Thursday, November 16, 2017

Up the Winchuck River in 1973

We met so long ago. I'll never forget the day - it was a sunny afternoon early Fall, we were in, of all things, our P.E. class wearing those horrific and humiliating (lacking the perfect body) gym uniforms consisting of red one piece canvas with snaps, the shortest of shorts. You were sitting on the stage in the gym weeping distraughtly. I (always late due to the all-important "after lunch" joint hurriedly smoked across the street at the V.F.W. Hall with the usual suspects) glanced at the gym to see what had set this pretty blonde girl with the big blue eyes into such a state saw that the gym was a flurry of red rubber balls bouncing from side to side with the occasional "gotcha!!!" shouted triumphantly when the mousy shy girl smacked the flouncy cheerleader. I couldn't just walk by. I stopped and patted your blonde hair, "what's wrong Jill? what's going on???" You threw yourself into my arms shaking, "they're just so VIOLENT!!!" your sobbing continued. I held you for a few minutes and quietly spoke to you. I don't know what I said but from that moment on we were the best of friends and you immediately dubbed me "Shawna Mama." A name I wear proudly to this day. Turns out you'd taken too many cross-tops and the speed was making you extra sensitive.

Our lives intertwined with the intensity that only flows through girls in the '70's. In our friendship was your darling brother Zane whom I had named "Zany Zit" and our game was to call out down the long school hallway "Zany Zit!!!" to which he'd reply "Yes Shawna Shit????" We'd laugh raucously as though our game were genius and no one could understand how brilliant we were. We made up our own rules and ran with wild abandon through our years. The smell of nectarines still brings a smile to my face. In particular we had a beautiful "skip" day (we thought of many reasons we should skip) in which we had gone in your cute little Volkswagen beetle up the Winchuck River. We sat on the banks of the beautiful blue-green swirling waters next to that one secret spot I had found and declared to be ours and smoked. We spoke of many, many things that day and all we conversed about we perceived to be the deepest and most meaningful dialogue ever to be had. At one point we took these silver bangles I was wearing and tossed them into the sky laughing at our hilarity and at one point, it seemed as though the sparkly silver bangle stood still on a sunbeam then in slow motion floated down making a light plopping noise as it hit that delicious river. It floated for a moment then sank down to where we could see it glinting in the sun on a crag in the underwater rock. We determined that one day we would return and find that bracelet. We haven't yet.

We slowly drifted apart living our different lives all the while remaining in touch and actually writing each other long letters about it. Remember those letters? I used to love seeing your unique handwriting and the little drawings you always put all over on the envelope when you wrote. We shared our lives this way long before Facebook or Myspace or any of the social media that sucks the life out of writing these days.

You wrote me some heartbreaking news sometimes. I wished I could have protected you from those horrific experiences you had...Taiwan, up in the forest, over in Hood River...when you introduced me to Leroy I understood. This was your necessity. I always thought you were such a badass after you should me his sleek metallic body and pearl handle. I thought "no one will ever hurt my Jill AGAIN as long as she has him by her side!!!"

We reconnected for a time in Portland. It was amazing. I saw you often and we had the most beautiful days together. You and your current beau who I remember well but will remain nameless at this juncture. Memorable moment when you stood maid of honor in my wedding.

So many times we'd reconnect throughout the many years and each time it was as though we'd not separated, our love and laughter ringing out over new adventures and fun. You often thanked me for "having your children for you" and I'll thank you forever for loving my four darlings as if they were yours, and truly, they all loved you as deeply as possible. Jilly Pilly of course, your namesake, just adored your beautiful golden hair and her heart belonged to you in every sense.

I will forever be honored that you and Bob made the long trek from Brookings to Pendleton to witness when I received my Indian name. You brought with you the box of richly hued abalone which I have fortunately retained at least one. Neither you or Bob had a clue what this meant to me but the fact that you drove all the way to be there is etched in my memory like a fossilized fern on a shimmery shale rock.

I could go on for days my beautiful friend. The loss of your passing doesn't wane and as I recall the stories I'd like to share, the moments I feel like I want to send you in messages, I'm at a loss because you're not there on the other end of the line. Your life left a beautiful mark on my family. You, who passionately shared your family as mine knowing how shattered I was for all those years. Thank you for Zany Zit, thank you for Bob, thank you for big brother Rip, thank you for YOU.

I won't say goodbye. We'll meet again one day. I truly believe it.

Safe Travels my friend.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

This summer I've undertaken to weave a new "wapas" a basket for gathering. It hasn't come along very quickly but that's okay. This entry was begun on August 25, 2016, a momentous day indeed - Today is an amazing day, after years, and I do mean YEARS of work, sweat, disagreements, hard feelings, good feelings, no feelings, we're breaking ground on our new clinic. How do you describe something so amazing coming to fruition after only just hoping it will? When I started on this health commission journey I was waaaayyy in the back seat of the van...I wondered where are we going? What comes to mind though, is the late night discussions with my cousin Hin-mah-toom-see-loo. We talked about my years as a nursing assistant, my beginning in an EMT course many years before, how I learned about tribal health issues through a clinic up in Northern Idaho and again in the city where I worked for a large organization which dealt with all the NW tribes and their health issues. Then coming home and talking with him about the things I'd seen and heard. He never looked at me during these discussions, but would say in his quiet voice, "well, you came home for a reason, you should get on the health commission." Within a year, there I was. I wish he could be here today to see where we've come. My brother, too, Twie-pie-tit, he encouraged me one time, he looked at me and asked "what exactly have you been doing since you got home?" so I told him and he just smiled, kind of shook his head and said "I'm very proud of you, you've done a lot of things in a very short time." Throughout the following years, many different people talked about the new clinic, it was spoken of with hope, with affection and in stark contrast with disdain and hauteur. Along this journey our group has had many allies, speaking encouraging words and helpful thoughts and also many naysayers, speaking doubtfully of shattered dreams. Beloved aunties and elders who are now gone offered their wisdom and hope to the project giving direction at times without even knowing they were helping to shape the future. All of this input has been helpful. All of it. Through accepting instruction we are now free to pursue with passion that which we believe to be true. A new clinic will FURTHER help our tribal community in seeking better, holistic health from the babies to the great grandmas and grandpas. New treatments may be offered and the tried and true improved upon. The fruition of this vision is like a basket being woven. Sometimes you don't like the pattern, you have to tear it down to the foundation and start over and SOMETIMES you hold the work out and a light shines on it, the design and concept are visibly amazing and everyone can enjoy it. Weaving is an ongoing and utterly consuming passion - this new clinic, the health of this community, the health of my beautiful grandbabies is much the same!!!!

Never too old...

If you watched me walk down the street in front of you, you might muse to yourself, "oh look at that poor lady..." the limp, the grey hair, the weight are all telling factors of the human aging process. I should tell you though, that every single day I wake up I'm truly grateful. No, REALLY. This year at my celebration of sun cycles, I will be FIFTY NINE. 59!!! Ten beautiful grandchildren, four adult and ever so respectable children, a little house on the prairie, a pet goat, seven cats (yes, seven, only one is an "inside" cat though, k?), several neighboring hawks who are around to have been named (Clarence, Stacy, Stuart, Melanie) Life, while not always a bed of roses (who would actually LIKE a bed of roses? Seems pretty ostentatious to me) has been pleasant these past few years and I am grateful for each day. One of my favorite components of being a woman of a certain age (I've ALWAYS wanted to use that phrase appropriately!) is that I am no longer encumbered by the notion that at all costs the appearance of "having it all together" must be perfected. This is a release, a freedom to learn with wild abandon! It's been said before, "you're never too old to learn." Today I fully plan on embracing this truth. Hopefully again tomorrow!!! have a frabjous day... These are some quick shots from my recent trip to Suquamish, WA

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

New days ahead

I haven't been here in forever but I think to myself every now and then "I should blog this." Life is a never ending challenge and each day our choices determine the outcome. Shall I have a good day? A bad day? Shall I prevail over the many obstacles that befall me? I believe so. We're never alone in these battles. All of our energy and all of our emotions are a part of this universe so today, I leave you with this thought: I am in love with life. Every waking moment is filled with love, my family, those I work with, people I meet by chance, these are moments to cherish!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

first day after september's last

Try to imagine the taste of warmth has overtones of sky and a delicious aftertaste of summer-breeze wheat with a final hopefulness of rain. That's what the first day of October might taste like if you ate it. September as it turns out is a delightfully busy time around here. There's the Pendleton Round Up, weaving conferences, people need help with their regalia so you must sew and weave and bead and the midst of this is grandchildren growing and laughing and crying, painting the house with mud but oh my goodness, with skillfull little hands you notice they actually stayed in the LINES of the house... Grandbabies bring joy...their parents stay connected and though grown, there's still that tiny cuteness pulling even MORE love than you thought possible from the depths of your being. Oh don't get me wrong, difficulties arise but through it all is this golden glow of hopefulness. What do you do though when the hope edges are weakened and weariness dries out the dregs of remaining strength? It does happen, even to the joyful, the beautiful, the royalty and minions. No one lives in THIS dimension eternally bathed in beatific smiles but when I get tired I will dig through my old photos. Reliving delightful memories will ALWAYS bring a smile to my face...oh, I may stumble across one or two that bring tears but I'm grateful for joyous memories and grateful for life. Everyone has challenges. It's best not to bemoan them but to get up, pull up my bootstraps and soldier on. Who will teach my babies to be strong if I'm not!