Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Junk Yard vs. Poetry Beach

There's been a lot of sorrow.
Deep sadness.

I try not to think about it...but every tiny act of mothering is a reminder.

Tonight I clipped my child's fingernails.

I wondered who clips the nails of the children in cages.
Does anyone notice when their nails are too long...or too dirty.

Yesterday, my 12 year old daughter asked me to braid her hair.
It's a rare treat these days so I seized on the moment to brush and tend and love her via her hair.

I wove her hair with a heart that is tattered...I saw the tiny stripes the sun has tinted in her hair already...I knew the area on her head where the braid always gets bumpy...I smoothed and tightened and thought of all the young girls with no one to fix their hair.

Children are being taken and separated from their families.

The government is working to bring the most pain to bear on immigrants.
It's working to harm the youngest and most vulnerable.

I can hardly believe this nightmare is true.

A few days ago, I was moving my daughter up to Portland.
Despondent over these babies and mothers I went for a walk along the Willamette River.
I tried to lose myself in that new place...tried to notice something new with each step...
a wildflower here...a tiny bird there.

It felt good to walk along a river and notice the current that never falters...always moving forward.

Lost in my thoughts I abruptly hit the end of the path...
a dead end with a junk yard attached.

How cosmically perfect.
Gross - Dead - Polluted - Junk

Might as well be describing our government...or my mood.

It felt maddening and sickeningly spot on.

What could I do but turn around?
I literally made an about face to begin walking back and discovered a path called Poetry at the Beach.

I marveled at this mystery.
What was going on?

How could there be poetry at the beach?
Literally, two of my favorite things embedded in some sort of spiritual mash up...what??

I should head back...I had chores to begin...and commitments to attend to...but I knew that wouldn't be happening.

I had to walk the path...
I discovered stones that had the words of children...the poems that children created carved into them...voices of Native American children who pondered the Willamette River and what it 
meant to them - felt to them - inspired in them.

Here are their hearts etched into stone:

There's always one Jordan.

Every carved stone captured me...I wondered where the student wrote the poem...who did the carving...where did the rock come from...who funded it all...who did the work of placing the stones in their spot...all of it seemed like one big surprise party made only for me.

Every stone echoed in my heart.

I came upon stones that had the Native word for our ordinary words:

It felt like I was being handed a secret code...or a blanket from the past...

Sit here.
Wrap yourself up in our words and our ways.
Know that the Willamette was here before you and will remain long after you.
Find comfort in the unwavering strength of stone...the unstoppable movement of the river...
the beauty that waits for you to notice.

That beauty is yours every day.
Poetry at the Beach

Here she is:

Meet the Willamette.

I walked along that stunning slice of sand...soaking up the driftwood so beautifully, carelessly tossed right where it was meant to be...looking at the gray stones and seeing 
gunmetal, silver, ash, slate, smoky, dove's egg, charcoal...the twists and turns of gray...
and the gift of being able to see every last hue between black and white.

I started my walk despondent over the now...alone...I ended my walk soaked in the people who came before me...the river that spans both and will arch into the future as well.

We have junkyards and poetry.
Stones waiting to be carved and poems still left to write.
Every single day, it's up to us to find the poems.

Up to us to notice...and leave our mark.

You get to choose:
junkyard or poetry.

Today, I thank the eagle, the frog, the Canadian geese, the otter and the driftwood.

I thank whoever found the swimming otter driftwood and left it for me to enjoy too.

I thank the stone carvers and the poets...the dreamers and the visionaries...those who thought to combine Native history and language with the beauty of the beach and children's voices.

Mostly, I thank the Willamette River who has seen her fair share of junkyard and poetry...
and still she flows.

Monday, June 4, 2018

My Love Letter To Davis, California

It was 3:50 am, the streets empty and the school dark when I walked Patrick up.

He was carrying his black backpack - full of a lunch, sunscreen, baseball hat, change of clothes, headphones and freedom.

The guy was headed to Disneyland with his senior class.
Graduating in a few days, his senior classmates got the chance to spend two days down in southern California...time at Disneyland plus time at the beach...throw in a dinner at Spaghetti Factory and it was perfection. 

Teacher Scott Bell was there at dawn...along with the school superwoman, Adela, and the director of internships, Susan, and the paraeducator who said YES when asked to support a student who needed it - my son, Patrick - and was willing to attend a field trip that lasted more than 48 hours.

SHOUT OUT to Antwanette!!

There were parents I knew from other parts of my life - also willing to chaperone the adventure.

I walked back to my car in the dark, got into my isolated seat and burst into tears.

How is this possible??

In this moment of independence for Patrick there are so many supporters...
so many willing to find a way...
so many who think nothing of it...
of course, they say.
It's going to be great.

My town, Davis, California, goes like that.

It's a gem of a spot with a creek, double decker buses, a big university and lots of bikes...but like any home...
it isn't the place, it's the people that make it comfy.

I flash back to preschool.
A little co-op preschool that had a tractor in the playground for kids to climb.
We had only been in Davis for a year before Patrick was born and my older daughter, Mary Kate was in the four year old program at Davis Community Church Nursery School - the famous DCCNS.

A co-op means parent participation and when Patrick was born, well, he needed open heart surgery right away at nine weeks old.

I couldn't work at the preschool and felt deep shame about that - so crazy how we hold ourselves to impossible ideals in the middle of a crisis - I couldn't shirk my responsibility!
I wondered if I would have to give up the preschool and find another.

As I was carrying Patrick in his carseat sending Mary Kate off to school, the director of the school, Teacher Betsy,  came up to me.
Inwardly I cringed...could she know that I couldn't work...couldn't hold up my end of the bargain?

She smiled and said words that changed my life:
"When you are considering preschools for Patrick, I hope you will consider us."

Almost 19 years later and still that act of full throttle welcome brings me to tears.

In my world, Patrick was living with almost no choices.
He would be stuck attending whatever school would take him.
He would be unable to participate in regular activities.
He would be limited.
He had Down Syndrome.

Her words took a sledge hammer to the limitations I envisioned.
Her words held an idea that I didn't think existed for Patrick:

I would be considering different options for preschool??
He would have choices??

It was a game changer.

It was also quintessentially Davis.

Davis offers plenty of all arenas.
Food - Fun - Schools - Life
Why couldn't Patrick have choices?

Patrick DID attend DCCNS as well as the special ed preschool that the school district offered.
He had a blended program and that's pretty much been his entire life.

Our local Catholic school said YES.
Our local Boy Scout troop.
Our local swim team.
Our rec department.
Our art center.
Our city.

Patrick loved singing and dancing and holding the microphone as a little guy.
In third grade we tried a theater class at the art center with the amazing Miss Mindy.
She accepted Patrick, guided the other students and offered opportunities to sing and dance and be part of some of his favorites, including High School Musical and Camp Rock.

Just as he was aging out of Miss Mindy's classes I worried that he was older and possibly more difficult to place...
in that moment came the incredible Dottie.
She wrote her own plays with twists on the classics AND she had an adult son with Down Syndrome.
She understood equity and opportunity and welcomed Patrick into theater during the awkward time of junior high.

As Patrick was moving into high school he was unable to be fully included in high school theater...his one time when he was shut out...and so Acme Theater, a local theater troupe for high schoolers, said YES.

He was included in Camp Shakespeare.
He got a job at our local city pool in the snack bar.

He was fully included in his high school - Da Vinci High School - and able to earn a California high school diploma.
At Da Vinci, Patrick had an internship with Acme Theater.
He made friends, went to dances - where the city provided support (!), created clubs...made his way.

In four days, he graduates from high school.

In this moment of one door closing, another door opens:
Patrick is headed to college.

Patrick has been blessed with a gift beyond measure...a community that believes in him.
He's been taken seriously and given opportunities.
He has been supported without reservation.
He's been enveloped in kindness.

My heart is so full of gratitude and light that I feel like Ironman...with a blinking bright target in the center of my sternum.

How do you thank a town?
How can I possibly express what this town with its big open heart, its sense of let's-figure-it-out, with every person who was willing allowed to transpire for Patrick as he grew up here.

Davis, thank you.
Aquamonsters - Pete and Koren
Miss Mindy
Mr. Bell
Mrs. Kirby
Sarah and Antwanette and Tammy
The entire faculty at Da Vinci High
Mike at Holmes
Father Dan and Mary Kay Bolz
All of the faculty at St. James School, especially Bev.
Teacher Betsy
Teacher Mary
Teacher Ellen
Teacher Lonna
Teacher Patty
And the families at DCCNS and St. James
Acme Theater
Emily Henderson
Hollay Shayegi
Sarah Barnes
Steve Rubin
Ashley Shuell
Robin from First Steps/Early Intervention
Karen Edmiston and Center for Speech Pathology


It is because of your open hearted compassion that Patrick is the person he is.
It's been an incredible ride.

He's off to great places!
All thanks to you.