Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Thank you to the water protectors at Standing Rock


Sacramento Standing for Standing Rock
 
I didn’t go to Standing rock,
but I am the millions who stood with you.

I didn’t stand round your sacred fire while you prayed 
for strength to protect the water that gives life to all,
but I felt its warmth and sent my food and blankets
and prayers for your safety and the sanity of our leaders.

I didn’t go to Standing rock,
but I am the millions who learned from you.

I didn’t stand with you on the line where the forces
of greed threw their weapons of intimidation against you,
but I saw your steadfast strength and holy conviction
and it touched my heart and I stood up in my town.

Sacramento
I didn’t go to Standing rock,
but I am the millions 
whose voices you set free.

I didn’t camp with you in the long months 
and freezing nights
on the prairies inspirited with the blood 
of your ancestors,
but I raised my signs in the streets and my voice around our tables 
in the big cities, small towns, and villages, six continents wide.

I didn’t go to Standing rock,
but I am the millions 
who knelt with the veterans
I didn’t actually kneel with the veterans 
asking your forgiveness, but they held 
my heart in their hands 
while they knelt and requested atonement 
for the theft of your land, the broken promises,
the subjugation of your children, your culture, 
your language.

I didn’t go to Standing rock,
but I am the millions guided by your leadership and courage.

I didn’t stand with you as you wielded prayers against guns,
but my heart expanded with hope as the world turned toward you,
reminded of our own power, emboldened to step forward for our earth,
ready, finally, to speak up for our children and the children of our children’s children.

I didn’t go to Standing Rock;
but I am the millions forever changed by you.
You are my Standing Rock;
You made me Standing Rock.
Thank you.
Vermont
Milwaukee

Washington DC
Denver




Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Gratitude and Self Promises

In the Gratitude Miracles Journal, Cycle 7 is Gratitude Creates Wonder. 

Part of the wonder I feel after having completed that cycle … 28 weeks … 196 days … of writing my gratitudes is a sense of consistency, of being able to trust myself to do what I decided to do. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for me it is. My life’s journey is littered with broken promises to myself.


Fortunately, most of those broken promises were discretionary, like the new year’s resolutions we make, almost expecting to break them. Gradually, as the pattern of broken promises became clear, I realized that one of the problems was not being sufficiently committed to the promise in the first place. Every commitment has a price: time, money, effort, discomfort, giving up something in order to achieve something bigger. Every change requires moving out of our comfort zone into discomfort. Making a promise without considering the discomfort factor paves the road to failure.


Whim promises. When I promise myself that I will train for a marathon (something I’ve done a couple of dozen times over the years … and never completed), I imagine the satisfaction of completing the marathon, building strength, becoming fitter, without contemplating the hours, miles, aches and blisters along the way. I neglect the discomfort factor. I have no strategies in place for dealing with the realities of training. I quit.


In the movie Glory Road, Coach Don Haskins, hall of fame basketball coach who broke the color barrier by starting five black players, said to one of his players, “If you quit now, you'll quit every day for the rest of your life!” Quitting becomes a pattern of behavior. Before making a commitment, I’m starting to consider the price and think about how I will handle the discomfort needed to keep the promise to myself.


Perfection promises. Some promises beg to be broken. No more sugar. 10,000 steps a day. Meditate an hour a day. These “shoulds” often come clusters, and I find myself embracing them as if I were perfect, as if I should be perfect. I am letting go of these perfection promises in favor of intentions to avoid sugar, walk more, find a quiet time in every day. 


Writing in my gratitude journal every day takes five minutes and focuses me on the positives in my life. It reminds me to notice the miracles in my life. It’s a promise to myself that I can keep, and keeping this small promise to myself makes me feel confident in making bigger promises.


I am currently on day 12 of a 30-day juice fast. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I first saw Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead a few years ago. My cholesterol tends to run moderately high and I want to know if a juice fast would lower it. I’ve tried to do 30 days before, but the furthest I got was 14 days. 


There is definitely discomfort involved in this promise. Not only hunger, which comes and goes, but the challenges of having a social life in this busiest of all holiday seasons. I spent a fair amount of time before I began this promise, asking myself if it was important enough to warrant the discomfort? How would I handle the worst hunger moments? (Interestingly enough, it comes exactly at 4:00 pm every day, but it turns out that a cup of hot V8 gets me through it.) How would I handle the temptations … the little voice that says, “this tiny little bit of cookie won’t matter?” (Oddly, those tiny white paper cups of free stuff at Costco … stuff that I would never want otherwise … are one of the most devilish of those little voices.) What would I do when someone wants to have a birthday dinner? (Delay … the 30-days will be over soon.) What would I do when I forget why I’m doing this in the first place? (Rewatch the movie, schedule the appointment to have my cholesterol checked, write about why I’m doing this in the first place.)


Keeping my commitment to write my gratitudes every day is making me more confident in making bigger promises to myself. To help with this specific commitment to do a 30-day juice fast, I am going to comment to this post every day or so until I reach my objective. I’ll also report the results of my cholesterol check.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Celebrating Ten Years of Maria Popova's Brain Pickings, #7

Over the past several years, Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings the inventory of a meaningful life, has become one of my favorite sources of inspiration. Brain Pickings was born as an “eccentric personal record” of Maria’s studies and originally sent to seven readers. Now, it is included in the Library of Congress’s archive of “materials of historical importance.”

In celebration of her tenth year of Brain Pickings, Maria offers us ten of her life-earned core beliefs. This is rich stuff so they will be offered one at a time over the next ten weeks. If you’re impatient or want more, go to Brain Pickings and get your own subscription. Incredibly, this feast is still free … although she accepts donations, suggesting a donation level ranging from “a cup of tea to a good dinner.”
7. “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
Here is the seventh in Maria Popova's list of things she loved reading and writing about:
James Gleick on How Our Cultural Fascination with Time Travel Illuminates Memory, the Nature of Time, and the Central Mystery of Human Consciousness

Monday, November 28, 2016

Celebrating Ten Years of Maria Popova's Brain Pickings, #6

Over the past several years, Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings the inventory of a meaningful life, has become one of my favorite sources of inspiration. Brain Pickings was born as an “eccentric personal record” of Maria’s studies and originally sent to seven readers. Now, it is included in the Library of Congress’s archive of “materials of historical importance.”

In celebration of her tenth year of Brain Pickings, Maria offers us ten of her life-earned core beliefs. This is rich stuff so they will be offered one at a time over the next ten weeks. If you’re impatient or want more, go to Brain Pickings and get your own subscription. Incredibly, this feast is still free … although she accepts donations, suggesting a donation level ranging from “a cup of tea to a good dinner.”
6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
Here is the sixth in Maria Popova's list of things she loved reading and writing about:
 Susan Sontag on Storytelling, What It Means to Be a Moral Human Being, and Her Advice to Writers

Monday, November 21, 2016

Celebrating Ten Years of Maria Popova's Brain Pickings, #5

Over the past several years, Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings the inventory of a meaningful life, has become one of my favorite sources of inspiration. Brain Pickings was born as an “eccentric personal record” of Maria’s studies and originally sent to seven readers. Now, it is included in the Library of Congress’s archive of “materials of historical importance.”

In celebration of her tenth year of Brain Pickings, Maria offers us ten of her life-earned core beliefs. This is rich stuff so they will be offered one at a time over the next ten weeks. If you’re impatient or want more, go to Brain Pickings and get your own subscription. Incredibly, this feast is still free … although she accepts donations, suggesting a donation level ranging from “a cup of tea to a good dinner.”
5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as important, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
Here is the fifth in Maria Popova's list of things she loved reading and writing about:
 Cry, Heart, But Never Break: A Remarkable Illustrated Meditation on Loss and Life

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Standing Up for Standing Rock and Understanding the Shadow of Our History

Artist Mary-Ann Myers and Lawrence Laughing
Last night, people gathered in Grass Valley to raise awareness and supplies for the water protectors at Standing Rock. It was a time to share stories, song, support, prayer and food. 

I was drawn to the breath-taking Standing Rock poster (shown at left and described below) and had a delightful conversation with the artist and flute-player Mary-Ann Myers. There were also first-hand stories from people who recently returned from Standing Rock.

I had few expectations, but definitely did not expect a mental seismic event.

The first tremor came when Lawrence Laughing, a tall, gentle man with a soft, resonant voice said that we were standing on our own Standing Rock, right here in these beautiful foothills. 


He reminded us that the Maidu tribe had been decimated during the gold rush when almost 150,000 people were killed by gold and greed (according to Gold, Greed and Genocide by Pratap Chatterjee, now Executive Director at CorpWatch.)

With a mixture of delightful storytelling and a shocking reminder of our past, Johnny Moses, told us a mystical story about caribou and related a bit of his experience at an Indian residential school. For some reason I don't quite understand, the novel I've been working on this year has led me deeper and deeper into our dark past, especially as it relates to our dealings with the people who lived here when we arrived.


Perhaps the image that most brought home the horrors of the residential Indian schools was this picture of tiny handcuffs ... handcuffs for a child ... handcuffs made by someone, probably in large quantities ... handcuffs used by adults to control children. It's an artifact that carries a thousand stories, each of them horrific.

Lawrence Laughing added to my mental tumult later when he talked about technology as something other than a sign of progress. 


That thought connected with an ongoing conversation with another friend who had recently returned from Europe where time took on a different perspective when she toured a cathedral with a glass floor that revealed older structures. It struck her that the European mindset judged progress on structures … roads, cathedrals, waterworks, bridges and so on.

Therefore, when they (we) came to the Americas, all we saw was empty space, a void to be filled, a people without civilization, since civilization was judged by things made by man.

I don’t know where this thinking is going, but my mind feels like a river that has been knocked out of its channel. 


In the meantime, here is a beautiful piece of music by Lawrence Laughing
Click here to listen to Lawrence Laughing "I Wish You Peace"
 And a full view of Mary-Ann Myers' Standing Rock poster as described by the artist:
  • Background represents water...or even water with oil in it...which is exactly what we don't want to happen.
  • The background is a college Lakota student embracing his ancestors.
  • The woman bending down as if crying is a photo of a Lakota pow wow dancer and she was involved in the 1975 Longest walk that Dennis Banks and others organized after the second seige of Wounded Knee.
  • Then there is Sitting Bull, who once said we are poor but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps.  If we must die...we die defending our right.
  • Sitting Bull was the last of the "wild" chiefs but in reality, he is the first American Indian protester.  
  • So, this college student embraces his past but is sad because his people were oppressed for 500 years and it is still happening.  
  •  We must stop this...it will take prayer.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Why Has Standing Rock Captured Our Attention and Imagination?


Story: OutsideOnline.com; Photo: Sara Lafleur-Vetter
“The earth is a spirit, the water is a spirit, and if you have no spirit, and you have no connection to those things, it will be easy to destroy them and not even care.”
-- Quese IMC 
(born Marcus Frejo Little Eagle) 
 

Why is Standing Rock such a phenomena when other, similar actions didn’t catch the public attention?

 

Last night I talked to a woman in her 60s who drove 1500 miles to Standing Rock, who got arrested (with about 30 other people) for obstruction of a government activity, who spent time in a dog cage (a large chain link structure within the jail). She was one of several “returnees” who spoke at a meeting at the Unitarian-Universalist church in Grass Valley, CA.
Photo: Daniella Zalcman

Her story wasn't awful. She wasn’t  shot, maced or pepper-sprayed. She was strip searched and held for almost fourteen hours, but she did not feel like she had been mistreated. She did wonder why she was arrested for obstructing a government activity when she was actually obstructing a corporate activity. Interesting question.
Her story and the story of the other returnees made me wonder why. Why they went. Why they were willing to be arrested. Why they spent their time, money and energy to stand up for this particular issue. 
It could be the issue … water is life. The $3.7 BILLION pipeline crosses a river that impacts the lives of 17 million people and was declared potentially hazardous by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when it was originally proposed near Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota.
It could be the people … Lakota tribespeople putting their lives on the line for their land and for our future rather than for money or power or fame.
It could be the time … perhaps people are waking up to the fact that we need to wake up, speak up, stand up ... that waiting for "them" to fix "our" problems is magical thinking.
It could be the place … a place that calls to some sleeping part of us that remembers an earlier time, a simpler time, a time when we understood and respected the fundamentals of life ... but also calls to the greed of developers and corporations who see it as a nowhere place, an empty-space-on-the-map place.
It could be the anger and fear … clearly highlighted by the recent election, anger and fear are major forces in the world right now.

It could also be the words: Standing Rock … Words that go beyond words into metaphors that carry the power to energize and engage.

Standing Rock. Standing up for what’s important. Standing firm for what we believe in. Standing tall, willing to take risks for the seven generations of the future. Standing out, resisting the forces of power and money and greed.

Standing Rock. Strong, still standing, visible, solid, earth, the planet we live on.
It makes me ask:

When the world is sitting,
What am I standing up for?
What are WE standing up for?
What are YOU standing up for?
Article:

50 Museum Directors Sign Letter Supporting Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Notes: From Mark Sundeen's article for OutsideOnline.com: (entire article highly recommended.)

"Two of our country's biggest issues, racism and climate change, have collided on a North Dakota reservation. This week, I loaded up my station wagon with water and supplies and drove down for a look at a historic demonstration that could shape the national dialogue going forward."

"In 2014, the proposed route of DAPL went through Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, with roughly 61,000 residents, 92 percent of them white. After the Corps determined that the pipeline could contaminate drinking water, it was rerouted to pass by Standing Rock. “That’s environmental racism,” said Kandi Mossett, of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in North Dakota and an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network." 


"The Standing Rock lawsuit may hinge on the definition of sovereignty. The law required the Army Corps of Engineers to consult with the tribe before it permitted the pipeline, but it didn’t require that the tribe approve. So Standing Rock contends that its wishes were overruled.
 
“When we need help, they say we are sovereign,” said Mossett. “But when it comes to development of our resources—oil, gas, coal, uranium, water—then they step in see how much money the state can get.”

"The United Nations appears to agree. On Wednesday, its Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues released a statement that the failure to consult with the Sioux on DAPL violated the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a resolution President Obama signed in 2010."


The Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program authorized nine dams—five on Indian land, displacing those who lived along the banks. Standing Rock lost 55,000 acres, while adjacent Cheyenne River Reservation lost 150,000 acres. According to historian Michael Lawson, author of Dammed Indians, “The Oahe Dam destroyed more Indian land than any other public works project in America.” Estes said his elders “died of heartache.”

Speaking of historic conflicts between tribal nations: "They (Native Americans at Standing Rock) rattled off these 19th-century events like they happened yesterday, and this gathering at Standing Rock was occasion for a new round of history making. The site was called Seven Councils Camp, indicating the first time all bands of Lakota had gathered in one place in more than a century. 

"While I saw passion and anger and solemnity, the main thing I saw was joy. Travelers were reuniting with long-lost relatives. Parents brought small children, and an impromptu homeschool taught them to ride horses and make fry bread."

"The Yakima Nation in Washington chartered a tractor trailer filled with pallets of fresh fruit and bottled water. Small donations were also received: somebody mailed four packets of Lipton noodles. When I asked how long they planned to the stay, most said, 'Till the end.'”

"I met Nick Estes, a Lower Brule Sioux from South Dakota who remembered that when he was a child, his grandparents told stories about the wonderful Missouri River. “But after the 1940s, the stories stopped.” The Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program authorized nine dams—five on Indian land, displacing those who lived along the banks. Standing Rock lost 55,000 acres, while adjacent Cheyenne River Reservation lost 150,000 acres."