Saturday, December 20, 2008

WW/ Questioning US Tribal Lists

I used to be brainwashed and take for granted the existence of a Federally Recognized Tribes list without questioning, "Does that mean that there is a Federally UNrecognized Tribes list?" And if so, what happens to the tribes of that list? The answer is there are thousands of unrecognized tribes, especially in the west, CA, OR, WA, Alaska. It is the nature of the wars and treacheries of the US expansion period to take without consideration tens of thousands of human lives and violate cultures for land. In our time, to keep such a list as "federally recognized tribes" is a continuation of the colonialist attitudes and policies which fueled the "wars against humanity" which our US history calls "westward expansion" in the first place.

The Winnemem and other tribes are tribes because they have always been from the beginning of time. They are recognized by other tribal people from all around the world. They are recognized by the Land they take care of and which take care of them. They are recognized for who they are by anyone who comes in contact with them, or by people like us, who choose to follow their way of life. They are recognized by the UN Declaration of Human Rights for Indigenous People. They are recognized by their Maker, the Creator of all things.

And yet, the US government carries on a policy which would allow one list of tribes to access the short list of treaty rights and, in doing so, create another list of tribes which get nothing except broken promises, poverty, injustice. I can only speak about the Winnemem, that in spite of all this, the people carry on the best they can. But there must be many more, the Chinook of Washington, for example, the Wanapum. In California, 90 percent of the historic tribes are unrecognized! Only 10 per cent are on the US list of recognized tribe with access to funds for college education for their children and health care for their families. Federal law gives only 10 percent of the California tribes a place at the table to be consulted about land use regarding possible sacred sites and environmental impact. The land lost by the Native peoples of California are rich lands, rivers, mountains, providing a basis of an economy which benefits the whole nation. On the flip side, there are dire consequences for this "productivity" in California as their rivers and river deltas dry up, land becomes overused, the salmon endangered, water table endangered. The tribes who know this land on a cell level and who believe that they have been given voice by the big fish to speak for the land . . . only 10 percent of them have been given the authority by law to speak at the table -- and it is without a doubt important for the whole country that tribal voices are represented at any discussion for preservation of sacred lands and the environmental impact of development.

Why, then, a list of recognized tribes? Why create the concept of "unrecognized tribe." I'm thinking the expansion must still be going on and with the same attitudes. It's a violation of human rights by any standard. This time, expansionist interests are water, the minerals, free reign to all that is left and these interests motivate a government to limit the number of tribes that would have the "lawful authority" to give input about protecting sacred lands and environmental impact studies. This expansionist view creates the egregious government policy of impoverishing a tribe into extinction by non recognition which causes a government to "lawfully" refuse healthcare, limit the future of the next generation by blocking access to college education. It is this expansionist view which gives government the bureaucratic caste system to "lawfully" interfere with tribes trying to carry on historical cultural traditions, and silence them about the very sacred lands central to their lifeways.

The UN Conference for the Declaration of Human Rights for Indigenous People opened my eyes to the fact that "recognized tribal status" is not a worldwide concept. Not all countries use that kind of governmental authority over indigenous sovereign peoples. It is an American bias. That being the case, it becomes incumbent on Americans -- immigrant or tribal -- to correct colonialist attitudes of government and stand up for restoration until all the historic tribes have been restored (until federal recognition has no meaning). I had not realized when Granny first took our family under her wing what an education I would get -- a parallel education to everything I learned in public school, from civics to science -- and the education I got from Granny, her people, her ceremonies, her sacred lands, and continue to get from Caleen Sisk Franco fills in all the little blank spots we don't have enough information to question in the first place.

So, once again, I am asking of all of you kind enough to read my blog to please heed the call of Head Man Mark Franco and send in a petition to their CA Senators who are too busy with the confusion this country's been stuck in for the past eight years, too busy in Washington DC to correct a terrible wrong done to a tribe for over a hundred plus years in their own state of California. Please help nudge Senators Feinstein and Boxer to sponsor a Winnemem Restoration bill and ask them to work hard for its passage even without Congressman Herger's vowed non-support. The gentleman from Shasta Lake City area does not consider Winnemem his constituency, but other members of the House will fill the vacuum and stand for justice if he will not. The Winnemem should be on the radar as "part of their constituency" for Boxer, Feinstein, Herger. Perhaps, with petitions for Winnemem Restoration flooding into Boxer and Feinstein's offices every day, when the Winnemem make the next appointment with their Senators and fly across the country, the Senators Boxer and Feinstein might be able to spare the time to speak to the leaders of a sovereign California tribe who have sacrificed a lot for their State's prosperity and asks only for promises made to be fulfilled. Justice. Certainly that is the worthy work for any lawmaker of this land.

Here are the addresses once again for your convenience to send petitions. If you'd like more information, i hope you check out the Winnemem Wintu Road to Justice blog listed on my favorite blogs:

Senator Barbara Boxer
(202) 224-3553
112 Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510-0505

Senator Dianne Feinstein
(202) 224-3841
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

For more information on the petition drive, to get copies of the petition, please go to the Winnemem Wintu website:

And "The Winnemem Wintu, a Journey to Justice" blog at:

Thank you!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

WW/ And They Were Told to Tell the World and the Good People of the World Will Listen

It has been over 20 years since our family went to Winnemem for help, and found such support and friendship with the Winnemem Wintu tribe. Back then, I remember Granny and her people were trying to get back on the recognized tribes list. By some BIA clerical error, they had been dropped and had been told they had to start all over again, and only an Act of Congress would correct the BIA error. This is in addition to not being recognized as a treaty tribe. The Winnemem leaders signed the Treaty of 1881 brought to them by the official representative from Washington DC in good faith, with assurance from the official that it would be ratified -- and, the tribe was never notified until decades later that the Congress, with urging from the President, had chosen to ignore the Treaty of 1881 and did not ratify it.

It's been a long and twisted road to Justice. I am excited that this year, restoration of tribal status seems closer than ever. The California State Legislature just passed a joint resolution, August, 2008, supporting restoration of the Winnemem Wintu. Now it must go to the federal level for that "act of Congress" that the BIA informed the Winnemem they would need to be restored and for their own clerical oooops to be corrected. Back in the 90's Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell tried to introduce a bill. It didn't make it out to the floor before he retired. During the passage of time, each precious Winnemem elder had passed on, and the responsibility has fallen into the next generation's hands -- the last generation to enjoy the ability to go to college as members of a recognized tribe, the generation of young adults who saw their elders turned away from clinics because they suddenly lost their tribal status. During the passage of time, a new leader succeeded Florence Jones, leader for over eighty years. Caleen Sisk Franco

Florence Jones had brought the ceremonies above ground with the first Freedom of Religion Act. Her ceremonies were known all over the country by the time I met her. Hundreds of people came for blessings, for balance, to learn, for doctoring. The tribe, although they had lost control of the sacred lands, had a relationship and understanding since that first Freedom of Religion Act to continue the ceremonies as they have been from the beginning of time. Caleen was being trained from a young age through the time she was a college student earning a degree in education, on through her time, married to Mark Franco, mother to both Michael Preston and she and Mark, parents of Marin.

Before Florence Jones passed on, Caleen and her husband and children left their homes in the city and moved to the ranch to take care of Florence and her elderly daughter, the ranch, and to continue Florence Jone's legacy of taking care of the Winnemem spiritual way of life. It's not an easy life on the ranch. It's not an easy life to succeed Florence Jones, Indian Doctor, Ceremonial leader of eighty years.

The newly appointed Forest Service head of the McCloud River region is an example of what is difficult about succeeding a leader who had been the leader for over 80 years. The Forest Service head decided to interpret the relationship between the Winnemem and the Forest as only with Florence Jones, and with her death, all agreements were null and void with the tribe. I suppose as a way to hammer that point in, she changed the lock on the gate to the doctoring place, and cut down the sacred Manzanitas going up to the ceremonial ground. It is an uphill battle for the successor as Winnemem Chief to get the recognition and respect as leader from a government when that government hasn't remedied so many errors of the past with the Winnemem in the first place. However, as the leader, Caleen just keeps going on. She prayed for the trees. She spoke to officials. She continued the ceremony at the doctoring place. and one thing more. She also brought back the "coming of age" ceremony because her daughter had just come of age. She is not daunted. She just stays the course. The new Forest Head responded to the request to the "coming of age ceremony" with NO!

A year passed and Caleen and Mark's young daughter was another year older. Working both in the political arena and praying, with help from the new head's supervisors, the decision was finally successfully turned around and the ceremony was to be allowed. However, the new forest head refused to close down the river for the four days of the ceremony. Jet boats, house boats, alcohol, a campground full of campers, all of that would be allowed to go on while a tribe brought a young woman into her womanhood -- she on one side of the river, praying, listening to the elder women, hiking to learn the plants, to find her own cooking rock, and the people on the other side, praying, singing, preparing the feast, getting ready for the celebration to welcome her on the fourth day, when she and her assistants swam across the river to join the circle. Is that a do-able scenerio? Alcohol and prayers? Youth swimming across the river and jet boats? Clearly the ceremony and the "recreational use" of the river were not a match.

We started a campaign in Oregon, and other supporters also applied pressure that the ceremony would go on as it should and safely. The supervisor overruled the forest head and the allowed the ceremony to proceed on the McCloud, but ruled that the government could only institute a voluntary closure for the ceremony. A video has been made of that historic "coming of age" ceremony called, "The Ceremony Comes Home" and it shows that a voluntary closure does not work. It meant the 10 percent who refused to honor the closure came to heckle, to drink, to "raise hell" at the ceremony. Finally, the sheriff was called by a Forest Service official present at the coming of age ceremony to close down the river on the fourth day. The hecklers even disrespected the official's authority and lightly hit his kayak and raced away, leaving him behind.

The Coming of Age ceremony is not the only tradition Caleen has brought back. When the attacks on the Sacred Lands became more and more apparent, she realized her people had to be strong. When the BOR pushed through a plan to raise Shasta Dam higher without any attention to the Winnemem's concern for the drowning of Sacred Places (being unrecognized, they were not taken into account), without concern for the farmers, without concern that it is possible the dam would not stand the weight of fourteen feet heighth of cement on top of it, it became very serious. Rather than back off from the hard job which faced her, Caleen listened to her spirit, her heart, and called for the War Dance to return, a dance which had not been done for 100 years. It's not something easy to do. First, how do you make a sacred fire, an arbor at the dam site? All those who had witnessed a war dance were gone. How do you know what to do? Caleen's people prayed at the sacred places, prayed hard with pure hearts. They asked for help, to be able to help their people. And assistance came, through dreams or at ceremony, the help came.

The War Dance took place at the site of Shasta Lake Dam in September, 2004. I still remember the Sacred Fire being lit the evening before. A crowd of people had gathered, some out of curiosity, some tribal people, conversing. Caleen called for the war dance to begin. The fire tender made the fire, the old way, without a match, paper or flint. He caught the spark made from his bow in a ball of dry grass. When the ball burst into flame, the crowd of onlookers became hushed. The fire tender carefully added the small twigs, then the manzanita carefully. The fire was to go on for four days and nights. Caleen sent out her prayer to the world. She had been told to tell the world about the Winnemem, and the good people of the world would listen. Below us, we could see dam towering across the river. This was the place where a river, a sacred river, has been attacked, the big fish no longer can swim here. The Winnemem's homes, their cemetary were all under water and many of their sacred places only came up once a year. Raising the dam would put them underwater all of the time. The dam would not help the fish. The dam would drown the sacred places and destroy ceremonies. Ethnocide. The dam could cause a Katrina level disaster if it did not hold. The people named for this Sacred River, the Winnemem, however, were still here. They were still doing the ceremonies, and they were bringing the old way back.

I'm not going to blog much about the war dance because words don't accurately portray what took place during those four days that the war dancers danced all day and much of the night with no food, little water, and very little rest. But I will say this. The first morning, after the prayer sent out to the world, a guest showed up, an Ecuadoran Medicine Woman with her host, a woman originally from Mexico who was a delegate to the International Delegation to write the Declaration of Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Medicine Woman said she thought there might be something happening here so she asked her friend to bring her. Later someone excitedly drove up and said, look at this! He had pages of names of newspapers and wire services who had picked up the story of War Dance at Shasta Lake Dam printed by the local Shasta Lake "Record." -- AP, UPI, the Guardian, the Asian equivalent of the UPI. I called my husband that day and he told me that the piece he had put on his website about war dance got 1000 hits that day. The good people of the world will listen!

I do know this leader and the Winnemem people. They will always be Winnemem. They have never stopped. They will always think Winnemem. With Caleen as their leader, they will always pray and take care of the Sacred Places and keep their ceremonies going. They will bring back their language and dormant ceremonies one by one as they are needed. They do not quit. Why do I write this today? Well, today, I read one of my favorite blogs, Winnemem Wintu, Journey to Justice. And today, Head Man Mark Franco has posted a piece asking for assistance to get the attention of Senators Boxer and Feinstein to introduce and support the Winnemem Restoration Bill. Mark works tirelessly in the most dibilitating arena -- the political arena. The work takes a huge physical toll. He does this on top of all the other responsibilities around the ranch and with Caleen to keep on top of what is being done to the land, to keep the ceremonies going, to keep the village going. If he takes the time to write this post, I do hope that his effort bears fruit.

Please copy, print, sign and send the petition as the Winnemem are asking supporters to do. The Winnemem will always be Winnemem, and they know there are many, many good people in the world who stand with them but it would be right if a little justice comes their way. Thank you and many blessings for all the support and help you can give for restoration. If the Winnemem are restored, the tribal members in their 50's won't be the last generation to have support to go to college. There's so many young ones who justly should have that opportunity. Their people will have health care again.

And they will be recognized and respected for who they are, always have been, and always will be, a historic tribe. So I am asking of all of you kind enough to read my blog, to heed the call of Head Man Mark Franco and send in a petition to their Senators who are too busy with the confusion we have wrought in the past eight years to correct a terrible wrong done to a tribe over a hundred years and more. The Winnemem should be on their radar as "their constituency." With these lists of names on a petition flying into their office every day, perhaps, then, the Senators Boxer and Feinstein might be able to spare a couple of minutes.

Senator Barbara Boxer
(202) 224-3553
112 Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510-0505

Senator Dianne Feinstein
(202) 224-3841
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

For more information on the petition drive, to get copies of the petition, please go to the Winnemem Wintu website:

And "The Winnemem Wintu, a Journey to Justice" blog at:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Old Enough to Talk about Christmas Back Then

The other day, my friend Janice from Warm Springs reservation was sharing her insight having heard on the news that with the economy spiraling downward, family celebrations would be deeply affected. She said on the reservation, it would be another Christmas like all the other Christmases. Of course, she and her husband George, would be delivering packages to families and especially elders to make their time easier. However, holiday cheer has not changed so much from the simple days when they were young parents and their son and daughter were little children. Quite another story for many Americans. Holidays have amped up in extravagance, influenced by technology, and by new "traditions" like Black Friday, the maxi-shopping day after Thanksgiving and the media bombardment of new gifts to tantalize our children. In lean years, it really dampens the holidays for families.

She remembers that each child got one gift under the tree; there was sledding, hot chocolate with the family watching Charlie Brown's Christmas together. Christmas was a family day not so much a gifts day. For Janice, and many on the reservation, hardships are hardships but holidays will not stand out as especially hard as long as the family can have cocoa, sledding and time together.

I remember when I was a child growing up with my little sister with grandparents, mother, two bachelor uncles in one house. My Auntie Grace, the youngest, was also there before she went off to college, the only child to make it to college since my uncles and mother were caught in high school during WWII and all the curfew rules and laws against Nikkei. Mom and we two moved into the multigenerational family when she divorced her husband. We don't know dad much. There were no visits, inquiries after us. Divorce in those days was serious. I have since met his youngest sister, her husband, and their daughters and sons, who are our cousins, and like them very much -- enough to just let that part of our shared family history go and form a new relationship just with each other. Divorce was rare, so we've always been raised by mom to be grateful to our family for taking us in and loving us despite the stigma we carried in with our suitcases.

As children we have the fondest memories of those days, protected from the tough truth the adults faced. The adults always hide the hardship from the children. We had a roof, good food our family grew and preserved after each harvest. We knew where food came from -- hard work. We saw the gardens, the fields. An electric fence separated us from the cow, and there was a pen for pigs and chickens ran all over. We were surrounded by adults and never got away with anything -- and that's called love. We certainly were not neglected.

Before we went to bed on Christmas Eve, we would set out cookies and a little glass of milk for Santa. Grandma made the best sugar cookies with what we called "plastic frosting," hard gem colored sugary frosting which made cookies look so special. Grandma would hang for each of us one of her long stockings before "nylons" were invented and produced for the masses. Grandma or Momma would fill them with oranges, ribbon candy, Brazil nuts, walnuts, filberts, and tie them to our iron bedstead at the foot of the bed Mom, Marti and I shared, some time while we girls slept. Those long stockings which looked like brown pythons just after they swallowed prey were the first thing we saw Christmas morning.

I remember we got one special present from the family. Despite the little ritual we did with Santa, I'm not sure I believed he brought the present. Christmas was not a gift extravaganza, and children and adults were equally celebrated. The extravaganza part was the "ogochiso," the feast. Grandma and Mom always cooked up a storm, Japanese food and American food as they called anything not Japanese. I don't remember much of the food -- but I do remember "osushi," "omanju," sweet potatoes, beans. At a young age I really didn't like meat, so I'm a bit clueless what kind was served. Perhaps, on a holiday, I didn't have to eat it. I do remember fruitcake. I was part of a family who actually liked fruitcake. My guess is they thought being American, they had to have fruitcake and like it. I think I was "most American" in the family though because I absolutely hated it.

After we moved into town, and just lived with the grandparents and mom, being teens, we added things. Moving into town meant events and school and church were the center of activity. At that time caroling was added, Christmas parties, Christmas service, but it's the simple family Christmas on the farm when we all lived in close quarters that I remember the most.

The big winter holiday for our family on the farm and later, off the farm, was not Christmas. It was New Years. Our closest Nikkei neighbors in Marsing, on our farm, were the Kaneshiges and the Yamamotos, and later the Nakanos. That meant around New Year time, we would go to feasts at each family's house. Oshogatsu lasted for days! School would start, and we were still celebrating, riding the school bus and getting off at another family's stop. For New Years, each family cooked New Years food which, unlike Christmas, I fully remember because each food had a meaning we learned, and each food has a story behind it -- like when I was four and my sister was two, Uncle Bill getting my little sister to chase me with the tako (octopus) before it became the delicately sliced dish and still dangled from her hands with tentacles spilling this way and that, lumpy and scary.

Where do people homesteading what was once Idaho desert get octopus, squid, fish, Japanese ingredients? One of our most treasured visitors, because on a farm, all visitors mean excitement, was Mr. Kanetomi who drove his delivery truck clear from Ontario, Oregon, to all the Japanese farm families. Kanetomi's was the only Japanese store in the Boise Valley, Treasure Valley region. We would run out to his wagon and he'd let us clamber in. We would breathe in the smells of dried fish, shoyu, and accept the treat of "ginger candy" before Grandma would come out and shoo us away so she could fit in the truck to shop.

For New Years, we always had a whole fish -- tai, it's head and tail curved upward for good luck. We had a whole chicken to represent family. We had orange kan ten (gelatin cut into attractive shapes) -- a lucky color. There was Osushi with eight things rolled into it == for blessings. We had nishime, root vegetables, shiitake mushroom, bamboo and each thing meant something. The bamboo was strength, the kelp rolled and tied with a kampyo braid is the family staying together, lotus root, happiness, shitake, strength. It was a dish we ate because we had to as children. We always had what our family called maze-gohan (aka chirashi-gohan) which was mixed vegetable rice, and what our family called okowa (aka sekihan) which is azuki beans and sweet rice -- our red beans and rice. There was tempura shrimp, octopus sliced thin, sashimi sliced thin. There were rice fingerfood formed into a fan with a sliced round red shoga (ginger) red sun; some formed into a matsu (pine) with a sprig of parsley placed in the center, and some formed into a blossom, sprinkled with pink shrimp flakes. There was a dessert we called bota mochi (aka ohagi) with sweetrice in the center covered with red bean paste, or "an." I loved this dessert so much! I remember Grandma making the "an" an arduous process which took hours. Now one only needs to buy a package.

The week before Oshogatsu was one of my favorite "arduous" preparations. Grandma would soak the sweet rice kome over night and steam them in layers of bamboo rounds. When the steamed rice was ready, she would run it outside where the men waited in the tin roofed shed. We used a tree stump which had been hollowed out to hold a nabe, or pan in which Grandma put the steaming rice. Uncle Bill, Grandpa, and Uncle George would take turns then pounding the rice until it became a mass. While they pounded, rhythmically, Grandma, who knelt beside the stump, would quickly turn the rice mass over during the upbeat. You can see why we loved this ceremony. It was so satisfying, the rhythm, and the perfectly choreographed movements of the men and grandma.

When the "mochi" was ready, grandma would scamper with the nabe holding the smooth, rounded bread dough like mass into the house with us trailing behind her. The table was already prepared, oilcloth, cornstarch powdered on it. The big sticky mass of mochi, still steaming, would be placed on the cornstarch. Grandma would wet her hands from a small bowl of water and deftly squeeze from the hot mass, balls of mochi, and drop them quickly on the cornstarch before it could burn her hands. My mother and probably my aunts slightly rolled the sticky ball in the cornstarch, scooped it up into their hands to pat and massage them into round shapes. I loved watching this.

Mochi is so important for New Years. First of all, we fix it for our ancestors. We place it before their pictures on our home alter. I think the picture was of my Great-Grandpa who my Uncle George resembled, but now, we all have pictures of our issei grandparents. The decorative mochi, "kazari mochi" is made of two large mochi in graduated size topped with a mandarin orange with leaves. One of the hardest things about living in Eugene is that although the leafy oranges are sold everywhere for Christmas, suddenly no oranges can be found in time for Japanese New Year. We've all done our best to educate the grocers here, but finding the mikan with leaves is always a crapshoot.

Everything that happened on New Year set the tone for the year. So we had to clean the house before New Years so the year would not be dirty. We didn’t work or clean on New Year’s Day so the year would not be full of drudgery. Most of the food was cooked before New Years for that reason too. Absolutely no arguments. My sister and I had a hard time with this but we tried harder. Later when we became older we learned all bills are to be paid before New Years too. As children, our family never ever bought on credit so that was not an issue.

Mochi was our special breakfast early New Years morning. We woke up early (so we wouldn't be lazy all year) to a special breakfast of ozoni -- mochi in a tasty clear broth with something green, red trimmed fishcake slices for luck, strips of shitake for strength. I loved the feel of mochi in my mouth as a child. Ozoni is the ultimate comfort food.

Later, that day, we could have mochi in a soup of "an" or mochi toasted with a shoyu and sugar glaze rolled in soybean flour. Yum! Mochi, mochi, mochi!

I still remember, as an adult in Eugene, Oregon, going to the Bijou to see "Tampopo" back in the '80's, when it came to town. Everyone was talking about this "must see" art film of pursuing the perfect bowl of ramen. Debbie Osato and I sat in the darkened theater, the only Japanese Americans in a full house. I mention this because it is significant to my story. In the middle of this movie, there is a scene which is unforgettable to most JA's. An elderly man is eating "ozoni," the Japanese New Year's breakfast I was telling you about. In Japan you can have ozoni anytime! You can see the "mochi" he picks up from the broth with his "ohashi" or chopsticks, oozing strings of its luscious gooey goodness we so love to feel in our mouths; you could almost smell the brothiness. Right at that moment two distinct sounds filled the theater. A loud moan of yumminess escaped from Debbie and me, "MMMMMMM!" We couldn't help it. It looked so good, and we were virtual exiles in Eugene treated to "ozoni" only if we travel home for New Years. "MMMMMMMMMM!" At the same moment we said "MMMMMM!" the whole audience in unison let out "YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK."

It was the weirdest experience! We had a short but loud giggling fit. Our Eugene moment. Debbie thought up a t-shirt slogan after that. I'm from "Hakujin, Oregon" (Hakujin meaning white people). In the movie, the elderly man who really shouldn't have been eating ozoni collapses with mochi stuck in his elderly throat and his grandson goes running for the vacuum cleaner and hose. Apparently his grandpa does this often. We can absolutely understand this addiction. I will NEVER give up ozoni no matter what it does to me!!
Well, it's happened again. JA's can talk only so long about being JA and it eventually ends up on the topic of food. My friend, Richard Lin, pointed that out. He's married to a Nikkei. He told me he liked the Japanese gatherings more than his own community's because everyone always ends up talking about food. At Chinese gatherings, he said, everyone always ends up talking about business, but "you guys, it's about the food." Richard and I laughed, but I've found that it's true! Here I am, started out about Christmas in times of economic stress, old time Christmas, Santa Claus, and BAM! food -- oooooing and ahhhhing over food and even confessing I'd risk my life for food. It IS all about the food!

Snow Day

It snowed today. It was real snow -- an Idaho snow where temperature stays low and keeps everything frozen and nothing melts. New snow falls on in icy layers. The danger of this is that the people here are not Idahoans. I stood in front of the picture window wondering if I should try making it up the hill, and saw two people fall on the sidewalk. Nope. Not walking to mom's today. Driving? The danger of driving in Eugene are Eugeneans. No offense meant, but rev'ing is not how you get uphill and sitting behind the wheel of an SUV does not mean you have better traction, and you can't stop at the intersection here on Jefferson unless you're working on stopping all the way down.

Will said he'd give me a ride to mom's. Southtowne is a hill over from us. I gladly took the ride because he's a Rhode Islander and, sorry, it's left over from my upbringing only on snow days, he's a guy. At the top of the hill was an LTD bus pulled to the side. We pulled over. Other cars kept on going, then stop at the crest, and then go into reverse, sliding backwards. Eugene. Eventually, men bundled in coats, hat and scarves formed a line across the street at the top of the hill waving their arms to stop traffic. What were they thinking. That's what those little triangle thingies are for so that a truck sliding sideways doesn't wipe out a row of men.

We weren’t going over that hill. Will did the chains to drive off into a side road while I stepped out to watch for vehicles for him. With drivers like these, it's a good idea not to be kneeling down by the side of the road.

After chaining up, we inched down the side road and around to the other side of the hill. We looked up the hill to see what had stopped everyone, and just down from the crest was a milk truck sideways, smashed by a truck. It could have gotten pretty ugly if traffic did not stop, and no wonder the cars who passed us, backed up so quickly.

This is my second day, being dropped off at mom's and spending the day at Southtowne until Will picks me up at 1 pm for his lunch at home. It's nice just hanging out with the oldsters. The first day we were entertained by a brave soul who drove carefully over from Springfield to play his harmonica, guitar, and wail his cowboy yodeling songs. Mom sang her style with him. A cowboy/Little Richard kind of duet. Today was restful. Mom napped. I'd wake her for a walk around the building looking out all the windows at the snow. Then she would take another nap. I took out my book and settled down on her commode beside her little bed while she snuggled under her fleece blanket with holly design. I could hear the activity in the hall.

Barbara, who must have been a writer of gothic suspense in her younger days, and who now speaks in her gravelly, dramatic voice from her wheelchair to whomever will listen was saying, "Would someone please help me!"

A med-aide came by. "How can I help you, Barbara?"

"I need to go to the ocean."

"It's too cold for the ocean. What else can I do for you, Barbara?"

"Then you can kill me!"

"I can't kill you either, Barbara. That would not be something I could do."

"If I can't go to the ocean, I might as well die, because I cannot see my Sweetheart?"

"Who is your Sweetheart, Barbara?"

"It's Marie!"

"Where is Marie."

"She's waiting for me in the ocean!"

I like to listen to Barbara. She has many scenerios. She used to really bug the men at Southtowne. She'd roll up beside them, and say out of the blue, "Your wife will leave you and your children all hate you!" She grows on you.

While I spent the mornings for the last couple of days at Southtowne, I decided maybe this is what we do in the winter, hang out together inside. Mom loves her rides, but sometimes, rainy days, snowy days, we might as well just stay in and go with the flow. Snow does that. Slows everything down to a normal pace. All those things that humans invent to be busy, all those meetings for events, meetings for new goals, meetings to meet stopped all over Eugene in a winter moment. We are a one snowplow town caught by surprise. Stopped cold! It was exactly what Will and I needed. I needed it surely, hanging with mom, coming home, and cleaning the house, doing the laundry, attending to piles which had grown while we invented busyness.

Another snowstorm is coming in tomorrow, mixed with freezing rain. Nothing is going to thaw so the ice sheet will remain underneath. Just got a call from Wilma, 90 years old, saying she is not stepping out of the house to drive to the potluck Thursday. And the potluck was canceled. I had wondered about that. That's how you get to be 90. You don't have to wait for a call to know when to stay in from the weather.

By the way, we're grateful for the snow and the snowpack. We humans had our turn to pack the days with meetings, events and hanging together. The elders always did say, get up with the sun, go to bed when it's dark, and stay in when it's cold. It's just normal.
"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.