Friday, October 10, 2014

We do this for the water

Inspired by Sharon Day* and the women who walk to the rivers and sing and pray blessings to them every week,** I've been walking to the Olentangy River the past couple of Sundays. It's been a great opportunity to get outside and walk, to see a beautiful spot right in my little town, and to remember the ways in which I'm connected with all around me.

Looking downstream, Olentangy River
As my friend Pomegranate says: all water touches all water.

Clouds on the river
When I stand by the river and make my offerings, I imagine sending blessings to all my loved ones who live so far away--that despite the miles between us, we are connected through the water, and I can touch them and be touched by them as I pray and sing.

Looking upstream, Olentangy River
The river is beautiful. So beautiful that recently our city put up a swing on its banks for people to stop and sit and enjoy watching the water go by.

Looking across the Olentangy
I've really enjoyed noticing the changes that come with the change in seasons, looking around at the trees and grass, smelling the change in the air, listening to the birds and bugs and wondering about their winter preparations.

This woolly bear caterpillar was so fuzzy
I couldn't get a sharp picture of him (ha!)

Delicate and hearty diasies
Water is life.

On campus--a reminder of the gift
I'm glad to see that there are people in my community who are looking after the river and helping it be healthy: the Olentangy Watershed Alliance. I hope to be able to join in on their activities soon!

At first I thought it was a plastic bag... It's a SNAKESKIN!
Time to shed our skins and grow into something new...
Water, we thank you. Water, we respect you. Water, we love you.

Cheers,
Karen

*Back in 2013, Sharon Day and others walked the length of the Mississippi River to raise awareness and speak out on behalf of the health of the longest, most storied river in the United States. THEY WALKED THE LENGTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Y'ALL. And that's not the only river Sharon has walked. Back in the spring of this year, I met my friend Martha in Cincinnati and we joined Sharon and a few others to walk along the Ohio River for a day. It was an amazing experience.

We walked in relay style, each person taking a turn of .6 or .8 of a mile, walking FAST--about 3 or 4 miles per hour, about the same as the speed of the river. And we were to move like the river--never stopping, never turning back, always moving forward (even when we handed off to the next walker). And as we walked, we prayed for the river, or just thought about it real hard, or sang to it. We carried an eagle feather and a copper bucket of water gathered from the beginning point of the river, the bucket covered with a beautiful cloth (and a GPS tracker attached to its handle). We made about 30 miles that day, passing more coal-fired power plants than I ever would have imagined along the waterway that supplies so many people with drinking water.

Liquid is heavy; a gallon of milk from the grocery store sometimes seems tricky to lift and maneuver. But on that day, the water bucket was light. On one of my turns, I noticed that it felt like carrying a baby--a burden, yes, but a sweet one. Sometimes I would hear a little slosh in the bucket. It felt like the water was talking to me, encouraging me.

I'm so grateful for the women I walked with that day: Sharon Day, Martha Viehmann, Barb Baker-LaRush, Lee Taylor, Tracey Gokey Jones, Laura Gokey Koehler, and Judith (whose last name I did not get). Laura brought her son Trevor, who carried the eagle staff, and Laura & Tracey discovered that their parents are from the same reservation as Barb's parents and they have ancestors in common. "All my relations," yes.

** If you'd like to keep up with Sharon's river adventures and see photos of the different places where people all over North America are praying for the water each Sunday, log in to Facebook and go to the "Mississippi River Water Walk 2013" page. It's got information on Sharon's current project, which is walking the St. Louis River. If you'd like to support Sharon's projects, go to Nibi Walk's donation page. Sharon does all of this on a shoestring budget, making do and being careful with resources. (She is also the director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, a group in Minneapolis doing amazing work.)

It's inspiring and strengthening, in the face of a serious lack of attention to water issues by people in power (or, worse, a tendency to enact policies that favor corporations over water health and human health and earth health), to see that there are some people who are remembering the water and trying to do things to help.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Silent poetry reading: Natasha Trethewey

Today, February 2nd, is the feast of St. Brigid. To mark the day, I'm joining others in the "Silent Poetry Reading" that takes place in the blogosphere this time each year. I've decided to include a poem by Natasha Trethewey, our Poet Laureate, whom I met last year at my school (and briefly 10+ years ago--as I left the Emory campus to move to Ohio for my job, she had just arrived as a new professor). I love her work.

I chose this poem because the topic of "home"--our theme in my freshman writing class as well as the women's literature class I'm teaching this semester--has been on my mind lately. Home and memory, and figuring out what those things are, keeps coming back in my own writing.

Enjoy. I hope you have occasion to read poetry. Every day, if possible.

Cheers,
Karen

"Theories of Time and Space," by Natasha Trethewey

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on the mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory,
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return.

Friday, January 31, 2014

A reprieve

Last night, as I walked the few blocks to happy hour, I felt it: a change, a reprieve, a release from the grip of ice. And I felt so happy, and grateful.


(This was the temperature--without wind chill--
when I was getting ready for work on Tuesday...)

 (... and here's the bank sign as I drove past, a little after 9 a.m.
Classes were not cancelled.)


(The temperature this morning. Such a relief.)

I noticed, walking past an apartment building, that I could hear dripping in the gutters. Water was running outside; ice was melting. I hadn't heard that sound in at least a week.

And the wind was different--the way it felt on my skin. It seemed to have a different personality. It felt rounder, softer. Rather than feeling like I was being cut with an edge, when the wind hit my face I felt like it was a cheek, or the underneath part of a forearm. Rounder, softer.

And then something inside me relaxed. The animal part of me felt so relieved--we can survive this. We'll be okay. It was palpable. My awareness calmed down; it felt like I'd been on alert this past week, and I finally relaxed.

This morning, the heavy equipment down at the end of the block is going again, workers digging a deep hole in the road. The air is soft. There's still snow everywhere. But somehow everything's different.

I'll be thinking about our ancestors and how they survived winter, and how they knew its shapes and watched for changes as the earth moved towards spring.

I hope you are warm and well.
Karen

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Report from Chicago (day one)

This post is especially for my friend Marjorie Boyer, who was hoping I'd keep the status updates coming on FB... I wanted to say more than would fit there, so here we go!

The sun came up (another everyday miracle) and I was able to see the lake. It's frozen!

(morning at Lake Michigan, as seen between the buildings...)

I accidentally got up earlier than I meant to, but that gave me plenty of time to get ready to go have brunch with one of my favorite OWU alums. We had a giant meal and talked and talked over multiple cups of coffee.

See that little bit of light in the picture above? That's about as much sun as we saw all day. It was pretty grey, and there's been light snow. There's slush all over everything, and salt. I keep having to clean my shoes and watch out for slush-puddles. (Alas, I did not see any slush funds.)

There are lots of smart and interesting and personable people here at the conference. And, judging by the people I saw out and about, Chicagoans seem pretty unflappable. They will not be flapped!

I crossed the river a couple times--also frozen!

(Ice floes on the Chicago River)

I got a little turned around on my way "home" to the hotel where I'm staying--after successfully finding the hotel where we're doing the interviews (different), the hotel where I went to hear a panel (another different), and the Bombay Grill, where I had some delicious curry.

As I kept trying to orient myself, I had lines of a new poem running through my head--about getting lost, feeling awry--and so I'm going to go write those down.

But first, and also: alas, signs of the colonizer. (They are everywhere, as those colonizers are the heroes of our national mythology.)

("The Explorers," at the Michigan Avenue bridge)

(The site for the fort was ceded through a treaty made in Ohio, 
after the Battle of Fallen Timbers... Here's a link with more info.)

And, to end on a lighter note: I thought this sign--in the back of the room where I heard a panel of papers on Emily Dickinson's poetry--was somewhat entertaining.


In addition to being stuck in the back of the room, apparently the bloggers and tweeters are also never fed, and so they had to nibble on that piece of paper.

I hope you're having a lovely day, wherever you find yourself.

Cheers,
Karen

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy 2014 good luck food

We were traveling home from Detroit on January 1st, so I didn't have a chance to cook any good-luck foods. It was already a spot of good luck that we made it through a snowstorm--er, correction, Winter Storm Hercules!--with no problems. From Detroit to Toledo, the snow was really steady and the roads were slushy and bumpy. It was slow going, but everyone was driving safely and carefully, and the whole way we only saw one car in the ditch. That felt darn lucky.

There was no snow at home. And when we got there, everyone who was making their black-eyed peas and cornbread and kale and pork and sauerkraut and  posting photos on FB made me a little envious. So I thought: we can do that on January 2nd, right? We can do that and still have good luck for 2014, don't you think? There must be a special dispensation for travelers and those others who can't cook on the 1st. Hmmm...

Well, I hope so. In fact, yes. I'm declaring that the good-luck foods I made today are just fine and right on time and they were delicious, too. Even the teenager ate some black-eyed pea soup, and he does not like beans nor soup. That in itself is kind of magic, yes?

I made the Chipotle and Black-Eyed Pea Soup I saw on BlogHer; here's the link.

My variations: well, our grocery store did not have chipotle chili powder, so it turned out to be non-chipotle. (I'd like to make it with chipotle chili powder sometime, as I adore anything chipotle-flavored--maybe the Mexican grocery store on the other side of the railroad tracks will have some...)

And I forgot to buy an immersion blender today. I got kind of caught up in work stuff--I had a long meeting, then I was making a syllabus for a course I'm revising a whole bunch. And making a new-ish syllabus is always like trying to put together a puzzle when you can't see the picture you're aiming for, and sometimes there are pieces missing, or--more often--too many pieces to fit in the puzzle. After today's work, it's time for me to cut some pieces from the picture, even though they might be awesome and beautiful.

And when I walked outside to my car, I forgot all about the idea of shopping at all--it was so very cold outside. The snow was beautiful, but the wind was so strong it was almost scary. There were actual snow drifts, with those cuts in them that look like desert hills, just like I've seen on the prairie. (I've never seen that in Ohio before!) Some kind of instinct kicked in and I just wanted to get home where I'd be warm and safe.

So I still don't have an immersion blender, and the two neighbors I thought most likely to have one didn't either, so I used a potato masher. Not the same result, but it was darn close! Side dishes were: mac and cheese (thereby making the teenager very happy), cornbread muffins, and a green salad.

We said our gratefuls at the beginning of the meal, the hubby & child declared the food good, and we all had seconds of something, and it was a good dinner after a full day. May we have good luck in 2014, and may you have good luck, too.

Happy new year!
Karen

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving thanks: extended play version

Hello, friends.

I'm having a hard day. Nothing terrible has happened, but I've got a couple worries on my mind.

As a distraction, or perhaps antidote, or perhaps balm, I'm thinking about what I would post today for my daily FB status update in the "30 Days of Thanksgiving" practice. And it's a LOT, too much to fit in that little box. So here it is.

-- I'm grateful for a warm house and food to eat and jobs we're good at that we like--all the things that make up our daily sustenance.

-- I'm grateful for family; they are far away, and that makes me a little blue, but I'm looking forward to seeing them again. And talking by phone & catching up on e-mail and FB in the meantime.

-- I'm grateful for my beloved dead--those ancestors of blood and spirit who have passed on, and friends, too, who are no longer here. I love talking to them and remembering them.





(Some wedding pic.s; top: me and the Goralski sisters--my Aunt Agnes, my grandmom Marie, and my Aunt Frances; bottom: my grandmom Mildred and granddad Bill Hayden)

-- I'm grateful for the music that's playing on my stereo (a Pandora.com station of Celtic music). I'm grateful music is my companion and helps me express my heart.

-- I'm grateful for knitting, and for expressing love through handknits.

(My sister-in-law Donna wearing the prayer shawl 
I made for her, summer 2013.)

-- I'm grateful for my friends in town who are my village, helping us raise our son and give him and us support and create a good life for us all--one that includes goofiness as well as classical music.

(July 4th, a couple years ago, my friend Jonalyn teaching.)

-- I'm grateful for my friends who live in faraway places--friends we've made along the way in Maryland, Georgia, California, Minnesota, Chicago... And my goodness, I'm grateful that I get to keep up with them on FB. (For all its silliness and weirdness, FB is still a boon to me for that reason!)

-- I'm grateful for my friends and colleagues whose work is revitalizing native languages and cultural practices and narrative traditions and art and philosophies. It's hard work, but so needed. And I'm grateful for those native friends and colleagues who are making art informed by these things, taking us into the future.

-- I'm grateful for my students, who give me hope for the future and make me proud and make me laugh; and I'm grateful for my colleagues, who are so damn smart.

(With the travel-learning crew in May 2013, 
in South Dakota and in Minneapolis.)

--  I'm grateful for dinner last night with my friend Chris and his daughter Maya; they fed us wonderful food and shared laughter and stimulating conversation with us. It was exactly what I needed!

-- I'm grateful for our friends Cy and Debbie, who have invited us to go to a Thanksgiving buffet at a fancy restaurant with them later today. Exciting! We get to share the meal with lovely people, and we don't have to deal with the half-broken stove. Once again, just what I need!

-- I'm grateful for the faraway teachers and friends who enrich my spiritual practice. They help me see beauty and love. They have made my life immeasurably better.

-- I'm grateful for my friends in South Dakota, whom I miss. And I'm grateful for the land, and the spirits of that land. I can't wait to go back there.

(I heart the Missouri River!)


-- I'm grateful for the writers whose work I love and enjoy, those stories and poems that help me discover another new way to think about the truth of life. Sometimes I read things I barely recognize, and sometimes I read things that sound like they came right out of my heart.

(One of my favorite places to buy books! Here's their web site!)


-- I'm grateful for animal companions--the ones who live with us and the ones who live with our friends and family. Even as one in particular tests my patience and optimism (ahem), I recognize the sweetness of having them with us.

(The culprit... being too cute and "tagging" me 
when I come up the stairs.)


-- I'm grateful for the health of my physical body--that it lets me walk and dance and laugh and sing and think.

-- I'm grateful for sitting here and writing in my pjs, a cup of tea brewing. I'm so very grateful for finding my voice in my writing, and sharing it with others.

That's not even the whole list. So for now I will say, to the four winds and all the spirits all around: thank you!

May you feel the love of gratitude today--and many other days besides.

Cheers,
Karen

Friday, September 20, 2013

Report from the county fair

Where I grew up, we did not go to the county fair. I can't even recall if there was one. (There must have been, right? Aren't counties are required by law to have annual fairs?) It just wasn't a thing we did, living in the suburbs of D.C.

So when we moved to our little town in Ohio, the county seat, I did not realize how much of a Thing going to the fair would be. Everyone here goes to the fair; some of my friends have kids who are part of 4H and such. The fairgrounds are right in town, just a few blocks away (a nice walk). And the school kids here get two days off from school for the fair!

(These guys were butting heads. 
Who do they think they are, goats?)

When we first moved here and Dexter was little, we went to the fair every year. Our attendance is more hit-and-miss of late, and this year we went without the boy--who went with his friends. (Good lord, going to fair with his parents would be about the last thing he wants to do these days! Plus, Patrick and I held hands, which I'm sure he would have found mortifying.)


The purported highlight of our particular county fair is the Little Brown Jug harness race. I've never been to the race itself. (Admission is expensive that day, plus there's the whole "I teach all day on Thursdays" thing.) I'm a little suspicious of the racing industry anyway, having grown up in Maryland. I'd rather visit the horses who live at the fairgrounds during non-fair time, saying hello on one of my walks or bike rides. For us, the attractions of the fair have been the rides, the food, and the farm animals.

 (People attach lawn chairs to the fence along the race track months ahead of time
to claim good seats for the race. 
I think these have been there for a while...)

The rides are what you would expect--carnival rides, some for little kids and some for daredevils. One year, Dexter was finally big enough to go on the non-kiddy rides, about which he was VERY excited. We chose one for all three of us that looked pretty innocuous: everyone sat side-by-side in a row, and the thing moved the row of chairs back and forth for a while, then around in a circle. There was no upside-down-ness involved, so I thought it would be okay.

 
 (One of Dexter's favorite rides from days gone by...)

I've never felt so sick in my life! Since then, we have mostly avoided the rides.

Way in the back of the fairgrounds, there's a place for the tractor pull (which we can usually hear, late into the night, at our house), demolition derby (which always reminds me of the end of this book), school bus races (which are just as awesome as you'd think they are) and lawnmower races.

 
(This year's parade of lawnmowers
before the races got underway.)

Somewhere in my files I have a picture of my pants leg, splattered with mud from the demolition derby. It was exciting!

Our county fair is full of contests--best corn and soybeans, best rhubarb, best tomatoes, best photography, best quilt (several categories), best pig, best chicken... too many to name. It's fun to look at the winners.

  
(I'm guessing these looked more delicious
on the day they were judged...)

(This was one of my favorite quilts from this year.)

(Confession: I entered my knitting one year and won a blue ribbon! But, truth be told, there wasn't a lot of competition. I had all sorts of ideas about how to reform the contest so it would tap into the hundreds of women in our county who knit all sorts of beautiful things... But then I remembered: I am the egghead outsider. I need to just calm down. Maybe later, after I've been here a while, I can offer my newfangled ideas to the folks who've been doing this their whole lives...)

I think, for some people, the contests are the whole point of the fair, especially the animal contests (which seem to include some serious if good-natured competition). But us? We wouldn't know the difference between a Bantam and a Rhode Island Red; we just like to look at the animals.

Of course, being a fiber person, I'm less interested in the neatly shaved sheep and am more interested in ones like these:

  
(These ladies were the only fleece-still-on of the bunch.)

And here's what I really see when I look at them:

(Don't you want to just bury your fingers in those curls?
Or is that just me?)

There are always some fancy chickens.

 
(I swear there's a chicken underneath that outfit.
Doesn't he look proud of his blue ribbon?)

And it's entertaining to walk amongst them while they crow and cluck.

This year, the stroll amongst the rabbit cages took a turn to the dangerous...

 
(I can't help but notice she's wearing a lot of eye makeup...)

And then to the positively macabre!

 
(And yet she/he looks so cute, not at all like a zombie.)

My goodness.

This year, in the tent that's all about farm animal babies, instead of eggs that would be hatched during the fair (one of my favorite things), they had a bunch of already-hatched chicks and ducklings. They are cute as heck, but I kind of liked the excitement of possibly seeing an egg hatch while you were there.

(duckling pile-on!)

All in all, it was a fun visit. Which of course included the requisite fried food. (It's just unpatriotic to go to the fair and shun the funnel cake. I draw the line at the deep-fried Snickers bars, though.)

(Maybe she opted for the deep-fried Snickers...)

It's the last day of the fair today, which means Fall is really here. I hope the new season is bringing you some time to reflect on your harvest. Do you have a county fair where you live?

Cheers,
Karen