I’ve loved mountains since I was a little girl living among the tiny waves of the glaciated region of Wisconsin. Hills tell us so much. They are the home of our ancestors, those giant stones that tell the stories of our past and the trees … Continue reading Reflections on My Travels 2023- The Alps
Blue Eyes Flashing and other words
I’ve been continuing to face an ongoing struggle with writer’s block. I strongly suspect a sort of fear of writing, a fear of what I might learn if I go to deep, but I have no choice. There are words that I need to share and they’ll be there inside me until I let them out. So, I am continuing to work on letting them out. Today I’m going back through old journals and finding bits and pieces to revise and share more publicly. The first piece has no title yet, but maybe I’ll call it Boots. It was written on 7-6-2000 on the shores of Lake Superior while on a walk around the big lake to protect the waters.
I am standing here
on a precipice
afraid to fly
wanting so badly to walk away
but my boots
will not walk backward
like the staff
my being is feathered
and I will
Another story that I found came from a few years earlier. It is called Blue Eyes Flashing and is dedicated to my great aunt Sr. Christine Mondloch. Sr. Christine was born in 1898. She served as a School Sister of Notre Dame, teaching school for many years before retiring. She lived out her final years in Elm Grove, Wisconsin in a tiny blue room in her convent. She was an inspiration to me. She found such joy and meaning in the simplest life.
Blue Eyes Flashing
(a revision of the 3-4-96 version dedicated to Sr. Christine Mondloch who walked on 2-24-96)
Blue eyes flashing
From behind the clouds
Not recognizing a brother
Only crying out
Imagining your smile
Wishing for you the great beyond
Remembering the cardboard cutouts
Stored away in my parent’s basement
And wondering how the demons
Caught your spirit, stole your soul
All my life you gave me cardboard boxes,
Toothpick flags, and empty suitcases
All your treasures in the world
I think of you of your autobiography
98 years written on one page
I remember the tiny blue room
Charity called your home
I walk the halls and feel your footsteps
In time with mine
Mirrors of Time
Time confuses me more as it passes. It used to be so linear. Babies were young and old people were old. Now, I’m not so sure. April 1st would have been my Grandpa Mondloch’s 122nd birthday. I never met the man. He died in 1935, … Continue reading Mirrors of Time
Can’t Drink Oil
Thinking this afternoon of that Cree proverb “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money.” Over the years I’ve seen different translations of the words, but the idea is … Continue reading Can’t Drink Oil
What is Ours?
I was eating my oatmeal and flipping through Facebook posts this morning when I saw a news story about a 1200 year old canoe that was raised from the lake near where I live yesterday. Several friends had already commented on how wonderful it was … Continue reading What is Ours?
Enjoying Time with the Neighbors
Today is just for sharing a photo of some neighbors. I’m surprised to see them still in the neighborhood as we’re almost into November, but I suspect the grain that spills from the railroad cars is a fine delicacy that makes life much easier at … Continue reading Enjoying Time with the Neighbors
What Happened Next? Looking at the History of Underrepresented Peoples
I was watching a documentary on PBS last night about the life of Helen Keller. It was an interesting show that focused primarily on her adult years rather than the childhood picture that so many of us were introduced to as children. It made me wonder about how often we cheat ourselves by contenting ourselves with stories of history that are meant for children and that usually are missing major pieces that really make the story. I wonder how often we cheat the children in our lives by minimizing their education with these simple stories like that of the little deaf and blind girl and fail to tell them of the woman who was a prominent socialist, a skilled writer, an actor, public speaker, ambassador for US, and so much more?
Clearly, stories designed for children whether written or video or some other form are often less complex than those created for adults. But, how do we take that first story and make into a series? When we look at something like “The Miracle Worker” it seems like the story ends with the miracle of Helen learning to communicate, but in reality that’s only the beginning. We do much the same thing when we talk about many other figures in history, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups. Rosa Parks is a great example. We largely get the story that this individual woman was tired, sat down, and refused to give up her seat on the bus. Not only is that historically inaccurate, but it’s incomplete. Mrs. Parks was a trained community activist who had a history in the Civil Rights Movement. She was part of a much larger strategy to integrate the busses in Montgomery. She also remained active working for social justice through the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power Movement, as a staff person to US Representative John Conyers, and working to support political prisoners in the US among other issues until her death in 2005.
People like Ms. Keller and Mrs. Parks are so much more than what we often give them credit for. By failing to recognize the breadth of their contributions and those of others like them we fail to fully support and encourage the next generations of those who share pieces of their realities, whether those be young women, people with disabilities, people of color, Indigenous peoples, or others. Reading the children’s books and watching kids movies about these historical figures is great, by all means do it! Don’t forget the next step though. Dig a little deeper. Ask “what happened next?”
Thoughts on Making Schools Safe
While sitting in the laundromat earlier today waiting for my clothes to dry, I was paging through the news on my phone. I saw an article from WPR that said Wisconsin schools are calling the police on students at nearly twice the national rate. Kids with disabilities, Latinx, Black, and Native students are the victims of most of the calls with Native kids at the top of the list closely followed by Blacks. The article made me ask again what it is that I love so much about my home state, maybe it’s my love of wanting to make things better.
While calling the cops on these kids might simply mean a referral for a child in crisis or a warning for some teenage action like yelling at teacher and aren’t by any means all arrests, it’s still hugely problematic that kids with disabilities and BIPOC youth are being referred to law enforcement at twice the rate as the overall student population and Native kids are three times as likely to be referred as white kids. It’s 2021 and we’re still operating as if it’s against the law in Wisconsin to have brown skin or to have a disability! Come on folks we can do better than this!
While I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I do think there are a few things that put together are worth considering.
- Take cops out of our schools. I’m not going to say that police are bad. I am saying that they have a role and that role is to uphold the law. By having them in schools that presumes that the law is not being upheld or is in danger of not being upheld. It tells kids that our expectation is that they will behave as criminals and that their space isn’t safe. Kids getting the message every day that they are criminals in an unsafe environment are more likely to act as criminals in an unsafe space.
- Support the support systems. A few generations ago black and brown children were stolen from their families to be sold in slavery or handed over to the boarding schools. Still, family systems remained and adjusted to care for these children. These family systems are under great stress as the dominant white culture continues to steal their children away through foster care, prison, drugs, and other tools. It’s important to recognize that families don’t look the same, nor should they, across all cultural groups. We need to see these systems and simply stop threatening them and stealing their children.
- Care for the educators. This is a simple one that we’ve all heard many times. Our teachers and school staff need the physical resources, time, and classroom support to do their jobs. They also need to be compensated for the work that they do. That’s it.
- Honor the bodies and spirits of our children. We are all impacted by what we take in. Our kids today are taking in a lot of junk. They’re fed junk on their plates in the form of processed foods filled with sugars and chemicals. They’re fed junk on the screens of their phones and computers all day long. They fed junk in stories about themselves as they’re forced to digest the history of the powerful that doesn’t represent them. All junk. How can we expect anything other than anger and frustration? Feed them goodness. Feed them good food. Feed them the stories of their own peoples. Tell them their histories of strength and courage. Feed them beauty. Give them the opportunity to run and play and explore the world or just the backyard. Feed their souls. Let them stretch their creative selves and find other ways of being beyond angry.
- Look at ourselves. These kids weren’t born angry or trouble makers. They were born cute and cuddly, adorable and sweet. We made them who they are. It is us who need to deal with our stuff. It is us who need to look at ourselves each day and ask ourselves how our actions are impacting the world. It is us who need to act.
Save A Walleye, An Ongoing Lie
It was in 1974 that two brothers went fishing. Mike and Fred Tribble, two Anishanabe men from the La Court Oreille reservation in Wisconsin had called the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to inform them of the fishing trip and then went out on Chief Lake, crossed the imaginary reservation line, cut a hole in the ice, and speared a fish off the reservation.
This small action would lead to more than decade in the courts resulting in the historic Voigt decision which acknowledged the Chippewa’s (name used for Anishanabe in legal records) right to 1) harvest fish, game, and plants off-reservation on public lands (and on private lands if proven necessary to provide a modest living); 2) use both traditional and modern methods in the hunting and gathering; and 3) barter or sell the harvest.
The decision took the hood off a long simmering Klan-like hatred in the Northwoods. The boat landings were filled with protesters like those in the photo above. Still, despite threats to their lives the Anishanabe stood strong and fished. Over four years, a Witness for Nonviolence made of allies from around the state grew to stand a peaceful guard along the landings.
Over time, the protestors drew their Klan hood back over their being and things quieted. Many who weren’t Anishanabe started to believe that the struggle was over, that it had become safe again. That wasn’t the reality. Whether the protests are small and quiet, not magnified by the media or loud and in the light of the cameras, they are there and they are threatening.
Just yesterday I learned of a family who were out spearfishing and attacked by white men. The men threw things and harassed the family with racial slurs and threats and one of the white men pulled down his pants exposing himself to the children who were fishing with their father and other family. This is nothing new. Some fishers can tell stories of being shot at every year. Yet they continue because they are Anishanabe and they must be who they are.
When will we learn? The Anishanabe have hunted, fished, and gathered here since the great spirit guided them to this place. Their harvest is miniscule in comparison to that of those who sports fish and the tribes work hard to care for the environment and replenish the fishing stock. This isn’t an issue about fish. This is Wisconsin’s version of the Klan and it is simply wrong and needs to stop.
Want to really save a walleye? Support Native spear fishers and keep the racist freaks off the water.
When Will We Be Able to Breathe Again?
The Minneapolis police murdered another Black man last night. Mr. George Floyd died, his airway crushed under knee of racism.
I watched a press conference this afternoon about the event. It was gathering of mostly African American leaders with a sprinkling of other people as well. I was struck by an elder standing near the mic. I didn’t catch his name. I think it might have been Frank something. He was Native. I don’t know his tribe. He wore the AIM uniform, an AIM t-shirt, jean jacket, and cowboy hat. His look reminded me of a hundred other friends I’ve known along the way and of a story.
I was reminded that we all come from around the same fire. Someday, if we are to survive we have to come back together be that new people.
This man died because he couldn’t breathe through the hatred and fear that held him down. Not his hatred, not his fear, the hatred and fear that is white and monied. The hatred and fear that chokes the life out of all of us.
It’s been over 500 years now. It’s long enough. It’s time to step out and celebrate the beauty of our differences. We are more than black and white. I know we’re still social distancing, but in whatever way you can, hold each other in your hearts, raise up the beauty, celebrate the strength, honor the struggles. Do whatever it is that you can to make it possible for all who are being crushed to breathe again.