Podcast Episode 002: Transformation: Design and Engineering

Transcript:

What is it today? It is Saturday, March 23rd, 1:49 PM. I’m recording through something on my phone plugged into my car. I do have cruise control on, except it’s not set, which means it’s not doing anything. It’s just on, which is … Is that kind of like a metaphor for society right now? Like we really, we have technology that’s got us in cruise, but we don’t trust it because it’s the old technology. So we’re leaving it on, but we’ve got our foot on the gas, and maybe what we really need to do is actually change the technological infrastructure and pick a different system to determine the standards, the baseline measurements or the target measurements. Like all those things have to get measured. Lots of measurement for the transition, because we have to do the transition. We have to do a technological transition. We can’t just let it happen to us. Like we just let it happen to us all the way up until this point, and that’s the wrong thing.

Maybe some of us didn’t know better, and I think people with more privilege whom the technological society was supporting, it’s easy. We forgot. Like we really have forgotten because it hasn’t been in our consciousness how it is to live as if you have to find and prepare your own food every single day, you have to find and store and manage your heating, et cetera. Like it’s not that we necessarily have to go back to being individually responsible for that. We could still do it in groups at the group level, but not at the size of group that it is right now.

At least, maybe the other way to think is a better way to think, that we actually need to make it bigger, but we need to make it bigger based on other terms. So those of us who are entirely dependent on someone else to grow and process and sell us our food, and those of us who require the electrical grid to be operational, to have heat in the New England winter, we’re entirely dependent on the fossil fuel infrastructure. Like we’ve got to understand that that’s where we are locked in. That’s what we have to unlock, and why not make a horizontal slide right over to the next system? But here’s the thing, the next system has to be bigger. It has to encompass more people. So we have to give free power and free infrastructure for the power and the wifi and the access to communication technology. We need to make sure everybody has access to that, and that the security protocols from privacy are strictly enforced, like rigidly enforced, like actually enforced.

I just think it’s possible from an engineering perspective to figure out what needs to get done, and what’s the best way to do it, and places can probably experiment with different strategies, and then we can compare after the fact, or at the one year and the two year and the three, like on an annual basis or every … Whatever. After two years, after five years. It’s like, make sure that it’s a long enough period of time for something significant to have changed to a significant degree. You know, like what does it have to be? More than two and a half standard deviations for it to count as a real thing?

So you define that, and we start doing it, and the industry retools. Businesses make their decision about what their current setup positions them for in terms of retooling to make new products or variations of their old products that fit the requirements from the new system.

That’s got to be enough. Okay. Ah, this is great fun. I look forward to feedback, interaction, although there’s a lot of that happening. Can I just say? There’s a lot of that happening, and it’s something to do with timing and attention as to what I’m working on at any particular moment. Right now, I’m driving and I have to stay focused on driving. It’s a beautiful day though. It’s 39 degrees and partly cloudy, but the sun … there’s blue sky up there, some, and the overcast, gray, cold morning with a bit of snow overnight has dissipated. Definitely has that spring feeling. So we’ll catch up with you next time.

Seeds: The Gardener’s “Hour of Power”

Beans have crazy names: Hog Brain Cowpeas are supposed to be quite tasty.

It was the end of the day in the gloaming, afternoon fading into the earliest stage of evening. Steph was reluctant.

There was, however, no point in arguing against Soirée-Leone’s enthusiasm:  learning how to garden for food was the whole, entire point!

Tromping out to the newly-cleared and fenced-in garden, Soirée-Leone explained the purpose of the hour of power. Steph adjusted her attitude.

The instructions were straightforward. Scrape out a narrow trough about an inch deep, distribute one packet of seeds evenly between fence posts, cover the seeds. Move to the next section of fencing, repeat with a new pack. A dozen different kinds of beans. Who knows which ones will take in this particular soil and these specific conditions?

Don’t aim for some ideal or sense of perfection; just get it done. If conditions are correct, the seeds will take. This is one way to learn about your soil’s unique characteristics. Especially at the beginning. Experimentation is necessary. And a certain mix of faith and fatalism. The fatalism is that some things aren’t gonna make it. The faith is that other things are.

The types of bean seeds varied in size, shape and color.  Steph’s curiosity was piqued.

Which ones will grow?

 

 

Podcast Episode 001: Entering Conversation

Structures of Interaction episode #001!

Transcript:

So now hopefully I’m recording something new. Chapter two, which is these conversations that I’m simultaneously participating in that have long histories. Maybe not in terms of the individuals involved at this particular moment but in terns of the content of the conversation. So race, whiteness, the original indigenous people of this land and how those obligations of engaging in a real conversation with each other should apply. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relatively new conversation for you to be jumping into or if you’ve also had many conversations over the course of your lifetime or even in a concentrated manner in a short, recent period of time. They tell this anecdote in the field of Communication, in communication studies, one of the early theorists described communication as a process of walking into a party and all these conversations are already happening and you just join in where you can with who you want to, and you go from there.

But the conversation is already been happening and it’s always like that. Whatever interaction we’re having, whatever we’re talking about, it’s ritualized. There are elements of it that are similar to other kinds of interaction and there are topical possibilities for connecting it to other conversations and different places with different people. And then there’s also the arc, right, the trajectory of every time you’re in that conversation in your own life. Yeah so there’s this Responsible Whiteness series that my partner and I are co-facilitating right now through the Truth School. It’s the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership. And we’re also doing a project with a local elementary school. We’re Organizers in Residence for the sixth grade which is really, really cool. And I’m planning an event in May and I’m involved with other individuals in groups who are trying to protect the Northeastern Woodlands, the forest that covers Massachusetts and other states, which needs a lot of protection right now. It needs the strongest protection we can possibly give it.

And also planning, starting to plan for this summer’s sacred water, Water is Life walk. That’ll be our second year supporting. And then there’s the daily stuff, right. So there’s what’s happening in the news, what the news is recording or reporting on. It’s pretty dire, a lot of it. I go back and forth between sensationalism and journalism. I think it does depend what outlet you’re getting it from and more important than that though, I think is how you listen to it and how you notice, how you respond to the choices that they make when they’re telling the news. Because everything they say or everything they show you is part of a conversation, and it’s part of creating the parameters for the conversation. What can be talked about and what can’t be talked about. So if you let what you hear set the boundaries for what can or cannot be talked about you’ve already curtailed the possible future.

So I think I started the first podcast or attempted a podcast with describing that I was going to listen to Sherri Mitchell’s interview with Travis through an app called Podbean and I’m drawn to it right now because of the timing. Sherri was in New Zealand last week when the mass murder of Muslims in their house of worship, in the most sacred act of worshiping, were killed by a person who has become so full of a certain type of rhetoric that the only thing he can imagine to do is act on it. And we all get full up in different ways with different things and think we can’t limit our ability to think through options and act differently or act according to principles that lead us toward a future that has more solutions in it. Yeah, so if you actually made it through listening to this, wow. Thank you so much. What an achievement, an accomplishment, a something something. I’ve been talking for eight minutes and 20 seconds. Holy cow. Yeah, hopefully it was coherent or coherent enough and made some kind of sense. I might do this again.

 

“Do What’s Right for All of Us”

gardening to grow food….understand the food economy where you live, because then you can identify what staples to produce for yourself and strategize whether and how to fill a specific niche for your community.

Dale gave me instructions for the shopping trip with Soirée-Leone and Master Herdsman.

Pre-packaged deli meat is the freshest it gets.

We went to the large convenience store chain that passes for a grocery in rural Tennessee. “They’re trying to make it look like it’s healthy, but its not,” explained the MasterHerdsman.

Tractor Supply was closed for the Easter holiday, so we rushed over to Home Depot. They were closing in 15 minutes, an hour earlier than usual: task focus commenced.

Actually, there’s been steady task focus all day. And since we arrived yesterday, too. This is one of those skills you need to have to do the work involved with gardening to grow food. Triple and Soirée are experts in steadiness. What’s cool is neither of them convey a sense of pressure. Just ‘this is what we gotta do let’s get at it” energy and action.

The first night we made dinner together and ate, comfortably, talking about the vision that brought us here. Actually we didn’t explicitly talk about the vision, we’ve already done that a few times. We dove directly into the implementation of our workplan: test a design for next year’s inaugural intensive residency.

The first morning we took our time getting up and getting going. Each to their own pace. Eventually we merged into breakfast, agreed upon the tasks for the day, and got to it. Quite satisfying to clear the garden so Soirée can do more than comfrey. For the first two years she and Dale were here, getting the house set up had taken priority over putting in a garden. Now it’s time. We also identified and cut fence posts and took a tour to see where the camping platforms will be made, along with the outdoor privies and shower.

Mission: Acquire Items.

Roxy finally got let loose to mingle—that dog is fast! Me and The MeanGoose (doing his job, protecting the flock) are still facing off every time we’re in proximity, and Guppy trotted around the forest near our workspaces all day.

I hadn’t wanted to leave paradise to go to the store, but Leslie agreed that I needed to “suck it up, Buttercup.” It is critical to understand the food economy where you live, because then you can identify what staples to produce for yourself and strategize whether and how to fill a specific niche for your community.

 

Design “A” is a Success

I thought I’d have a minute to myself at the gate.

Colorfully dressed black woman jumping in the air, surrounded by trees at a driveway.
Soirée met me at the road.

Instead this blur of color materialized into an ecstatically happy  human being.

We waited for MasterHerdsman awhile past his ETA. I mean, I think Soirée-Leone was early, then I snuck up on her, then we waited. I’m not always patient, particularly when I’m hungry…

After arrival and unpacking, we were assigned tasks in the kitchen.

Then Soirée-Leone vanished and me and MasterHerdsman had to figure stuff out.

At some point, I realized Design A is perfect as a guide for next year. With room for on-the-fly adjusting.

“We won!” Soirée-Leone hollered.

“Team B came in second!” Leslie added.

I was still waiting for dinner. Soirée-Leone got on it. “We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel!”

Leslie responded: “We were cleaning out the fridge! Where did the barrel come from? You been hiding it in the fridge all this time?!”

 

Podcast Episode 000: “Which Avocado?”

Episode #0 of the new podcast, Structures of Interaction, in which Steph, Lindsey and Fugu talk about racial and cultural preconceptions getting in the way of efforts at social change.

The meal.

Moving from Woke to Woven.

Transcript:

Lindsey: It was pretty funny in her email-

Steph: What was it? “Please select.”

Lindsey: Yeah it was …

Fugu: It was-

Steph: It was well done originally.

Lindsey: “Please select.”

Steph: “Please select.”

Lindsey: “Which avocado?” I know, I’m like-

Steph: What was the other option? The other option was outrage or-

Lindsey: Not outrage, society– [crosstalk 00:00:24]

Steph: Or like, proactivity instead of reactivity.

Lindsey: Proactivity is too neutral. Because, in fact, you can be proactive in an asshole, kind of, outrageous way.

Steph: Right. Which is why-

Lindsey: So, it’s actually saying, to be in the world in a way that does not generate outrage.

Steph: Yes. And when you have the impulse in yourself to outrage-

Lindsey: That you work-

Steph: That you have some skills to go, “Whoa. This is something happening through me and, maybe it’s me, but maybe it’s not exactly me, and there’s some room-”

Fugu: But it’s- also, there’s also kind of a narcissism, right? The fact is, the minute people have outrage, they realize that, “Here is a way that I can get some attention.” Because the minute I put my outrage out there, “I said this first,” becomes a huge thing, right? “So-and-so says, or, so-and-so pointed out.” And you’re like “So, this is all about you getting a little moment” as you said, like this lady having a moment? It’s the same thing, everybody’s seeking that little moment, it’s got no, like, deep investment in the topic, or what is change, or any of it. And, I’m like “this is what we’ve created,” everybody’s hungry for their little piece.

Lindsey: Ironically, I don’t know why I have to go here, but I have to go here. Ironically, the very thing you described, like, if you have this drive to, like, burst out, to like, go and do that work.

Steph: Yeah.

Lindsey: That’s, like, how I was trained.

Fugu: Exactly.

Lindsey: Inside of whiteness, and as being a woman inside of whiteness. Which is critiqued now, from, there’s a negative critique of that very dynamic.

Steph: Right.

Lindsey: So, part of the challenge, I’m just gonna say, for me personally, but I think it expands to, like, people who’re formed in a certain way. Um, and of a certain color, like, it’s, to figure out how to do that and not have it be re-investing in the, um, silencing culture.

Fugu: Yeah.

Lindsey: Because, there’s a way in which you can do that that’s silencing versus that’s, um, like, you know, whatever, real.

Fugu: Right.

Steph: Right?

Fugu: Good points.

Steph: Good points.

Fugu: All-

Lindsey: Outrage [crosstalk 00:02:36] point.

Fugu: Please select.

Steph: Please select.

Fugu: Which avocado?

Steph: Please select.

Fugu: [inaudible 00:02:45]

Steph: You said the larger one.

Fugu: I mean, it’s rather, like, self-explanatory.

Steph: Whew!

 

We Are Water: Walking the Howsatunnuck for the 7th Generation

Grandmother Carole Bubar-Blodgett, explaining aspects of the 220-mile Prayer Walk of the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic).
Grandmother Carole Bubar-Blodgett, explaining aspects of the 220-mile Prayer Walk of the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic). Photo: May 27, 2018.

Easily taken as just another crazy old lady, Carole Bubar-Blodgett talks a lot. Her stories are personal, about the lessons, teachings, and experiences she’s had walking the Good Red Road. Emotion runs through her, especially gratitude.

Grandmother Carole was at Standing Rock, where she gifted the Water is Life Eagle Staff to the youth of the Seventh Generation. “It was always theirs,” she explains, “I was just holding it for them.”

Healing

Beginning in 1999,  Carole danced the Sun Dance at Chief Leonard Crow Dog’s Paradise Grounds, and continued dancing for twelve years. Sun Dancers commit to a specific focus of their dancing in four year cycles. Grandmother Carole’s commitment is to the Seventh Generation, to strengthen the children as they lead us in healing the planet. She renewed her Sun Dance commitment three times. In 2011, Carole transferred her Nurture the Children Prayer from the Sun Dance to Walking the Sacred Water.

“Ceremony,” Grandmother explained during this year’s 8th Annual Water is Life Walk along the Howsatunnuck (Housatonic), “is about healing.” Carole had been raised white and learned by chance that her family had suppressed their native lineage. A decade before her first trip to the international Sun Dance at Paradise Grounds, Carole offered tobacco to Bill Soaring Eagle Martin (circa 1989-1990), asking him to become her teacher. Then aged thirty-five, Carole had a lot of whiteness to un-do. Soaring Eagle explained to her that the kind of instruction he could provide was primarily about healing. Personal healing. In the beginning, Carole did not comprehend how sincere he was. “I didn’t know I was going to be digging to China!”

About a decade later, Carole went to Sun Dance in support of a friend. Following communication with Spirit and strict attention to protocol, Carole was soon authorized to Dance. Like all Sun Dancers, Carole was required to conduct a Vision Quest prior to Dancing. In preparation, she was instructed to select and tie the prayer ties that she would need to a stick. Having never been exposed to a vision quest before, Carole did not know the traditional structure of how these ties would be incorporated into the Ceremony. Left with her imagination, Carole created a multicolored rainbow replete with seven ties of seven colors for the seventh generation, including extra yellow and a single purple tie for herself. She was abashed when she saw the sticks made by the other initiates, who used only the four standard colors of the four directions: black, red, white, yellow. Convinced she had “done it all wrong” and showed herself “an idiot,” Carole nonetheless was guided to an appropriate location and completed the Vision Quest.

Upon completion of the Vision Quest, Carole was sent to Auntie Diane Crow Dog in order to debrief the experience and share dreams. Turns out that Auntie Diane had anticipated the arrival of someone who would inherit her responsibility to pray for the children, and had previously instructed the men to watch out for this person. Carole’s unwitting deviation from tradition singled her out for this honor; it also identified her as a contrary, a person who works with opposites, heyoka.

Auntie Diane adopted Carole in a private Hunka Ceremony, and passed her a medicine bundle. “I will be an expensive teacher,” she explained, “because you will have to call me long-distance every week.” Today, Carole misses those weekly calls, which she made faithfully until Auntie Diane crossed over in 2006.

Water is Life Walks

In 2011, Carole was experiencing high blood pressure and took the question into Prayer about how to renew her next four-year commitment to Sun Dance: should she dance only three days each year? A white earwig appeared during her Vision Quest, with the communication that it was time to switch the four-year commitment from the Sun Dance to Walking the Water. Carole did not delay: she completed that year’s Sun Dance and conducted her first Water is Life Walk that same summer.

The next year, for her second Walk (2012), Carole was ready to embark when her friend, Raven Redbone, told her that Josephine Mandamin would be speaking nearby at Evergreen College. Josephine invited Carole to wait a few more days so that she could participate in the special “Paddle to Squaxin” sea canoe event. Paddlers from 102 canoes poured water from their points of origin (not only North America) into the Budd Inlet at the Port of Olympia. Carole then collected water from the shore. She carried that water across the country, along the way collecting discrete amounts of water from 28 sacred sites, all the way to Indian Island in Penobscot Maine. There she “married the waters” from the East Coast, the West Coast and points in-between to illustrate the primary lesson of water: unity.

Once water is mixed with other water, it is indistinguishable: you can no longer separate out which water came from where. This is a lesson of getting along with each other that humans need to (re)learn: we are all one.

“We Are Water”

The 2018 Walk is along the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic) with Headwaters in Massachusetts and New York, running down through the Berkshires and Central Connecticut to the Long Island Sound.

This river was suggested to Grandmother Carole by Micah Big Wind Lott, who was supporting actions against the illegal extension of a fracked gas pipeline in the Otis State Forest in western Massachusetts. It is mind-boggling to comprehend the poison in this river, given the pervasive gorgeousness of the landscape. Fishermen, kayakers, and tourists gawk at the beauty. But what do they make of the signs warning of fish you cannot eat and water you cannot enter, should not even touch?

Sachem Hawk Storm, of the Schaghticoke, admitting to his daughters that he licks rocks.
Sachem Hawk Storm, of the Schaghticoke, admitting to his daughters that he licks rocks.

One evening on the Walk, we were treated to a cozy dinner with Schaghticoke Sachem Hawk Storm and his family. Grandmother and Hawk spoke of many things, but mostly we laughed. Some of the more serious topics included the inadequacy of the English language for conveying the sacred nature of water, the absence of a discrete word for time in some indigenous languages, and being heyoka. At one potent moment, Hawkstorm emphasized that we (humans) are water. The emphasis on language—how to say things properly—seemed (to me/nerdy white grrl) similar to the prayer Grandmother has taught us to offer whenever we cross a waterway: seeking permission to cross.

We ask permission, she explains, because water can either be soft and gentle or hard and forceful. The gesture of asking could be literal, yet it is the ritual of asking that is most significant because it is about an orientation to the water. Seeking permission is a way of showing respect and remembering relationship—of affirming kinship and connection of humans and water. Language and language use is also about orientation: soft and gentle or hard and forceful.

For a few millenia, the hard aspect of language has sent us spiraling toward disaster. We must re-orient ourselves, somehow, so that we can slow and divert the onrush. Humans have two unique tools for this task: our languages and our cultures. Spending a month walking 220 miles in the company of a river will not automatically cleanse it of pollutants or free it from dams. But devoting such time to thinking about and caring for the water is a way to signal the intention of doing whatever it takes to ensure this water is clean and free-flowing for the next seventh generation.