Take care with thoughts, words and language

More and more, I am convinced we need more story. We need to slow down. We need to listen, listen to ourselves and others.
We move so fast, not listening, not knowing the full story, forming opinions in the fast lane, cutting others off, leaving them stunned and sometimes hurt. Labeling in a split second when a person pulls over in front of us, they are instantly an asshole or insane. Never mind that they may be a very nice person who has a blind spot or at that moment made a bad judgement call.
Aren’t labels for products and diagnosis for doctors.
We need to open our minds, get out of black and white thinking. There are always at least two sides to every story, no right or wrong. We need to understand.
We need to take care with our words and language.
Pat Benatar is setting an example by no longer singing her hit song, Hit Me with Your Best Shot.
These thoughts and call to pay attention came to me while listening to Ocean Vuong talk with Krista Tippett, On Being.
Highly recommend taking the time to listen to this tender, moving, mind opening episode: Ocean Vuong – A Life Worthy of Our Breath

Thanks for reading and listening.

In the footsteps of Norman Maclean

Sunday afternoon, I sat alone in a theater, surrounded by people and cried. There is a lot of sadness in the world. I was listening to writers speak of this sadness, expressing it so eloquently. The power of words and people who craft them perfectly is enough to bring me to tears.

The In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean festival, free to the public, brought Timothy Egan, Shane Morigeau, Debra Magpie Earling, Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass, Doug Peacock and more to the stage.
Rick Bass, who I adore, introduced Terry Tempest Williams with humor and tenderness. They are long time friends.

Terry in turn, told a story of how Rick had been there for her when her brother committed suicide a couple of years ago. He rang, she said and started telling me a story. He didn’t say, “I’m sorry for your loss” nor try to say the right thing. He just told story until they hung up.

In keeping with the theme, public lands and sacred ground, Terry shared a story of Willie Grayeyes, a Navajo Utah commissioner candidate who went to court to prove his residency. You can read more of his case in the Salt Lake Tribune. He did win. Terry asked Willie, “what do we do with our anger?”
“Terry, it can no longer be about anger. It has to be about healing.” Willie Grayeyes


I missed the speakers on Saturday. Heard it was excellent, with a tribute to the late William Kittredge. Terry shared a passage from Bill’s book, Hole in the Sky,
“We tell stories to talk out the troubles in our lives, trouble otherwise so often unspeakable. It is one of our main ways of making our lives sensible. Trying to live without stories can make us crazy. They help us to recognize what we believe to be the most valuable in the world, and help us identify what we hold demonic.” William Kittredge

Doug Peacock shared stories and read from his books. I confess I have not read them yet. Listening to him, I’m inclined to read them. Rick mentioned he requires his students to read, The Grizzly Years. That’s now on my “must read” list.

Another take away was a reminder of the work that needs to be done to save Yaak Valley Forest.
“In addition to being the stronghold of the last 25 grizzlies in the Yaak Valley, the northwest corner of Montana holds one of the great stalwarts for any successful plan for the western United States to successfully weather the rising tide of global warming.” Rick Bass, Black Ram Project.

As a high school friend of Rick’s ex-wife, I had the good fortune to visit and stay with them in the Yaak on several occasions. We’ve floated the river, passing moose, walked in the forest, watched the northern lights from a fire tower and sat atop a mountain ridge with the taste of Rick’s freshly baked pie in our mouths as shooting stars were the free of charge showing for the night.
It is, as many places are, a place worth saving.

“The cruel things I did I took to the river.
I begged the current: make me better.” Richard Hugo “The Towns We Know and Leave Behind, The Rivers We Carry With Us”

As always, thanks for reading.

Morning Prayer, Padraig O’Tuama

Good morning,

The dog and I are cuddled up, coffee in hand, listening to a conversation between Krista Tippett and Padraig O’Tuama, On Being.
It is aired from Ireland. The scenery around me at my week long pet sit, could be in Ireland.
Padraig gives hope for unimaginable repair. It’s worth a listen.

His morning prayer:

“Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder.
     
     “I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. 

     “I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body. I greet the things I think will happen and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day. I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.

     “I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day, and hope that I can hear some stories, and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead. I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet. Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast. Hello.”

  

Podcast, gun laws, books and movies

Usually, I listen to an audible book or podcast while driving in the car. It especially helps while running errands in Missoula since traffic has gotten out of control with the influx of people moving here. That’s another story.

A few recent good ones worth noting:

-Glennon Doyle’s We Can Do Hard Things, episode with Dr. Galit Atlas discusses Atlas’s new book, Emotional Inheritance, A Therapist, Her Patients and the Legacy of Trauma. Emotional Inheritance is about family secrets that keep us from living to our full potential, create gaps between what we want for ourselves and what we are able to have, and haunt us like ghosts. 

-Glennon Doyle also aired a podcast in response to the recent shooting in Texas. How We Will Save Our Kids from the Gun Lobby’s Greed with Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. It’s educational and shares some actions we can take to get common sense laws passed. It’s effortless to send a letter to Senators urging them to pass gun safety laws at, MDA, take action.

-Tin House podcast, Between the Covers, episode with Caren Beilin – Caren discusses her new novel, Revenge of the Scapegoat.
The main character is the scapegoat of the family. Just a day later I was in our local bookstore, Fact and Fiction, it was right there on the shelf so I bought it.

This was my introduction to Caren Beilin. I’ve put her memoir, Blackfishing the IUD on my “to read” list. As the title makes abundantly clear, the book is an argument that the copper IUD is sickening quite a lot of women — and that we listen first and foremost to women’s testimony to begin to resolve it. Some auto immune diseases stem from the IUD.
As a young woman, I got a terrible infection from an inserted IUD. My later ectopic pregnancy was a result of that infection. That was the demise of a five year relationship with the love of my life as we struggled to handle the ramifications of the pregnancy in our youthful hearts and minds. That’s another story.

I got my Montana ballot in. Dear God, I hope we can keep Zinke from being elected. Monica Tranel got my vote.

The dog I’m caring for, Jessa, and I are off to hike, probably will get wet. Late afternoon, a friend and I plan to see Downton Abbey: A New Era at the Roxy Theater and eat their delicious organic popcorn with organic butter for dinner! That’s my idea of a good way to spend Memorial Day.

Hope you are having an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.
Thanks for reading.

It was a good day until it wasn’t

It was a good day until it wasn’t.

The windy chilly weather we have been having finally broke. It was still and the sun was shining. I was headed to meet my new pet sitting client out Hwy. 200 winding along the Blackfoot river. The idea that I would have a week of pet sitting out the Blackfoot area felt like a gift. It is my favorite area, my favorite river. I want my ashes sprinkled in the river that has given me fond memories with family and friends as well as solitary restorative time.
When I drove up to the homestead situated in large meadow with views of rolling hills and woods I felt even luckier. I have it in my mind to use my week caring for a dog, writing, walking and reading.
I knew nothing about the owner. Another client of mine recommended me to her. As we chatted, I learned more about her and her deceased husband who happens to be a renowned Montana writer. “Yes, this is a writer’s home, write while you are here,” she exclaimed.
Her dog is exceptionally sweet and stayed close as we walked a half mile to the creek, a tributary of the Blackfoot. I got to hear the history of her home. The more we talked, the more connections we discovered. She and her husband have been to Jackson, MS for a signing at Lemuria bookstore where I used to work. She remembered John, my old boss and owner. We are friends with several fellow writers. I was uplifted by it all.
We toured the home, stopping to get instructions for the TV and remote. The TV turned on and there was the news of the Uvalde, TX school shooting. Then it wasn’t a good day.
24 years ago, when my daughter was in high school, our community experienced a school shooting. A fifteen year old killed two and wounded 21 of his classmates at Thurston high school. I remember it like it was yesterday, the community shock and grief, the fear of my daughter even going to school.
To think that just this past year, a law was passed in Texas: a permitless carry bill that Texas conservatives had long sought for and failed to achieve. The law allows most Texans to carry handguns openly in public without going through training or having to get permits. Long guns, like rifles and shotguns, had already been allowed to be carried without a permit.
Law makers are protecting gun laws, not people. They want to protect the unborn without protecting the already born.
It feels overwhelming to think it is out of our hands. In spite of overwhelm I will be writing letters. I will vote in the upcoming Montana election, June 7th, after careful study. Whatever else might be done, I’d appreciate hearing about it.
Meantime, I won’t take for granted that I get to “baby” sit for two of my favorite little girls tonight, a guaranteed good time.


Take care everyone. Thanks for reading.

They Lost It All

Today, I’m asking you to consider helping out a family who lost everything to a house fire just a few nights ago.
It was 1:00 in the morning when the fire department was called.
Everyone is OK physically. They are still investigating the cause.
Jen and Matthew are exceptional people with three year old twin boys. They built this house themselves on special piece of wooded property in south Eugene. Mathew’s mother has a sweet little house on the property and his sister’s family built on the property as well.
Through a mutual friend I was introduced to them and asked to keep their twin boys once a week.
The boys and I would adventure in the garden, hang with the goats and chickens, pick blackberries on their magical piece of land. Before nap time, they’d picked one of the many books from their library to snuggled up and read.
These boys made me laugh and kept me on the go. I wrote of them on a blog post, September 4, 2020. Jen and Mathew, I’ll say it again, are damn good people.


This is what Jen’s boss has to say about her:
“Dear Friends, last night Jen Jackson, a dear friend and long-time Sponsors employee, lost the home she and her partner Matthew built, to a fire that destroyed everything. It is tragic and ironic. Ironic in the sense that Jen is the first person to help others out in times of crisis. She is one of the hardest working and most caring people I have ever met. Fortunately, she and Matthew and Sammy and Eli were physically unscathed. However, they have lost all of their possessions and their home, not to mention the trauma of this event that will be with them forever. I would strongly encourage you to consider making a donation to their Go Fund Me page (see below). I know if the shoe were on the other foot, Jen would be the first to step up and help out.”

Go Fund Me for Jen and Matthew

Sammy and Eli

Remembering

9/11 comes along and stories of remembrance are on the news, NPR, social media. As I’m sure with the day Kennedy was assassinated, many remember where they were when they heard the news. I remember exactly where I was, turned on the TV and remain glued to it for the remainder of the day.

Everyday is filled with loss, extraordinary loss but we don’t always witness it. 9/11 was in our face, televised. Our nation grieved together and still does. Many now suffer from PTSD, loss of limb, toxic poisoning, the list goes on.

Just this morning as I’m pulling out of the grocery store parking lot. I hear the voice of a young boy on NPR, it must have originally broadcast a few years ago. He, with all the confidence in the world, declares he can feel the warmth of his grandmother who was killed on 9/11 even though he only knew her the first 11 months of his life.

I pulled my car over to wail. To wail for all the loss. And praying that my grandchildren can still feel my warmth even though I only knew them the first two and half years of their life. I pray to anyone who will listen that my daughter feels my love for her in spite of how she feels about me. I pray that this world gets some healing in so many areas.

Noticing Joy

Did it happen in the middle of the night, maybe while I was eating a meal or while I was meeting a new pet sitting client or walking a dog, maybe while I was dancing outside to live music with some of my favorite people or swimming in the river…I’m not sure but I noticed it. That’s what matters.

It dawned on me; I feel good, physically and emotionally. Was it the thyroid medicine my naturopath put me on, the new gluten, dairy free meal plan I’m adhering to? Was it the world opening a bit and getting busy again with house/pet sitting, and gathering with dear, dear friends? Probably all of the above. I’m experiencing joy. 

Things have fallen into place. I don’t want that to go unnoticed. I am living simply in a place I’ve wanted to live since I discovered it back in the 1980’s. I have the most amazing authentic friends. My occupation of house/pet sitting is the perfect complement to my writing life. I am not wanting of much, not a new house, car, relationship, I don’t want anymore stuff. I want to live simply. Yea, I like to travel, and I will. 

And there will be hard knocks again. Life has a habit of giving us those. 

A quick exchange with a friend yesterday was confirmation. His precious daughter got cancer at two years old. She’s now in remission. He now has a 2nd daughter. For a few years his life was hell, now it’s full and joyful. He witnessed me experience the disconnect with my daughter and grandkids while he was unsure how long he might have his daughter. But yesterday, we reveled in our good fortune as of late, acknowledging it could all change tomorrow. 

I am feeling much more equipped to handle challenges. My living situation could change tomorrow, someone I love could die. I’ve come to accept that we don’t just get to a place and stay there, no we keep on traveling, experiencing the adventure of it all.

Thanks for reading. 

PS, if you haven’t seen Summer of Soul, I highly recommend it for it’s educational, uplifting entertainment. It’s streaming on Hulu and playing in theaters.

Conversations We Need to Have

A few weeks ago, I was helping out at a fund raising garage sale for a BIPOC organization. Kenya and I struck up a conversation. Somehow it came up that I grew up in Mississippi. She exclaimed that her grandmother was from there.
“We are probably cousins.” she giggled. I giggled right along with her. Kenya is black. I’d love to be her cousin.

I shared with her some of the unpleasant, that’s putting it lightly, actions of my family. Actions I grew up with and ones I learned about from researching my ancestry.

“Hey, these are conversations we need to have in order to heal, learn do things differently.” she said. I couldn’t agree more. She came over the next week to do some digging on ancestry, showing me where her family lived in Mississippi. We found some slave stories, one being from a great, great grandmother of hers. We could have used a few more hours. Her dad is creating a podcast, about when you woke. Kenya will be interviewing me. Don’t know when it will go live. You’ll be the first to know.

On this 4th of July, let us not forget the words of Fredrick Douglass in his famous speech:
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

Descendants of Fredrick Douglass read his speech


And Maurice Carlos Ruffin on Being a Patriotic Black Southerner
I love Maurice Carlos Ruffin. On twitter, he is such a light, giving positive words to fellow writers.

Stay safe. Thanks for reading.

Mental Health Awareness

The last day of May marks the end of National Mental Health Awareness month. May awareness not stop here.

I did happen upon an enlightening show and podcast this month.

In the series, The Me You Can’t See, Oprah Winfrey brings stories to the screen that attempt to bring truth, understanding and compassion to those suffering. The things we don’t see or understand scare us. It’s in story that we can heal, listen and find compassion.

As I watched, it brought to mind my most unfavorite word, crazy. It’s limiting. It does not take into account what may have happened to someone. Calling someone crazy is dismissive, only adding to the stigma of mental illness. It is used as a defensive mechanism to shut someone up. Instead of calling someone crazy or saying what is wrong with you, ask what happened. Then listen.

*In Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, she speaks with writer Ashley C. Ford about her new memoir, Somebody’s Daughter, and how it is written for everyone who walks into a bookstore and feels like they can’t find a book about themselves and there are a lot of us looking for that. They talk about the writing process, the truth-telling process, and how connecting the two can be liberating not only to us, but also to others. It is not just a story about her life, it is a story about life and what connects us to show us that we are not alone–and that we are braver than we know.
Ashley makes the point that there are not heroes and no villains in her story. I aim to make that apparent in my memoir. We are all flawed, most of us have had something happen to us and we all deserve grace.

*Thanks Lola for the recommendation

Thanks for reading. See you in June.