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

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 July 12, 2021

On the homeward stretch

of my solitary morning walk today

I saw two young women walking their dogs

*

Words I heard a month ago

given voice by a lonely soul

came to mind

“I used to walk my dog…”

*

I used to walk my dog, too

For the third day, I am walking alone

not knowing what to do with my empty hands

They used to hold my little dog’s leash

*

for Pinto 1

*

Some days I have followed the familiar routes he chose

other days, I have expanded my horizons

remembering our times together as I walk

with both sorrow and deep gratitude

for the wounded soul who trusted me to care

despite a previous life of abandonment and abuse

*

I used to walk my dog

Now I walk to give thanks for our time together

and will continue to explore old places and new

with a different perspective that he helped me discover

*

for Pinto 3

*

For my Beloved Companion, Pinto

Born September, 2010 – Adopted October 29, 2013 – Died July 9, 2021

Reflections – May 1, 2021

This morning I made a choice

to simply be with you on our walk

together through the neighborhood

pinto one

watching your shadow

trot alongside you in the greening grass

while I wonder what you see

and hear and taste and feel and sense

that I cannot

as you stop to look around or lick the grass

or gently explore a tree trunk with your nose

still lifting your leg to leave a trace of your passing

long after your bladder is empty

pinto 2

Being fully present here with you

helps ease the soul-deep sorrow

I feel because of things I cannot change

pinto 3

I am truly grateful

for your presence in my life

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.

Reflection – February 28, 2021

Awaken and remember

these are the times you were born for

Breathe in deeply to center

when you feel the heavy darkness closing in

Breathe out gratitude

for the chance to witness life in all of its fullness

Hold firm to compassion

‘though your heart aches with the suffering of others

Practice patience

as you breathe spirit’s glow into your aging fragile frame

Remain integritous

and reach out with an open heart and hold those you love close

Live joyfully

breathing out the ancestors’ light in what you think, and do, and say

*

 

Reflections – January 29, 2021

Who would believe
that the mixed ancestry
which made my life
and that of my descendants
so challenging
is a phenomenal gift?

It represents an inheritance
of courage from ancestors
who challenged strongly held social conventions
in acts of resistance and diplomacy
to forge and cement peaceful alliances
between cultures and nations
in contested spaces
during times of conflict and war.

This inheritance is not an easy one to carry.
It conveys a sacred responsibility
to walk the bridging, healing path
of inclusion and peace
in a world so easily divided
by powerful fears
of those who are different.

It means living in a world
that reifies distinctions
between cultures,
nations,
religions,
and political views,
to name but a few of the differences,
often demonizing those who dare
to challenge social conventions
and the ruling elite.

Yet the legacy passed down
from the builders of bridges
created new possibilities
for peaceful coexistence –
hybrids, if you will,
who carry the legacy
of courage
and a sense of responsibility
for living in harmony
with others and the earth
within their blended DNA.
*

*

Acknowledgments:

Sharing with deep gratitude for the participants in yearning circle dreaming who inspired these reflections.

Unexpected Musings

What trees can teach us

(Connections to the place where we are standing)

 

*

The solitary mountain ash now stands alone

to weather the winds that led to the passing of the two old willows

that once embraced her and nurtured her through her tender years

Still, they anchor her firmly and deeply
between their stumps and roots
feeding the abundance
of  berries
that hang
from   her
delicate
branches as
sustenance
for    her
winged and
four-legged
relations
when    the
deep snows
fall and the
cold winter
winds blow
strong

*

Acknowledgements

Although I have so little time to write and blog these days, stories and poems sometimes flow through me any way. They are meant to be shared with others  because they are connected to others who inspire them. I am sharing this with gratitude to my colleague who insisted we use trees as a metaphor for the class we are teaching about community practice. Initially, I thought she was a little bit crazy. But the course has continued to inspire students year after year. I am also sharing it with gratitude to a dear blogging friend, Robyn, a gifted writer and poet who has inspired me to look ever more deeply at my connections to the land where I stand.  And of course, last but not least, this post was inspired by the mountain ash tree bearing her gifts for all who come into her presence.






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