For Each Child Who’s Born – Revisited…

Christmas morning 2022 dawned bright and cold

bringing back memories of times in the past

and then I read the news today

about a world that still has so much to learn

reminding me of my grandson

and the song his paternal grandmother

shared on the day of his birth

that I included in an old post (now revised) from five years ago

*

Ava and Aadi 2008

My Grandchildren – Summer 2008

***

Imagine what the world would be

if you honored each child born as you honor me

A gift from the force of life, the creator, to the world

a greater treasure by far than thrones impearled

The essence of hallowed life to grace the earth

released with each miraculous birth

The humblest child a wondrous sight

May your heart embrace all children as sacred this blessed night

***

Aadi & Father

My grandson and his father, February 1999

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221217030141-03-el-paso-migrants-gallery-121422

Carlos Pavon Flores, 42, with 1-year-old daughter Esther, stands outside a shelter that turned them away for not having bus tickets in downtown El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, December 14. Adriana Zehbrauskas for CNN. Retrieved from In pictures: El Paso sees surge in border crossings, CNN

***

We Are (by Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell)

For each child that’s born a morning star rises
and sings to the universe who we are

We are our grandmother’s prayer
We are our grandfather’s dreamings
We are the breath of the ancestors
We are the spirit of God.

We are
Mothers of courage
Fathers of time
Daughters of dust
Sons of great vision

We are …
Sisters of Mercy
Brothers of Love
Lovers of Life and
The Builders of Nations

We are Seekers of Truth
Keepers of Faith
Makers of Peace and
The Wisdom of Ages

We are our grandmother’s prayer
We are our grandfather’s dreamings
We are the breath of the ancestors
We are the spirit of God
We are ONE.

***

Sending blessings of peace to all

We Are – Sweet Honey in the Rock

Thanksgiving Reflections November 2022

At this point in my life, I greet each morning with gratitude for all of the gifts I’ve been given and for the ancestors and wise beings who have been a guiding and protective presence. I ask only that they help me hold center with compassion, patience, and integrity in good times and bad as I walk my path, perhaps chosen consciously in a previous lifetime. I try to follow the wisdom conveyed by the Ojibwe principle of “doing things when the time is right,” and I hope that this is the right time to share where I am in my manuscript editing journey.

This morning I awoke with a deep but gentle sorrow and tears in my eyes thinking about what my ancestors endured, and what too many people around the globe are experiencing now because we have failed to learn from the past.

In a few days, November 24, 2022, people in the United States will be celebrating Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday meant to honor the sharing of food and companionship between colonists fleeing from oppression in England and the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (now referred to as North America). But a mere three centuries after that romanticized celebration of unity, the following excepts describe the consequences of hospitality for those who helped the new arrivals survive.

This post will not be an easy read for those with tender hearts. It’s drawn from the chapter that stopped my editing process eight years ago. I often say I stopped because I was too busy teaching. That’s partly true. Mostly I stopped because it was too difficult for me to set aside my deep sorrow each week in order to be fully present for students. Yet my muse tells me it’s time to move on, and time to share these excepts with others.

***

Although centuries of colonial domination affected all aspects of the lives of Native American people, the effects were, in Peter’s* language, “off the radar.” Few outside of tribal communities knew about the dire conditions Indigenous people endured before 1928. That was the year the “Miriam Report” was published, 891 pages in length, documenting the social and economic conditions of tribes. The report,

… revealed an existence filled with poverty, suffering, and discontent. Indians suffered from disease and malnutrition, had a life expectancy of only forty-four years, and had an average annual per capita income of only one hundred dollars. The report reached two basic conclusions: (1) The BIA ** [Bureau of Indian Affairs] was inadequately meeting the needs of Indians, especially in the areas of health and education; and (2) Indians were being excluded from the management of their own affairs. (O’Brien, 1989, pp. 80-81)

            The conditions for children and families documented in the Miriam Report have direct links to the present issues that Carrie* [the tribal child welfare coordinator], Peter* [a State regional field representative who worked with countries and tribes], and Karen* [the counselor for the tribal alcohol and drug addiction treatment program] described in their interviews. Given the crucial importance of the issues the Miriam Report researchers covered, excerpts from the report follow. The excepts also illustrate how prevailing beliefs and perspectives at the time the study was conducted influence the interpretations and analyses reported by otherwise highly qualified and objective researchers.

***

Family and Community Development. The Indian Service has not appreciated the fundamental importance of family life and community activities in the social and economic development of a people. The long continued policy of removing children from the home and placing them for years in boarding school largely disintegrates the family and interferes with developing normal family life. The belief has apparently been that the shortest road to civilization is to take children away from their parents and insofar as possible to stamp out the old Indian life. The Indian community activities particularly have often been opposed if not suppressed. The fact has been appreciated that both the family life and the community activities have many objectionable features, but the action taken has often been the radical one of attempting to destroy rather than the educational process of gradual modification and development” (p. 15) …

Strains Imposed by the System of Education. Indian families are subjected to peculiar strains growing out of their relation to the government. Some of the projects of the government, notably the appointment of field workers to deal with home conditions, have tended to strengthen family bonds. But on the whole government practices may be said to have operated against the development of wholesome family life.

Chief of these is the long continued policy of educating the children in boarding schools far from their homes, taking them from their parents when small and keeping them away until parents and children become strangers to each other. The theory was once held that the problem of the race could be solved by educating the children, not to return to the reservation, but to be absorbed one by one into the white population. This plan involved the permanent breaking of family ties, but provided the for the children a substitute for their own family life by placing them in good homes of whites for vacations and sometimes longer, the so-called “outing system.” The plan failed, partly because it was weak on the vocational side, but largely by reason of its artificiality. Nevertheless, this worst of its features still persists, and many children today have not seen their parents or brothers and sisters in years… (pp. 573-574) …

The real tragedy, however, is not loss by death but the disruption of family life and its effect on the character of both parents and children. The personal care of helpless offspring is the natural expression of affection no less among Indians than among parents of other races. No observer can doubt that Indian parents are very fond of their children, and though the care they give may be from the point of view of white parents far from adequate, yet the emotional needs of both parents and children are satisfied… (p. 575)…

Effects of the System upon Children. The effects of early depravation of family life are apparent in the children. They too are the victims of an arrested development. The experience of the white race abundantly demonstrates that institutional children, even with the best of care, have greater health and personality difficulties than children in families. Affection of an intimate sort is essential to development. Recognizing this fact the better societies for the care of dependent white children have for many years been placing their wards out in families as rapidly as the very delicate adjustment involved can be made. Even in institutions for the care of dependent white children the children are there because they have no homes or because normal home life is impossible, and very few are taken forcibly from their parents. But many children are in Indian schools as the result of coercion of one kind or another and they suffer under a sense of separation from home and parents. Since initiative and independence are not developed under the rigid routine of the school, the whole system increases the child’s sentiment for dependence on parental decisions and children in their teens go back to their mother with a six-year old’s feeling for her.

Under normal conditions the experience of family life is of itself a preparation for future parenthood. Without this experience of the parent-child relation throughout the developmental period Indian young people must suffer under a serious disability in their relations with their own children. No kind of formal training can possibly make up for this lack, nor can the outing system when the child is half grown supplement what he has missed in his own family and with his own race in earlier years. (pp. 576-577).

***

This is just an except from one chapter of a rather long manuscript to try to show a small part of the legacy of loss that has continued to affect each generation of Native Americans in the US, as it did for me this morning and many other times in my life. It’s a deep, often unhealed, wound survivors of genocide and colonial domination carry and pass on to the next generations.

I don’t have the answers for resolving these issues. Perhaps I will have a few ideas when I finish editing my manuscript. But for now, I offer this post in hopes that it will inspire others to be both grateful for the gifts they have been given and compassionate for those who suffer.

*

* Note that these are not people’s real names.

** Here’s a link for more information about the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA): https://www.bia.gov/bia

Works Cited

Sharon O’Brien, American Indian Tribal Governments (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), pp.  80-81.

Lewis Meriam and Others, The Problem of Indian Administration. Report of a Survey Made at the Request of Honorable Hubert Work, Secretary of the Interior, and Submitted to Him, February 21, 1928. (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1928).

Acknowledgement

In loving memory of my mother, a gentle and gifted healer, who was born on an Ojibwe reservation on March 1, 1921, and died on October 10, 2010, just before what would have been her 89th Thanksgiving.

mother 1

 My mother, age 7, before removal to a Catholic-run Indian Boarding School

mother 2

My mother on her Confirmation Day. It wasn’t until her later years during the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease that she told me how much she hated the Catholic Church because of what they did to her. She never shared those stories.

mother 3

My mother at home after Boarding School. She was the first Ojibwe from her reservation to attend the local public high school in the nearby Euro-American border town and, despite discrimination, or perhaps because of it, graduated as salutatorian of her class.

mother 4

Retirement from the tribal clinic she helped establish on her reservation.

Horses and the ABC’s

Recently, a blogging friend “liked” this old post. It had been long forgotten. When I read it, it made me laugh just as it had when I wrote it years ago.

I hope it makes you laugh, too.

I think we all need more laughter these days.

***

How I wish I had seen the movie, The Horse Whisperer, before I met Amos! Unlike Sara, I didn’t grow up on a farm surrounded by horses and hogs. I didn’t ride until I was in high school and it was an experience I haven’t been eager to repeat. I honestly can’t remember exactly why I agreed to go riding with classmates on a field trip to a national forest. But here I was, a tiny teenager assigned to Amos, the smallest horse of the group that we would ride along the forest trails. Amos and I were to be first in line behind our guide because Amos had a problem – he bit other horses.

Even though Amos was small compared to the others, he was big and intimidating from my frame of reference, and I’m certain he could sense my fear. But I climbed on his back and off we all went. Things were fine for the first few minutes until we came to a small pond. Amos decided he was going for a drink and left the line to wade into the pond and have a sip. And there he stayed. The guide told me to pull on his reins and gently kick his sides. I did and Amos sat. And sat. And sat. He wouldn’t budge. And the rest of the group gave up on us and rode away! And Amos sat. Finally, a boy scout who was hiking through the forest saw our predicament and took pity on us. He waded into the pond, reached up and took Amos’s reins in his hand, and led us out. I was so grateful. I have no idea how long Amos would have remained otherwise.

When we reached the shore, Amos immediately took off at a gallop to catch up to the rest of the horses, with me clinging tightly to the horn on the western saddle. I’m sure it was a funny sight! (It still makes me laugh when I think of it.) We did catch up and I learned why he was originally first in line. As he passed the other horses, he bit each one in turn as he assumed the lead position again. We made it to the end of our trail with no more stops, but I wasn’t eager to repeat this experience.

It took a special incentive. I didn’t ride again until I was faced with the Physical Education requirement for college. (I stopped playing competitive sports when I was in seventh grade – after being deliberated clubbed in the head by someone on the competing team during a field hockey game. I guess I stole the hockey ball one too many times and outran the other team toward the goal. For me, it wasn’t about beating others. It was about challenging myself.) The other options for PE, modern dance and bowling, were also rather funny. Too uncoordinated to dance, and with wrists that were too small to remain unsprained with the weight of even the lightest bowling ball, the only other choice was horseback riding. It’s when I met Buster.

Like Amos, Buster wanted to be the boss. He was also a biter, yet we did fine on the days when we rode in the indoor arena. But the days on the trail were a different story. Buster was a master at trying to dislodge me from his back, and this time, I was using an English saddle without a horn to cling too. I only had my legs to wrap ever-more tightly about his middle. He could “trip” with his front foot, lurching forward – causing me to lose my balance, and he would rub against tree trucks to try to force me off his back. Yet we both survived the ordeal. While my peers learned to jump, I was content to know that I could simply pass my semesters by staying in the saddle.

It would be decades before I would climb on another horse. And this time I have photos to illustrate my daughter’s amusement as she witnessed my lack of skill riding horses. We were in Maui in September of 1998. My daughter, Jnana, is far more courageous and adventurous than I. Bicycling down the steep winding road that encircled Haleakalā, the volcano in the center, was not my idea of fun. Instead, we compromised and decided to go horseback riding midway up the mountainous heights. I’m embarrassed to admit I only remember the name of my daughter’s horse, Brandy. My horse’s name began with a “C.” It could have been named Calypso (like Sara’s horse, whose story brought back these memories).

horses 3

We arrived at the riding center mid-morning, after the mountain mists had lifted. Our horses were saddled and waiting. Mine, Ms. C, appeared to be dozing, eyes closed with her head resting peacefully on the split-rail fence. Our guide was of Portuguese ancestry. He told us a little bit about the history of ranching in Maui and the paniolo – the “ new breed of Hawaiian cowboy” that emerged on the ranches that dotted the slopes of Haleakalā.

horses 2

I must admit I was nervous as Ms. C walked the narrow rocky ridges, or even down gentle rocky slopes. But it was a lovely way to explore and learn about another land and other histories and cultures. I’m grateful my daughter and I shared this adventure, although I haven’t ridden a horse since that time. I doubt that I will again, even though Ms. C was gentle and sure-footed, a welcome change from Amos and Buster.

horses 4

horses 1

Photo Credits: Haleakalā, Maui – 1998

***

Voting Day Reflections -11/08/22

November 8, 2022 – voting day

for the most contentious race I’ve witnessed

My thoughts are with you, my grandchildren

*

Dear grandson, now the age I was

when your mother was born

you’ve survived the isolation of Covid lockdown,

the sorrow of losses – health, family, friends,

and the angst of peer pressure and teen hormones

*

Dear granddaughter, sweet Little Rose,

now taller than me and fearless as you learn how to drive

stoking my fears that you’ll drive like I once did –

something I’m unlikely to ever tell you

hoping you’ll make wiser and safer choices

*

The only armor I can offer you both

is a simple phrase – SENDING LOVE

dear grandson, dear granddaughter

I voted for candidates I sincerely hope

will prove to be courageous and trustworthy

when it comes to crafting a future world

where your mother and both of you

will find kindness, love, laughter,

and a sense of fulfillment

during long lives well-lived

*

*

Just Curious

What I learned from my research changed me

Everyone I met had a story to tell

but few if any had someone to listen

deeply, intently, without judging

to the fascinating kaleidoscope

of differing experiences and views

And it led me to wonder –

Would the world be different if more people learned to be listeners?

Just curious …

*

I realized, too, that a researcher’s role is to listen

but now, as a writer, I have many stories to share

including my own as a seeker, listener, and recorder –

a sacred re-search for a deeper understanding of our collective journey

and I’m just curious …

Who will listen to the stories – deeply, intently, without judging?

A humble weathered hollyhock – a captured moment in the life of a simply beautiful resilient living being

August Farewell 2022

It’s been almost two months since my last post, and perhaps this will be my last. It’s too soon to tell. I still have to finalize part one (11 chapters), with 3 more parts to follow (51 chapters in all). I feel a sense of urgency to finish. (I even had a dream about a future where a group of people were sitting around a campfire, their main source of light, reading a battered copy of my book. They were looking for ideas about how to rebuild a sense of community. Yeah, sure, I thought when I woke. It made me laugh…)

The world has changed in ways I could never have imagined in the eight and a half years I’ve been blogging. There are still moments of peace and beauty, kindness, and everyday acts of heroism but they’ve not been enough to stem the tide of cruelty, stupidity, and unreason that now dominate almost every social institution.

That’s why I have decided to finally retire from teaching. There’s no longer any wiggle room for me to challenge the oppressive status quo in dumbed-down standardized curricula. Academic institutions have increasingly become solely concerned with their survival, competing to maximize the number of students they can attract while cutting faculty and sacrificing the quality of the education they provide. It’s especially tragic when education fails to take a stand as libraries and school boards are under attack to make sure future generations have no opportunities to learn to think critically, feed their curiosity to learn more, or express their joy and wonder through creative arts.

Now, I prefer to garden,

A gift from squirrel gardeners

*

Potentilla, cone flowers (Echinacea), and nine bark in bloom

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Carrots, tomatoes, and chard nearing harvest

*

to spend time with family,

My Nephew and his twin sons (3 ½), my granddaughter, and daughter

at the Park Point Beach on Lake Superior

*

Meeting my grandnephews for the first time as their dad introduces us.

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My nephew and his sons at lunch – Sam (blue shirt) and Ben (black shirt)

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A family gathering – my granddaughter, grandson, daughter, nephew, grandnephews, and me

*

to dog sit,

Sweet Cinnamon spent a few days with me while my daughter was traveling

*

and to work with two dear friends who are helping as readers for the book manuscript I’m editing, We Remember: Stories about Ojibwe Child Welfare. It’s based on a critical ethnographic study I conducted two decades ago. I had to put it aside many times for too many years in order to teach.

In the process of answering my readers’ questions about things I assumed everyone knows, I find myself having to explore issues more deeply and completely so I can explain them with greater clarity. The process has brought us closer, even though one friend lives in Oregon and the other in Alabama. They both feel the manuscript is compelling and still relevant today, a fact I find depressing. Yet that makes it all the more important for me to finish and share it while I can.

In the process of preparing the manuscript for possible publication, I realized that some of my older blog posts need to be kept private. They’re posts about the study findings. Few people have viewed those posts in recent years anyway. It will take some tedious time to change them from public to private, though. There are at least 30 of them!

I am deeply grateful for the blogging friends I had when the essays were posted. They provided incredibly helpful and supportive feedback, much like my manuscript readers now.

I am also grateful for the newer blogging friends who continue to share inspiration, knowledge, beauty, and kindness. I will try to keep up with your blogs even though I doubt I will post much in the future.

An aside, I’ve had to block comments on all posts older than 45 days because of a barrage of spammers this year – more than 100 a day on some days. The only open space left for comments on my blog will be this post for a short while and on the contact page. Some days, only one spammer finds it…

I can’t make any promises about my ability to respond to comments in a timely fashion, though. I need to stay in my own culture and “language” to be able to keep editing.

Sending my gratitude and best wishes to all. 💜

Reflections on the Last Day of June 2022

This morning I open my heart to gratitude

and find I’m not disappointed

June 30 2022 2

June 30 2022 1

witnessing impossibly tiny late bloomers

June 30 2022 3

and those still valiantly emerging

despite too many obstacles to name

June 30 2022

https://youtube.com/shorts/ABW4dAqXRkc?

life in living color

June 30 2022 4a

despite the illusion of meaningful connections

and forces of darkness

that threaten all of us these days

helping me remember the gifts

that come from being present

June 30 2022 5

Acknowledgement:

Inspired by morning observations and Maria Popova’s depth and eloquence:

“Lives interweave with other lives, and out of the tapestry arise hints at answers to questions that raze to the bone of life: What are the building blocks of character, of contentment, of lasting achievement? How does a person come into self-possession and sovereignty of mind against the tide of convention and unreasoning collectivism? …” The Marginalian

Memories of Another June

Reflections (Literally) – Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I should be editing today, but I promised my granddaughter I would share this story. We didn’t have a chance to work on it together so I’m writing it for her.

More fierce storms rolled through on Saturday evening when my granddaughter was spending the night. She grew frightened as the sky darkened and warnings about severe storms headed our way sounded on the radio.

She was on the verge of tears. “Ahma, where can we hide?

I have another idea, Sweetie,” I replied. “Let’s go outside and offer tobacco with a prayer. I’ll teach you how. The lightening and rain haven’t come yet so there’s still time.”

I showed her the garden I had chosen, but she found her own special garden by the ninebark bush. When she finished, she smiled and we went inside and read a story.

When the thunder and lightning ended, and the rain abated for a moment, we took our little dog out. I laughed when I saw the huge puddle in the alley behind the house. It was covered with little popping bubbles.

Ahma,” my granddaughter joyfully shouted when she saw the puddle. “The puddle is tooting! That’s what happens when people are swimming and toot (fart). It makes bubbles in the water.”

Just then, the rain began again, and bubbles appeared on all of the puddles the whole length of the alley. My granddaughter laughed and danced with delight despite the rain.

The next day, she sang a song about “The Tooting Puddle Bubbles.” (Try saying that fast!) We went outside the next morning to look for the bubbles, but they were gone. The biggest puddle was still there, though, and we took some pictures.

I’ve gone a little overboard posting them…

June 2016 tooting puddles 1

The illusion of bushes, buildings and fences growing out of the asphalt intrigues me.

June 2016 tooting puddles 2

June 2016 tooting puddles 3

June 2016 tooting puddles 4

May we all find simple moments for gratitude and laughter during and after storms along our path.

***

June 1, 2022

This weekend, I spent time with my daughter and granddaughter. We laughed about some of our memories. My granddaughter, now 15, said she would like to read stories from the “old days,” so I’m posting one of our simple, joyful adventures.

Six years have passed since this was posted. The storms have been arriving frequently this year but it hasn’t been warm enough most days for “tooting puddles.” Little Pinto is no longer with us, but we’re fortunate to have photos and memories of the love and good times we shared.

Late May Reflections – 2022

Sunday – May 22, 2022

on this Sunday morning in May

gray sky is visible through slots

of window blinds still closed

I take a moment to delight and reflect

in wonder at the words and wisdom

synthesized and shared by Maria Popova

traveling from dust motes to galaxies

helping me remember perspective matters

*

late may 2022 1

*

something this wee break revealed

while tackling deeper levels of decluttering

*

late may 2022 2

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and kneeling on earth cleaning and repairing gardens

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late may 2022 3

*

taking time to listen with awe and gratitude

to the impossibly lovely serenade

of a tiny finch sitting in the honeysuckle

singing her song in good times and bad

touching those who listen awakening hope

***

Sunday – May 29, 2022

These days, we sometimes need to be reminded there’s more to life than most of us realize. Caught up in busyness that binds us to a life spent pursuing the elusive happiness of “stuff,” we miss the beauty that can be found anywhere if we simply stop for a moment and change focus. Look up, look down, gaze into the distance, focus up close, turn around and notice what encircles us. There are so many mysteries we can explore.

I remember the questions I asked as a child. What are clouds made of? What makes lightning bugs sparkle? How can bumble bees fly?

I was never curious about weapons. In fact, I hated cartoons because they were violent. How could hating and hurting others be seen as funny? I tried to avoid the bully boys on the block where I grew up, but my father forced me to fight my own battles. I had to use the only weapons I had – wit and words. And of course, there was always curiosity in things I found far more interesting, like water-striders, pollywogs, and microscopic organisms found in pond scum.

These days it feels as though I am surrounded by people who never learned to see the wonder of life in all of its fragility, resilience, and ultimately, its power to blow or burn or flood us out of existence without much warning. Guns will not save us, but they may just end the lives of people whose intelligence and skills might save our lives and the lives of many others.

“To be human is to live suspended between the scale of gluons and the scale of galaxies, yearning to fathom our place in the universe. That we exist at all — on this uncommon rocky world, just the right distance from its common star, adrift in a galaxy amid hundreds of billions of galaxies, each sparkling with hundreds of billions of stars, each orbited by numberless possible worlds — is already miracle enough. A bright gift of chance amid the cold dark sublime of pure spacetime. A triumphal something against the staggering cosmic odds of nothingness.

“Stationed here on this one and only home planet, we have opposed our thumbs to build microscopes and telescopes, pressing our curiosity against the eyepiece, bending our complex consciousness around what we see, longing to peer a little more deeply into the mystery of life with the mystery of us.” (Popova, 2022, para. 5-6)

Moments in time that I noticed today…

late may 2022 4a

An Indigo Bunting (eager to capture the moment through a window that needs cleaning 😊)

late may 2022 5a

A Goldfinch (through the same window at a slightly different angle)

late may 2022 6

Ferns and Tulips (and an unmanicured lawn)

Reflections – May 15, 2022

this sunny Sunday spring morning

it suddenly occurred to me

how grateful I am dear friend

that we can be together as “old ladies”

though more than a thousand miles apart

*

May 11 2022

*

there are moments when the loneliness

is almost more than I can bear

the challenges of dragging a tired body

sometimes back aching or struggling to breathe

I wonder what life is all about anyway

*

there can’t be many women like us

mothers who crossed so many divides

with children of mixed heritage

heading off on our own to live on a commune

only to discover there’s no escaping

the problems of the world

even as the experience opened our spirits

to dimensions others cannot see

*

commune 5-15

*

but we’re survivors, you and I

of the challenges that come with being different

*

not many would want to understand the cost

of the golden moments of deep connection we share

without a need to judge or compete – feeling heard,

understood, and loved for all we’ve become

as we reminisce on the phone with tears and laughter

 

for JK

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