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Thursday 29 December 2005, 12:05 AM
I happened to see tv tonight for the first time in ages, and there was a news story about the killing I discussed a couple of blog entries before this one. The police rationale were:
1) It’s too hard to shoot someone in the leg,” it’s a difficult target.” Were there no decent marksmen among the 10 or so cops involved?
2) The man was mentally ill but the police had no way of knowing that. Aren’t police supposed to be trained to recognize mental illness?
What kind of training do the new orleans poilice receive before being handed a badge and a gun? Are they trained to be skilled with the guns they handle? Are they trained to PROTECT and SERVE the public or just to respond with violence to any situation that’s the least bit threatening?
Why did no one try to talk the guy down, stay at a safe distance and talk gently with him until he calmed down? Doesn’t the new orleans police department have people who are skilled in such situations? Why aren’t the officers trained in conflict resolution as well as how to execute a man in the street? The whole thing is appalling, and the bullshit spin that has been put out by the city is as disgusting as the murder itself.
There was also a news story about a clinic in new orleans that needs $200,000 a month to operate, they see 100 people a day. They are saying that unless they get $1.2 million over the next 6 months they may not be able to stay open. As it is they can only offer primary care. Common Ground Health Clinic sees 100+ people a day running on around $5000 a month!
These are the kinds of disparities, lies, and just plain ineptitude that are rotting out the core of this country.
Wednesday 28 December 2005, 10:06 AM
This is a call for some small donations to me personally. I am without a paycheck from teaching for the semester break and while my expenses are minimal, I tend to spend personal money on projects for the clinic, and I’m running out of money. Anyone wanting to donate to me can go to PayPal and donate to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 27 December 2005, 5:02 PM
I went to Phoenix 10 days ago for a family party. On my way back, walking through the airport in Dallas, I saw a young soldier walking towards me. I have a knee-jerk reaction to uniforms, one of dislike, but as soon as I looked at his face that changed.
He was walking in lock step, he was looking straight ahead, and his eyes looked blank, dead, numb. He couldn’t have been more than 22 or 23 years old and it was plain to see on his face that he was in a state of psychological shock.
What has he seen? What has he done? How has it affected him?
In the early 1980’s I interned for a year at a Vietnam Veteran’s Counseling Center. I saw how destroyed the men were who had been in combat. I a lot about PTSD (now called PTSS).
Now we have another generation of young men and women, sent to fight an unjust (and in this case illegal) war, coming home to their families and friends, changed, fragmented psychologically, and many with terrible physical wounds, disfigurements, disabilities.
We don’t even hear about the 100,000+ dead in Iraq, or how many wounded and traumatized people there are because the military doesn’t bother counting those.
This obscenity must stop, and those responsible must be held accountable. I’d like nothing more than to see Bush & Co. stand trial for their crimes against humanity. I’m not holding my breath.
Monday 26 December 2005, 10:00 PM
At around 6 PM I was just arriving back at the house with Lasky, on foot, when the phone rang. I was told that there had been a shooting and my services were needed to support the witnesses.
I went to the Common Gorund Community Center on the east bank. There I met with a young woman who told me her story.
She was in a Burger King with a friend. They are in New Orleans making a documentary about what’s happening here. There was a man who frequented the BK daily for coffee. He would drink his coffee and talk to himself. He had some mental health problems. This information was relayed to the young woman by someone working at the BK.
The young woman went to the bathroom. When she came out the man was outside, with 20 or 30 police officers on the scene. dead. Her friend witnessed the shooting. The man had a 3 inch blade, which is like a swiss army knife. I am not clear on how the confrontation started, but the police had backed him down the street at gunpoint. They maced him to the point that he was on the ground. Then (I don’t know how many) at least one white cop pulled his gun and basically executed the man, who was African American, on the street in cold blood in broad daylight.
Will this show up in any newspapers? Will anyone be held accountable? We know this happens in cities across this country. Why do we tolerate lawless murdurous police? For the same reasons we tolerate lawless murdurous tyrants, like Bush; as long as it’s not happening to me, or you, we don’t have to really deal with it. That answer, however, is less and less viable everyday as the fascism of this country broadens, deepens, becomes more and more the status quo.
I used to have a button that said “Question Authority” but now I think it should say “Defy Authority.”
I sang weaver weaver for him.
Sunday 25 December 2005, 12:33 PM
Here are photos from Christmas in Algiers.
Currently I am working on a few projects. One is investigating the possibility of helping some folks with chronic mental illness to establish an independent living situation. I’ve had the help of a law student who researched the Louisiana rules and regs.
I’m working on making the mental health aspect of the clinic more effective and professional with regular supervision meetings, a more formalized screening of new clinicians, and follow-up with patients.
I spend about 15 hours a week in the clinic doing bodywork, consulting on mental health issues, and counseling work involving anything from listening to pain management hypnosis.
There are a few folks in the neighborhood that I make a point of visiting with regularly, folks who do well when they have people to check in with on a regular basis.
Since I am the mental health person who is here pretty much all the time I am pretty much holding the overview for that. There is also a guy who comes down once a month for a week, a psychiatrist who’s a street medic and has been part of the clinic since right after it started. He’s great to work with. There’s a woman here for a couple of weeks who’s also a psychiatrist. She’s doing some awesome work putting together our protocol for psychotropic medications. Sometimes a doc comes who’s still into the prescription pad as one of the first tools to use rather than one of the last, so we are establishing protocols which will screen out and pre-empt that kind of practitioner.
Time to eat some breakfast, then head over to help make Christmas dinner.
Friday 23 December 2005, 9:31PM
I haven’t written in a while. Time has been moving fast, full of activity, people, situations.
I’ve just been putting together a radio show for Radio Algiers for Christmas day. That’s a fun thing to do, to select music with a message and to speak briefly. I hope people enjoy it.
One of the thoughts I’ve had lately is that what’s happening here is the reality of this country, but with the illusions stripped away. The corruption, incompetent government, racism, classism, sexism, etc. all exist in most if not all parts of this country, but the illusions are maintained because there is no immediately noticeable “disaster.” The disaster, though, exists at the core of american society. The willingness of the majority to tolerate the lies and corruption of the politicans is beyond appalling. It’s truly perverse. I’m preaching again. Anyway, you get the point.
We had a couple of really nice solstice events, a dinner one night and a circle the next night. That felt really good.
The clinic is moving to a space across the street from the mosque where it has been housed thus far. The new space was a grocery store. Common Ground folks have gutted it, rewired and plumber, painted, and the clinic will be moved into it over this weekend. Then we’ll clean up and restore the mosque.
Thursday 15 December 2005, 8:47 AM
Last night we had a storm. I’m sure it was nothing compared to Katrina, but I was worried that the canvas sides of the camper would be blown off. The wind was fierce, the lightening and thunder close and frequent, and the rain driving, flowing steadily through the spaces in the back door of the camper. I stuffed towels around the door and they are well soaked this morning. This went on for a few hours. The electricity went out at the beginning. I was afraid that something would blow off the roof of a house onto the camper, but luckily that didn’t happen.
Yesterday was one of those days where I didn’t feel I got much done. I participated in a meeting in the morning. People from a local rapid HIV testing unit, who lost their clinic, approached the Common Ground clinic about coming one day a week to offer the test to folks. We were working out the logistical details, and they set up and started their work. It’s pretty exciting to be adding services.
I took some time in the middle of the day to focus on the class I teach online for a college in Vermont. It’s Finals week so I have papers and exams to grade.
There is a person here, a nurse/counselor who is working on the flow of our clinical process, and we had a discussion about how to organize the mental health workers and our work.
I had a few conversations with people on the street. In the evening one of our neighbors, someone with a fairly severe mental illness, was in front of their house inebriated, showing signs of possible meltdown. Three of us did some grounding on the porch nearby for a while, and he did calm down before the storm hit.
A significant number of clinic folks are going to their respective families for the holidays, which is good. They’re all pretty ready for some time off, some family lovin’, some dis- and re- charge. I’m hoping for a quiet holiday for at least a few days. That is the week during which we’ll be moving the clinic to our new space, yet to be announced.
Tuesday 13 December 2005, 4:11 PM
Today, for the first time, I’ve had some time to walk around the city, in daylight, even.
That thought was interrupted by some people I had a conversation with. I started writing while sitting in Jackson Square Park, and an older woman and her 30 something daughter came along, and then the older man part of the family showed up. They are not residents but they love New Orleans and wanted to come see for themselves what had happened, and to visit friends. Anyway we ended up having a good conversation about what we were seeing around us. The backdrop, though, is a Homeland Security Protection vehicle across the street with lights a flashin’.
So today I got to wander around some, the French Quarter and a bit...jeez I want to say east but the cardinal directions here are unbelievably confusing with the way the river meanders and the city is built around those meanders. It was good to walk around. There were not a lot of people but the folks who clearly live here often had that shocked look one sees after trauma. Some folks were jovial, and there was a surprising amount of tourist types out shopping. And of course signs of Katrina, though the quarter was cleaned up and open for business as fast as could be after the hurricanes.
A friend, someone who also does healing work, and I spent time with the family of the young woman who was killed this past weekend. It was amazing to be with them. They are pretty amazing people. We did bodywork and healing and listened. I became aware of how much their situation reminded me of when my mother was murdered in Nevis last year, and what me and my brothers went through.
I rode back across the river as a pedestrian passenger on the ferry where I met a guy who told me about being set up by the police a month after Katrina, and he’d been held until today when he was released. He was scared to go walking through Algiers knowing that the police regularly stop people of color on the street and he didn’t want to have to go through that. The same friend who did bodywork with me today met me at the ferry and gave him a ride to where he was going.
Life is very rich here. Rich in the qualities of humans at our worst and best, and everything in between. I suppose that’s true everywhere all the time, but there is a heightened quality to everything here. It’s supercharged. I know it’s not just me who experiences this because I hear people remark upon it regularly.
I’ve reflected on my angry posting yesterday. I think it’s part of an experience like this to feel an experience gap with people who are not sharing in it. I think this is a real thing, and that it can create emotional distances which are unfortunate. I have felt it myself, after a big protest action for instance, feeling a sense of disconnect with people who hadn’t been through the experience also. With something as long term and heightened as this experience in New Orleans, I feel a sense of cautious awareness about this type of experience gap. I don’t want to be hostile or blaming, and at the same time I want to communicate that this experiment in martial law is very dangerous and wrong, and that everything the united states purports to be is lost here. The Constitution is null and void in general what with fixed elections and government/corporate fascism, but here the random quality to “law enforcement” is widespread and blatant. This experiment will be replicated in other cities in the united states, as the republican party and the collaborator democrats continue to serve the bidding of their corporate masters. Many people, myself among them, predicted what’s happened already; war, abrogation of civil rights, destruction of the national economy, war crimes, treason really, since Bush was appointed to office in 2000. So for me to say that this martial law will spread is something to pay attention to. Go to any city and look around. What do you see? Are there surveillance cameras? What’s the police presence? Are there Homeland Security vehicles and Restricted Zones? How do people look? Are they thriving? Are the smiling? What kind of economics do you see reflected in the ways that people of different ethnicities do and do not prosper? Are the libraries closing down? Are the fire departments and hospitals being privatized?
OK, enough for tonight. I’m tired, still working on this head and chest cold, and tomorrow is soon and full.
Monday 12 December 2005, 5:35 PM
At midnight tonight the state of California is going to murder Stanley Tookie Williams, one of the most important anti-gang voices in the country.
Yesterday after the memorial for our fallen friend, the New Orleans police raided the memorial, finding just a few people still grieving, singing, loving each other. They brutalized and arrested people.
The united states of fascism is in full gear. We can’t just blame the republican “lawmakers” though. I do think they should be rounded up and held, starting with Bush and Cheney, but the democrats are as culpable. Fascists like Hilary Clinton and John Kerry should be help responsible for their parts as well.
So what are “we the people” going to do? What are YOU going to do? Are you going to stay comfortable hoping the new SS or the new Gestapo won’t come for you or your kids? And when they do will you regret your complacency?
Do I sound angry? You betcha I’m angry! Anyone who isn’t angry is in denial. We are all complicit, but we can start to mitigate that by risking our comfort and getting out and doing something real. Writing letters to congress is a waste of time. Giving money to the red cross is like giving money to the Bush campaign. The real s/heroes are the people who are putting their lives on the line, and most of them are young people and people of color. They need us. Join the revolution, for make no mistake about it, this is a revolution, and it’s a violent one. The police, the blackwater (stinkwater) security are the new gestapo and the new ICE police are the new SS. It’s here and now in New Orleans, and it’s being set up in whatever city you live in or near. Think I’m paranoid? Come to New Orleans and see with your own eyes.
I love my friends. I am so fortunate to know amazing loving people. Some of them are reading this and wondering, perhaps, if I am angry with them. It’s hard to say this but right now anyone who isn’t part of the solution is part of the problem. I, of course, feel instantly apologetic for saying that, but what I am seeing here is real. If you’re sitting comfortably, go do something that makes you uncomfortable that helps someone, or that challenges the status quo. Talk about fascism with your circle of friends and family, and do more than talk, take a real risk with your body. Go where the fascist “law enforcement” thugs are brutalizing especially people of color and youth and see it, name it, photograph it, get in the way, do something!
And for crying out loud, stop shopping!!!
Sunday 11 December 2005, 9:20 AM
Yesterday afternoon there was an auto accident involving a bus, 8 volunteers from the northeast on their way back to New Orleans after being in Mississippi for a couple of days. The bus overturned on an off-ramp. One person was killed.
She was one of the people who helped cut up and haul out the fallen trees behind the house where I’m staying, a 25 year old woman from Maine.
I spent the afternoon and early evening at the Spirit of Charity (formerly a hospital) ER which is now set up in the Convention Center. The people who were on the bus all needed to be seen by medics, and a number of other people from Common Ground also showed up to offer support. It was a very sad time.
Today I plan on going back across the river. There will be some kind of gathering, possibly in the garden which she helped plant last week, and certainly there will be a lot of need for support as people grieve.
Saturday 10 December 2005, 1:07 PM
Today is my first full day off since I came back to NOLA. I’m fighting off, and winning, a cold bug virus thing.
Life here is pretty close to the bone. The human condition is exposed in all it’s beauty and ugliness, kindness and cruelty, strength and frailty, etc. You name it. it’s here. The contradictions are deep and old and glaring, and the people who live here are accustomed to them
Right now I am sitting on the sidewalk outside of the armed FEMA camp, hitchiking on their wi-fi. The Blackwater Security guys (Haliburton) are still here, still armed, still represent fascism, and it’s become sort of normal. Seeing uniformed men (mainly) with M-16’s is normal here. Anyone who still imagines that the united states is a democracy is living in such a dream land. Wake up!
The Common Ground Media Collective has just come out with a DVD. Please consider buying one or more copies as part of your holiday shopping.
This 22 minute DVD was made during the period of the Road Trip by an amazing volunteer team of videomakers and it is a wonderful expression of Common Ground's overall mission as well as a document of the work achieved so far. With titles, music, footage of volunteers at work as well as political analysis.
We are asking for a minimum donation of $10 per DVD to help cover our costs and shipping. More is always welcome, and will benefit the work here. Send checks made out to Common Ground and the address where you want the DVD mailed to:
CommonGround Collective--DVD order
331 Atlantic Ave
New Orleans, LA
Tuesday 6 December 2005, 9:58 PM
I woke up at 7. It was cold. Cold. I got out of bed by 7:30, went to the friends’ house where I use the bathroom, then went to the Tuesday 8:30 clinicians meeting. We met for an hour. I participated in an in-service by presenting alternatives/complementary approaches re: pain meds by talking about some of the psychology of pain and ways I can help people with pain. After the meeting I met briefly with an herbalist to discuss options for the person who I was going to meet with at 10. The person came. It was our second meeting. They are dealing with crippling anxiety and depression. We met, after which the person asked if they could do anything to help at the clinic and I asked them to take the massage sheets to the FEMA laundry folks who will wash and fold them for us.
The next hour is a blur of various confusing activities. I then went back to the house where I’m camped and made breakfast for two other people. The three of us took some time to just talk, which felt great. We then went to work. I picked garbage out of the lot where the garden’s going to be, brought filled trash bags out to the curb for pickup, and moved some lumber.
I went back to the clinic at 3 and called some folks who were in the counseling referral bin. One of them said they’d be in right away so I met with that person. I massaged someone else who’s been coming in everyday for massage with me, reiki, and acupuncture from other practitioners, and who reports that their nightmares are going away, anxiety is reducing, apetite is returning to normal, physical flexibility is improved, and overall sense of wellbeing is way up. I also did bodywork with a tree cutter who’s been clearing away fallen trees for the last 8 weeks. I also met briefly with someone in heroin withdrawl. The clinic closed at 8 and I facilitated a debriefing for the clinic staff.
That’s probably as average a day as I can describe. Some days there are more crises.
The clinic probably saw between 80 and 100 people today. I am visualizing the sign-in sheet and guestimating the number.
Monday 5 December 2005 8:15 AM
Starting the day listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie, holding in my awareness the image of Earth, spinning beautiful. And on her the humans moving through time, warring, oppressing each other, choosing over and over to defile the beauty of life, to ignore our own beauty, instead choosing domination and cruelty over generosity and kindness. It makes me cry hard.
I’m off to the clinic for a 6 hour shift. Anything could happen. I imagine I’ll do some massage, some counseling, some listening. I’m putting together a 3 hour retreat for the clnic staff this Friday, and a stress reduction workshop for tonight at alocal church. I’m also working on getting more counselors down here for the holidays because they’re going to be needed.
It’s 5 PM now. I’m done with my day at the clinic and am taking a break at a local café before the workshop.
Today it’s been cold and rainy, so traffic at the clinic was slow for a while but it picked up to the usual hectic pace by late morning.
I don’t even know what to say anymore. There are so many people here who are so messed up by Katrina, and many who were struggling before Katrina. The new fake election machines are being installed in Louisiana soon so the people are about to lose their voice for real, until and unless the fascist government is done away with.
Here is what I really want to say to anyone reading this. Please please PLEASE become active in your community, call things as you see them, don’t settle for materialistic stupor. The united states is a fascist state. You may want to argue that point but if you look closely it is plain to see. Please do what you can to help change this. Know that paying taxes supports fascism at this point. Consumerism supports fascism. Anything that isn’t blatantly pro-liberation ends up being pro-fascism, and we’re all in this soup together. I am pleading because I don’t know what else to do. My grief and my rage are both huge. I am so disgusted with what’s happening here in the united states, and it is up to “We the people” to change it. How can we each change this? Take the time to catalog all the ways you support the status quo financially, behaviorally, ideologically, and start really challenging yourself to do different. Don’t be a “good German” who sits by while Auschwitz ovens burn, break out of the lie of the united states and make change. Please.
Friday 2 December 2005 7:20 PM
Things are hopping here in New Orleans. Here’s a rundown of the last two days.
Yesterday, Thursday December 1, was the first day residents of the lower ninth ward in New Orleans were allowed back to their neighborhoods to see what was left, or in most cases to see that nothing was left, of their homes. Contrary to representations in corporate media many of these people owned their homes. This was an area populated by many professionals; doctors, lawyers, teachers etc. The corporate media and the government have portrayed the residents of the lower ninth ward as impoverished urban blacks, when in fact they were professional, economically stable people living in homes that had been in some families for generations. This is just another example of the way racial stereotypes are institutionalized and perpetuated in the united states.
Common Ground Health Clinic had a mobile clinic at the checkpoint/entry to the neighborhood. We were under one of two large tents with tables and chairs, all provided by FEMA or the city, I’m not sure. Traffic was directed alternately by local police and Nationl Guard wearing M-16’s on shoulder straps to be prepared for...what exactly? FEMA was there, the (now a profit corporation) red cross, EPA, a prayer chapel in a trailer, the Salvation Army, Hand to Hand had a clinic going. It was very hectic.
The clinic was staffed by a doctor, a physicians assistant, two medical students, two nurses, a street medic, a multi-talented “non professional” and myself. The medic, the multi-guy and I did intake with people, which was a great way to make contact with people, have some time to talk with them and listen to them while they waited for their turn with a practitioner. These folks had either just seen the wreckage for the first time in person or were on their way in. They came to us for tetanus shots, hepatitis b vaccine, flu shots, blood pressure checks, one guy had a bad sore on his leg. From 10 AM to 2 PM we saw about 70 people.
I made contact with a lot of people. Most of the people who were coming from having seen their house wreckage were in shock, unable to concentrate, dazed, stunned. There were hundreds of people around and a lot of them were walking in a daze. Some people I saw were able to feel some positivity, and a few were absolutely beaming with gladness to be alive. Some people were finding friends and neighbors, and that was beautiful to witness; the excitement and joy. There was one woman screaming to her friend across the parking lot, there were 4 older women who were just all smiles seeing each other, taking pictures of each other in pairs. All these people lost everything. Every momento, every bit of physical connection to their lives other than their bodies and the clothes on their backs.
I continue to hear from different people their certainties that the levee was blown up, and that it wasn’t. That discussion continues to be spoken all around the city. Both arguments are plausible. I don’t know what to believe.
I was pretty exhausted when we got back to Algiers, but very happy to find that a friend who’d been at the clinic in October when I was there had returned, with her dog, to stay for a while. That was very sweet.
Today I put together a proposal to the clinic board for funds to go into the repairs of the house where I’m staying. This is the house that’s been donated to the clinic for year if we do some fixup, so some folks from the clinic, including myself, are doing that, and coordinating the start of a community garden in the adjacent lot. People in the neighborhood are starting to come by to see what’s going on, and are expressing interest in the garden. Watching this transform is pretty neat. The house has been mostly emptied out, the kitchen cleaned enough for me to wash dishes in there, the downed trees in the back yard have been mostly cut up and removed, lots of trash is gone, the plantings in the front yard are looking happier without any debris on them.
I spent some time on the phone with a person who was in crisis, did laundry, and now I’m finally getting down to writing. All in all, two good days.
What I’m finding at the clinic is that if I do massage with people, they usually talk, cry, laugh, and it’s working as a way to make contact. The days of sitting in the waiting room and doing impromptu counseling are done at least for now. The massage is a great way to connect, I’m loving it.
In terms of my thoughts about the bigger picture, I continue to see that the united states is essentially winding down. The corrupt politicians and corporate greed and war-mongers are in control of so many resources, including the greatest one, the minds of many of the people. The propaganda machine and the psychological effects of the ways the lies are put out has so many people numbed and essentially walking in lockstep, and yet there is a revolution happening in this country. It’s not a thing trying to happen, it’s happening. This all with the backdrop of, among other things, an ongoing war against people of color. I know for a lot of white people, my saying that there is a war against people of color may seem hyperbolic, but from what black people say to me, many of them see that the united states is killing people of color around the world and certainly here at home. We all know who's on death row, and it's mostly men of color.The worldwide white supremacy movement which Hitler was part of and which Bush & Co. are part of, rolls on. The Bush family provided part of the financial support for the explorations into eugenics at Yale University in the 1920's.
People are making new ways of being in new kinds of communities. New Orleans is just one example. The possibilities here are amazing. If some solar and wind power folks would get jazzed about New Orleans and be willing to donate some good demo projects, I’m sure that the projects would receive community support, fuck the politicans, and the good will towards those who made the projects would be significant nationally. If anyone reading this knows of folks like that, please talk with them or email me or something.
“American” united states culture is in such a state of decay, and yet nature uses decay for food and makes new things from it, and I believe that is what’s happening here.
Here's a photo someone took of me in October at a mobile clinic over in the seventh ward under an interstate exchange.
Thursday 24 November, 2005 9:45 PM
It’s Thanksgiving. I spent the day with some folks from the clinic that I feel connected with, an elderly gentleman from the neighborhood joined us for a late dinner, but prior to that we mostly hung out talking. It was a day to process without processing, to talk about what we’re feeling about this experience.
I felt pretty heavy and sad a lot today. Besides some family stuff which this holiday brings up for me, I’m finding re-entry to be challenging in ways I hadn’t expected. I haven’t really found my direction yet in the same way I did in October. When I came to New Orleans initially I jumped into one-on-one and “millieu” group counseling at the clinic. It is my observation that the need has changed, and I don’t see myself doing the kind of mental health triage I was doing. On Tuesday I did some massage, and talked with a few people out in front of the clinic, but it is my perception that people are in a very different place than they were 6 weeks ago.
I am beginning to see some clear images of what I may be called to do here through the fog of my uncertainty. Getting this little house (which driveway I am camping in) cleaned up and livable is my priority. My fantasy is that it can house one or two people, myself and another. I can even see myself continuing to live int he camper. The house can be a place for massage and counseling to happen, support groups, stress management groups, training group facilitators, and gardening. The back yard, where currently there are two large pecan trees down, and the lot next to the house, can become amazing gardens. I can see myself doing that stuff. I also really want to get some permaculturists to come help with getting these gardens going. The vision a number of folks here have is that with the help of some outsiders, neighborhood folks would make the garden happen so it’s a neighborhood garden. The neighbors I’ve talked with are into it. Any permies or other garden folks who’re interested, consider coming to New Orleans sometime in January or February to help with that.
I am also interested in doing something about getting schools going for the little kids especially. There is an elementary school 2 blocks up on this street. It is sitting empty and unused, although it came through Katrina unscathed. The city of New Orleans has not seen fit to reopen schools in Algiers. I have heard that there is one school open somewhere in the area, but I haven’t seen any open schools, and I have seen numerous schools which are closed. It’s an opportunity to get some alternative schools going which would serve the kids here. In fact anyone reading this who has an interest in coming here and helping with that would be much appreciated. Please email me.
Tomorrow I will go to the clinic and see what the day brings. A friend sent me some funds she wants to go towards animal care, and there is a woman in this neighborhood who’se been doing a ton of that since the hurricanes, so I want to find her and deliver those funds. I am also working on getting a carpenter to come to the house and fix the floor in the front room where some joists are rotted out, and on getting a crew to come and get this house emptied out and cleaned up so we can get the Common Ground Community Health Project underway on site.
Reading overt this blog entry I see that I am not as directionless as I feel. That’s encouraging.
Thanks go out to my friends and family who’ve supported me with emotional spiritual support and financial support for me or for the clinic. Thank you for giving what you have. That’s all any of us can do.
Tuesday November 22 2005, 5:46 PM
This letter is being sent to my personal list of friends and family (some of whom have already donated generously) as well as to everyone who has volunteered at the health clinic since its creation; more than 160 kind and caring individuals. Over the past 10 weeks we have seen more than 5,000 patients through the Teche Street clinic, mobile clinics and home visits. Along with traditional western medicine, we have offered herbal medicine, acupuncture, counseling, massage and physical therapy. We are developing projects that increase community involvement, responsible care, and education. We are forming coalitions between existing structures of health care delivery and grassroots community efforts. It's exciting, groundbreaking, and the most humane project I've ever been part of.
The Common Ground Health Clinic is determined to be a permanent fixture here in Algiers. Thus far, we have maintained remarkably low operating costs through generosity, ingenuity, and efficiency. The clinic is now facing new challenges: both the out-of-state health care provider credentialing and our stay at Masjid Bilal Mosque will be ending January 1st, 2006. In assessing a prospective operating budget, including future salaries for local health workers and rent, we have determined that we need a substantial funding base. In the interest of stability, autonomy, and community empowerment, it is critical that we place the clinic in the hands of the community, and leave a legacy of assets, not debt.
Common Ground's history is overflowing with incredible acts of generosity. The following request does not come lightly: we need the support of individual donors to help provide a permanent home for this community clinic.
Over the holiday season, please consider speaking with your family and friends about making a donationu of gifts. Any contribution is welcome and appreciated. Our goal is to raise $250,000 to secure a home for a permanent health care clinic.
In order for donations to be tax deductible we are working with a non-profit who will receive funds for us and pass them along to us.
Donations can be sent to:
AIDSAIL earmarked for the Common Ground Health Clinic
(Credit Card) http://www.aidsail.org Click "Donate", it links to
JustGive.org In "Designated Donation" type: Common Ground Health Clinic
mail check/M.O. to: AIDSAIL, 537 S. Alvarado St , Los Angeles, CA 90057
Earmark your donation to Common Ground Health Clinic
Aidsale contact info: Ms. Christine Murto, Director Tel (213) 207-2788, Fax: (213) 207-2773
Monday 21 November 2005, 11:01 PM
I am in my camper, parked on Socrates in front of the medic apartment, about to go to bed. I got here this evening, after getting lost in New Orleans for a while. How funny is that? I drove through residential areas which are dark and deserted, and populated commercial areas, like the French Quarter which looks like business as usual.
It's great to be back at the clinic. It's a quiet evening here. There are a few familiar faces and a few new ones. It's surreal. It's the same and different, which is what I've prepared myself for, so I feel good here. Tomorrow morning is a clinicians meeting and then we open at 10 and...back to it.
It looks like Common Ground may be buying a building in the neighborhood, and providing a long term space for the clinic. This means...fundraising! Stay tuned.
Sunday 20 November 2005 12:28 Central Time
I’m in Oklahoma City headed towards Dallas. Kansas and Oklahoma are freaky, they just are. Huge crosses, all this Jesus stuff, lots of yellow and r/w/b ribbon magnets on cars, and right to life billboards. The contradictions are so profound it’s mind blowing.
I’m psyched to get back to the clinic. Time to hit the road.
Monday 14 November 2005, 11:56 PM
Two things to share. First, the police in New Orleans are at it still, harrassing and threatening African Americans. One of the volunteers at the Common Ground Clinic was threatened. Here’s a link to the article. http://neworleans.indymedia.org
On another note, the first Pentacle of Air workshop was held this past weekend.
I’m teaching healing classes in Denver this week, then heading back to New Orleans.
Wednesday 9 November 2005, 8:16 Mtn Time
We are camped at Yuba Lake about 100 miles south of Salt Lake City, on our way to Denver. I plan to arrive there tomorrow evening. Last night we slept at a cheap motel in Reno.
It’s very quiet here. There is only one other vehicle and it’s dark at that site. It’s good to hear the quiet after all the driving. You can see the glow of the Salt Lake City megalopolis which is well over 100 miles long following Highway 15, and hideous commercial consumerist development nonstop the whole way. Yuba Lake, about 5 miles from the highway, is a tad cloudy with a half moon in the sky, moisture in the air, probably 40 degrees or so. The animals are enjoying the freedom of a quiet dark campground.
All this driving is a trip. Nevada is so beautiful. Earth is so beautiful. I love seeing all the terrain, and wish I was out in it more. We do stop and check places out, but this particular trip has a time factor so we’re mostly just on the road. Today I drove about 12 hours.
I’ve been listening to the radio some as I drive. I heard one right wing radio guy, not a name I’d heard before and I don’t remember it now. He was just rabid; no salient points, no critical thinking, just rabid hatred for Democrats. It was pathetic, scary, and a good reminder not to be that way.
I’m hoping Congress forces gas prices down soon. The price gouging at the pumps is horrific, and it’s sure putting a dent in my limited funds.
Driving allows time to think. I’ve been thinking about New Orleans and what I’ll encounter when I get back there. I’m looking forward to it. I love the clinic work. I’ve also been thinking about the classes I’ll be teaching in Denver, and what kinds of stuff we’re going to do in class. That’s exciting and fun.
That’s my update for today. Once I get back to New Orleans this blog will probably get more interesting again.
Oh one more thing. I am very happy to see that the governator (Schwarzeneger) lost on all the initiatives he was backing in California.
Tuesday 1 November 2005, 10:50 AM PDT
I am at Tryon Life Community Farm in Portland , Oregon. http://tryonfarm.org This is a collective working fulltime right now to purchase the land they are on to maintain a farm and to protect the land from development. They have a limited time in which they need to raise the necessary money. If you’re interested, click on their link and check it out. It’s a beautiful place in an area that is undergoing a lot of development. It’d be a great thing for the Portland community if this farm were to be saved.
I head to Seattle later today for visiting family, can’t wait! Then on to Denver!
It felt good to get back on the road with the camper and the critters. I’m concerned about gas mileage and money, but other than that it feels great to be moving again. There sure are some whacky drivers in California!
It’s the beginning of the year in the pagan calendar. We’ve celebrated Samhain, honored our ancestors, those of the land, of our flesh, and the mighty dead of the craft; woven together spiritual traditions from thousands of years and places. Now we move into winter, gestation, with intentions set and roots in the ground, feeding by the depth of life’s spirit. I’m excited about getting back to New Orleans and continuing the work there.
Wednesday 26 October 2005, 2:19 PM PST
There are many kinds of depression, but I daresay a significant number of people who find themselves depressed are actually just feeling their uselessness. They aren’t using their life force and time alive to do anything of service, so they feel useless, and this is a kind of depression.
When I use the word “useless” I am not indicting anyone. I’m just being blunt. I’ve found in myself that this time of doing whatever I want, here in California, makes time and space for what I call the depression of uselessness. I’ve heard it from people for years in my psychotherapy practice, that they feel depressed and don’t directly give anything to try to meet the huge need that’s out there for compassion and resources. And when people hook up with ways to give in service, the uselessness is mitigated, it becomes less. Depression lifts.
One thing I can say for the time I’ve spent so far at the Common Ground Health Clinic in New Orleans is that while there were moments when I wasn’t sure what to do next, there was never a time when I felt the depression of uselessness. Overall, I felt well utilized, and I liked it. That’s part of why I’m going back.
Sunday 23 October 2005, 6:47 PM PST
I feel changed. My mind is not quiet. There is a song by Steeleye Span running through it called The Prickly Bush in which a family turn against it’s brother. I can focus on the present, the life forms around me, the land, the feeling of this place, but part of me is still in Algiers; seeing faces, concern for individuals, for the whole.
Being in the environment of the clinic and Common Ground and all the people returning to New Orleans, my mind was fairly focused. Everything is immediate there. One does what is needed at the moment. It’s adrenalizing, satisfying, and exhausting, pretty much in that order.
I had planned a nice long placid fade into some mountains somewhere with my dog and my cat and my solar panel. What happened?? I had an experience of participating in something that, however flawed, is a sincere attempt to start building something new even as things are crashing down around us, and I don’t just mean New Orleans.
I believe that this is a model other areas can learn from as they find their own ways to deal with the federal abandonment of the people, and as more “worst ever” storms come due to global climate change.
Disister preparedness means more than having some water stowed away. It means knowing your neighbors, everyone knowing who has what skills and resources socked away. It means gathering skills into your circle of friends. Make sure you know a medic, a legal person, people who can grow food or do bioremediation of polluted lands. This may sound crazy but I think it’s wise to learn from what is happening. Around most cities there are toxic zones, and there are special toxic zones like uranium refineries and coal mines. Once government stops protecting/regulating, as they seem bent on doing (evidenced by the woeful neglect of national infrastructure), pollutants will find easier routes out of whatever containment they’re in presently. There are huge amounts of toxic chemicals in 55 gallon drums in places like bayou country outside New Orleans. This has been known for years but still it sits there. I know someone who talked about living near Los Alamos and the radiation. What do you live near? I grew up near Yale University which had (has?) a nuclear research facility underground in the middle of New Haven, Connecticut. Universities often have research facilities for genetics, radiation, or other biohazardous materials. Find out what's near you.
Once federal infrastructure really collapses it will be time for people, especially people in or near cities, to use their skills to build a sustainable human culture.
I’m looking for 12 volt deep cycle batteries for a solar project in Algiers, 100 of them. Anyone with connections to such items please email me. Thanks!
Friday 21 October 2005, 10:33 AM PST
Opening this file to start writing I feel a sense of apprehension. What will I say? What can I say? I’m sitting by the deck of the yome in Cazadero. I just ate. It’s quiet. The sun is still on the other side of the Tan Oak to the east. The dog is laying down. The cat is either snoozing or hunting. There are birds. The air smells sweet and musty from the oak forest and the grasses and ferns.
Algiers seems a million miles away, except that I see the faces of people there all day long, and probably in the night. And glad to! It’s much in my mind, what’s happening there.
I don’t feel like recounting more stories. I feel like describing how my perspective has shifted. Flying out of New Orleans, where we passed a nicely cleaned up high school with a football team of newly decked out white kids playing, I reflected on how that is not happening in Algiers. There is a school open but it’s nowhere near what I saw on the way to the airport.
Sitting in the Houston airport, eating in a restaurant, I witnessed the following. Three 30ish white women are having drinks at the bar. One of them breaks her glass and cuts herself accidentally. There is kerfuffle, cleaning up, band-aids, and a young latino guy sweeping up the broken glass. These three women, none of them even acknowledged him. He was invisible.
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge and watching the walkers; people of varying ages, races, ethnicities, etc. It was nice to see. The overall skin tone of the group was many many shades lighter than what I’ve become accustomed to seeing in New Orleans and that was of note. I think if you blended up all the skin tones in the world you’d get a nice medium brown with reddish highlights. But since we’re each a little different, we’re a beautiful mosaic of skin tones.
That’s what I want to talk about here today. Race. racism. Or as my priestess friend says Melaninism, which is apt. A wonderful woman I know, of more recent african descent than I, teaches racism workshops and she always said (if I am remembering correctly) that there are nho white people or black people or whatever. We are all shades of browns and tans, across the human spectrum. To that I add that we are all adapted to our geography which explains differences in features. These always occur location specific.
I was listening to a guy on the radio talk about how the left has marginalized the question of race oppression in favor of the question of economic class oppression. I think it’s true. I’ve had good friends, progressives, trun the conversation that directly. I think it’s interesting. The reality is, as far as I can see, that the construct of racial difference is embedded in the culture, a culture which seeks to dominate all with white evangelical owning class hegemony. That’s race, religion and economics all rolled together.
In order for people to give up their racial constructs they may have to be reduced to a common denominator. It looks as if nature is doing that in New Orleans. I’ve seen those who had and those who hadn’t had all sitting together eating MRE’s in a park. One woman, typically a shut-in, went out to find someone to help, found a guy who’d fallen off his roof 3 days ago, and brought him to the clinic. There are a lot oif people whosee how things were set up to not help people in New Orleans. I am referring to the federal response and that of the now for-profit (yes really!) Red Cross.
A lot of people know who has their best interests at heart, and that it isn’t the government. We have each others’ best interests at heart. Don’t you care what happens to your neighbor, or the person around the world in an earthquake? It is that capacity for caring which can lead to actions we can each participate in to promote our real best interests; a healthy earth, balanced access to resources, an end to fascism, capitalism, socialism, communism, and the birth of a real humanimalism, honoring all the people and traditions, with roots in the earth and a healthy living body reaching into the clean air, consciously part of the life of Gaia.
Thank you Rain!
Tuesday 18 October 2005, 7:15 AM
I am flying to California today. I don’t even want to think about it, it makes me so sad. This place and the people here are so deep in my heart.
My second night here I dreamt that a huge beating heart was transplanted into my chest. I woke up feeling for the scar. It’s true. A huge living heart is here and it is in me.
I plan to return here in a few weeks to continue with the collective, specifically the clinic and the radio station, and the community gardens. These are all my dreams coming true. My gratitude is boundless.
Thursday 13 October 2005, 8:44 PM
This is short and sweet. I am so grateful for all the support of family and friends for what is happening here, and for me personally. Thank you! I’ve received email, donations to me and to the clinic, and lots of love.
This clinic is giving me hope and inspiration.
A house has been donated to us for a year. Nextdoor to it is a lot which can be made into a community garden. I spoke with some of the neighbors today and they are excited by the idea.
I’ve been putting out to the universe “I want community” and it’s happening! I didn’t expect it to be in New Orleans but it’s true that we get what we ask for often in a different form than expected.
So, thanks from my heart to the people here in this neighborhood, this city, this clinic, and everywhere who are committed to being fully human.
Wednesday 12 October 2005, 7:12 AM
Yesterday I didn’t counsel people. I had an experience first thing in the morning that made me so angry, I had to take a break.
The CDC comes by everyday to collect data. They come accompanied by two police officers. Yesterday it was a white woman cop and a black man cop. I’ve met him before. While the two CDC people were in the clinic the cops were standing outside, armed of course. I was out there and the man said hi to me because we’d met before. The woman then said something to the effect of “There aren’t any people out front waiting to get in, it’s not too busy” to which I replied “Perhaps people feel intimidated seeing tw3o armed police out front.” She then said to me “Well they’d only be intimidated if they’d done something wrong.” That’s the old “They’re running because they’re guilty of something” bullshit. It was all I could do not go off on her. I explained to her that the people here had lived generations under the fist of oppression and they had plenty of good reasons to fear police. Just two days ago three New Orleans cops were indicted for beating a man. They’d been videotaped by an Associated Press producer, who they also punched.
Racist ignorant white female cop. That put me over the top, so I spent the morning out with another volunteer doing a grocery run for the clinic. We’re feeding around 30 doctors, nurses, and other volunteers every day.
I just took a shower which felt so good, and am about to have coffee and food and then start counseling. We open at 8 AM.
Please send cash donations marked specifically to the clinic to:
Common Ground Clinic
1401 Teche St.
New Orleans, LA
We need all the support we can get.
This is day 9 for me here. I’m sure I’ve talked with at least 250 people in my capacity as counselor.
Sunday 9 October 2005, 10:50 PM
Another day in Algiers, New Orleans. Today the clinic hosted a block party with food, clothes to give away, art stuff, barbecue, and socializing. People hanging out in this city which some say is dead and others say is coming back to life as the people return.
I counseled a few people, and then took the afternoon to enjoy the party, which did me a world of good. I feel about 1/3 full instead of 4/3 full now at the end of the day as I prepare for sleep. This is my third night sleeping in my tent in the back yard of a neighbor. I had been sleeping in the clinic, in the room where all the treatment happened; steeping in the energy of the clinic. I feel much better sleeping out here.
George W. Bush, the rotten fuck, will be in New Orleans tomorrow, continuing to support the removal of the poor (mostly black) folks so Donald Trump can build his new casino. Trump is also in town, I have heard. It’s obscene. One of the first things the Louisiana legislature did after Katrina was to change the law to allow casinos to exist on land. Previously they had only been allowed on Mississippi river boats. Think about it. One of the first things lawmakers in this state did was to change the law in favor of a rich casino owner. This, in the face of the destruction of people’s lives, is just more evidence of the rotten core of the politicians, developers, and money worshippers. It’s just disgusting.
The longer I’m here, the more people I spend time with, the more I feel this disgust for the american government corporate machine. Americans should be in the street resisting this fascism, but like the Germans in the 1930’s and 1940’s they believe what they are told by the corrupt commercial media because it’s easier than realizing that they are responsible for the murder of their neighbors. Many Germans refused to believe in the concentration camps, but we now know they were real. Americans now accept the torture and concentration camps that their government perpetrates, so Americans are guity of the same hideous murderous denial that the Germans were guilty of. Wake up! Wake the fuck up! How can you sleep at night when your silence makes you complicit in the murder of children, women, men, old people, DAILY around the globe. It’s sickening.
I was talkiing with some other volunteers here tonight about what we’d like to have for dinner, a wonderful complete meal, and it hit me how privileged I am. I get to eat what I want if I go out and get it. My money and my white skin grant me access to pretty much anything. I was talking with a man from texas who is here volunteering, a black man. I shared about the stories I was hearing and how awful that is. He, rightly so, said “Yeah well that’s hard for you but everytime I go into a store I am followed around. I wear this brown suit (his skin) for life.” I asked him how he deals with the pressure and he just laughed. High blood pressure is one of the major “illnesses” that black people suffer from. Duh! Talk about pressure! Hey Oprah, help the people instead of supporting Bush and protecting your billions.
I am aware that my blog entries are increasingly angry. I think my anger is an appropriate response to a completely inhuman situation. Anyone who isn’t angry is asleep.
When you next hear about those troublesome anarchists protesting the government, the world bank, genetically modified (poisonous) food etc., sop and think about how the media engineers it’s news to make you comply with the wishes of the corporate/government Nazis. Anarchism is not chaos, it’s about taking personal responsibility instead of letting the government use your proxy to kill, oppress, destroy.
Saturday 8 October 2005, 6:38 PM
Today I went to the 7th Ward which is on the other side of the river where destruction was greatest. Ward 9 was the worst, I haven’t been there yet. Today I helped staff a clinic under a highway overpass. The folks were receiving tetanus and hep A shots, food, and counseling from yours truly. We were seeing people who had either just gotten back to new Orleans and were on their way to see their house for the first time, or had just seen it. Most people had lost everything. We saw a number of families. I must have spoken with at least 25 or 30 people.
I also finally met Mama Di, one of the pillars of the community. She’s a rasta woman who, it turns out, knew my mother years ago during the times when the panthers lived in our house in Connecticut. She told me that she heard the three levys being blown up after Katrina, and that she knew for a fact that the levy was blown in 1965. So, I hear a lot of stuff, but firsthand knowledge is pretty conclusive. We discussed the idea of me training community folks to lead peer support groups, and that this would begin to be feasible in a few weeks.
I am in the process of arranging to stay here longer than previously planned. I’m not sure how that’ll work yet but I am working on it.
I listen all day to amazing stories and I try to remember thyem to share here, but there are so many and it’s all so intense that I forget. Forgetting is healthy, too, because I can’t carry all that around with me. That would not be healthy for me.
Right now I feel as if I’d had 10 cups of coffee. I haven’t. Most of the clinic staff has gone to play soccer with the folks from the collective house on Atlantic Ave. which will afford me time for a shower and time to do this writing.
Emotionally this is one of the most intense and fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. I feel a lot, generally, but in this situation I am having to be pretty contained, which is good. I am not being too porous. Other volunteers have told me that they see me taking the people’s stuff, and I know I do that, but I then transform it through my own process. I ground and release. I cry. I rant to the folks who are my support. I continue to be amazed at how clear it is that the people here have been literally soild down the river by the government. Really, there should be revolution in the streets of the US. If people realized how hoodwinked they are, and would wake from their consumer stupor, it would happen. One can only hope, and live as one sees fit, and communicate to the best of one’s ability.
Thursday 7 October 2005, 7:05 PM
Each day here is a lifetime, and they are each very different. Last night’s blog entry, early this morning really, was coming from a place of being overfull from the intensity of the day. Today was a lot mellower, and I am feeling much less stressed.
The issue about blowing up the levy...here are corrections. It was in the 1920’s that this happened during a hurricane, so I am told today, not during hurricane Betsy in 1965.
People are returning to the city, many to find that they have lost everything, and I mean every thing. These tend to be older foilks since that’s who has a house, so the losses are so wrenching.
We saw more children in the clinic today. I kept on handing out bottles of water with vitamin fizzy stuff in it to the kids especially, but also to parents.
The shock, the love, the camaraderie here at the clinic, the support of the pagan cluster, are all feeding me.
I used to “own” a home and land, run a private practice, have tons of stuff, debt up the wazoo, “security” etc. and it didn’t bring me the sense of overall congruity and joy that this life is. There are many many MANY people in this country who are not enrolled in the american nightmare, and they are are happier and less anxious than most of the people I know who “own” and work and have debt etc. As scary as it may look, I encourage people to at least consider letting go of their place in the american death machine, stop feeding the fascist government, let go of materialism, and find real joy. I know that may sound just too far out to some folks but for those who know me and know what I’m about, what I’m made of, you know that I am speaking from my heart.
That’s it for now...
Oh, one more thing. Today at the Red Cross encampment a purge was planned of migrant workersa. All workers were going to have to show their documents, and any illegals were to be purged from the camp. The mayor of New Orleans, who has clearly been co-opted since Katrina (his change of tone and position on the whole series of events appears to have been coerced) said publicly that “the city is experiencing an influx of Mexicans” as if it were a bad thing. I feel sorry for him. I wonder what leverage was used to force him into line.
Thursday 7 October 2005, 12:12 AM
It’s been a long busy day; hot, humid, and filled with people and their stories. I spent the day mostly at the clinic in the entryway talking with people, and listening. I encountered hope, despair, huge heartedness, fractured spirits. I heard tales of absolute horror and tales of people discovering compassion and kindness.
A woman spent five days on her roof with her 3 small children with no food and water in 90+ temperatures and 90%+ humidity before they were finally rescued.
A nursing home created a morgue for the living, stacking living old people and leaving them to die.
A group of white vigilantes caught and murdered some black people, tying one to a fence “as an example.” They are still at large, in fact no one is even looking for them.
I did a home visit for a woman who is mentally ill. She told me about the man she saw shot across the street from her, prior to Katrina, and the two other murders in the neighborhood this summer.
Two people told me about hearing explosions at the levy before it broke. The levy broke AFTER the hurricane. Apparently in 1965 with hurricane Betsy it is well known that one levy was dynamited, flooding poor areas, to protect the expensive homes on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. It looks like that has happened again.
I find myself absorbing more of this than is good for me. I have a headache, my startle response is slightly enhanced, and can just tell I’m taking in stuff that is toxic. However, in this environment and this situation, I think I’m actually doing a good job of not being way too porous psychically. In other words I could be really way fucked up, and I’m not.
I am 100% clear, though, in my belief that there is a focused and well planned conspiracy on the part of certain large corporations, with support from the fascist motherfucker hateful government, to clear out New Orleans of poor black people so it can be gentrified and turned into a playground for the wealthy.
There are still soldiers in the street with their AK47s. I’ve spoken to a few, mostly nice young men who probably joined the service out of a sense that it would be a good thing to do. I heard about soldiers who drove past the Food Not Bombs people (they are mostly young people who come to actions and disasters and feed people) and pointing their machine guns at these kids, just for the heck of it.
I want to say to anyone and everyone reading this, please please look beneath the veneer and deceptions of America, and see what is happening. The media lies constantly. The government is corrupt 100% to the core, run by hateful selfish mean greedy fucks who care only for their own enrichment, and who do not value life. The idea that these people consider themselves to be religious and good Christians makes me want to spit. I am not a Christian, but I know enough to know that “Love thy neighbor” and “Turn the other cheek” and all those good Jesus quotes are in no way part of the hearts and minds of the people running the US.
My disgust and sadness get all mixed up together.
I also see the potential for great good to come of all this. Some black and white people here are really loving being with how much we are the same, how much we need each other, how wholeness can only exist for some of us if it exists for all of us.
We can really help make a better world for the children (and I mean all the children, not just the white ones or the moneyed ones or whatever) if we are willing to share what we have, live lives of service, and be peacemakers.
Working for money to have more stuff when children are being murdered actively and by the deliberate neglect of our government, is obscene. If we have more than we need and we aren’t sharing the surplus, we are facing a spiritual void from which our only rescue is to give what we have to those who have less. Call me a bleeding heart, but if you have more than you need and you’re not sharing it with those who have less, how can you justify that in any mature way? “I want what I want” is the way a 3 year old experiences the world, and rightly so, but once we are grownups that is no way to live if we really care, and if we take personal responsibility for our world that we share.
We need to give give give not ‘till it hurts but ‘till it makes us whole.
Strong words, I know, but the longer I live and the more I see the more I am convinced that our only hope of survival and of reaching towards our potential is drastic change, reconnection with Earth, and abandonment of the greed/fear/violence driven poolicies of the current world governments.
Wednesday 5 October 2005, 10:47 PM
I’d like to recount one story from my day.
I drove a 58 yr old woman to the FEMA help center around 3 PM. She’d returned from Houston where she’d received one check from FEMA, but another had been sent which she had not received and she wanted to find out where it was.
The FEMA center was in a school gym. We went in, she was seen by the intake worker immediately; a firefighter from New Mexico. He gave her a case number or some such and sent her to speak with someone else. They gave her a FEMA phone number to call and directed her to the phone bank. She then asked me to help her since she was finding the recorded message on the phone to be confusing. I called the number, listened to the message, held for assistance, and spoke with a woman who told me that this woman needed to call the Help Line by using prompt 3 after the recorded message, this was the Intake Line. I told her that there was no prompt 3 in the message and she told me that must be because the Help Line was too backed up. The woman would have to call back after 10 PM. I asked if we could use one of the computers to find the information online and was told that I could try but it probably wouldn’t work. So I used one of the computers there and went to the FEMA site and found that we would not be able to get any information from the website. At this point a FEMA employee, a woman in her 50’s, came over to us and said to me “You can’t help this person. We don’t accept volunteers.” I told her that I was there helping my friend and she told me “I was told that you are helping people and you can’t do that.” I assured her that I was only helping this one person and she reluctantly agreed that was OK.
“You’re not allowed to help people.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
This fit into the picture I’m developing in my mind. I have heard many stories about FEMA and the Red Cross turning away help, volunteers, supplies, trained medical personnel. The Red Cross, a for-profit corporation, accepts donations and then keeps the majority of those funds for administrative costs and...profit?
What’s wrong with this picture?
I am continually amazed at the way “Americans” are numb, innured to the massive deceptions that are perpetrated on tham constantly by the government, the corporations, even the so-called service agencies. Beaurocracy has as it’s primary purpose it’s own perpetuation. No matter what kind of altruistic front is presented, it’s just more lies.
Wednesday 5 October 2005, 3:33 AM
I wanted to let you all know a bit firsthand what's happening here in Algiers, New Orleans. I got here on Monday afternoon, and spent Tuesday at the Common Ground Collective working with some of the volunteers there. The usual cohort of inspired, disenfranchised, enthused activist youth are working their butts off tarping roofs, gathering and distributing supplies (food, cleaning stuff, clothes, linens, etc.) along with the usual cohort of middle-aged activists. It's a beautiful example of human cooperation in a situation that is surreal. Military helicopters fly overhead with their doors open, a soldier with a machine gun visible from the ground. Hummers drive around with an automatic weapon toting soldier on the roof. Big white SUVs and pickup trucks drive around with various "private contractors."
Houses in flood affected areas are now being marked with a green or a red dot indicating whether or not it has been condemned, so people are returning to their houses to find that they are not allowed in. How these dots are applied, who decided which houses go and which stay, is not clear to me. It is clear, however, that this is commonly regarded as part of the land grab. Casinos, formerly allowed only on boats in the river, have hurriedly been given permission by the Louisiana legislature to exist on land, and at least one gated community nearby is the expected home to one of these "new" casinos.
Curfew is in effect, dusk to dawn, but white people tend to experience a less hostile response to curfew violation. The New Orleans police, notorious for brutality, have said within my hearing that they can "demand to see ID for no reason at all" and they expect compliance.
Sitting on the levy this evening, looking at the lit city towers across the river with the poverty and disarray of Algiers behind me, the disparity that is New Orleans shines as brightly as the city lights.
Anyone interested in helping can visit http://www.commongroundrelief.org and even though the mainstream media may not be talking it up, the need continues to be great.
I have rarely been as acutely aware of the privilege of my "white" skin, or the economic and educational advantages it has brought me.
Anyone who wants an experience of community, of contributing and seeing the direct effect of their participation, or who would like to show their kids some amazing resilience in the face of oppression, come on down to New Orleans and stand with the people here who fear that their disenfranchisement is about to take a profound turn for the worse.
Monday 3 October 2005, 8:19 PM
I’m at the Common Ground Clinic in Algiers. I flew in with a friend this afternoon, was met at the airport with more friends in their veggie oil bus.
I’ve been met with such enthusiasm. There is a lot of gladness to have mental health people show up.
I am just arriving, but from what I see so far, the folks at the clinic are working their asses off. Some folks have been here for weeks, others for days. The immediate sense is one of overwhelm.
It looks like I’ll be helping to set up a Recovery Center in the lower 9 district, and then training local community folks in leading effective peer support groups, and helping a 12 step group to form.
Today I received innoculations for Hep A and Tetanus.
P.S. It's just past midnight, I just witnessed the arrest of a young african american man on a bicycle outside the clinic by at least 6 white police officers, most not wearing badges but shirts identifying them as NY State Police. There was no violence. The police were questioning the young man with no attorney present. No weapons were drawn.
Sunday 2 October 2005, 7:50 PM
I’m in SF at the city house of the person on whose ranch I am currently yoming. Everyone is out at the Castro Street Faire and I am eating chicken and rice and beans and guacamole from the place on the corner.
I purchased some high protein stuff, some vitamin c drops and cough drops, a bunch of chocolate, and some rice. It’s not much but it’ll help sustain folks in the encampment, whatever that turns out to be, and some of it is to bring to the clinic, the drops mainly. Starhawk is going to see about getting some other stuff donated from her food co-op. Really what I’m bringing down is me.
I just spent the last week taking the natural building course mentioned in previous blog entries. It was really good, and very sweet. It came to an end yesterday, and this is the first workshop type thing I’ve ever been to (and I’ve participated and taught in many many) where I didn’t want to leave. I went back to the site and hung out with folks in the evening, drank the bottle of Nevisian rum I’d been saving, did some teardown of the temporary structures for the workshops. The people are the wonderful sweet gift. Mostly, not only, people from their late teens to mid 20’s, a few my age or so, a few in between, but the majority are 18 - 25, and so great! This is what gives me a reason to keep working on stuff, positivity. (By the way Stevie Wonder’s new album is out and there is a song on it “Positivity” which you have got to go listen to!) They are bright, engaged, living outside the box, creative and committed. They have the exuberance of youth, have rejected significant aspects of the cultural indoctrination, and see ways to support things getting better on Earth. I find them to be beautiful. It’s the old hippie stuff many of us did in the 60’s and/or 70’s; back to the land, learning to live sustainably, doing the work of building community. It’s the stuff that always made me the happiest, before I went into debt and got on the hampster wheel. There is a difference, though, between my generation and this one. These young people are growing up in a time far more brutal than I did. Not that there wasn’t mondo brutality, there was, but now it is glorified in the culture so much more, and the scale of destruction that people accept their government inflicting on human beings is far greater. People are more innured to it all than when I was a kid. These young people are engaging in “Yes!” things, not just “No!” things, as their way of moving energy to help shift the direction of human culture. They’re living on next to no money, many of them, some as nomads. They work as they are moved to, and they are inspired a lot so they all seem to be doing lots of things and learnign lots of skills. There is a lot of environmental awareness and belief in preservation and protection of the land. Anyway the main point is how moved I felt and feel connectting with these people. I knows there are so many more out there too; people of all ages who are seeing through the illusory veil of America to a real sustainable life in the real world, the world of Earth.
So, off to New Orleans I go, feeling inspired and equipped with what I have, hoping it’s what’s needed.
Thursday 29 September 2005, 1:27 PM
I’ve been participating in a really great natural building course, Honoring The Land. Teachers are Starhawk, Ethan, and Charles. We’ve been having a great time with morning circle and various visioning and consciousness pieces then moving into working on two projects, a cob oven and a hybrid strawbale/cob/cordwood ‘n mortar shed for batteries for the solar array already in place on site. It’s very wonderful to be with a group of people working together on projects that make sense. There is a diversity of age, economic status, race, gender, orientation, and experience in this group. It’s great because there are some powerful unifiying elements; commitment to life, to justice, to Earth; good stuff. I continue to believe that permaculture is one of the things that can bring us to more balanced sustainable human culture on earth.
I’m thinking about what it will be like in New Orleans. I fly out on Monday morning, back the following Tuesday. That’ll give me 8 days of volunteering (including the 11th, my flight is at night). The folks I’ll be living with will be doing mostly permaculture stuff, while I’ll be at the clinic offering counseling, practicing mental permaculture.
I’m still amazed at the way my life has changed. A year ago I was just beginning to realize that I wanted to sell the house etc. Now it’s all a done deal. I feel freer than ever, not bound by bills and debt. I miss my friends in Vermont and I love the friends I have here, new and old. More though, I feel good about how I’m living. I hardly ever use electricity from the grid. It’s all solar and wind on the ranch. Instead of “producing” one garbage bag a week of trash it’s about that much a month. I do use gasoline, but long distance travel notwithstanding I am driving less in general. I still get to be with great people, and to offer my skills, but not for an hourly rate anymore, which I like. I am still in the process of transitioning to the way I want to live, but I’ve made significant progress.
I continue to believe that there is significant change occuring on Earth, and that humans are working out how we’re going to proceed. There are a number of ways we could go, from scorched earth to decentralized self-sustaining communities and any number of possibilities in between. We see that there are a whole bunch of people in power around the world who are within reach of realizing their vision of global fascism, with Washington D.C the current locus of that vision. The hubris which these people exhibit will be their downfall of course, as is always the case. The sad thing is how high the cost is in suffering.
I was talking with a few people about this, realizing now that I’ve been out of Vermont for 6 month, how in retrospect it seems such an insular place. That was part of what I liked, the sense of being “behind” the rest of the country in some significant ways. Now, though, with the total asshole republican governor trying to promote business, trash the environment, and further the fascist Bush agenda, Vermont doesn’t feel so good to me. I support the folks there to do what it takes to stop the bulldozers from running through the state, but somehow it doesn’t feel like the place for me right now. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life there. Go figure.
Days are hot and dry right now. Nights have been balmy, even hot, sometimes breezy. The sky here is big. The night sky shows the amazing starry cosmos, what we can see of it from where we are, and it’s just beautiful. I don’t know all the constellations or planets but I like to look up at the stars and feel their light touching me, combining in me, and reminding me about scale and perspective.
Monday 26 September 2005, 5:47 PM
I’m flying to New Orleans on the 3rd, flying back on the 11th. I’ve been i n contact with the Common Ground Clinic in Algiers and they’re expecting me as a volunteer counselor. I have been hearing horrendous things about private security people roaming the streets of New Orleans shooting people, Israeli security forces in the streets of New Orleans shooting people. I hope not to encounter any of that.
Thanks for the support. I did receive some funds from folks, a bit more than half of the cost of the airline ticket. Thank you!!
On the home front, the Yome is up, the platform is done, we’ll see how the first rains treat us but I am sleeping in there. It’s a sweet space. Photos to come.
Saturday 24 September 2005, 8:42 AM
Yesterday was quite a day. I’m still recovering.
I drove to San Francisco to visit with a friend who was in from DC for the week. We met, went for breakfast, and when we went back to the truck where we both remembered parking, it was gone, with Lasky inside! I started out calm, searching the nearby streets, gradually becoming more and more upset as my search was fruitless.
I went to the police and filed a stolen vehicle report. My friend had to leave to catch a plane, so I spent the afternoon alternately searching the streets, calling the police, and calling Animal Control to see if Lasky had been found. All to no avail. I went into an emotional state of despair and hopelessness. I cried more than I have since last summer when my mother was killed. I can’t really describe how badly I felt.
I called some of my key support people to let them know what was happening. Word went out over the web to the Bay Area Reclaiming network. I know a lot of people lit candles, sent energy, and at least one circle happened i n Cazadero.
By nightfall, with no word from the police, I borrowed a car and went driving around the streets looking for Lasky and the truck...and I found the truck! It was a couple of blocks from where my friend and I both remembered parking. Lasky was inside. I got her, went back to the house that was home base, and called the police to let them know. Two officers came, and we examined the truck. It seemed to me that things had been moved inside, nothing taken. There were about 10 more miles or so on the odometer and the gas was a little lower, and it was parked better than I usually manage. The ignition lock was in no way damaged, no evidence of hotwiring.
I am left now knowing...did I forget where I parked or was it stolen? Only Lasky knows.
I spoke with a friend who said something interesting. Her mother had been a therapist and had written about a grief formation where people create a secondary trauma which will lead to a positive resolution after a trauma which has no redemptive resolution. Maybe that’s what I did. I certainly went further into grief than I have in a while, and with hurricane Rita in the news, hearing the name Rita over and over (my mother’s name!) maybe I was just massively triggered. Or maybe someone took the truck for a little ride. It remains a mystery.
I so exhausted myself, I could barely sleep. I got about 4 hours of sleep before getting up early to head back up north. I’m now sitting in my truck, off the road, writing this while it’s fresh in my mind.
Gratitude for Lasky’s safe return, and for all the love and support that came our way. I am fortunate and loved. I’m breathing that in.
I've also been listening to the speakers at the big Peace and Justice rally in DC today, very inspiring. I really hope everyone will let their congressional folks who are up for reelection that impeachment and withdrawl from Iraq are critical to their reelection.
Sunday 18 September 2005 6:36 PM
I haven’t been blogging lately. I’ve been building this platform for the yome. It’s turned into a much more involved project than I’d intended, time and labor as well as monetary cost. But, it’s coming out nicely. I mean, this is the first thing I’ve ever really built on my own. I’ve always considered myself to be a really bad carpenter. I’ve done better with this project than with anything else I’ve ever attempted, been more patient, more attention to precision and detail, and still it’s out of square, needs filing down in certain places. My nephew who just finished a Masters in Architecture with a final project on precision, he would be horrified. Actually he’d laugh his ass off.
I am at the stage of actually decking it. The whole thing is made of common redwood (so they call it in the lumber yard) which is not old growth, it’s the so-called sustainable redwood. Here are some photos.
I’ve also been going over to the EAT every other day, checking in with folks, doing some counseling. Last night the participants put on a nice full moon ritual acknowledging the abundance we experience. Today I went back to work with one of the participants who is ill.
I am just beginning to learn this place. The plants, the soil. the cycles, all of it. Lasky and Chloe like it. Chloe caught and ate a wood rat the other day. Lasky is making friends with the male dog, Nanuk, who she just met today.
I’m making this shelter, all the while asking myself what am I doing? Why let go of a fixed home to just come build a mini version of one? It’s like...instinctual. Once the Yome is all anchored to this platform, and I make it comfy, I will feel...what, settled? Safe? Secure? Happy? What’s the great myth? Whatever it is, it’s just that, a myth. Once I’m settled then it’ll just be...ok now what am I doing? Workshops coming up in Seattle and Denver, and hopefulyl Portland. Louisiana in early October with the pagan cluster at the Common Ground clinic? Winter over here, projects in film and media, gardening, ...and the world is in such a state of flux, anything could happen at any moment, anywhere. It’s impossible to know who is really doing what and who is staging what and blaming someone else. The commercial media is completely compromised. Congress is a rubber stamp. The Supreme Court, a la Hitler, is being stacked with fascists. The “Executive Branch” regime is out of control with megalomania. What to do? Permaculture, magic, healing, try to stay sane.
Sunday 11 September 2005 10:18 AM
It’s amazing to think that 4 years ago today the shit hit the fan with the bombing of the World Trade Centers in New York. So much has happened since then; Bush & Co. being allowed to proceed with their plans for global domination, the US sinking deeper into totalitarianism, wars around the world escalating, etc.
And here I am in the mountains of western Sonoma County on this land where permaculture is happening, setting up a home base for the foreseeable future. Here’s a photo of this site this morning.
I’m listening to the speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Washington DC in 1963, the famous "I Have A Dream" speech in which he was talking about how the “negro finds himself in exile in his own land.” “America has given the negro a bad check, marked insufficient funds.” That hasn’t changed. New Orleans will be remembered as a monument to the racism and economically oppressive militaristic policies of the United States.
The Earth Activist Training starts today. I’m here as Camp Counselor, while I’m also working on this living site and preparing to travel to Portland, Seattle, and Denver on a teaching tour.
I recently read a book called “Power Down.” I don’t recall the author’s name but I strongly recommend the book. It’s about the concept of Peak Oil, the idea that there is a point at which oil extraction hits a peak, and then begins to descend. 2005 is that peak oil year. After this, the amount of oil extracted from Earth will be on the decline, and the effects of that will be far reaching, will ultimately change how we live our lives. Keep in mind that dependence on petroleum is a relatively recent thing in human history, within the last 200 years. Anyhow, read the book, I think you’ll find it enlightening.
Wednesday 7 September 2005 6:30 PM
We’re camped about 60 miles south of San Francisco at a private campground that charges $40 a night! But that includes a pretty substantial sounding breakfast, so it almost evens out. No pets allowed...oops...don’t ask don’t tell, right?
A couple of reflections:
All of this change, me selling my house, closing my practice and hitting the road, was precipitated by my mother’s murder and the apparent cover-up by the government of Nevis-St. Kitts. Of course I’d been building myself up to these changes anyhow, so the momentum created by Rita’s death just hastened and furthered the inevitable.
I feel like I am in a lifeboat waiting for a flood. I think some of my sense of impending doom is a result of the emotional impact of my mother’s death, but that does not dismiss the reality of the world at this point in human time. We are “waiting for the flood.”
There’s a great group of people in my lifeboat. The weird thing is that we’re not all in the same place, so as far as physical survival, it’s wherever one is when one runs out of gas or other resource. Emotionally, spiritually, knowing the many fantastic loving people I am fortunate to know, I know that some, hopefully many or even all of them will survive the “flood” to be part of making new human society.
There are parts of the California coast, around Big Sur, that are beautiful and wild and alive. I was a bit rash in my judgment after my night at Pfeiffer. Today I saw some ocean coves, kelp beds, down a beautiful canyon, that are so alive. Kelp, algae, jellyfish, all on the surface. Lots more below. We saw a jellyfish on another beach yesterday...the big man’o war kind. Wow! I definitely kept Lasky’s nose out of that.
Tomorrow we’ll go through SF, visit a friend in Berkely and then head up north.
Monday 45 September 2005 1:05 AM
I’ve been in LA since Thursday visiting my brother and his family; partner and child. They’re a sweet family. It’s good to be with them. My brother is a very committed person, doing good work in his community, being a good partner, father, and friend to many. His wife is also someone who's been involved in human service work for a long time. We had dinner at their across-the-walkstreet neighbors. This is Venice, which is fairly affluent by most standards but for LA it’s middle class. There was lots of interesting discussion about the state of the world, New Orleans, US politics, humanity; generally good animated creative discussion.
Towards the end of the evening after some of the people had left, at one point in the conversation my brother, his wife, and I were discussion the topic of being introverted or extraverted, how living in an urban area can be nourishing as well as requiring energetic output. It was interesting because I think of myself as someone who is more comfortable in the country, less so in cities. That’s how I have felt my whole life. My brother finds that he can be fed, being in the city, and that is sustaining for him. We both, however, are introverts on the MMPI. My sister-in-law is an extravert on the MMPI but also finds that she receives nourishment from solitude.
That’s all interesting to me because as I travel and am in remote places I feel a certain kind of relaxation in the space. It can be a bit lonely at times, but the peacefulness of it feeds me, even if by highlighting my unpeacefulness. When I get into more densly populated areas I feel a sense of alert that is like an alarm. If I stay in the town or city for more than a day or so I begin to be innured to the feeling, but I am distracted by my senses in ways that are different when I’m out in the country. The difference is that the distraction I experience in cities feels like it is taking me out of myself, whereas when I’m in the quiet places the distractions are from within myself. These two experiences, being so different, allow me different perspectives. When I’m distracted out I feel less grounded, less open, more hyper. When I’m distracted in I find that, when I notice it, I slow down, ground myself more, and the distractability dissipates.
So I wonder if I can recreate the country experience in the city. I believe that some of the work which I’ll be doing in the next few years may involve being in cities some of the time, and I need to be as fully present as I can be. Food for thought.
I head north on Tuesday.
We’ve been paying attention to the news coming out of New Orleans. It’s mind blowing, and it’s not. This seems to me to fit with the global warming scenarios I’ve been hearing about for years, the eventual innundation of the coastal cities. It’s begun. The years of denial, squandering resources (we're all culpable), incompetent management and completely fucked up priorities of the US Government has contributed to these events being so devastating, but how much is probably impossible to measure. The main concern now is safety and rescue, but I daresay those other chickens will be home to roost in the near future. Maybe not politically, as US politics is appallingly diseased and corrupt, but continued environmental change and the accompanying effects on people will most likely be taking a heavy toll over the next few decades. I don’t mean to sound glib in the face of so much suffering. I don’t have sufficient words to speak to that. It’s mind numbing trying to consider the scope of what’s happening.
Tuesday 30 August 2005 5:18 PM
It’s Madelin’s 48th birthday. She stuck around ‘till she was 44.
I am in Pfeiffer State Park campgrounds, Big Sur, CA. I’m in an oak grove by a river with 300 to 400 other folks in campers, cars, tents, etc.
This California experience, with the exception of the ranch in Cazadero, is an experience of large human population and the accompanying accoutrements. To top that off, this area, specifically Marin County and San Francisco, can be counted as being among those places in the world where huge monetary wealth is concentrated. The opulence contrasted with some of the US’s most destitute makes for an emotionally stressful ride.
Remembering to take into account who I am and where I’ve been for the last few months, let me say that this is one of the more bizarre experiences of my life. I am heading for Los Angeles, taking a few days to do it, and so I am steeped in humanity. There are parts of the drive down Highway 1 that are desolate and unpeopled, but much less than there was the first time I did this drive nearly 30 years ago. There are a lot of cars on the road all the time.
Part of my shamanic journey through this life is that
I experience the echoes of “how it was” when I visit places.
I go to a city and I see the land before the city, feel the winds
of the past. That has been part of my experience for a long time.
After being in truly wild places this summer, and then the wonderful
magical loving wild energy of Free Witch Camp, this drive south is
particluarly poignant. Oil hit $70 a barrel yesterday sending gasoline
prices here as high as $3.23 per gallon for 87 octane regular unleaded.
The lowest I’ve seen was gas I bought at $2.74 per gallon. Those
represented by the Bushs, Blairs, Putins, Berlusconnis, etc. of the
world, and their masters in Saudi Arabia etc. have got the gas guzzling
Americans by the short hairs and it hurts! It sure is an interesting
time to be in the gas guzzling capital of the world, California. I
feel like I’m watching it happen. The oil peak is upon us, we
are just beginning the sharp steep rapid descent that’s going
to hit our society. I plan to be back north by the 8th of September.
I think there’s enough time for me to do that. I am heading
to LA to see two of my brothers. I imagine it could be the last time
for a while. They are all ensconced in LA and probably wouldn’t
be leaving anytime soon...like within the next couple of months.
I launched healingmagic.org and I hope it takes off. I think it’d be great to go around offering healing magic, sprinkling it amongst the populace.
Being “back amongst the humans” in the US I feel the pull of particluarly two directions. I can choose to go north to the wild and make my way there, or I can stay further south, like the northwest of the US, do my work, and be part of whatever happens here. They both have their appeal. They both have their drawbacks, though honestly staying in the US has more drawbacks. If there were a crew of people ready to build a pagan permie type community in Canada, I’d jump on that.
Friday 26 August 2005 10:48 AM
I’m in Sonoma County, CA in a place that is a combinaiton of redwoods and oaks, grassy hills and wooded groves. It’s dry, as it is here at this time of year, but the folks here have a pretty good setup with a greenhouse, water storage, gardens, chickens, etc. It’s permaculture in process, creating sustainability. Yay! I’m setting up the yome over the next day or so, then heading to LA to visit two of my brothers who live there. I’ll be driving down the California coast.
It’s a trip being back in the USA, and I mean proper. The cities are INTENSE especially after being in the forest and other remote places. I couldn’t wait to get out of San Francisco, neither could the animals. We’re all happier now, de-stressing.
I am planning on doing some traveling over the next 6 months, but this will be home base for the winter. I’m all excited about doing some Guerilla Healing workshops along the west coast so anyone interested in knowing more or hosting, email me!
As much as I loathe what the US has come to stand for, I feel that, having gathered some strength over the last year, I am ready again to participate. Being at Free Witch Camp with the forest activists was so inspiring. As I’ve written here before, my purpose now is to do what I can for those that come after; destroy less, learn to live sustainably. Supporting these folks is a way to do that.
Hey friends, drop me an email. Let me know what you’re thinking and feeling these days!
Tuesday 23 August 2005 10:26 AM
I’m in a café in Yreka, CA having breakfast and coffee. Free Witch Camp was amazing! I feel connected with the Forest Defenders here. These people put their lives on the line daily to defend the forest. They are inspiring, desperate, beautiful, and they need our support! Imagine a world without forests.
More to come later this week.
Sunday 7 August 2005 8:51 PM
I’m in Seattle with my cousins and their kids. I’ve been here since Friday week. It’s so great to be with the folks, I haven’t been into writing. He is the son of my father’s brother, stays home with the kids and she works at Microsoft. It’s been a very full time, hanging out with everybody and getting to know each other more. I’ve met some of their friends, and visited with two friends from Vermont; a woman I have known for about 15 years, and one of my best friends from my teen years at Shaker Mtn. School. Both visits were great. E is from Germany and is very involved in natural healing with animals, Earth affirming politics and spirituality, and is a lot of fun and very kind. K was one of my best friends from ages 14 to 16. It was so great to see her, to catch up on our lives, and to feel the heart conenction. She was and always will be family. It’s really fun to think about being in BC, not far from here, and seeing these people more often.
Tomorrow we head to Portland, and then on to Free Witch Camp on Wednesday. Most likely I won’t be blogging much for the next couple of weeks, as I wil be very engaged with camp. After that, the plan is to go on to California, visit in the Bay area and see my brothers in LA at the beginning of September.
Thursday 28 July 2005 6:18 PM
Tomorrow we head to Seattle to see my cousins and chill for a bit before going to Oregon and Free Witch Camp. I miss being at Chilko. All of these people, cars, trucks, noise, lights, etc. are just more than I want to be around.
I did get this amusing photo of Lasky yesterday at Syringa Creek Provincial Park just outside of Castlegar.
Tuesday 26 July 2005 5:19 PM
I'm sitting in the truck in Nelson. It's sunny, the river is in front of me. An 18 foot sailboat just floated by. I'm going to dinner at Mazatlan, a Mexican place I hear is good. Wow, a restaurant! I"m camping back in Nakusp at the hot springs again. Mmmm. I want to soak all I can before heading off for the next big thing, Seattle and Oregon.
Here's a photo someone took at Chilko last week.
Saturday 23 July 2005 5:21 PM
Great day. Iwoke up early, packed up leaving some stuff to hold the site (which turned out to be unnecessary) and headed for the Pow Wow in Nemaia Valley close by. I found the place, the Nemeiah Valley Rodeo Grounds down another dirt road of course. At first I wondered if I should go in...same as usual. Once I’d driven in I saw people camped and the ring, so I knew it was the right place but I felt like I was intruding. I backed out, parked in a field and attended to part of the chain which attaches the camper to the truck, it needed tightening. Then I drove back in and just was brave, and saw that the Swiss people from the campground were there with their rented truck camper. I hadn’t really connected with them but there they were. I parked just in front of them near the woods. I got out, let the dog and cat out, and shecked out the scene. There were a number of tents with families or couples, about 10 or so kids of different ages were running around, on bikes, on foot, in and out of the creek, playing with dogs. It was like a comfy summer family encampment. The truck in front of me had a camper on it and three dogs which attracted Lasky immediately. I went over to make sure that was all ok and a woman told me that the one dog was blind and deaf. i asked how old and she told me “18.” We started talking, and then her friend came out of the camper and introduced herself, Cheryl, and her friend, Donna. Cheryl is probably in her early 40’s, tall, willowy, long brown hair, a thin almost pointed face. She’s brown skinned, her features having a mix of anglo and native features. Donna is probably mid 60’s. Later in our conversation she told me she was a retired RN. Long brown ponytail, a face with lots of lines and wrinkles, about 5’4, speaking with a strong local accent. I introduced myself as well. I learned that Cheryl is from Soda Creek and Donna is from somewhere else. Donna has camped in that same spot for Pow Wow and Rodeo for 25 years. It was about 10 AM and the Grand Entrance was to be at 1:00 so we hung out, talked, they took care of aspects of their regalia by going off and talking to friends, or getting hair braided at someone’s camp. I pretty much hung out and talked with both and then each of them until it was time for them to get dressed.
I’ve been to a few Pow Wows and they all have a basic thing in common which is a ring with dancers, drummers/singers, and some guy with a microphone MC’ing the whole thing. I love it. The whole purpose of the Pow Wow as far as I can tell is to honor life. It’s a celebration and each dance is a celebration of a specific aspect of the people present; inter tribal dance for everyone (I danced twice!), Traditional Women’s dance, Traditional Men’s dance, Fancy Women’s, Junior Princess, Senior Princess, Junior Brave, Senior Brave, etc. There are competitions for titles like Jr. Princess, but there are two or three dancers and while there is a winner, it is announced the next day and all dancers are honored. There was a dance to honor the visitors to the Pow Wow, the Swiss couple and me! So we three got up and they drummed and sang for us and we danced around the circle in that step kind of dancing that perople do at Pow Wow. I mostly just focused on the mountains and the sky but I also looked at the people. People attend to the dancers diferently depending on who is dancing, do you know them, is it a category you are interested in etc. After we danced the circle once people from the Xeni Gwi T’n band came up and shook our hands and welcomed us, one by one, adults and kids. Some people made eye contact, some didn’t, the kids mostly didn’t but also some of the adults. I shook each hand and said thank you. It was a beautiful human moment that was so innocent and real and kind and intimate in a way.
I watched after the dog and watched the dancers for a few hours. By a certain point I was feeling tired, neck hurting, and getting ready to go. I stayed while Cheryl danced two Women’s Traditional dances, which were beautiful. I’d also seen the Men’s Traditional. If you’ve never been to a Pow Wow, go! The dances, while some do have specific steps and songs, are not what most non-natives think of when you mention dancing. It happens in a large outdoor ring. You dance clockwise, sometimes rows of people or individuals. Often the dance is a simple step step stop with each foot, but some of the dancers really learn the steps so for instance the Junior Princesses had a very specific dance, and the Traditional Men and Women had very specific dances which are just about being. A Traditional Man’s Dance might say something like “I am a traditional man of my people. I dance to honor the Creator and life and the existance of the world.” Native culture is all about respect; for Earth, for Elders, for all of life. They are a lot like the witches I know. Today while doing something for her regalia, untangling some leather ties from two ermine someone had tanned and given her to go in her hair, a bee was in her face. She did the same thing a lot of people do who revere life. She talked to it. “I can’t see with you there. Go on now.” Mosquitos I kill with no announcement but most everything else gets some discussion, a brush off and a chance to buzz off before I go in for the kill. It all felt very familiar.
Donna told me they go until 11:30 at night but I knew I needed to go rest way before then. I ended up leaving around 4:30 (clock in truck) and heading back to the campsite. I left a note on Donna’s truck. I included my email address. I hope I hear from them, I like them. I may go back tomorrow, or I may head out, or I may stay here and camp for one more day of quiet relaxation. We’ll see in the morning.
Friday 22 July 2005 8:32 PM
I just had an unbelievable experience. I went to look for the eagles and I finally saw the nests...one really huge one and two smaller but still quite large nests high up in pine trees. They have roosts in nearby trees to keep watch in. Then I saw an eagle flying in the sunset and watched for a while through binoculars...closest thing to being there, I swear. Then as he goes to the nest two more huge bald eagles come out and the three of them fly around a little and then the one lands in one of the roosts and the other two are out of sight. Whew!
Tomorrow we Pow Wow, maybe Sunday too, then Monday head back towards Nelson where I want to scope out the local radio station and take a shower!
Friday 22 July 2005 5:46 PM
Wow! A lifelong dream of mine has come true. Ever since I was a little kid and saw the film "The Misfits" I have wanted to see wild horses, and had a fantasy of drawing them. Today I went and found them and spent some time looking at them and one of them came over to me and made friends! There were 14 all together, browns, palominos, greys. Lasky and I went walking a few miles down the road to the water where they hang out. I stayed downwind of them but they did eventually spot us and canter off down the way. There was this one beautiful chestnut mare with black sock, not a a speck of anything else on her, so elegant. But as they took off one of them lagged behind, looking at me. they were probably 750 feet away, but this one came closer and I was just facing him, talking to him saying "yeah come on and say hi" and then he turned and dashed off, tail aloft, to join the others. Beautiful. So we walked back a bit and saw a way to get down the coolie where the horses were so we walked and they were across a small bit of water. The one horse saw us again. I kept walking closer and he just came walking towards me. I was a little concerned but he didn;t look mad. He looked like maybe he was protecting his group. I stopped and he came, slowly, to me...and just snuffled me. I offered my hand, careful to avoid his teeth, and then I stroked his nose and we were fine. He was sort of grey with some gold and black etchings on him, a pony maybe 13 hands high. I couldn't tell if he was a yoiung male or a gelding, in which case not wild at all...but he was very friendly. Assertively so. he kept moving towards us...not ever pushing me but I felt some sense of "time for you to go, you're in our space" so I did back away and then turn and start walking away and he kept coming with us. Lasky barked at him a couple of times but she was pretty cool throughout all this. So now it's like he's a good 1000 feet from the other horses and is following us...either to really make sure we leave or just for kicks. He stopped and we kept going and he watched us for a bit...then he started to consider coming towards us again but turned and ambled off towards the other horses. That was so cool. We were out there surrounded by mountains, no road in sight, nothing human in sight, and just these horses. There is controversy here because there are those who say thatno horses are truly indiginous here so they aren't really wild horses, but then there are others who say that these horses have been breeding for generations, and have been here living without the benefit of human intervention for more than 50 years, so now they are wild. It's something like that anyway. It always is, eh? The horses are magnificent though. Wow.
Wednesday 20 July 2005 7:41 PM
Ah the multiverse provides so many mirrors and opportunities to learn. Firstly...the eagle is back...also saw two deer on the island!
Two camper groups have arrived, both comprised of a father and a teenaged son. The Americans came and picked a place in the middle of the hillside, then the Canadians came and were scouting out locations, and were looking at the one next to me. We were talking and the American guy comes down and introduces himself, the name, the handshake, the big voice, the whole stereotype, including the sad eyes. Anyway without going into a lot of detail, this guy really got on my nerves right away. He wouldn't stop talking, telling the rest of us about this and that, a real know-it-all. I found myself getting annoyed, then I just disengaged. More than anything it was tiring, boring, to listen to this guy. I did manage to disengage and the little group broke up and the Canadians are still at this moment picking a campsite. I had to write this down for the blog. I felt a little embarrassed, except I don't feel any kind of nationalistic identification, so it wasn;t like I felt embarrassed to be an American. I felt embarrassed for the guy that he was a bad stereotype and clearly had no idea.
Wednesday 20 July 2005 1:04 PM
There is a Bald Eagle nesting on Duff Island about 500 feet from my campsite out in the turquoise of Chilco Lake. The island is off limits due to eagles nesting out there but with binoculars I have been watching this eagle roosting at the top of a pine tree at the edge of the island. Yesterday another eagle was in the same tree lower down for a while, probably just keeping company. Today I looked, no eagles but I can see the nest at the top of the tree. I wonder if there are eggs in it yet?
Tuesday 19 July 2005 3:31 PM
Chilko Lake, campsite primo right on the lake...and one other site occupied by an older couple who are very quiet and go fishing all day.
I spent Sunday walking around, met some nice people and hung out with them a bit...then Monday I went to Williams Lake. 4 hours, about 130 miles, 75 miles between the campsite and the paved road.
Monday, yesterday, was very eventful! I found a great highspeed wifi spot, a vet (the animals, have been feasting on rodents) for dewormer, grocery store, and some very wonderful people meeting happened through following a somewhat circuitous route in search of a particular item, ending up having tea with a very nice woman, good conversation about real life...one of those meetings that just feels right. Thyen, hitting the road around 8 pm and arriving back here at the campground at around 11:35, by which time I was so sick of the endless road and bumps, I was starting to get cranky! Good thing I was able to go to sleep.
So today the nice people I met here, who are from Victoria, were still here but packing up to go so we hung out some as they did that. I moved my campsite down to this primo site, right next to the site they were just vacating, and found more interesting connections. She is familiar with who Marija Gimbutas was, and my friends Donna Read and Starhawk have made a film about Marija so...there is more to the story but I’m not going to go into detail. Suffice to say...more nice, real, honest, people to connect with. Oh Canada! But seriously, it is my experience that in general Canadians are more in touch with the spirit of the land than the majority of their counterparts south of the border. That's interesting to contemplate.
Now I am justhere for the next 3 days hanging out on the lake and hiking around. The local band, the Xany Gi T’n (pronoinced honey gi teen) is having a Pow Wow this Saturday and a Rodeo on Sunday so I may stick around for those. I am especially interested in the Pow Wow. I will probably go back out to Williams on Friday (post this Blog) and get some tobacco to give to dancers and such. I’ve been to a few Pow Wows and the energy can be really amazing. It’s also just powerful to witness all the intention and awareness that goes into the dancing, and to honor those offerings.
OK, back to the hammock.
Saturday 16 July 2005 7 PM
After driving all day, starting at 9 AM, we finally arrived at the more southerly of the two campgrounds on Chilko Lake, but also this is the one on the east side of the lake. I spent Thursday and Friday nights at the campground on the western shore further north.
You have to really want to get here. The roads, if they can be properly called that, are barely passable. The camper took quite a jostling. Stuff was everywhere when we finally did park and I opened it up. So this driving in first gear mainly, occasionally second, for 70 miles probably. It took all day, and there were a number of times when I started to get irate at the rough road and how forever this was taking, but mostly, awed by the incredible breathtaking magnificent places I was seeing.
Finally arriving at Ts’yl?os Provincial Park Campground, seeing the lake, the mountains, the glaciers...it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. No doubt about it. Magical. Alive. Undeveloped. Unspoiled. QUIET like no where else I’ve ever been.
We set up and then Lasky and I went for a walk. Shorts, t shirt in hand, no shoes...along woodsy paths by the lake, stopping at every tiny black-rocked and sanded inlet or cove or whatever you want to call them. I did finally find a place to offer appreciation to the place and immerse myself - mostly - in the very cold glacial water.
I think I have enough food to stay here for 3 or 4 days...more really,but I will have to get to the internet for my class by Tuesday, so I might go out, do that, and come back. We’ll see.
No sign of a gathering of Elders. When I turned and crossed the bridge to get to this side of the lake I saw their sign pointing the way I was going, so that was good. I got brave too and was feeling sure I’d go in if I found the place, but I never saw any more signs. I saw one turn with a lot of tire tracks, but it was muddy and there were tire tracks on the road.
Monday 18 July 2005 1:36 PM
Here are some more photos.