Sunday, February 17, 2019

On the eve of President's Day

The day night after tomorrow's brings February's full moon. According to some reports it will be the biggest, brightest moon (supermoon) for several years to come. Some Anishnaabe refer to it as sucker moon (namebini-giizis). Others refer to February's full moon as bear moon (MKWA GIIZIS) and call April's full moon the sucker moon. Regardless of the name, we're looking forward to seeing it and maybe getting a picture or two if the sky is clear enough.

a February full moon
a February full moon
Photo by J. Harrington

Suckers, the fish, run in April, not February. Black bears give birth to cubs in February. There's a partial explanation of the differencese in naming moons among the Ojibwe to be found on the months and moons page. Thinking about suckers running makes us think about open water running. We haven't been to any of the feeder streams flowing to the St. Croix River for months and months. Tomorrow is a holiday. A trip to look at and listen to open, running, water, followed by a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, seems like a great way to honor the first 44 presidents of the country. Number 45 seems hell-bent to destroy whatever good is left in this nation, so we'll leave him off a list of those we honor tomorrow. As of today, it is 624 days until the next presidential election.

open water, running water, sucker water?
open water, running water, sucker water?
Photo by J. Harrington

A New National Anthem

Ada Limón1976

The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets’
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps
the truth is that every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the shortgrass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Celebrating release by Our Native Daughters

We have been a fan of Rhiannon Giddens for quite some time now and were mightily impressed when we saw her in person at the O'Shaughnessy a year and a half ago. Now she's recorded a new album with a different group, Our Native Daughters, which also features Amythyst Kiah, Allison Russell and Leyla McCalla. We suspect that it's not a coincidence that the album is scheduled for release in about a week, on February 22, near the midst of Black History Month. But, perhaps that's just a coincidence, if you believe in coincidence. [The first link in this paragraph will take you to npr's write up on the album, including the ability to listen to the full album or any of the individual tracks. We're listening as we write this.]

the calm before the concert
the calm before the concert
Photo by J. Harrington

There's been a growing number of folks trying to make the case that "we're better than this" as more and more xenophobic, racist, hateful crap pours out of the White House these days. All we can say to that is those folks need to go back and do a better job studying American History 101. The "we" some of us claim we're better than are also citizens and/or residents of a country founded by adventuring religious dissidents who built a nation on the backs of those suffering from land appropriation, slavery and/or genocide, at a minimum. It looks unfortunately clear to us that the struggle for civil rights and equality is far from over. In fact, we behave like we're presently backsliding from the values and principles hashed out in many of our country's founding documents. [No, we're not including the 3/5 of a person provision. Maybe, though, we should apply that concept to corporate persons.]

Please don't misinterpret what we're claiming here. We CAN BE BETTER than the way too many of us are behaving these days but, to accomplish that, we have to change our ways and work at being better. It don't just come naturally. We've developed excessive hubris and and an overweening sense of entitlement. There is insufficient truth to the claim that "It can't happen here." Read about the Trail of Tears. Study the Dred Scott decision. Think about Citizens United and how we've fared since that SCOTUS decision. We continue to wonder why, if corporations really are to be considered "persons," they aren't subject to any form of the death penalty.

We could go on, and undoubtedly will some day soon. For today, we're gleeful that we live in a society that has a culture varied enough to include Our Native Daughters, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robert Zimmerman, and Richie Valens. Perhaps we can be better than we've been if we let our native music's charms help soothe our savage breast, soften our hardened hearts, and bend our notted minds. Those who study them note that "Ecosystems with a lot of biodiversity are generally stronger and more resistant to disaster than those with fewer species." To that we would add that they're also more fun.

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.