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Almost there…

Morning

The first full day of my stay, that helicopter from the DAPL side flew in low circles for hours, observing the camp.

More than 500 members of the Clergy came from all over the world. The banner is from Virginia. The man speaking above was from Polynesia.

A ten minute walk from my car, this hill was the only place I had cell reception. I was mostly out of reach.

An upside down flag is a sign of distress.

More than 300 flags from different Native Nations line the boundaries and entry.

There were many efforts at intimidation. This SUV from the DAPL side was in lock step with me and three others as we walked the boundary. They also had bright spotlights shining on us throughout the night.

Burned Army dump trucks on “our” side but believed (though not confirmed) to be the work of DAPL, and some person’s effort to make them peaceful.

My spirit animals knew before I did, arriving by the dozens two evenings in a row, to flap and caw and bring me to the realization that I had work to do, in North Dakota as a Water Protector.

I had thought about it in early summer but resisted, mostly because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I worked part-time in the Oil and Gas industry in college. Try as we might to be as green as possible, like powering our home with renewables and driving a super fuel efficient car (42 mpg on this trip!), it is still lubed and fueled by oil. I take vacations on air planes. I heat my home with natural gas. What right do I have to take a stand against something so critical to my everyday comfort and being?

It was a gnawing in my belly. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was moved from a location upstream from Bismarck due to the major threat it would pose to the city’s water supply should there be a breach. By doing so, the the Standing Rock Sioux were essentially told that the quality of their water was of little consequence in comparison to the good people who reside in the state capital. I could not abide it, so I went, to offer moral support and help however I could.

It is a 13-14 hour drive from my neck of the woods, so I rose early and drove all day, buoyed by more crows, eagles, hawks, and falcons, flying so near to the car as to make me believe that their wings were propelling me forward. I arrived to a checkpoint spectacle of giant FBI pick-ups, police vans, and flashing lights worthy of a Radiohead concert. Before I was allowed to proceed, a surprisingly kindly police officer (there is much documentation to the contrary) asked me my intentions and glanced through the windows at the contents of my car.

A few minutes down the road, I arrived at the Oceti Sakowin Camp and was greeted with a hearty, “Welcome home!” I cried at this, of course. You know me. Exhausted and exhilarated to finally be there, I fumbled around a bit, listening to the Natives drum and sing, feeling the energy and thrum of so many people united for a common purpose. After a time, and getting the car stuck in an abandoned fire pit (also quickly nullifying my intention of being entirely independent during my stay by having to ask for help getting out, rats!), I found a spot to park the car, which would also serve as my camp: kitchen, changing room, bedroom, dining room, and storage. All in a Mini Cooper!

That night, and every night after, I slept poorly, a function of sleeping on a bucket seat, the cold, and the drone of the small plane flying round and round and round, in constant surveillance of the camp from the DAPL side.

Each morning, shortly before dawn, a booming voice announced, “Wake up relatives, you have work to do. Wake up relatives, you are making history. Wake up peaceful warriors, Mother Earth needs you.” And so we rose. I prayed and meditated each day, first with the 500 members of the clergy who came to show their support, then during the women-led Water Ceremony, and finally during the beautiful Horse and Fire Lighting Ceremony, which also saw the historical (and I believe first time) unification of Native American Tribes for a common purpose.

Every moment was meaningful. I met so many wonderful people and never once felt unsafe. I smoked from a Native’s pipe. I offered tobacco to the water and fire, to strengthen the potency of my prayer, our shared hopes. I worked hard, each day, all day, after prayers until sundown and the camp went mostly dark, sorting and organizing clothing donations, helping people find what they needed, always with a laugh and a smile – a warm coat, a sweater, shoes, a pair of boots, taking only the shortest of breaks to pee and grab a quick bite to eat.

When I felt weary or tired and the compressor on the refrigeration truck wasn’t loudly thrumming, I heard the voice of the camp. A Navajo, come up from New Mexico, who told stories, relayed the daily news, gave big announcements and small, of meetings and decisions, of people offering rides, those who lost or found items, a key, a wallet, a cell phone. He and others sang and drummed after sundown, the camp alive with their unique song. His voice, at once grounding and uplifting, was the absolute highlight of my stay. I am forever grateful to him and our shared bear hugs.

And now, for you, should you wish to go:

  1. Be as self sufficient as possible. Bring all of your own supplies with plenty to share, including water. I was the goofy white lady handing out candy, ear plugs, and packages of baby wipes (no running water or bathing facilities).
  2. It is COLD at night, very cold, and soon enough, it will be cold AND windy all the live-long day. Be prepared. Bring lots of layers. Have super-warm bedding. Keep your water wrapped in bedding to keep from freezing outside.
  3. Like any community, there are a mix of good and not so good people. I left candy and baby wipes outside the Mini, but not a single person took any without me actually giving it to them. Then, a guy, with whom I spent a considerable amount of time helping find pants and a belt, took my water bottle. A woman sorting clothes with me got her backpack stolen. If it is valuable or meaningful to you, keep it on your person or secured in your car or tent.
  4. I was amazed at the number of white people wandering around like tourists. The camp is not an attraction. We, especially as white people, are there to serve and stay out of the way, not vice-versa. Give as much as you can. Don’t be a jerk with your own agenda.
  5. Pick up after yourself; leave no trace. If you camp in a tent, please remove the stakes from the ground upon your departure. Nobody wants to to trip on their way to the toilet in the middle of the night or puncture a tire. Luckily, I found a shovel to dig up the ones careless people left behind.

Should you wish to help:

  1. The camp is in pretty constant need of seasoned fire wood.
  2. Please, do NOT send useless clothing. I was absolutely appalled by the amount received on a daily basis. The Natives have been screwed over a million ways to Sunday, and sending stained undergarments, ripped, torn, and soiled clothing, rumpled prom dresses (really?!), and sexy short-shorts, is, in my view, yet another a slap in the face.
  3. Items to send: thermal underwear, wool socks, work boots, ear plugs, sub-zero sleeping bags, wool hats, gloves (winter and work), winter coats (like you’d wear camping), snow pants, blankets, tents capable of withstanding high winds, rope, heavy duty tarps (not the cheap blue ones), baby wipes, waterproof jackets and pants. Long skirts for women and girls are also in high demand, as they are worn to prayer ceremonies.
  4. For more information, go to ocetisakowincamp.org, including ways to send money.
  5. Be peaceful. Pray for the water protectors. Pray for the people who want the pipeline. Be forgiving.

 

Looky what we did!! Damn. We’ve worked so hard over the past eight months. The only bit left to do in the living room is the light fixture, which is marked by blue tape that we keep forgetting to remove. Ha. I will be taking some more photos for the neon wall, of course. I love neon!

Our new front door, which I absolutely love! It’s actually a shade of turquoise (and matches the cute stool), but it’s looking more baby blue here. The rabbits are coat hooks. The old school tennis racket was my Dad’s, and the painting is the one we bought in Crestone.

Our cool niche shelves, with new brackets. They hold a perfectly well-curated assortment of knick-knacks (my Grandpa carved the eagle and the duck in the photo above this one!), and have a nice view down the hall.

Our bright dining room! The original floor (which was also in the kitchen) was probably my biggest labor nightmare. It was one layer of crappy vinyl, one layer of plywood underlayment held down by about a thousand (I kid you not) one inch staples, and one layer of faux-brick tile under that. Oof, my poor hands.

But NOW, in the morning, the light of the sun warms my back while I eat and read. Happiness. I painted the closet door that terrific orange color to hide how badly beaten up it was. Not a single surface on the main floor was spared an update, and the reason why it took us so damn long.

The kitchen. YOWZA. In the first two photos, you can see where the sink and dishwasher (which when we first turned on the water became GEYSERS) were originally. You can also see that there wasn’t a place for a normal sized refrigerator. The giant window in the third photo was reduced by about a foot because it wasted a whole heck of a lot of wall space. Unless you were a child or a dwarf (Little person? I never know) any cabinet placed below that window would have been waaaay too low. I left the window wall without upper cabinets to avoid having the kitchen feel like a narrow hallway and to show off the hubster’s mad electrician skills. He installed all the cool lights; Restoration Hardware made them, however, every hardwired fixture on the main floor, actually. They’ve got my number.

The best and only view of the hubster’s office for the time being. What you can’t see? Shower doors for the upstairs bathroom. Purdy.

My office! Egads. I love, love, love it. The cool chest of drawers was my grandparents, and the hubster, when he needs a little break from work, sits in the chair next to it (he’s doing it as I type, actually). I like that.

Sanctuary!!

Cusp

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. – Maya Angelou

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. – Unknown

I am learning, both the potency and urgency of these quotations. A little late in the game, maybe. Maybe right on time. Either way, I’m ready. Ready to have relationships that nourish rather than drain. That uplift rather than crush. That embrace rather than judge.

I am paying C A R E F U L attention. I am listening. Hearing all of your words. Observing all of your actions.

It used to be that I brushed aside small criticisms of my person. Large criticisms, too. Slights. I made excuses. I didn’t believe, without articulating it as such, that I deserved better. That I deserved kindness and respect. That others were more important than me, my thoughts, my feelings.

Times have changed. Show me who you are, and I will believe you NOW, the first time. For some, it may be the 100th. But it will be the last.

These words, seen so clearly, seem a bit harsh to my eyes. But when I look back on the hurts and failed relationships of my past, where I was disrespected and unappreciated, I know I need their simplicity, their clarity.

I’m ready for all the goodness and light I deserve.

See you on the other side. Or maybe not…

For a long time now, the hubster and I haven’t bought each other gifts. We’ve got the love of our dreams and the life we want, so it seemed unnecessary. Until. Until we bought this house and have been working almost every single day for thirteen weeks to fix it up. Knowing that we have about thirteen more. Having that giant dumpster in the back yard for more than two months, big time stinky smelly from a laborer tossing something other than construction waste in it, something oh-so FOUL. Hoping for favorable winds so we could open a window or take a break out back. Yeah, blech.

And then the realization that our birthdays are our FORTY-FIFTH! As a good friend said, halfway to ninety. Holy shit. So we bought a telescope for our mutual delight at star gazing and imagining what if? We looked at Jupiter Wednesday night and three of its moons, Mars, too, from our own, sweet smelling, dumpster-free yard. The wonders of the universe and height of splendor, peeps, the absolute height!

And because I don’t have the attachment for my camera, YET, I snapped photos of my yard gazing while the hubster’s eye was on the sky. Good times, happy nights, and more to come!

Be well…

 

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Holes

Happy Wednesday, dear reader! A little peek at our work in progress. Dave our window guy takes the final boards from what once was a bay window in the living room. It didn’t really fit with the house, a 1950s brick ranch, and even if I had liked it, the base was almost entirely rotten under the fascia. I’m just glad no one really heavy made their self at home on the window seat, as it likely would have collapsed. Dodged a bullet with that one, whew!

The second photo is Walter the mason adding courses of bricks to a too low window, which will give us better functionality in the kitchen. It kept anything of normal height from being installed on an entire wall. After all is said and done, the kitchen sink will be under the window, and I’ll be happy as a clam gazing into our lovely yard whenever I wash up.

And finally, the hubster, champion of my heart! I took this photo after he spent about an hour crawling like a caterpillar in the attic, tracing and rewiring circuits for the kitchen. This was our dinner break, and as we sat on the floor eating green chile, I thanked him profusely for doing what I can’t and don’t want to do.

This is where it gets really cool and I feel even more grateful for this partner of mine. He thanked me profusely for doing what he can’t and doesn’t want to do, like running errands, making breakfast, lunch, and dinner, buying his clothes, decorating, gardening, painting, finding and hiring people to install windows and floors, grocery shopping, the list goes on.

The truth is, I get a lot of flack from a lot of people (but NEVER from him) about my lack of paying work. When are you going to apply for a job? When are you finally going to contribute? I tell them, shamefaced and ears burning, about how damn hard I have tried. How, over the past six years, I’ve applied for more than five hundred,¬†got hired for one, and made about twenty-five cents an hour. Twenty-five measly cents. What I will now say, after finally hearing it (because he’s said it a million times) from the man of my dreams, is, “It’s none of your business.” Because it isn’t. Our life is our business. We’ve been together for twenty-five years (huzzah!), love each other well, sweetly, and heartily, and have our own good and great thing. Its beautiful and messy and oh, so right. He does wonderful work that turns on lights, makes money, and pays bills. I do wonderful work that doesn’t (like this blog). But together, we have it all.

 

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