced during his own childhood made his life so difficult.

***

My Father – 10 years old

***

His years as a Marine during the Korean Conflict added new dimensions to his trauma. I remember times when he cried but couldn’t give voice to the experiences that brought him so much pain.

***

My Father in the early 1940s

My Father – somewhere in the South Pacific

***

I had forgiven him decades before I had to act to protect my family, perhaps because I had educational opportunities that he never had. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that I had embraced my mother’s Ojibwe culture as I eschewed the cold, dour nature of my father’s Anglo-American heritage. He could rarely bait me any more with racist, angry tirades. I had learned how to respond with gentle humor. “Well, Dad, this is an enlightening conversation,” I would say as I smiled. “I think I’ll go see how Mother is doing.”

As I think of him today, I am grateful for the many things I learned from him. Most importantly, I learned how to understand someone who was suffering with compassion and forgiveness. That’s what I remember on this father’s day, along with sadness for people whose suffering may not be healed during this lifetime. I hope his death brought him peace and I hope that wherever he may be he knows that I am grateful to him for doing the best he could with what he was given in life.

***

My Father – 1986

***

May you finally know peace, dear Father.

Too Busy to Write?

Carol A. Hand

Too Busy to Write
yet an image keeps coming to mind
unbidden
of a younger me
standing in the clearing
by my northwoods’ cabin
in Ojibwe ceded territory
on a warm sunny morning
many years ago
Like many mornings
I am humbly gathering strength
to face challenges with grace
With my fingers laced around the
latch of White Pony’s door
I pray
“Help me walk a path of love and light
and peace and joy
in thought and word and deed”

*

*
My prayer not quite finished
I hear a pounding rhythmic sound
drawing ever closer
my heart automatically beating faster
with surprise and a tinge of fear
“Bears can’t run that fast,”
I think to myself
as the sound grows louder
Suddenly it’s overhead
just behind me
then two bald eagles pass above
inches from my bowed head
flying south over the sunlit creek
I don’t remember what fearful
task I faced that day
walking into conflicts
between worldviews and cultures
but I knew the path
was where I was meant to be
on that day
and I would not be walking it
alone

 

October Transitions

Carol A. Hand

October is a time of transitions

Sorrow and joy interwoven in memories

of celebrating a dear daughter’s birth

and grieving a beloved mother’s death

A time when the green ash tree turns gold

and glows vibrantly in the afternoon sun

***

Green Ash Tree Turned Golden – October 23, 2017

***

A time when late-blooming flowers

Add grace and color to leaf-sprinkled gardens

***

Late-blooming African Daisies – October 23, 2017

Late-blooming African Daisies – October 23, 2017

Late-blooming African Daisies – October 23, 2017

Tiny-blue Flowers (?) in Mixed Wildflower Garden – October 23, 2017

***

October’s transitions memorialized in photos

to remind me of blooms and golden glow

just before the first northcountry snow

now blanketing the earth in winter white

***

Morning Snow – October 27, 2013

Morning Snow – October 27, 2013

Morning Snow – October 27, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

No doubt the morning snow will melt soon

before “real” winter settles in to stay for a while

***

 

My Father’s Father

Carol A. Hand

My Anglo-American grandfather lived in a goathouse
Perhaps it was my father’s father’s way of resisting classism
flipping the bird to his gated-community neighbors
The descendant of the youngest son of British aristocracy
who emigrated to make his own way because of primogeniture

***

Grandfather Wes and Aunt Margaret by the house my Grandfather built -  New Jersey, 1953
Grandfather Wes and Aunt Margaret by the house my Grandfather built –
New Jersey, 1953

***

My grandfather became a master plumber for NYC highrises
but built his own home without working indoor toilets
The hand-pump in the kitchen the only indoor source of water
It’s where his oldest son lived with his family
easy targets of derision from the privileged classes nextdoor
He preferred his two story shack out back
with goats in the basement and scores of canaries flying free upstairs

His wealthy neighbors offered him fortunes to sell his farm
But my grandfather steadfastly refused
Sometimes I wonder if he stayed there just to spite them

Despite the foul smell emanating from of his goathouse
and his dour, unwelcoming and cold demeanor
I respected his eccentric, independent spirit

***

Grandfather Wes - 1977
Grandfather Wes – 1977

***

The Power of Dreams

Carol A. Hand

Recently, I have been contemplating two recurring childhood dreams. They seemed to presage the bookends of my life choices. The first was always the dark one. The second was always light. I remember waking with deep foreboding from the first, and with a strange sense of joy and aloofness from the second.

In the first dream, I would awaken within a nightmare to find myself on a screened porch. It was the dead of night. Despite the darkness, I could see darker shadows pacing and sense the fearsome monsters growling and salivating just outside the screen. I couldn’t escape into the house, and I dare not open the screen door. I knew that the monsters could easily rip through the screen, but oddly, that never happened. Still, I was filled with immobilizing terror.

Then, I would suddenly awaken in the “real word” nestled in my bed. I pretended to be asleep as I lay there terrified with my heart racing, listening to the wooden steps and floorboards creak as if someone were coming ever nearer. Sometimes I would muster the courage to peek through a single squinted myopic eye only to see shadowy amorphous shapes surrounding me. Those hazy apparitions did nothing to calm my fears.

Thankfully, I would soon fall asleep again and another dream would follow. In the light of the dawn, I found myself standing on the top step of the stairway that led to my second-story bedroom in my childhood home. It would take courage to believe, but I suspected that if I really concentrated, I would be able to take flight. I raised my arms and lifted gently into the air, glided down the stairwell, through the open front door and into the world around me.

Once airborne, I realized I could control my flight with thoughts, one moment close enough to people on the ground to touch them (although I never did) or higher than eagles in the sky, able to gaze from afar at the world below. It was both exhilarating and lonely. I knew I could never land and be part of the scene below, whether near or far, unless I was willing to lose the magic of being able to fly.

***

Christmas past - 1949
Christmas past – 1949

***

But it seemed odd. Even when I was close, no one seemed to be aware of my presence.

The second dream never fails to remind me of Tao wisdom.

“The Tao person, detached and wise embraces all as Tao.” (Dreher, 1990, the Tao of Inner Peace)

Deep sorrow continues to touch my life when I look at the world today, both up close and from afar, but so does great joy. I’m really not sure why I’m sharing this here, but I suspect many people do see me as somewhat aloof. Perhaps I am, but I do care deeply about others. I just don’t want to lose the magic of being able to rise above confining darkness and fear. I have only ever wanted to be able to share what I see with others and learn what they see in return.

***

Celebrating Life - 1957
Celebrating Life – 1957

***

I want to thank all of my blogging friends for the chance to continue learning –
to see the world through many other eyes.
to sample great wisdom and beauty that brings sadness, joy, and hopeful yearning
as we soar together in ethereal skies.

Chi miigwetch (Ojibwe “thank you very much”) and blessings to all.

***

 

Reflection – It’s just moments now …

Carol A. Hand

“I … can’t … remember.”

“It’s just moments now.”

“Moments that are no longer connected.”

mom and me off to college

I will remember for you, Mother.

While I’m here.

While I can.

Then someone else will need to remember for me, too.

family-october-2016-2

in loving memory of my mother who died 6 years ago

***

Reflections about a life

Carol A. Hand

Sometimes, in the fleeting moments of clarity,
I’m frightened. I wonder, what is happening to me?
I feel like I’m losing my mind as the fog descends
A memory surfaces of a life that might have been.

***

Norma b

My mother with the woman who wanted to adopt her, Lac du Flambeau, WI, 1923

***

If I had been adopted into a life of privilege by Mrs. Paterson,
into a world far away from the Chippewa reservation where I was born
instead of life as an unwanted child raised in abject poverty, forlorn,
who would I have become?

***

norma age 7

My mother in front of her aunt’s house, Lac du Flambeau, WI, 1928

***

But that was not to be, thanks to the mother who abandoned me
Giving me to her sister to raise, to live as a servant for my aunt’s family

***

Note: These are beginning reflections about my mother’s life from the vantage point of what I imagine her thoughts were as Alzheimer’s Disease progressively interfered with her ability to do the simplest of things or communicate. It’s based on some of the things she said early on, and the sense I often had in her presence that she was still there somewhere inside.

***

 

Reflections – Thursday, July 28, 2016

Carol A. Hand

Watching dragonflies that are almost as big as hummingbirds
glistening golden sunlight reflecting from their gossamer wings
as they flutter and float and zoom about
In awe of their beauty my grateful heart sings

And then an amazing thing happens
One flies up to me and gently kisses my hair
awakening a memory of a walk with my mother
when dragonflies circled about everywhere

canada darner dragonfly

Canada Darner – Aeshna Canadensis (Phil Myers, biokids.umich.edu)

The healing scent of sun-kissed pines, the whispering whir of dragonfly wings
Walking together down wooded paths where our ancestors once roamed
I think of your gentle joyful spirit as I remember these simple miraculous things

***

Note:

My mother died almost six years ago only a few miles away from the Ojibwe reservation home where she was born in 1921. We made this walk together thirty years before her death when she was recovering from an allergic reaction to a routine test that almost killed her. I remember her delight with the dragonflies that circled us, protecting us from the swarms of mosquitoes.

About the photograph: After I drafted this, a former student called. As I was sitting out on my back step talking to her, one of the dragonflies settled on the metal railing inches away from me. Ah, where is my camera at such moments! The dragonfly was gone by the time I returned camera in hand, darting teasingly nonstop forever out of camera range. But at least I was able to study the beautiful markings and find a photo on the internet.

***

 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.

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