Tag Archives: Friendship

Signals of Changing Seasons

Carol A. Hand

The waxing crescent at sunset
signals upcoming changes in seasons
alerting me about the need to refocus
for so many important reasons –

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Crescent Moon at Sunset –
July 30, 2017

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Thank you all for sharing your visionary art,
for enriching my life, and becoming a friend
I didn’t want to leave blogging for awhile
With my deep gratitude to you unpenned

***

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“More or Better?” – Revisited and Updated

Carol A. Hand

For the past month, my friend, Cynthia Donner, and I have been working on revising a class focused on social justice. It’s been a daunting process to frame and describe the purpose and create new assignments. And we’re facing our first class in less than a week, so please wish us luck.

We’ve decided to use trees as a metaphor, focusing on the importance of roots, landscapes, branching out, and nurturing supportive inclusive communities. With Cynthia’s permission, the draft purpose we developed is posted below. I’ve included both a text and photo version. Although I like the look of the photo, I’ve learned that it’s difficult to translate words on WordPress photo images into other languages, at least with my level of computer skills. As an educator, I believe innovations, even those in process, should be accessible as a foundation for dialogue.

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Spring 2017 Course Overview
Spring 2017 Course Overview

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The health of trees is also dependent on their environment, as is ours. This has changed over time for trees, as it has for people. Environments have become less and less healthy and nurturing in the name of progress. Policies have not always been developed with community well-being in mind, either for trees or people, with increasingly alarming consequences. It’s crucial to understand how things have changed from a broader historical perspective.

Social work has sometimes focused on helping individuals adapt to an unhealthy environment, rather than remembering their mission to serve as effective and visible advocates for equality and social justice. We can fertilize and trim individual trees, but their ultimate strength comes from standing together against the storms, supporting each other in times of drought and scarcity. This is a crucial lesson for social workers of the future.

It should be clear that we can’t expect governments to provide the types of social services that build on people’s strengths and reweave inclusive, supportive communities. The challenge before us now is to think critically about how we can support and help create informal mutual support systems that provide a sense of roots in a healthy landscape.

Our goal in this course is to engage in imagining what the world be like if we learned the lessons of trees, nurturing all, knowing that by standing together, we’ll be better able to weather storms.

Cynthia and I are both excited to see how this will work for students in the real world. But there’s a story about how our friendship and collaborative teaching partnership began. This morning, I revisited one of my earliest blog posts. It describes our first meeting and represents one of our initial collaborative projects.

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Carol A. Hand & Cynthia Donner
(Originally posted on December 15, 2013)

The following essay is written in the spirit of collaboration and reflects two voices, Carol A. Hand and Cynthia Donner, to describe our efforts to develop social justice curricula for undergraduate social work students.

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Recently, I agreed to come out of retirement to teach for a private Catholic College with a satellite program offered on the campus of a tribal and community college. The decision came after a surprising lunch meeting. I reluctantly agreed to meet with Cynthia Donner, the coordinator of the satellite program, in order to explain face-to-face why I no longer wished to teach social work. Perhaps the easiest way to explain my reluctance is a graphic I use in my classes to illustrate the possible purposes of social work interventions and social welfare policy.

Carol A. Hand - PowerPoint Graphic
Carol A. Hand – PowerPoint Graphic

As a profession, social work has competing goals. It is rare for textbooks or professors to acknowledge which of the underlying goals influences their practice, research, and teaching. Sadly, the focus has often been on enhancing the status of the profession, and hence, the status of its practitioners as equals to those in the medical and legal realms. Increasingly, the focus of research and education has been on a narrow clinical focus that attempts to help individuals adapt to their circumstances more effectively. Just as family-based physicians have been replaced by a spectrum of medical specialists for every aspect of the human bio, case managers and specialized clinicians have replaced social workers who used to focus on creating change in systems and society.

Although the professional code of ethics espouses the importance of working toward social justice, I would argue that clinical practice is not the way to do this. Clinical work may reduce suffering, but it can better be described an effective means of social control. My critical stance toward contemporary clinical social work practice and education is grounded on my revulsion toward any practices that are reminiscent of the centuries of assimilation forced on Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. and world.

The western medical model is rooted in disease discourse and controlled by two industries of the neoliberal corporate elite, insurance and pharmaceutical. It drives most clinical social work practice today with diagnostic pathological criteria for treating and medicating a plethora of “disorders” and “disease” type conditions. Yet, how much anxiety and depression among people today can be attributed to histories of oppression associated with the colonization of nations, cultures, economies, and minds? Add the current daily struggles experienced by a growing majority associated with discrimination (from verbal attacks to outright violence in our schools, workplaces and communities), and with basic survival (as forces of neoliberal corporate control drive people and whole communities into desolate poverty and widen the gaps between the rich and poor, the politically powerful and powerless). Today more than ever, we need people trained for the goals and strategies that will lead to structural changes our world and humanity are depending on.

When I met with Cynthia, I shared my perspective honestly. I expected the typical response. “Thank you for your interest in our program. Unfortunately, we have chosen someone who is a better fit with our focus at this time.” Much to my surprise, she smiled broadly and animatedly began to share similar perspectives.

I sensed a common orientation as we shared our perspectives on social justice and our approach to education. Like Carol, I ask my students to consider historical truths about U.S. social welfare policy and pose the question, “are you satisfied with helping individual people manage their suffering within the context of oppressive forces, or do you want to work with people to help them find ways to liberate themselves from oppression and the suffering it imposes on their lives individually and collectively?”

Through a dialogue that spanned hours, we discovered that we shared experiences on the margins, Cynthia because of growing up in poverty, and me because of growing up culturally mixed. Rather than accept that we were inferior, both of us sought the education and positions that would allow us work with disadvantaged groups to challenge the structures of oppression. Cynthia, like me, had worked in “macro practice” settings focused on enhancing lives in addition to reducing suffering, confronting the forces causing oppression rather than helping people merely adapt and conform to those forces.

Toward the end of our conversation, I agreed to teach the course on social welfare policy. This was the beginning of a still-evolving experiment to find more effective, experientially-grounded ways to help students think critically about oppression and encourage them to consider careers that focus on policy and community practice. In the process of designing our latest lab focused on social justice, Cynthia discovered an amazing resource that we felt might help our undergraduate students envision how to create a “better” future. For me, it transforms “the change paradigm” by providing a clear goal to work toward rather than a problem to fight. We wrote this brief introduction as a way to share a resource that may be helpful to others. The video that focuses on solutions (posted below), created by author Annie Leonard, presents a feasible alternative to “fighting the system” and left me with a sense of hope that transformation is possible, even during these challenging times (and perhaps, even in social work education).

 

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Life sometimes opens up possibilities we had never envisioned and presents us with interesting choices. I remain truly grateful to Cynthia for inspiring me to take the risk of starting over yet again. Who knows what my retirement years would have been like had I not met her and been greeted by her sparkling eyes and enthusiasm to challenge the status quo. Chi miigwetch, Cynthia, for being an inspiration and supportive friend.

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Gratitude – Chi Miigwetch, Dear Friend

Carol A. Hand

A gift of bigger yak trax and pecans
Gleaned from Birmingham streets
Kindness of a beloved friend
Warms a winter heart with thoughtful treats

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Yak Trax and Pecans - A gift from a dear friend
Yak Trax and Pecans –
A gift from a dear friend

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Bringing back memories of treasured times past
Shared laughter and tears built a friendship to last
Despite changes and distances the love will endure
Gracing life with gifts from the heart – who could ask for more?

for Cheryl with gratitude

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Cheryl, the Tennessee Years - February 2014
Cheryl, the Tennessee Years –
February 2014

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Note:Chi miigwetch” means “thank you very much” in Ojibwe.

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Reflections – Thursday, September 8, 2016

Carol A. Hand

You appeared in a morning dream
to ask for the energy of healing love, my dear
I gave it freely, sensing otherwise an end is near
Then I watched as you turned and slowly walked away
your kind and gentle essence shining clear as day
from an old man’s body, slightly stooped, moving with a shuffling gait
There’s still time to heal the past, you know, though the hour is growing late

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In the Autumn of Life

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For a dear friend

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Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reflections for a Friend

Carol A. Hand

I was saddened to hear you’ve begun a new journey, dear friend
To a distant place that, although common, still has a mysterious end
As I watched you struggle to find words, it was my heart that cried
Yet with your usual grace, you simply replied
You’re not worried about losing memories that are sometimes hard to bear
Of hardships and the most painful losses in a life that often didn’t seem fair

I will remember you as I first met you, your radiant smile and sparkling eyes
Scrambling over obstacles with your cane under sunny summer skies
I’ll remember how much you taught me about gardening and life
When we shared “tea for three,” laughing ‘til tears flowed despite stories of strife
I’ve always found your uncensored honesty an absolute delight
Even though you always felt you were intolerant, somehow just not right

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Photo: Butterfly Garden Mystery Plant (Lychnis Chalcedonica)

As you begin the journey of Alzheimer’s dear friend, this is all that I can say
I’ll remind you, if I can, of the kindness, joy, and laughter you always brought my way.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reflections about Soft Hands and Laughter

Carol A. Hand

Does one need to know deep suffering and cruelty
To learn the importance of being kind?
What is the secret of the transformative alchemy?
Is it found in one’s heart or one’s mind?

Does it come from silent prayer or ancestors walking near?
Is it ever-present potential within all of us or only a few?
Does it come when one feels lost or only when the path is clear
Like gentle rain to ease the drought, starting our life anew?

compassion greatergood dot berkeley dot edu

Photo: Compassion (Greater Good – Berkeley.edu)

Can we learn to hold the presence of love when darkness descends
Remembering to live with soft hands and laughter,
With kindness that never ends?

touch

Photo: Compassion (Greater Good, Berkeley.edu)

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Pivotal Years of Momentous Change

Carol A. Hand

After I posted my last essay, I realized that I forgot to mention my gratitude to a dear friend, Cheryl Bates. She reviewed various drafts of the play (You Wouldn’t Want To Hear My Story) and gave me very helpful feedback and suggestions. Although she took a hiatus as my blog partner to focus on her work as an assistant professor, we still talk and exchange emails. She has often helped review some of the odd things I write. Some were refined and published on my blog as a result of her feedback, and some remained as unfinished fragments that were revisited and sometimes woven into later posts.

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Photo: Dr. Cheryl A. Bates

Although I have always had special friends wherever I found myself, I noticed how they dissolved over time when I took on new responsibilities and moved to new places. The threads that connected us gradually frayed as our lives and work took different directions. Although fond memories often remain, holding onto the past is something I do mostly in my thoughts to make sense of the present and reflect on the future. My friendship with Cheryl is unique because it was forged and strengthened by facing challenges together as allies during a year of momentous transitions for both of us. The year 2010 was a time of life-changing events.

I often ponder the old adage: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”

The saying helps me look back at a life of many moves from many different perspectives. Honestly, I do wish I had purged a lot more of my furniture, files, and mementos when I made my last move. But I did leave all of my dear friends behind as I have been doing since I made my first pivotal move at the age of 12. While my parents and brother settled into their new home, I spent the summer of transition with my grandmother on the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin. My summer experiences and the shock of entering my new home just as school began influenced my lifetime far more profoundly than I realized at the time. I learned that for some people, like my grandmother, growing up in adversity doesn’t necessarily make one kinder or wiser. Sometimes, people are too wounded to care about themselves or others.

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Photo: My Mother and Me (at home in NJ) – 1959

My transitional summer from childhood to womanhood was spent in the company of an abusive alcoholic. My grandmother’s abuse was different than my father’s physical beatings. I had learned to endure physical abuse by using my mind to focus on other things so intently that I was oblivious to pain.

Taller and thinner than many of my Ojibwe relatives, I felt like an awkward giant. Bespectacled from the age of eight, I was used to being called “four-eyes.” I suspect my grandmother could read my awkwardness and insecurity. That may have triggered her abuse – cruelty that cut deeply. At least a hundred times a day, I was wounded anew each time she ranted about how ugly I was. She ranted in private and in public at every opportunity.

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Photo: My Mother and Me (outside our home in NJ) – 1959

Now, I wonder if perhaps her cruelty was due to jealousy. She was a gifted hair stylist and beautician. (It’s not a gift I inherited.) And as a young girl, she was stunningly beautiful. But age and hard living had taken their toll – makeup and hair dye couldn’t erase the effects.

Agnes and sisters

Photo: My Grandmother and Her Sisters (my grandmother is the one on the right)

Every evening after my grandmother closed her beauty salon, she dragged me along as she made the rounds to local taverns, drinking up what she earned each day. She dressed me up in clothes way too old for a twelve year old, with make-up and carefully coifed hair. Older men tried to pick me up as they laughingly referred to my grandmother as “Black Agnes.” Next, she started accusing me of stealing her money and sleeping with men. I begged my Aunt and Uncle to let me stay with them when my grandmother kicked me out. They did take me in.

And then, the summer came to an end. I moved to my new home where I didn’t know anyone, shredded with self-doubt and internalized shame. My new school was three to five years behind my old school in every subject – reading, math, and even home-ec. Hoping to end it all, I downed a huge bottle of aspirin. But my mother, a nurse, found me too soon. (I’ve been allergic to aspirin ever since.)

Surviving wasn’t easy, and I didn’t really try. The only real friends I had for the five years I was in my new temporary home were the elders who lived in the nursing home my mother owned and administered. I learned about grieving over loss and death from them at an early age as my older friends healed and went home, or had health setbacks and moved to hospitals or died. When I headed off to college, there were really no friends I would miss and I had no intentions of returning when I finished school. My yearbook and mementos were recycled decades ago, and I’ve never seriously considered visiting the town or attending a high school reunion.

mom and me off to college

Photo: My Mother and Me (on my way back to college after spring break) – 1966

In a strange sense, I realize my grandmother had given me a gift. I accepted the fact that I was unattractive and decided that was okay. I was smart, charming when I wanted to be, and multi-talented. And I learned I could survive without approval from others. But these gifts also came with costs – some obvious, and some that have waited decades to be understood.

I began to understand some of the hidden gifts and costs in 2010. It’s the year I split with my partner of 35-plus years. He finally had a decent paying job after 20 years so he could afford to support himself. My mother died that year after 13 years of progressive decline due to Alzheimer’s disease. Her death was a blessing. Her suffering ended and she was finally at peace.  I still miss her and grieve because of the hard times she lived through, but these old photos brought back healing memories. Without the ongoing challenge of figuring out how to cover the costs of her care, I could contemplate the possibility of retirement. After one last ugly battle against institutional discrimination targeted toward vulnerable students and colleagues, I did decide to retire at the end of the academic year (2010-2011), a lot earlier than originally planned. It was obvious that academia was not going to change for the better given the cast of characters in power who allowed these abuses to continue – and continue – and continue – despite the best of my efforts. I guess that’s something else my grandmother taught me. Hurt people hurt people and sometimes people are just too deeply wounded to heal.

Cheryl and I shared the battle and its aftermath, and I will be forever grateful for the friendship that we developed. We left at the same time. One of us moved a little to the northwest (me), and the other, to the southeast, one to retirement, and the other to another position in academia (Cheryl). We both left our other friends behind.

Battle weary, I sold my house (well actually, Wells Fargo really owned it and charged me most of my salary to live there). I moved closer to my family to see if I could be the kind of grandmother I wished I had had so long ago.

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Photo: My Grandchildren and Me – Summer 2011

Only time will tell if I succeed, but that extra furniture I moved continues to provide a place for my daughter and grandchildren to share meals, sleep, play, and teach me new things.

Dear Cheryl, I apologize for forgetting to mention your invaluable help. Please know that I am grateful for your continuing friendship, your honest feedback, and your presence in my life.

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.

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.

horse 3

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.

horse 1

horse 4

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits: Haleakalā, Maui – 1998

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ballad of Suicide

Cheryl A. Bates

I saved a self-destructive friend, escaped from a predatory friend and regretfully,

had to leave a truly kindred “friend” behind.

Bruised, battered, and in need of repair, I escaped from the burdens my kindred friend continuously bared.

Selfishly, I isolate my wounds from those I think don’t care.

While she gives her spirit so generous and loving; masking a secret so deep with despair.

With nothing left for anyone or myself, somehow she always showed me she cared.

I promised her I would return. Just hang on my dear, that day draws near.

She taught me to love and laugh at the simple treasures we shared.

A memory, an escapade, a trip to into the lake.

Dripping and squishing we’d dance on the bank.

A loud crack of the ice, a wide eyed stare, she’d giggle at my inexperienced scare.

Grab the net, a fish to snare; rip goes my pants, she’d fall into fits of hysteria.

Her laughter and care taught me to not take myself so serious.

Polar Bear Plunge, Oshkosh, WI 2012

(Photo credit: Author/ Polar Bear Plunge, Oshkosh, WI 2011)

My car, packed and ready for the trip, slightly earlier than our long ago plan.

One last phone call, I finished grading early, we can share more time and make more fond memories.

She hesitated and said “No, I have it all arranged, you should come as we’d planned.”

So, I agreed, and waited.

 The day before I was to leave,

a ring of a telephone shattered my heart and buckled my knees.

“She gone” I remember the speaker said to me, “She’s really gone.”

The words were like a foggy dream, never did I realize, she’d hidden from me,

a plan of her own.

My heart bleeding; my mind searching for meaning, I drove two days without seeing.

Country western played on the radio, a moment of clarity, that’s one of her favorites.

A moment of relief quickly replaced with disbelief, she’s gone, she’s really gone?

Relief didn’t come until I saw her, body cold and lifeless,

yet, so peaceful.

Gone to what is beyond; her love, her laughter, her mischief, her joyous heart.

Seven-eleven, death is freedom, obtained with one sure fired bullet.

Her despair ended, her spirit freed

to know what peace there can be for a tortured soul.

Horse Creek, Cherokee National Forest, TN

(Photo Credit: Author/ Horse Creek, Cherokee National Forest)

Though I am still broken and my heart still aches,

the darkness around me, slowly lifts toward the dawn.

When I am unsure, her gentle nudges remind me of my strength.

Her presence is around me, whispering to me through the wind in the trees.

I hear her laughter in the bubbling creek, and  I feel happy.

I feel her smiles, imagine her deep blue eyes – I don’t feel so alone.

She knows now what we all seek to know, that which is eternal and free.

So, just hang on, my dear,

I promise I will join you again someday.

Copyright Notice: © Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Inch by inch, row by row …”

 Carol A. Hand

 Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna to make this garden grow …
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
‘Til the rain come tumbling down
(Pete Seeger)

I have been thinking about how important blogging has become to me. When I posted my first essay on June 18, 2013, it was only because of a partnership I had with a friend who knew more about technology that I did. Anyone who visits this blog now can probably see that, despite a little over a year of blogging experience, I still have many technological challenges to overcome yet. The few improvements are due largely to my new blogging partner, Cheryl.

I remember that the only one who liked my first post was my blogging partner at the time, Susan Sutphin at intersistere. Much to my surprise, someone pressed the “like” icon for my third post, and then honored me with recognition for my fourth post. Over time, we became virtual friends. Without his support, encouragement, and recognition, I am sure I would have given up many times. I know he has done the same for many other bloggers. When he announced that he was taking a hiatus from blogging for a little while, it felt a bit like the sun going out. Since then, I have been contemplating how to express how important his posts have been for me, and how crucial his support for other bloggers has been in building a network that feels like an authentic community based on honesty, creativity, inclusiveness, and critical thinking.

Because he often remembers to ask how my garden is doing, it occurred to me that the work he has done in the blogosphere is similar to gardening, and Pete Seeger provides the metaphor – “inch by inch, row by row… Jeff Nguyen, this is my way to say chi miigwetch for continuing to be part of all of our lives (Ojibwe thank you very much). As I look at the before and after pictures for my garden, I am reminded of where I began as a blogger and where I am at present. It’s still a work in progress, but you gave me the hope and support to continue.

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Inch by inch…

I moved to Duluth in late October of 2011 to a house I bought sight-unseen. My daughter picked it out, although I had seen the following pictures that were posted on the internet.

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Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011

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Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011

I wondered about the log cabin and the windmill and the strange metal “tree” in front of the deck with its ringed branches holding flower pots filled with plastic flowers. I guess we all have different ideas of beauty. And then there was the aged greenhouse frame surrounded by raspberry bushes and little trees, and the rotting weeping willow that showed daylight halfway up its mighty trunk. Cutting trees is not something I do lightly. Yet, as I watched children walking past everyday on their way to and from the elementary school on one side and the high school on the other, I realized I would need to do something to make their passage safer.

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Photo Credit: February 13, 2012

So the dying tree came down, leaving its partner to weather the winds and storms on its own. The next spring, I cleared the brush the old fashioned way, shovel by shovel, inch by inch, and painted the greenhouse frame – still a work in progress.

garden August 2013 (1)

Photo Credit: August 13, 2013

 

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Photo Credit: August 11, 2014

Of course there are always challenges – critters that have been displaced by urban development, and brutal winters.

polar vortex 2014

Photo Credit: The Polar Vortex Winter – February of 2014

 A deer just ate my tomatoes

Photo Credit: A Deer Just Ate my Tomatoes – May 15, 2014

Yet gardens, like blogging, provide opportunities to help others develop knowledge, skills, and a belief in their ability to honor life and create something beautiful. This is the newest project that my granddaughter, Ava, helped to create out of salvaged lumber from the old fence that was replaced as a deer repellant.

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Photo Credit: Ava’s Garden – August 11, 2014

Inch by inch, the garden is continuing to grow, and post by post the blogging adventure is continuing to grow as well. I wish to thank of everyone who has stopped by our modest blog to share your wisdom, kindness, and insights. And again I wish to say chi miigwetch, Jeff for helping build a community that is working to create the peace and unity your work represents.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.