I love blue jays. They have always been my favorite song bird. I know they are viewed as mean. I see them as territorial. Of course I also adore them because they’re blue. But I did not learn until about a year ago their sound is meant to imitate a hawk. Fascinating! As a wolf lover I realize the importance of our apex predators as well as our keystone species. Like the wolf, they are very intelligent and form tight familial bonds. I think its brilliant that they use the hawk’s cry as a warning to other birds. Anyway, I collect blue jay feathers — naturally shed of course. I guess it’s a bit like seashell hunting in a land-locked city. I used to have a lot of them artfully arranged in a pretty little bud vase until the cats went berserk and ate/mangled them all. *sigh* So I am now starting over and this time I’ll put them in my sitting room in my closet which I keep closed. The Scottish playwright and poet Joanna Baillie once wrote, “A willing heart adds feather to the heel.” Every time I discover a cherished blue jay feather on one of my walks I feel my heart expand and, for one brief second, it is as if my feet could take flight. Some people find pennies lucky; for me it’s blue jay feathers. Whatever it is one discovers unexpectedly that brings them delight and makes them feel fortunate … well who could not do with a little more of that?
At the request of a reader, I am attempting to document our toads in their various stages. First I showed Daddy; now meet baby! And there are more in the works. These little guys are smaller than the size of a dime. What a treasure! They almost look like flies on the ground until you see them hop. I cannot tell you how much I love them! What an unexpected joy they have been not only for me but for my husband and daughter as well. They are wondrous miracles of God and nature. Brazilian politician Jaime Lerner said this:
“There is no place in a city that can’t be better. There is no toad that can’t be a princess, no frog that can’t become a prince.”
And so goes the magic of our little pond: rife with possibilities and an endless source of mystery. My little one isn’t afraid to hold them and delights just as I do upon spying them hidden in our yard. And guess what? I predict my girl will turn out to be the lucky one as I have been. One who is fortunate to delight in nature and revel in the miracle of life. In American Indian culture thought is given as to how decisions made now will impact the next seven generations. I hope our home will be a sanctuary for the next seven generations and beyond. Achukma hoke.
When I was a kid I remember going to this swanky indoor mall area that held various doctors’ offices. It had live plants everywhere and indoor fountains which sprang up and trickled down through a series of pools lined by rocks. In the center of the court were two sweeping white marble open spiral staircases. I remember it vividly although I am not quite sure how many times I went or even why. After my child was born I found myself having to return. It was like time stood still; absolutely nothing had changed. Memories at once intense and ephemeral I cannot quite explain came flooding back: space and time seemed frozen. I have to go now every six months to have my skin looked at after having a couple of “suspicious mole” scares and surgeries. About once a year my little one comes with me. I remember the last time she went she was afraid of the big turtle who has lived inside the mall forever. Actually wasn’t scared of it; rather she was reticent to climb it. She was so tiny then and it had seemed so huge. This year as we wound our way up the familiar marble staircase holding hands she shrieked, “HEY! I REMEMBER this place!!!” (She would have been three the last time she visited.) Then she asked if she could go see the turtle after my doctor’s visit. Thankfully there was no cutting this time and I left in one piece. The next thing I know my little one had scrambled without hesitation up the same turtle I had played on so many years ago. So this picture is special to me. The cycle of life repeated on Mother Turtle’s back: she is the symbol of longevity. American chemist James Bryant Conant once said, “Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” My little one stuck her neck out and conquered the turtle just as I remember finally doing when I was a kid. As we get older I think we tend to stay in our own shell more and more. It seems safer, familiar, and comfortable. I believe I shall endeavor to make progress in my life and stick my neck out more often. Who knows what I might discover.
When I first moved out on on my own, I remember being devastated after my first wolf hybrid destroyed something I loved. I recall my gentle mother, so quiet and so full of wisdom, saying to me I had to love my animals more than my things. It is something I have never forgotten. I can have an immaculate house that is never messed up or I can share it with creatures who have thoughts and minds of their own. Sometimes they get sick; sometimes they get nervous; sometimes they get bored; sometimes they get rambunctious. But it made me realize, would I really want to come home to NO one greeting me with affection and unconditional love versus having a perfect house? No way! Our house is a home and not a cold, sterile environment. It is lived in; it is loved. If someone is uncomfortable with that by all means please do not come over. But if if I had to choose between the love and loyalty of a four-legged versus a two I think you know which way I would go. If something has broken and has had to be glued I decree (thanks to my mother) it has “character.” I would take a home full of character to a house full of sterility ANYday. My husband has labeled any scratching or shredding in our home “interior decorating” by the cats. He has been extremely convivial about it despite my abject despondency over our shredded/decimated sheer ‘privacy curtains” by our Bengal cat Elgin (pictured unrepentantly here.) The French poet, journalist, and novelist Anatole France once said, “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” I absolutely believe that to be true. And, as much as I value my things, I value my furry family more.
Today was my husband’s birthday. It just so happened to have fallen on a Sunday. In our church, we pray for those who have birthdays in the coming week and ask that they stand so they can be recognized. I daresay ANY Episcopalian would rather be stabbed than have to stand, but parishioners manage to do so every week. I think my husband is no different, but he stood to receive his blessing nonetheless. Our little girl was so proud and happy it was his birthday. A four year old does not realize one views the anniversary of their birth differently than a 43 year old. I have always loved the words of Dr. Seuss:
“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”
So simple, yet such an apt sentiment. God created us all unique and individual. No one else can be you. So be the best you you can possibly be! Birthday or no, realize no one can compare or compete with the special, one of a kind, person God created you to be. Be the best you for God, for yourself, for your family, and for the world.
Dragonfiles: I have always adored them. My personal favorites of course are blue, but since we have gone all organic around our home and yard I have noticed these red guys coming around, and sometimes green. A few things I have learned while trying to educate myself about them: dragonflies took to the air long before dinosaurs walked the earth. They are aquatic; with the families depositing their eggs on the water’s surface. A dragonfly nymph breaths with gills at the end of its abdomen; so interestingly, the dragonfly nymph’s gills are inside its rectum. They have excellent vision; nearly 360 degrees. And they can see a wider spectrum of colors than humans! Dragonflies are masters of flight, moving each of their four wings independently. They can move straight up or down, fly backwards, stop and hover, make hairpin turns, and fly forward at a speed of up to 30 miles per hour! Pretty fascinating stuff! American author (under the pseudonym) Kim Harrison wrote:
“Go to sleep, baby, Mama will sing. Of blue butterflies, and dragonfly wings. Moonlight and sunbeams, raiments so fine. Silver and gold, for baby of mine …”
Often we do go to sleep after looking at our little pond. Such a source of magic and joy — with tadpoles, and dragonflies and all sorts of living things.
We are lucky to live in a city where they have a dedicated children’s theater. Plays are geared for littles but it has a grown-up feel. Time is shortened for younger attention spans and my husband has often said he enjoys the kiddo shows over the “regular” theatre. My little one LOVES pink. She adores it. She LIVES for it! And the name of the last play of the season was called “Pinkalicious.” Based upon the popular children’s book, Pinkalicious loves pink cupcakes. She loves them so much she eats too many and gets “pinkititus”! What to do?! It proves one CAN have too much of a good thing. For me it would be blue. But it shows the importance of eating vegetables and other things and how one can still love pink. It was a darling show and I think my baby doll had a blast wearing all her beloved pink. We made it a girl’s night and I even wore pink in my hair, for which I got a lot of compliments, getting into the spirit of things and willing to have pink hair. (It was just clip on pieces; not dye.) Anyway, we had a great time and my daughter got a little more exposure to the theater, which was an integral part of my childhood. I suppose my most memorable experience was playing Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” in the sixth grade. A part of me wishes I had continued past a brief stint as Maria in “The Sound of Music.” Who knows? Maybe she will want to take up musicals as I did. At the very least I hope she can respect and enjoy them as an adult. American football player and coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” I hope my daughter catches excellence.
I first discovered this when we were visiting in Santa Fe. Now we eat it for breakfast all the time. You simply heat olive oil in a pan, add some chopped onion, crack some eggs, and crumble some tortilla chips with them. I love blue corn. It is done in minutes! You can add salsa, sour cream, guacamole, beans, cheese, or simply some salt. Our whole family adores them. Traditionally, corn tortillas are cut in quarters and lightly fried. And they are often confused with Tex-Mex migas, a very similar dish involving eggs and corn tortillas. Tex-Mex and New Mexico cuisine is similar and yet different — the common denominator of course being Mexico. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. But I can tell you this; it simply cannot be beat! It is healthy, easy, and quick. I’m not sure how this picture looks, (and I know now why they have “food stylists”) but I just snapped our regular, morning breakfast. It is healthy, delicious, and so simple it does not even qualify as cooking. At our house it is a staple. My little one and I live on them and my husband enjoys them as well. American economist, academic, and writer Tyler Cowen said, “In most of the world, breakfast is an important meal.” I agree, as everyone goes their separate ways for lunch and, if we’re lucky, we all come together for dinner. The one thing we can count on, however, is breakfast together. I love starting the day off right — gathered as a family and enjoying a good meal; no matter what you call it.
I used to go to Pow Wows a lot while my father was still living. Every time I hear someone white, covered in dead animals, saying their grandmother was a Cherokee princess I just recoil. I realize they mean well and want to embrace a culture they may have some connection to but it rankles — and I am obviously not full-blood. Yes, I am aware I have blondish/red hair and greenish/blue eyes. But my father did not. He had hair so black it was almost blue and eyes so blue as to nearly be unbelievable. With his red skin personally I think he was unbeatable and I can certainly see why Mama fell for him. Having German and Choctaw ancestry, he “passed” unwittingly for white with his deep blue eyes and Germanic last name. Men said they envied his “golf course tan” even though he never played golf a day in his life. With Daddy gone I am not sure how much of his story he would want me to tell. But I will say this: my world changed at 15 when my grandmother died — and so did Daddy’s. I always knew Grandma spoke with broken English; I always knew she did not look white. But it was never talked about. Secrets came out at the funeral; stories of the family blood being Indian. I always wondered how Daddy felt, at 53, finding all this out. What a shock to his entire identity it must have been; how so many pieces of his early childhood’s puzzle must have finally fallen into place. American society made it so shameful to be an Indian my grandmother took it to her grave. NO other race of people has had to endure what Native Peoples have: forced sterilization of women even into the 1970’s, baby stealing, mass genocide, concentration camps called reservations, boarding schools where children were beaten if they spoke their native language. They had bounties placed on their their scalps, the U.S. government deliberately gave them small pox infected blankets, women and children were shot in the back and left to rot in piles, and their lands were stolen under the guise of “manifest destiny”. Treaties are still being broken, and now there is nuclear dumping and fracking on Indian land. When will it end?! As a young teenager I immersed myself in my newly discovered heritage and Daddy seemed relieved to be encouraged to do so as well. My mother loved us and embraced it with equal enthusiasm. And so we we were warmly welcomed home into the American Indian community. We learned together about Grand Entries and Flag Songs, and soon my father became a proud member of the American Indian veterans. It’s so funny, he never could pronounce any other language but Choctaw just sounded right on his tongue in a way my more-white-than-red self could not achieve. We learned about the Northern drum and the Southern drum; snake dances, corn dances, grass dances, and more. We ate fry bread and suddenly Daddy began opening up about a life he lived but did not fully understand until this came to light. He passed away when I was 28. Simply standing next to my father people knew I was legit. But now all I had was my tiny, red-haired, white, widowed mother who kept a love of her husband’s culture long after he had passed. So imagine poor Mr. Birmingham, who looked me in the eyes with a forthright steadiness as I told him my grandmother was Choctaw. (He was probably thinking at least I didn’t say Cherokee princess.) He never revealed his own heritage but seemed to be summing me up somehow. I asked if I could get my picture with him — something I had never done in my whole life. I do not read the “star” magazines or watch the celebrity “news” shows, but I confess I was giddy to see him unexpectedly at a local pow wow. I felt so embarrassed. Embarrassed that I did not look Indian and wondered how many “wanna-bes” he had endured. But I stood my ground and shared my heritage just the same. To not have done so would have dishonored my father, and all those who came before whom they tried to wipe away. I saw this picture in a time hop on Facebook and decided to write about it. I have had full blood friends who were Comanche, Apache, Navajo, Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni, Choctaw, Seminole, Kiowa, Chippewa, Sauk and Fox, Winnebago, Iroquois, Lakota, Salish, and yes, Cherokee plus others who were mixed with several nations. It saddens me to see languages, crafts, and old ways dying. People know the dances but they’re not exactly sure of the meaning behind some of them. They do things that were passed down but do not fully know why. An Indian friend of mine who got shipped off the rez as part of a government “integration” program knew the American Indian activist and actor Russell Means well. Among other things, Russell was the author of “Where White Men Fear to Tread.” In his book he said:
“Golden eagles don`t mate with bald eagles, deer don`t mate with antelope, gray wolves don`t mate with red wolves. Just look at domesticated animals, at mongrel dogs, and mixed breed horses, and you`ll know the Great Mystery didn`t intend them to be that way. We weakened the species and introduced disease by mixing what should be kept seperate. Among humans, intermarriage weakens the respect people have for themselves and for their traditions. It undermines clarity of spirit and mind.”
We cannot go back, nor can we rewrite history. One thing I know I CAN do is to not hide my heritage out of embarrassment — ironically not embarrassment of being Indian; embarrassment of not looking it.
I was at a little chapel recently and discovered they actually make dashboard saints for your car. As I have written previously I am not Catholic, and I personally do not believe anyone is worshipping those saints directly. I have heard it often said the Blessed Virgin Mary points the way to her Son, Jesus Christ. She is a reminder to me as a woman of how God chose her above all others and she is of great comfort to me whenever I see her. I am drawn in particular to images of Our Lady of Grace, which you see pictured here. It is said the Virgin Mary appeared to a Parisian nun, Catherine Laboure (now sainted) in 1830. Her incorruptible body is interred in a chapel in Paris which continues to receive daily visits from people all over the world. Through the glass it appears as if she is simply sleeping. As I was looking at Mother Mary’s image through the little box I found this on the back:
“Grant me O Lord a steady hand and watchful eye. That no one shall be hurt as I pass by. You gave me life, I pray no act of mine may take away or mar that gift from You. Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear me company. From the evils of fire and all calamity. Teach me to use my car for others’ need; Nor miss through love of undue speed. The beauty of the world; that thus I may with joy and courtesy go on my way.”
She is daily reminder to me to watch my actions, my thoughts, my words, and my heart; to slow down, be kinder, more compassionate, and to pray more. So if you see a car with a robed woman on the dash, know there is a woman behind the wheel who is trying to be more like her.