Vision from the Margins

Carol A. Hand

With these shifting layers of sight
I wonder what is real.
Do I see your fear and sadness
Or only what I feel?
The letters that I type
dance upon the page
now clear, now blurred
making distance impossible to gage.
I’ve always lived on the margin
never feeling I was a part
of the laughter or the fighting
never knowing how to start
to bridge the distance
between myself and others
that I felt within my heart.
I have loved you from the sidelines.
Perhaps more than you’ll ever know.
But I’m happier in nature,
peaceful and alone.
My vision doesn’t matter then
when my imagination can roam
first close than far, now shallow then deep
feeling no one is judging me
for the company I keep,
for my fumbling social awkwardness
because I don’t belong
in the busy fray of jostling
to rise above the throng.
I don’t mind the solitude.
Although I have sometimes wished to be
someone who only sees one layer
not this shifting cacophony.
But in the end I’m grateful
for this often peaceful place
it allows me to see your beauty
and live in blissful grace
as the turmoil rages around us
I can still see what could be.
A life of peace and wonder,
A deeper unity.

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(for my beloved daughter, Jnana – March 2, 2015)

A Morning Thank You

Carol A. Hand

I just wanted to thank everyone who sent kind and thoughtful messages, and also to anyone who visits this blog. It will take a little while for me to respond individually to everyone who commented because my sight will be challenging for a while.

The cataract surgery I had yesterday morning was pretty uneventful except for the slight delay by the anesthesiologists. They were in a panic about my advanced directive for absolutely no attempts to resuscitate me if something went wrong. My surgeon had to intervene and we came up with a compromise that he agreed to uphold. They could try to start my heart once if it stopped because of a rare occurrence – touching the eye in a certain way during surgery can stop the heart. But under no circumstances could they do more just because they tried and failed the first time. He agreed to honor this, so we proceeded.

Today, I am able to read with my “good” right eye with my glasses perched lopsided to make room for the protruding clear plastic cover over my left eye. I do know that the sight in my left eye is already immeasurably improved.

One of my morning rituals is to read my horoscope in the Huffington Post before I check the news. (I check both Pisces and Aquarius, since I was born on a cusp, a fitting place for someone who is of mixed ancestry). Silly and superstitious perhaps, but the opening phrase for Pisces today was amusing. “Your perspective is bent out of shape today…” (It only took me ten tries to type this simple post hmm, now eleven, oops now twelve.)

I’m sending a heartfelt chi miigwetch to all. (Ojibwe for “thank you very much”)

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Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Restorative Justice – An Indigenous Practice That Was Outlawed in the Past

Carol A. Hand

Lately, I have been reflecting on the ever-more punitive nature of many US policies and institutions. I was reminded of a crucial decision point in US history as I read the incisively and eloquently argued posts about criminal (in)justice on Deconstructing Myths and  Take Heart!, and the inspiringly creative and respectful innovations posted on Nobody Wakes Up Pretty, and Joan Treppa – Citizen Advocate for Wrongfully Convicted People.

Thankfully, I am not an expert in the appropriately named field of “criminal justice.” From my perspective, the punitive, inhumane policies and institution we have put in place to deal with what we define as “crime” are not just. In fact, the policies and institutions could be aptly characterized as a crime against humanity. Given recent incidents of police violence in urban areas around the US, I remembered something I witnessed during my research study of Indian child welfare in 2001-2002.

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It was a warm, humid summer night, one of many that year (2002). In my small efficiency apartment above the copy shop in the center of the small county seat of a rural county, I needed to keep the windows open to let in whatever gentle breezes existed. Tonight was different than other nights, though. Normally, I could hear the sounds of children yelling as they played on the streets well after midnight. I often wondered why kids were out on the streets so late. Weren’t their parents concerned? Why aren’t the police concerned? But his night, I awoke when I heard angry voices below and saw the colored lights – red and blue – moving across the newly painted walls of my apartment. I got up and looked down at the street.

From my window, I could hear the policemen asking the three Native American youth why they were in town. Perhaps “demanding to know in an accusatory manner” is a more apt description of the scene unfolding beneath my window. The youth agreed to leave rather than face the alternative – being taken to the police station. I found it interesting that during the months that I had spent in this apartment conducting an ethnographic research study about Indian child welfare, I had never witnessed the police intervene with the Euro-American youth who roamed the streets at night. Suddenly I understood why Native youth comprised 45 % of the juvenile justice cases in the county although they were only 8 % of the county’s youth population.

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Photo Credit: Repression

As a researcher bound to a strict code of noninterference, I needed to consider what my ethical obligations were in such a situation. It took time for me to discover an acceptable resolution to this conundrum. First, I needed to learn more about the communities I was studying and identify reasonable long range possibilities. And once again I was reminded of fundamental, but often invisible, cultural differences. Policies and institutions evolve in cultures based on their answer to a simple question – Are people in essence born “good” or “evil?” Simplistically speaking cultures that emphasize individualism and the need to compete with others and dominate nature to survive tend to believe that people are born in a state of original sin. People in such cultures must be taught to behave in moral ways through modeling, coercion, and if need be, punishment, and the institutions these societies create are built on these assumptions. Cultures that believe people are born in state of original sanctity tend to recognize the interdependence of all people and their environments and emphasize the need to collaborate with others and care for the environment in order for the community and culture to survive in the future.

I thought about the ever-constricting sovereignty of tribal governance and jurisdiction that resulted from the enactment of the Major Crimes Act in 1885.

“In 1883, Crow Dog, a well-known Lakota medicine man, killed Spotted Tail, another popular leader of the tribe. Federal authorities removed Crow Dog from the reservation and tried him for murder. Crow Dog argued that the federal government had no right to try him because federal courts had no jurisdiction on the Lakota Reservation. In killing Spotted Tail, Crow Dog acknowledged that he had broken Lakota law and claimed that he should be tried and punished by the Lakotas. (Under tribal law, Crow Dog would have been made responsible for the care and protection of Spotted Tail’s family.) The [Supreme] court agreed with Crow Dog’s argument, ruling that the federal government had passed no legislation giving it criminal jurisdiction over the tribes and that criminal disputes involving tribal members were to be settled according to tribal law.” (O’Brien, 1989, pp. 71–72).

Angered by this ruling, the US Congress, in its newly assumed plenary power over tribal nations (1871), made the commission of major crimes by tribal members a matter of federal jurisdiction (The seven major crimes initially covered included murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to commit murder, arson, burglary, and larceny.)

“When reflecting on the problem of judicial inequity, it is important to consider the western worldview in which this system is grounded, a competitive and commerce-driven perspective obsessed with consumption, while disregarding its consequential wastefulness. The US courts mirror this worldview, punitively casting the disenfranchised into a penal wasteland. This is the adversarial system.” (Hand, Hankes, and House, 2012, pp. 451-452)

I also thought about my observations of the present day prison setting. I remember driving home from my site visit to review a student’s practicum performance in a women’s medium security prison. A gifted and mature student, Ursula (not her real name) was fortunate to be placed with an extraordinary social work practitioner (Frieda, an assigned name to protect identity) who established many necessary programs to address crucial issues for the women she served: GED completion, treatment for incest and domestic violence, parenting, and job skill development to name a few. Frieda’s compassion and creativity in a dauntingly punitive setting was profoundly inspiring. Yet on the long drive back from the prison I found myself wondering why women had to suffer so egregiously before they got help for things that could have been prevented. The lives of most of the women Frieda worked with had been scarred by the consequences of discrimination and structural inequalities. They had grown up in dangerous impoverished inner city neighborhoods. Hunger, abuse, inadequate housing, woefully underfunded education, and lack of access to health care limited their life choices. And in their heavily policed neighborhoods, they were far more likely to end up in prison than others from more affluent neighborhoods who committed more serious offences in private or privileged corporate settings.

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compassion greatergood dot berkeley dot edu

Photo Credit: Compassion

There are many viable alternatives to punishment and imprisonment, but it requires recognizing others as our relations. This was easier for me to do with Ojibwe youth than it was for the Euro-American police officers or county child welfare staff I met with during my reserach.

“Whereas the prevailing culture of European colonizers was based on the notion of individual rights and self-actualization, within traditional Indigenous communities, each person was first and foremost part of the community. This does not mean that individuality and autonomy were not valued. On the contrary, each member was respected for his/her unique contribution to the group. That contribution might be as a hunter, a healer, an aunt, or an uncle. Each individual’s role or mission was regarded as good, a life mission, and no role or mission was considered better than another (Hankes, 1998). In this worldview, every member contributed to forming and sustaining the community and this extended-family relationship continues to be expressed across tribes in the phrase all my relations.” (Hand, Hankes, & House, 2012, pp. 449-450)

I did finally decide on an action after my field research ended. But that is a story I will tell in my next post. I’m not sure when that will be, though. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for cataract surgery and I have no way of knowing the outcome. I hope you will understand why it may take some time for me to finish this story, and why I may not be as active a reader and commenter on blogs in the coming weeks.

Works Cited:

Carol A. Hand, Judith Hankes, & Toni House (2012). Restorative justice: the indigenous justice system. Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social, and Restorative Justice, 15:4, 449-467, DOI: 10.1080/10282580.2012.734576

Sharon O’Brien (1989). American Indian tribal governments. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2015. 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.

Birthdays, Big Brother, and a Blast from the Past

Carol A. Hand

Do you notice the images when you sign onto Google? I often do, but I don’t often click on them. When I first signed on this morning to check the weather and the news, I really didn’t pay attention. But when I signed on again later, I was intrigued by the birthday cake and cupcakes. “Hmm,” I thought. “I wonder – What famous person was born on the same day as me?” When I ran my curser over the image, a message appeared “Happy Birthday Carol!” When I clicked on the image it took me to a page with information about me, including the two videos I posted on Youtube a while ago.

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Photo Credit: Google Image – February 20, 2015

On one level, I’m amused. My granddaughter, Ava, and I laughed about the messages and watched one of the videos – a “blast from the past.” But on another level, I find it creepy that the date of my birth that wasn’t shared with Facebook triggered a personal message on Google. It’s the principle, really. I don’t feel a need to be invisible or hide what I think or what I’ve done in my life.

Here’s a link to the video in case you’re curious.

I do wonder how many others have received a birthday greeting from Google…

In Gratitude

Carol A. Hand:

Once again, in the frigid beauty and cold of February, in another time of transition, I find myself grateful for many things and hopeful about the times to come

Originally posted on Voices from the Margins:

Carol A. Hand

Although the polar vortex has returned, I awoke on this frigid sunny morning to a clear blue sky. As I looked toward the sky, the rays of the rising sun turned the bare branches of trees to gold. I was filled with a sense of gratitude for friends new and old who have helped me remain hopeful during the long cold winter. It has been a time of learning and a time of loss. I was reminded of a poem I read long ago.

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Duluth, MN – February 25, 2014

Comes the Dawn
(by Veronica A. Shoffstall)

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats

View original 238 more words

Horses and the ABC’s

Carol A. Hand

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 and 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).

horse 2

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.

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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.

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Photo Credits: Haleakalā, Maui – 1998

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2015. 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.

Privilege Comes with Such a Heavy Cost

Carol A. Hand

A few days ago, I intended to write a story using the metaphor of sharing a canoe to describe relationships. I spent more than half of my life with a partner I only accompanied on one canoe ride. He built canoes at one point during the years we spent together – works of art built of different colored strips of cedar. But he never took the time to learn how to canoe or build vessels that traveled well on the water. Traveling in a canoe with a partner is not like rowing a boat with two oars, where riders take turns being the one person who does the heavy work. There is usually only one paddle for canoes, although I carried a second just in case on this one and only ride. It turned out to be a wise decision.

Wetlands-of-Paunacussing

Photo Credit: Wetlands

We set off through the narrow channels in the wetland between thickets of water lilies, tall cattails and swamp grass. He was in the front of the canoe, while I sat in back. He used his paddle forcefully, as the canoe lurched from side to side, frequently entangling us in the reeds. He wouldn’t listen to my mild suggestion that he needed to use his paddle gently, alternating it from side to side to guide the canoe slowly through the center of the channel. Finally, I lifted the second paddle to try to buffer the lurching. He quickly decided it was time for us to return home. I think that was my role in the partnership – to steer us on a straight course though the challenges.

I wanted to tell the story of how I first learned to love traveling in a canoe. I didn’t learn about canoes until I was a teenager. Even though my Ojibwe uncles and cousins took me on tours of the interconnected chains of lakes in Lac du Flambeau, they used motor boats, not canoes. (Historically, canoes were one of the primary modes of transportation for Ojibwe people, as were snowshoes in the winter.)

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Photo Credit: Lakes Surrounding Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin

My family moved to northwestern Pennsylvania when I was twelve. My parents and brother spent the summer in their new home, the third floor apartment above the 20-bed nursing home my mother bought to administer. I spent the summer with my grandmother on the LdF Ojibwe reservation. I arrived at my new home just in time to attend my new school. I had no friends, the classes were all at least three to five years behind what I had already studied, the summer with my grandmother had eroded my self confidence in profound ways, and my father’s mood swings and abuse escalated. I tried to commit suicide that first year and really did not intend to survive. But I did survive. That was when I began spending time with Clara and other elders in my mother’s nursing home. They helped me find a reason to live, at least for the moment. The next summer, my parents bought a tiny summer cottage on the Allegheny River. Although the cottage smelled of mold and mildew, I loved to spend my summers there. The river became my sanctuary, like the woods that had surrounded my old childhood home.

Our cottage was nestled among a cluster of similar cottages along the shore of one of the many placid wide sections of the river, positioned between islands and eddies on both sides. Some of the channels formed on both sides of the islands were rocky and shallow, and others ran deep and fast. It’s where I learned how to canoe. Perhaps I was motivated by my father’s near disaster. Like my partner in later years, my father was confident that he knew how to canoe. So confident, in fact, that he went on his first trip alone in his best suit and dress shoes. He made it to the middle of the river and proceeded to show off his skill. With a mighty tug on the paddle, he intended to make a quick turn about. He ended up swimming back to shore, swearing, pushing the overturned canoe in front of him.

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Photo Credit: Allegheny River – Hemlock Eddy

At first, I used the rowboat. I could leave my family on the shore and drift or travel around the islands to another quiet place. I quickly learned it was wiser to travel upstream first and then let the current carry me home. But the islands and eddies downriver were more interesting because they were shallow and rocky. Sometimes I needed to exit the boat to guide it through the rapids and the river eddies. As my muscles and skills grew, I used the canoe instead. It was lighter and easier to maneuver.

The river was my sanctuary. Until I did a little research online to contextualize this reflection, I didn’t realize that my sanctuary came at a great cost to others. Suddenly I understood many things. Why my mother expressly forbid me to ever mention our Native heritage, why we could afford the cottage and why it smelled of mold and mildew. I wondered why I never heard anyone speak of the dam upriver, except to say it was a good thing that would prevent future flooding. Not one teacher, not one article in a newspaper, nothing.

A few days ago I understood the cost and my heart was heavy.

For My Seneca Relatives

Your villages condemned, your houses and schools and churches burned down
To build the Kinzua hydropower dam, a dam that would flood your homeland,

Land promised in treaties to be yours forever is now your ancestors’ watery grave.
All to protect white towns from (maybe) floods and power their insatiable greed.

My privilege was just downriver – a few mile west of your suffering,
My sanctuary was your hell.
As my horizons expanded, your history was buried beneath tons of water.
As I learned to paddle a canoe, all that you owned was lost.
I didn’t know the cost.
My mother never told me, I doubt if my father cared.

True, I was only a teenager, finding solace downriver while your community disappeared.

I might have stood with you, if only I had known
Please forgive me. I didn’t know…

 Kinzua

Photo Credit: Kinzua Dam Recreation Area

A Brief History (an excerpt from David Sommerstein, Seneca Nations New Chief Seeks to ‘Change Course’, 2011, NPR):

In Allegany, one of the Senecas’ two territories in southwestern New York state, there’s an area where a paved road turns to dirt and disappears into the woods. The road is blocked off with concrete slabs. A quarter mile down is an abandoned bridge.

“Old Red House Bridge – that went through the community of Red House,” says Leslie Logan, spokeswoman for the Seneca nation. “Nobody lives down there. It’s a bridge that goes to nowhere essentially.”

Sixty years ago, the road meandered past thriving communities, with Seneca homes along the Allegheny River, hunting and fishing grounds, cemeteries, churches, schools.

But in the 1960s, the U.S. government decided it needed the land to control flooding downriver in Pittsburgh. The Army Corps of Engineers condemned the villages, burned down the houses and schools and churches, and built the Kinzua hydropower dam. The Senecas had fought the plan in Washington for almost two decades.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2015. 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.

Reflections About the View from the Margins

Carol A. Hand

Walking in two worlds may mean feeling one really doesn’t belong anywhere. Yet, it’s liberating in another sense. It provides an opportunity to experience other cultures and settings from the margins. After sharing memories with a colleague about our past adventures working with elders, I suddenly understood the value of living on the margins. During my lifetime, I have lived in many places and worked in many fields and settings. I entered each setting as an outsider, a space that gave me a unique vantage point to see things differently than those who “belonged.” I could think critically about what I saw and envision not only “what was” but also “what could be” based on the expressed purpose that each group or organization publicly espoused. I could also assess my “fit” with group or organizational cultures.

maui 1998 horseback

Photo Credit: Another Pacific View – from Haleakalā on Horseback – Maui – 1998

(Photographer, Carol Hand)

It’s risky to point out dissonance between what people say they want to do and believe they’re doing with the objective reality of what is actually occurring from an outsider’s perspective. My thoughts this morning reminded me of the oft-used metaphor of the “frog and the pot of water.” Although the metaphor is based on a story that hasn’t been supported by scientific evidence (indeed, a grisly and abusive experiment to contemplate that has actually been repeated many times), it is a helpful cautionary tale when one considers how easy it is to accept the power of “group think” and the compulsion to feel one belongs. One of my friends described an organizational experience we shared from her vantage point.

“I still recall her captivating teaching demonstration in which she presented information on an Ojibwe perspective on the welfare of children. With sensitivity and self-confidence, she mapped out the cultural hegemony exerted on many levels that supports the continued outplacement of Native American children and the racial disparities that undergird these practices. The beauty of the event was that she was speaking truth to power. Regardless, some faculty members criticized her performance because the information on two of her overhead transparencies was handwritten, not typed. This was the first of numerous warning signs concerning how difference mapped out on an uneven playing field within the school. Unspoken assumptions and beliefs steered action and the school’s social justice mission revealed itself in relation to my colleague in words, not actual behaviors….

“I was anything but an ally during my Native American colleague’s first year in the school. I responded defensively when she commented candidly on the social justice mission of the department as more fluff than substance. I wished she would take more time before making judgments to understand the culture of the department and all the work that had gone into creating what White faculty members believed was an innovative program. In retrospect, I find it disturbing that what I expected from her was something I was not willing to give: I was not at all prepared to see “our” world through her eyes. It was okay for her to direct her critique at the child welfare system. But when she directed it at the organization I had invested inordinate amounts of time building, that was too close to home.” (Maxine Jacobson, 2012, pp. 275-276).

The observations my friend shared as she reflected on the dynamics of group think point to a crucial realization that I had not consciously understood until now. What helped me survive came both from within and from sources other than the judgments of external groups. It came from a legacy of protective cultural beliefs. My ancestors have always walked with me, enfolding me in their protections during times of danger, providing guidance when I was at risk of straying from the path of life, and visiting my dreams to share their wisdom. I am profoundly grateful for their presence even though I tried for many years to shed the heavy responsibility it signified. I realize that my view of this “force of love and responsibility” is framed through my cultural and experiential lens, but is something that all of us carry regardless of culture or spiritual beliefs. It is available to everyone if we take the time to listen deeply enough to find our heart and spirit.

maui the road to hana

Photo Credit: A Pacific View from the “Road to Hana” – Maui – 1998 (Photographer, Jnana Hand)

If enough of us take the time to find our center and live in peace with each other and in balance with the earth we all share, we may be able to find our way out of the pot of ever-warming water that surrounds us during these challenging times.

Work Cited:

Maxine Jacobson (2012): Breaking Silence, Building Solutions: The Role of Social
Justice Group Work in the Retention of Faculty of Color, Social Work With Groups, 35(3), 267-286
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01609513.2011.642265

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2015. 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.

Sara’s Stories – Second Part

Carol A. Hand

One of initial purposes for Voices from the Margins was to create a space for guest authors who wanted to share their stories. This is the second installment of what I hope will continue as an ongoing series of posts from a guest author. For now, she prefers to use the pen name, Sara. (See her first story here.)

Happy Summer Days – January 31

(by Sara)

I have happy memories of waking up on a summer morning – rushing through my morning chores, eating a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, then running out the door to call my horse.

I named my horse Calypso!! Calypso was about 6 months old when he came into my life…a beautiful reddish brown quarter horse colt. For quite a few years, my dad bought and sold horses. He would come home with a livestock truck full of horses…back it up to the spot where he unloaded and I would run from wherever I was to help him. Each horse that came off that truck was looked over by me and usually I wouldn’t say much other than, “ Hmm, good looking gelding, nice color on that mare, that one looks a little skittish, …”. Then came the day. We had already off loaded three or four horses when here came this beautiful colt. His head was up, eyes shiny and alert and he was prancing, and I fell in love. The first words out of my mouth were, “There, that’s the one. He’s mine!!!” My dad looked at me and started to laugh. He said, “All these years, all these horses, why did you pick this one?

quarter horse

Photo Credit: Quarter Horse Running Free

So, I told him. “He’s the right age so I can train him from the ground up. His color is beautiful, he’s is a quarter horse, and he’s the one I want!” Dad looked at me and said, “It will be a long time before he’s ready to ride.” I told Dad I could be patient because there were many other horses I could ride in the meantime. It was a proud moment for him as he handed me the lead rope and said, “Ok, if you’re sure. Take him, take good care of him, he’s yours.” Dad just kept chuckling to himself and mumbling about the hundreds of horses that I had looked over before I chose that one! He told me he thought I would Never pick one and was just waiting. I told him that I was just waiting too.

I remember my summer mornings with Calypso. On with the bridle, on with the saddle and off we go! Depending on the mood there were times I would leave at a full gallop and at other times just an easy trot down the long driveway and off to see what I could see. Riding my horse was my therapy! Sometimes we would go exploring or off to a neighboring farm to see if my friend wanted to grab a horse and come riding with me. Most often, though, I rode alone. It was so peaceful and I ambled along just looking at everything!

I got into trouble one weekend for riding into the next town over and romping up the long flight of steps to the front door of the Catholic church and down again. It was lots of fun so I did it a couple of times before being satisfied and heading for home. About a week later I was riding down the highway heading for no particular spot when I was pulled over by a car driven by a Sheriff’s deputy. He said that he had reason to believe it was ME who had trotted up and down the church steps last week and that I was NOT to do it again or I would be in trouble. “How do you know it was me?” I asked. He said suspected it was me because my horse had dug up the pavement all the way into town and back. That was another thing we discussed!!! I was NOT to ride on the tar on hot days…gad, what next! I said “Alright, I will try to remember.” And for the most part I did. I just rode on gravel roads which wasn’t hard to do since there was only one paved road at the time (no wonder they got all excited about hoof prints!).

When I first started training my horse, I thought it would be really great if I could teach him to take me the half mile out to the mailbox. It’s where I caught the school bus. I thought I could ride him out and then turn him loose and send him home. So one summer day, I rode out to the mailbox, got off the horse, headed him back toward home and said GO. He stood there, head down, waiting for me to get back on and leave. I rode back home, and then back again to the mailbox with another idea about how to make it work. And so it went, over and over, with NO cooperation on his part! On my last trip of the day we rode out to the mailbox, I got off the horse, looped the reins over the saddle horn and told him to go home. All these years later, I still laugh remembering how he turned back and looked at me just as these BIG drops of rain starting falling and he hauled ass for home with me running behind him hollering – Stop! Stop! Stop!

 

(Sawyer Brown – The Dirt Road)

Hog Butchering Day – January 31

(by Sara)

The day would begin in its usual way. However, by midafternoon, the activity would pick up its pace. Mom would build a fire in the area near the butchering site. The placement of things was quite important. There needed to be a tree with a branch that would support the weight of the animal as it hung there while innards were removed and hide scraped off. The fire was for the huge cast iron kettle filled with water and brought to a boil. This was used for scalding (the dead) animal so the hair could be removed from the hide. So while the men were taking care of that chore, Mom and I would be feeding our livestock and milking the cows. Then we would rush up to the house to get ready for cutting up the meat and making a meal for all of the neighbors who were taking part.

Most often it was just 2 families and each one would butcher a hog. After the meat was cut up (which took a couple of hours) the next step was grinding up certain chunks of meat, mixing it with various spices and stuffing it into washed and cleaned hog intestines. In the meantime the younger kids were stashed here and there so they could get some sleep, the older kids were playing games and running about making all kinds of noise, and sometimes – depending on the neighbors – there would be music. One family that we shared this chore with would bring a guitar and harmonica and a couple of the girls would sing – their voices were amazing! Things would wind up as the sun was coming up and the women would fry some of the new, fresh sausage and some potatoes and eggs. After breakfast and a cleanup of the work area, it was over for another year.

It was a lot of hard work but we had fun, too and I remember how tired we were after working so hard for so long and getting no sleep until morning chores were done!!

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Gratitude 101 – Question 1

Gratitude 101 – Question 1

Carol A. Hand

“… today, on reflection, why am I most grateful for having a functioning brain?” (Skywalker Payne, January 7, 2015)

I will soon be eight years older than my mother was when her dementia became apparent. It was the year I moved back to Wisconsin, and before I went back to the university to complete my BA and MSSW with a focus on gerontology, policy, and administration. It was after my decision to return to complete my degrees because of what I had witnessed as a nurse’s aide, attendant, and home health aide caring for people whose cognitive and self-care abilities were affected by birth, abuse, institutional placement, accidents, or illness.

My mother’s forgetfulness, tendency to repeat herself, and inability to find words were all new behaviors. These changes followed a routine medical exam that stopped her heart due to an allergic reaction to the dye injected to examine her kidneys. Yet my father was there to help her remember, to complete her sentences, and to remind her of the necessary daily chores. The extent of her cognitive losses didn’t become apparent until after my father’s death fourteen years later. I did my best as her legal guardian to help construct supportive environments over the last sixteen years of her life as the cause of her dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, slowly eroded her memories and abilities for self-care.

Because of my experiences with my mother and those I have worked with over the years, I don’t take my ability to think clearly for granted. But I don’t often take the time to be grateful. I learned some preventive measures as a result of my mother’s experience. Vitamin E and Omega 3 with D3 are the only “medications” I take every day. I read, write, and fall asleep with cryptograms to keep my mind working. I exercise physically most days, and avoid Western medical practitioners as assiduously as possible. Most importantly, I try to remember to take time throughout the day to breathe in peace, love, light and joy.

I am grateful for my ability to think, reason, process, and question. Yet, to be honest, my critical thinking ability has been both a gift and a challenge in my life. It’s not something I could really share with my mother. Her strengths were empathy and compassion. It was my father’s influence that forced me to develop analytical skills in order to survive. These very skills, however, often placed me on the margins. I find it amusing that there are now treatments to help people become “smarter.” But what is the value of intelligence without compassion? Intelligence, like the many other wondrous abilities our brains bestow, is quite meaningless without the recognition that it is our responsibility to use these gifts to help others.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Skywalker Payne for inspiring this reflection.