Sunday Morning ~ Walking the Land

Sunday Morning ~ Walking the Land

M’dziko umayenda, umaona agalu a micombo. ~  When you walk in the land you see dogs with different navels. 

~ Chewa proverb

October 24, 2021

Hi Everyone,

One of the personal perks of this pandemic is an appreciation of staying close to home. There is a little moss growing on my north side. This is the longest I have stayed in my own country since I was in grammar school and even then we used to go to Canada every year. Now I’m domestic country and state, most of the time on my own island. Well, not my own island, but the one where I am lucky enough to live. My wanderlust has been remarkably subdued and it hasn’t bothered me as much as I thought it would. I’ve become more of a homebody, something I used to consider a potential character flaw when dating someone. I feel badly about that now. I understand more the attraction of staying in the familiar. It feels good to stay home and feel safe. I never thought I’d say that. Sometimes I worry that I’ll never have the urge to travel again.

I’ve spent time exploring my own state more than ever before. Living in a beautiful place, I usually just stay here when I’m not traveling abroad; there is so much hiking and beauty to be had. But Maine is a big state and large chunks of it are preserved and protected, for which, I am very grateful. Wandering this vast backyard is my new passion. 

When I was at Baxter State Park with my friend Polly in September, I talked with some folks who described some remote lakes accessible only by canoe or kayak where they were planning to do some canoe camping. I’d never heard of them and intrigued by their description wrote down the name, Debsconeag, so I could look them up when I got home. After reading about this place I became obsessed with going there. The three lakes are connected by streams which aren’t navigable by canoe. In fact, the word Debsconeag translates to “carrying place” referring to  places the canoes must be carried to continue on the waterway.

I told Zack about these lakes and after researching them he was eager to go, too. We studied the maps which had the dirt roads and put-in spots clearly marked. We found the camping places and planned our trip. Last weekend we set off to look for dogs with different navels. After a month of gorgeous, dry weather the forecast was for rain, but he’s working so we couldn’t spontaneously maneuver around it. We packed up meals, gear, and a few tarps, borrowed my neighbor’s canoe, and set off. It was a bright sunny day when we left, though the clouds were predicted for evening, and rain showers for the next day. The drive north was glorious; the colors spectacular. It was as beautiful as I’ve ever seen it: a fleeting, showy, spectacular blaze of beauty before the oncoming retreat into a bare cold slumber.

Just before getting to the town of Millinocket we saw a few vehicles pulled over so Zack slowed down to see what was up. We turned to see a female moose and her calf munching away in the brush. That seemed a good omen for the trip, and I felt sorry Polly wasn’t there to see them. She’d really wanted to see a moose. I mentioned that it was moose hunting season and I’m surprised no one is shooting at them. Zack said there was probably some regulation since we were so close to the town. Then I thought a minute and turned to Zack and said, “Wait. Did you bring anything orange?” He said, “No. I just thought of that.” Not wanting to get shot, we turned into the Katahdin General Store, which has everything you could possibly need to survive in the Maine woods, and each bought a hunter-orange rain hat. I think they could probably see us from space. We also bought some really cool tent stakes and a folding saw. I love that store.

We left there, and proceeded to find the road to the put-in spot on the Penobscot River. I’d still be looking for it if I were alone; it’s unmarked and in the middle of nowhere. Rivaling some of the roads in Malawi, it took thirty five minutes to go two miles. But we came to a gorgeous beach with camping sites and a calm river with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. As we lifted the canoe off the roof of the van Zack said, “Uh, I can see daylight”, meaning there was a crack in the canoe, which, my neighbor told me, hadn’t been used for years. Okaaay….here we are in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of really cool camping gear, and a hole in the canoe. We patched it with duct tape and put it in the water. “Well, it floats!” Zack said.  “Think it will be ok with all our gear in it?” I asked. “We’ll see in the morning I guess.”, he replied. It was starting to get dark and we needed to set up camp. It was beautiful enough there that if we couldn’t do the trip with our gear I would have been happy to just stay there and do the canoe part another time. Maybe checking out the canoe BEFORE we left home. 

The next morning was drizzly with low hanging clouds looking like they weren’t going anywhere. It was beautiful in a Scottish sort of way. Pouring rain was something I hoped held off until we were asleep that night. Or maybe until we got home. We loaded up the canoe and walked it into the water. We looked at the patched spot and it wasn’t leaking. “Well, let’s give it a try”, I said, “but go slow in case we need to turn around.” The duct tape worked! Not a single drop came through. That stuff is amazing. Never, and I mean NEVER, go anywhere without it. 

Neither Zack nor I are expert paddlers but we decided the only way to get better at it is to do it. This seemed like an easy trip, no rapids and only six miles, but once we got to the lake it did seem a little daunting. When the wind picked up the paddling got more challenging. We hugged the shore and marveled at the clear water and huge boulders. I felt small. I imagined an earlier era and finding your way without maps or navigational devices. We got to the campsite at the far end of the lake and unloaded our gear. We set up camp and draped a tarp above the picnic table so we could eat out of the rain. It seemed so comfortable compared to what I’d been imagining. We paddled to the portage trail to the second lake and got out to walk. It was nearly a mile and we both thought carrying a canoe that distance would warrant a longer stay than just one night. Maybe another time. We barely noticed the misty rain by that time. It’s amazing what I can get used to. At home I would have been reluctant to go walking in it. There, it felt fine. We knew we could get a fire going and dry out. We had dry clothes to sleep in and good tents. Again, I imagined an earlier time when pine boughs were all there were to sleep on. The second lake looked like a trout fishing paradise. We stood on the rocks in the mist and looked around at the ancient forest. Humbled. Quiet. Grateful.

Later, we dried out in front of a blazing fire with the view of the lake beyond. We cooked our supper and drank wine as the sun set. It was magnificent. We convinced ourselves it was clearing up! Absolutely! It even seemed like the moon was shining through the clouds which were surely breaking up. We went to our tents content and full of visions of sunny skies for the paddle out. I’d say ten minutes after we were tucked into our sleeping bags the heavens open up and I barely slept for the noise of it. I stayed dry but envisioned the rainy paddle out of there and how the duct tape was not going to matter. The rain would fill the canoe. But by daylight, the downpour had turned to showers, then to clearing skies, and we soggily and happily packed up for the paddle out. 

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Taking

Sunday Morning ~ Taking

Mkhala nawo analanda malo. ~ The one who came to stay, took over the place.

~ Chewa proverb

October 10, 2021

HI Everyone,

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts this year, many political, some historical. I’ve learned a lot. This week I finished listening to This Land, a documentary podcast about how Native children are being used to advance the far right agenda. Rebecca Nagle is the investigative reporter, a citizen of Cherokee Nation, who follows several adoption court cases. It is fascinating, educational, heartbreaking, and hopeful. I highly recommend it on this Indigenous People’s Day.

I often think about Native culture and customs. I’ve always been drawn to the earth and making a life from it. I used to wear my hair in long braids as a kid and once walking through town a family friend told me I looked like a little Indian. When I told my mother this she said, “You are an Indian. We have relatives who were Indians.” She said it so matter of factly I was surprised; It seemed like big news to me. I tucked that little gift happily into my psyche, choosing to believe some tiny part of me belonged here. I’ve never done anything with ancestry.com, but after my mother died, one of her relatives gave me a family tree that went back to the family’s origins in North America. A Frenchman came from Calais, France to Nova Scotia and the hand-written genealogy had written “Indienne” as his wife. She was the only person on the several-generation tree without a name. Something has always stopped me from investigating further. I think I’m worried it might not be true. 

When I was nine I got interested in looking at National Geographic magazine. I read little of it, but the photos had me mesmerized and I was consumed with stories about the National Parks out west. I wanted, even then, to be in the wilderness. There was a big article about the geysers at Yellowstone and I wanted to visit there so badly. One spring evening that year, my father asked at supper where we’d like to go for a family vacation. Without hesitation I said, “Yellowstone National Park!” understanding that what we wanted meant nothing. He always asked what we wanted then ignored what we said, forced us to do what he wanted, then tried to make us think it was our idea. I can’t remember what my siblings said, if anything, but that was the end of it. We finished eating, he raised his newspaper, and we were dismissed. Weeks later, maybe early June, we were gathered around after dinner and he took out a Triple A Trip Tik and showed us a route from our house to Wyoming with the last pages ending at Yellowstone. I screamed for joy and ran out of the house, running across the street to my friend Beth’s yelling, “We’re going to Yellowstone National Park!” Neighbors came out of their house as I ran around the neighborhood spreading the good news. I was scolded for doing this and warned not to go blabbering about it to everyone. My father, who discouraged happiness, asked accusingly “Do you realize how many other children will never get this opportunity?!” I answered, dutifully shamed, “Yes.” (It’s interesting as I write this to think of how, somehow, my enthusiasm stayed alive.) 

But, it became the talk of the neighborhood: my father was taking his five kids across country in the station wagon to visit Yellowstone National Park! People didn’t travel so far back then; a week at Cape Cod was a big deal. This trip was like going to the moon.

The saga of that trip has been the source of endless family hysterics. By current standards the authorities would have taken us into custody, but we lived to laugh about it. It was a bonding experience the way boot camp is, but those stories will be left for another time. What I am thinking about today is our stop at the Badlands National Park and the Indigenous man selling jewelry on the ground. His artwork was laid out on a beautifully woven blanket. My father chatted with him and I remember him talking about the sacred land we were on. Without anger, he spoke of the meaning it had. I thought he was very old, but that may have been my perception. I know I was broken hearted for him. I wanted to sit with him and stay there. I thought, this was wrong. My father picked up two necklaces and motioned for me to pick out one I wanted. He then told me to pick out a couple more. I chose one for me, one for my mother, and one for Beth. I don’t know if my siblings pick out any, but I remember my father paying the man and the man saying he appreciated the money. I remember my father saying, “You are welcome to every cent of it.” in a voice that had the most kindness I’d ever heard from him. 

At Mount Rushmore my father paid an indigenous man to have our photo taken with him. It was a business at the edge of the park, not some random man my father grabbed. We were all smiling and he played the stereotype. I sit here now and am sickened by that memory. I have the photos in a crumbling album but I’m afraid to look at them. 

It’s more than half a century later this day has been given it’s rightful meaning. Too long coming, but I’m grateful. 

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Still Jumping

Sunday Morning ~ Still Jumping

Tsokonombwe adatha mtunda n’kulumpha. ~ The grasshopper covered a long distance jump by jump.

~ Chewa proverb

October 3, 2021

Hi Everyone,

My feet were cold Friday and I couldn’t think straight. I puttered around the kitchen feeling anxious. I usually wait to turn on the heat, sometimes until November, but another month of discomfort wasn’t appealing. My furnace hasn’t been working and I’d been waiting for the plumber since July. My cold feet were distracting. I needed to put together some words, about 750 of them actually, for the rally on Saturday. The thoughts circulating my brain were not coming together in any meaningful way. I blamed my feet. I put on heavier socks and sat down at my laptop to find statistics and review pending legislation. I tried to glean some words from those documents, but it wasn’t working. My scribbled notes looked like debris on the page. They weren’t forming anything useful. Frustrated, I decided to walk off some nervous energy and went to the woods, a place that usually calms me and clears my head. It helped a little but there were no epiphanies. I got home near dusk to find the plumber here! Bless him, he got the furnace going and I went to bed that night less anxious but with a speech still unwritten. I got up early to warm floors, made tea, and reflected. I thought about how nice my feet felt and how much calmer I was, struck by the difference it made in my ability to make decisions, make a meal, organize my thoughts. I thought of those living in poverty with a lifetime of stress: cold feet, empty bellies, insecure boundaries. My feet reminded me of how they must work so much harder just to get through a day.

I was one of six speakers and we hadn’t coordinated our messages. I decided to nix the stats and legislative information, figuring there was a good chance that would be covered. I decided on three points I wanted to make and would ad lib, knowing I don’t read well from a script. I found a notecard and jotted: health care as a basic human right, access to that care, what we can do. I thought of telling stories of the young women who came to us when the women’s center first opened. I could tell about their despair, their fear, their lack of resources. I could describe the big tag sale we had each year to raise money to help women without resources. The $2,000 was a ridiculous drop in the bucket, but symbolic of the community commitment to provide quality care to women regardless of their ability to pay. I thought of telling how many of those women came back to us years later and thanked us. Some were successful career women and told us their lives could have taken a very different direction without our help. It was so rewarding to see them. We’d glow the rest of the day and it always gave us a booster shot, helping keep our heads up. I didn’t tell these stories yesterday, though. It felt like preaching to the choir.  Everyone at the rally knew what a valuable resource a women’s health center is.

I began with how lucky I was to move to this island in 1992 when a powerful group of women were advocating for and creating a health center for women. It was a time when there was competition between community hospitals and it made good business sense. Women are most often the health care consumers for families and our local hospital wanted to attract them.  There was a steering committee addressing issues affecting women in all walks of life, puberty through menopause and beyond. It was an exciting time to see a community identify a need and step by step make it happen. Over time, women from miles away were coming to us, some driving over two hours for care. Many were very poor and had trouble with transportation. But they came anyway because they wanted the kind of care we were offering. Some had no other option as the services they sought were unavailable anywhere closer to them. This all seemed insane to me. If our community could do this, why couldn’t others? Or at the very least, why couldn’t we travel to a health center near them a couple of days a month? “Impossible”, I was told. But it was not impossible; we could have done it with creative partnering. But the system and reimbursement had changed, we had a governor intent on punishing the poor, and people living in rural areas suffered.

Many in my generation of women experienced sexism and misogyny rampant within the healthcare system. Many struggled to find contraception never mind compassionate abortion care. We wondered how different our lives would have been if we’d had a women’s center when we were teenagers. Imagine going to a clinic where there is no judgement, where you can express your needs and fears, concerns and anxieties, and get reliable information and care. Imagine how differently we might have seen the world and our place in it. Imagine feeling worthy of care and respect. That’s what we wanted young women to grow up believing about themselves. That they are worth it. That they should not tolerate poor care or judgement. They should be able to get care when they need it and not worry about how to pay for it. 

Health care is a basic human right and abortion is part of health care. Period. It’s no one’s business but your own if you are seeking care for a mole removal, pap smear, botox, or an abortion. The hypocrisy surrounding this is breathtaking. 

I related a story about a friend of mine who is tired of the fight. She worked hard as a doctor for decades and provided the best care she could. She risked her life but stood her ground. She said she’s exhausted. I told her to rest. She did her part. She can be supportive, donate, vote, but let others carry on other aspects of this struggle. We need to hold each other up. I used the childbirth analogy again: I don’t want to hear that it hurts. Don’t waste your energy telling me something I already know. Save your strength for getting through this.  It is what it is. We have to deal with the situation as it is and not waste our energy moaning that we already fought this battle. We look ahead and do what we can with what is in front of us. For some, that will be financial help, for others getting out the vote, and for some it may be just being kind to someone who needs some support and love. We are all capable of that. That may be just enough to make a woman feel she deserves better. 

Abortion restriction is not about being pro-life. It is about power, control and money. Abortion is one aspect of health care. Restricting access to this aspect of health care is a human rights violation. We need to describe it as such. It is a HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION and we will not tolerate this. As Ghandi said, “You can not control a population that refuses to be controlled.” and we refuse to be controlled. 

This is the gist of what I said yesterday. I appreciate that people came out. I appreciate the kind words passed to each other and me. We’re going to be ok.

Love to all,

Linda