Tag Archives: finding common ground

December Reflections about Connections

Carol A. Hand

The U.S. Post Office still delivers mail 6 days a week despite ongoing efforts to cut funding and services.

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Connections to the outside

constructed social world

controlled by external forces

convenient when working

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The White Pony waiting to be shoveled out.

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Complacency ensues

capturing us unaware in

cyber-powered dependencies on

capitalistic competition and consumption

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The radio/CD player that keeps Queenie and Pinto company by playing classical music during the day.
Two very old television sets for my grandchildren and parakeet: one TV only plays VHS tapes, the other only DVDs.

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Creativity is nonetheless possible

Communities can come together across divides

cultivating new networks, knowledge,

comity, and common–wealth

clearing the ubiquitous chains of oppression

***

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Words of Wisdom from the Old Days:

“Come on people now, smile on your brother
Everybody get together, try to love one another right now” (Get Together by The Youngbloods (1967))

***

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Reflections about Options

Carol A. Hand

Two childhood dreams
One of darkness, one of light
One that freezes action in midnight terror
The other daylight freedom flight
A tender child then, perhaps by fate,
could choose to observe life as if from above
detached, compassionate,
but is this really living love?

The reality now in the world today
reminds me of dark storm clouds rolling in
although this storm feels as if it’s here to stay
It’s time for us to stand alone, together, bearing light
to face these fearsome times come what may

***

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Morning Messengers

Carol A. Hand

She who is born to seek peace
will live through times of conflict
She who seeks light
will walk through dark nights of the spirit
She who seeks to live love and compassion
will sometimes be surrounded by
hatred and cruelty to test her earnestness
And she who seeks to live joy
will know the depth of aloneness and doubt
and the wrenching sorrow of witnessing suffering
she cannot heal

But one morning after 70 winters
she understands why it is so
as she gazes up at the morning sky
in mid-November before another winter
watching the last leaves fall
twirling, floating, and dancing
in the wind as they return to source

Leafless Willow – November 15, 2017

A little grey squirrel quietly joins her
and sits at her feet gazing up at her face
unafraid for the briefest of instants
Somehow the paradoxical journey
to this moment suddenly makes sense
But the moment passes
signaling the need to return
to a different paradoxical constructed reality

Juxtaposed

Carol A. Hand

Watching the last leaves in the cottonwood trees

fluttering as they cling to branches in the breeze

then swirling and floating as they reluctantly release

landing on the earth with crispy whispers, at peace

blanketing both city’s pavement and sacred ground

Sunday morning traffic’s whir the only other sound

Nature’s gifts visible despite an otherwise bleak landscape

***

Sunday Morning View – October 29, 2017

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“Name one interesting thing that you noticed today”

Carol A. Hand

The research class I teach class meets every other week for 2 hours on Saturdays. During the intervening weeks, students have online activities and assignments to complete. That may sound easy, but it’s actually quite challenging. Establishing and maintaining interpersonal connections, building meaningful online content, and creating and grading strategically-designed sequential assignments, are thought-provoking, time-intensive jobs.

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Class Assignment Diagram

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We begin our face to face classes with a check-in. The first question has already become a ritual. “Name one interesting thing that you noticed today.”

Students are now eager to share as soon as the Power Point slide appears. “I knew you were going to ask us that today, so I made it a point to pay attention and notice things this morning!

Hearing that is music to my heart!

It’s so important to listen to the different perspectives around the room as we reconnect with each other after the weeks we spent living our everyday lives in different places. Building meaningful connections with others and “doing re-search” both require attentive presence. Noticing what’s around us is a necessary first step. Listening intently to other views in order to expand our understanding of the world is the second.

Being witness to these “processes of practicing presence” is a precious gift. I’m so grateful for the students and colleagues who make it possible.

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White Pony Reflections

Carol A. Hand

Fall is really here. It was time to take my little “White Pony” in for a check-up and oil-change today. Yes, my 11-year old car has a name thanks to my granddaughter and an Ojibwe friend I haven’t seen in years. Here’s an excerpt from a poem that describes my car’s naming ceremony.

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La Joie de la Vie

My Granddaughter Dancing in the Rain – July 2015

“What can we do that’s fun in the rain?
Do you think we should wash the car?”
“Oh yes, oh yes!,” you said.
So I grabbed a bucket and two new sponges,
yours orange and mine purple.

Carefully Washing “White Pony” – July 2015

“Does your car have a name?”
I thought quickly of one of your favorite toys – Pink Pony!
And I remembered an Ojibwe friend from long ago
who teased me about riding my White Pony
when I drove another white car
through the forests, past lakes and farmlands
to tribal communities and the State Capitol
in our work on tribal social justice issues.

So my car was given its predecessor’s name – White Pony.
But this White Pony mostly stays in the driveway now
even though it once climbed mountain passes
as it brought me, in a round-about way, to my new home.

***

I had time to read as I waited for my car to be serviced. The book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Kimmerer, 2013), is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever read. Perhaps it’s because Kimmerer blends science, poetry, and spirit from an indigenous perspective.

“A people’s story moves along like a canoe caught in the current, being carried closer and closer to where we had begun. As I grew up, my family found again the tribal connections that had been frayed, but never broken, by history. We found the people who knew our true names.” (Kimmerer, p. 36).

Decades ago, when I first entered college, my major was a blend of chemistry and biology. Nature has always fascinated me. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to be an ecologist, but that was not a subject the college I attended offered or even recognized. Nonetheless, my advisor and botany professor, Sister Lorita, offered me much more even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I described her lesson in a previous post

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Teaching and the Wonder of Life…

Through example, she taught me what it means to teach. Students made fun of her because of her weight and because of her enthusiasm for her subject, a subject they found boring. One day when we were meeting, Sister Lorita looked at me and said, “I know students laugh at me, but I don’t care if people make fun of me. It’s worth it to me if they learn to see the wonder of life in a blade of grass.”

Wikimedia Commons

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It would be many years before I would realize what a precious gift she gave me that day. Instead of becoming an ecologist or botanist who saw the wonder of life in plants, I ended up in social work, focusing on gerontology and organizational theory. I finally earned a Ph.D. in social welfare, although it took me an extra ten years. First, life led me “home” to my roots through a series of divergent events. It’s how my first white car ultimately got its name.

I was working as a teaching assistant and official note-taker for a diversity class at the university I attended. As I rushed up the hill to class one day in fall, I was contemplating a successful career in academia. I had just received notice that I was awarded a grant-funded position as a research assistant on a prestigious study. It was a fast track to likely success in the world of academia. Here’s an excerpt from an old post that describes the pivotal event.

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You Need to Remember…

(There were no public domain photos of the plaque…)

As I crested the top of the hill, I neared the site of the last battle of the Black Hawk Wars. Just shy of the plaque commemorating the war, a tribal elder appeared dressed in an unlikely outfit – blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. He looked at me with severity and simply said, “You need to remember what is really important.” I didn’t have time to reflect on the message then, but in the decades since it is something I contemplate often, although this isn’t a story I share with others for obvious reasons. The challenge of walking in two worlds, one based on rationality and empirical evidence and the other based on a deeper spiritual awareness are not easily reconciled. It turns out that I didn’t finish my degree based on elder caregiver issues. It would take more than a decade and many experiences later to finally complete a study on Indian child welfare, but that’s another story.

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Reading about Kimmerer’s experience with academia connected me with my own. I made a connection that I hadn’t even contemplated before. Perhaps I would have dismissed the elder’s appearance as too bizarre to consider. It would have been easier to simply ignore the message even though it made me feel a tinge of guilt.

In all likelihood, the study I would have been working on wouldn’t really have made a difference for people who were marginalized. It might, at best, have added to scientific knowledge about caregivers of adult children with mental retardation. But I doubt that I would have based a life-changing decision solely on a “vision” I couldn’t scientifically verify as “real.” At least at that point in my life. Fortunately, life had already set in motion a context that would lead me home in my yet-to-be named White Pony, both to seek refuge and to work on issues close to my heart. Tribal social justice issues. Following are excerpts from older posts that describe the context.

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We’re Honoring Indians…

When my daughter was a senior in high school, she received a commendation notice from her French teacher. This was not the first or last, but it was the one I noticed on a different level. I remember “seeing red” when I noticed the logo on the top, yet I immediately reflected on the message – my daughter had demonstrated excellent work. So I complemented her. Then, I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WDPI) to explore what protections they had in place to prevent racial stereotyping of indigenous peoples. The response from WDPI changed my life.

A Mixed Message

At the time, I was working on a federal grant to address elder abuse in eight pilot counties in Wisconsin. In an effort to promote awareness about the project, I met with a reporter from a local paper. In the process of talking about the project, “Tools of the Trade for Men Who Care,” the reporter and I became friends. We were both outsiders in the largely white, Christian community. She was Jewish, and I was Ojibwe. I mentioned the appalling name and logo used by the local high school, and mentioned that I had been advised by WDPI to wait until my daughter graduated to pursue any action. But, I was told, there was a state statute, the Pupil Nondiscrimination Act that I could use as the basis of a complaint. The WPDI staff added that although the statute had never been tested for its relevance to discriminatory logos and team names, filing a complaint under this statute could set an important precedent. My friend asked me to let her know if I ever decided to pursue the issue.

The months passed and my daughter graduated and went off to a university. I stayed in touch with my friend at the newspaper as the project I was working on gained momentum. Then, I added another job. I was completing my doctorate in social welfare at the time, and began as a teaching assistant in a sociology class on diversity and discrimination. As I faced the 465 students, I realized that ethically I needed to walk the talk and address the discriminatory use of logos by public schools in the state.

My education thus far had taught me two things that appeared relevant to this issue. First, when approaching community change, it is always best to start on the assumption that others may easily agree if approached from a position of collaboration. So I drafted a letter to the superintendent of schools in the district. I asked my diplomatic and thoughtful university advisor to review the letter, and when he commented that it was well-reasoned and balanced, I sent it off. I also sent a copy to my friend at the newspaper.

Second, I expected a thoughtful diplomatic response from the superintendent of schools. If one believes the physics theory that every action results in an equal and opposite reaction, a well-reasoned letter calling attention to unintentional discrimination toward Native Americans should result in the willingness to dialogue, right? That was not the case. The response of the superintendent was to send a copy of my letter to the weekly newspaper in the local community. My friend also broke the story in a larger newspaper on a slow news day. Within a week, I was the topic of hundreds of letters to the editor in local and state newspapers, and featured on the nightly TV news. The community reaction included nasty, degrading personal attacks and threats.”

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Memories and Prophesies

When my partner lost his job as an assistant manager of a lumber retail company, in all likelihood a response to my very public and unpopular advocacy, I was forced to withdraw from the university in the final stages of completing my doctorate in order to get a full-time job. I wanted to escape from the world of Euro-Americans for awhile and accepted a position as the deputy director of health and human services for an inter-tribal agency. I moved to the Ojibwe community where my mother was born and bought an off-the-grid cabin in the woods…

Amik Lake, Lac du Flambeau, WI – Early 1990s

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Life circumstances led me to a place where I felt at home. The animals, trees and earth sometimes spoke to me. Although my job was not an easy, I had a clear sense that what I was learning and doing mattered. Perhaps the elder who visited me by Blackhawk’s memorial marker would agree.

“There was a time when I teetered precariously with an awkward foot in each of two worlds – the scientific and the indigenous. But then I learned to fly. Or at least try. It was the bees that showed me how to move between different flowers – to drink nectar and gather pollen from both. It is this dance of cross-pollination that can produce a new species of knowledge, a new way of being in the world. After all, there aren’t two worlds, there is just this one good green earth.” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 47)

My old White Pony drove so many miles she finally had to be replaced. These days, the White Pony I drive doesn’t travel far. I make sure she’s taken care of because I rely on her to get me to and from the tribal and community college where I teach research and co-teach social work macro practice. I often think of Sister Lorita’s example as I try to weave science and wonder together, encouraging students not only to count and measure, but also to see, feel, hear, and sense the wonder of life all around.

Hawk’s Ridge, Duluth, MN – October 13, 2017

 

I am grateful to Sister Lorita and thankful for the memories sparked by Kimmerer’s eloquent book today. I appreciate the opportunity to continue learning from yet another generation and the chance to share some of what I have learned in exchange. Ah. But that reminds me of the papers I have to grade today…

Work Cited

Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.

Mainstream Media Circus …

Carol A. Hand

Come one, come all!

Microsoft Word Clip Art

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Step right up,
ladies and gentlemen
Welcome to the circus
Our main attraction
may appear to be
the orange clown
He will perform
astounding feats
of buffoonery

Microsoft WORD Clip Art

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His act is intended
to distract your attention
Perhaps he will also be able
to divide you, the audience,
into illusory opponents
and maybe even provoke you
to fight with each other
But don’t be fooled

Microsoft WORD Clip Art

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His main objective is
to keep you from noticing
the machinations of the puppeteers
who, behind the scenes,
are building structures that will
imprison you in joyless lives
of endless servitude to
feed their insatiable appetites
for yet more power.

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A Daytime Visitor

Carol A. Hand

Imagine, for a moment,
what it’s like to be born
to a life where one is prejudged
and regarded with fear or with scorn

Mid-morning visitor – September 1, 2017

I don’t smell like a flower
but I do have a scent
to protect me, a gentle creature
if healthy, with no malicious intent

I’m usually nocturnal
and not quite like any other
grazing now in the daytime
to feed my young, I’m a mother

A morning visitor getting closer

It’s true I’m an omnivore
I do eat eggs, berries and bees
but I eat beetles, grubs, grass hoppers
and your untended garbage if I please

I mean you no harm
but if you give me a wide berth
I’ll contribute my skills
working with you to care for our earth

Closer still – both thankful for the window between us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some facts about skunks:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunk
http://www.wildskunkrescue.com/skunkbehaviors.htm
http://www.havahart.com/skunk-facts
http://www.wildskunkrescue.com/rabies.htm

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Microsoft WORD Clip Art

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Connecting the Dots

Carol A. Hand

Does it matter whether or not
we view changing global weather
as natural or human caused?
Perhaps.

While some cheer on Armageddon
others live with the illusion
that perhaps our homes
will soon be safe if human behaviors
change.

Whether or not changing our behavior helps
stabilize weather in the future,
don’t we owe it to the earth and our children
to act wisely and responsibly
anyway?

Global floods and worldwide wildfires rage
while more oil and gas pipelines are being built

Who’s to blame?
All of us who take it for granted
that the ease of having
gas, water, and electricity simply
delivered to our homes is our right
without considering the real costs
and environmentally safe, sustainable, viable, non-exploitive
alternatives.

We need to see how connected our well-being is
to the way we care for our earth
and the way we care for all those who also live here
because our earth’s health and continuing bounty
depend on wise and loving stewardship as well as
worldwide peace.

Lake Superior Sunset, photographer Jnana Hand

 

Sending love and blessings to all those who are on the frontlines of floods and fire.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/01/world/deadly-world-floods/index.html
https://www.theguardian.com/world/wildfires
https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasa-sees-intense-fires-around-the-world
http://www.hydrocarbons-technology.com/features/featureworlds-longest-oil-gas-pipelines-imports/
https://theodora.com/pipelines/

Reflections Inspired by Geese

Carol A. Hand

Feeling physically fragile as I gently greet the morning
gazing up at the southwestern sky

a
silent
V of geese

soon
followed
by another, larger V
trumpeting encouragement
for the one temporarily leading
breaking through wind resistance
creating uplift for all those that follow
so others can save their strength for their turn
to carry the difficult responsibility of guiding others

working
together in harmony
because sharing responsibility
lightens burdens in the journey of life unfolding

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Geese at home even in the city

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Sending my best wishes to all.

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