Justice … Thoughts on Standing Rock


eagle-featherWe are a part of Creation; thus, if we break the Laws of Creation, we destroy ourselves…

We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, have no choice but to follow and uphold the Original Instructions, which sustains the continuity of Life. We recognize our umbilical connection to Mother Earth and understand that she is the source of life, not a resource to be exploited. We speak on behalf of all Creation today, to communicate an urgent message that man has gone too far, placing us in the state of survival. Not heeding warnings from both Nature and the People of the Earth keeps us on the path of self-destruction. These self-destructive activities and development continue to cause the deterioration and destruction of sacred places and sacred waters that are vital for Life.

We respect and honor our spiritual relationship with the lifeblood of Mother Earth. One does not sell or contaminate their mother’s blood. These capitalistic actions must stop and we must recover our sacred relationship with the Spirit of Water

In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning!

Onipiktec’a (that we shall live).

Nac’a (Chief) Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle

Today is the International Vigil for Standing Rock.  Just days after police from several states, together with the National Guard, arrested scores of Native Americans and other protestors who have been facing down DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) workers with their heavy construction equipment clearing the way for the almost 1200 mile long pipeline.  Plans call for it to deliver as many as 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks oil fields to a river port in Illinois.

Many, many Native (and some other) protestors found themselves shoved into dog kennels after they were taken off the buses from Sacred Stone Camp (site of the protest) and had their forearms inscribed with numbers.  Just like, some point out, in Nazi death camps.

For that reason alone this situation demands attention of justice minded human beings.

Instructions for the vigils, intended to be held at many locations around the world:

“Wherever you are, pray on this day for all water protectors who have been injured or imprisoned, and for the horse that was killed by police. The world joins in prayer for HEALING for those at Standing Rock who experienced such intense trauama (sic) on October 27th. We also join in prayer for the men and women police who brutally harmed the water protectors. We also pray for the pipeline workers and those who finance them. May they all be blessed and healed and reconnected with the earth. We pray for everyone as we know that in the end we are one, inseparable human family. In forgiveness, hard truth, courage and faith, we will arise from this hardship.”

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a man who commands respect in his position as traditional leader of his people, as well as for his wisdom, has called on US President Barack Obama:

“You are ignoring our pleas to use your time as President to move us toward sustainable development as fast as possible, because of our Mother Earth – our Grandmother Earth, is sick and has a fever. We as people that want to do Creator’s work to create these changes and are stuck with using oil, because it is all you have allowed to invest in to transport this country.

It is time you stop this desecration of our sacred sites….”

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/10/28/chief-arvol-looking-horse-obama-keep-your-word-166266

Which all brings a boiling soup of conflicting thoughts to my mind.  As a very long time supporter of sustainable development as well as wise stewardship of our planet, I am a believer in the “keep it in the ground” view of fossil fuel extraction.  Peak oil is a thing of the past, I have read here and there in financial news, with a smile on my face.

The way the oil industry is going at extraction doesn’t necessarily indicate agreement with that view.  I’m not going into a lengthy comment about all this.

Recently I sat in my living room with a young Australian/Persian chemical engineer who had left his oil job in Texas in disgust at corporate practices.  This intelligent fellow has, nonetheless, a genuine belief that oil and gas can be sustainably extracted from the earth using carbon capture techniques.  This is an area where development is urgently needed, and there are jobs for those with appropriate skills.

He pointed out that the world is far from being ready to get along without oil.  That despite rapid progress in wind and solar alternatives, the one technology that rivals fossil fuels in the ability to adequately supply the world’s energy needs is nuclear — a very fraught alternative.  There is the somewhat safer thorium alternative to uranium, which is being used in some Chinese plants.  There are controversies with that, too.

My friend was only reminding me of facts that seem reasonable in other sources, but the timing was good in relation to what is going on right now in North Dakota.

I think that this is more an issue of human rights than of oil production.  Says Chief Looking Horse:

I am not a member of leadership under any political government, I stand in position as the center of our people, the voice of our traditional government, and so this communication is nation to nation, as indicated by our treaties. Additionally, we have over 300 flags of indigenous nations including other countries supporting our stand, because they are suffering as well. 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/10/28/chief-arvol-looking-horse-obama-keep-your-word-166266

As a lifelong Baha’i I have never been a member of a political party, other than for the day that it took once in the 1970s to vote in a particular primary, then immediately switch back to status as an Independent.  Also as a Baha’i I stand up for human rights, always.  Hence I sign petitions to move the pipeline.

My left brain persona understands that is isn’t necessarily racist for DAPL to have moved plans for the pipeline away from Bismark, a population center in the area — but it is very wrong for the thing to be placed where it is now supposed to go, right by the Standing Rock Reservation, where vital water as well as numerous sites held sacred to the People are located.  Given the centuries long genocide against the continent’s indigenous people and their cultures, this matter takes on urgency in today’s horrifyingly divided world.

Moving the pipeline elsewhere — and I do not know the problems with that would be facing planners and engineers — is utterly vital because of this country’s tendency to put unhealthy, polluting operations right up against minority homes, away from more “upscale” areas.

We are sorely tried to find agreement among ourselves in the US this political season.  Issues long simmering beneath the common surface are ready to blow up like a volcano.  Dakota Access is a situation with the potential to expand understanding of one another, as well as of the explosive questions regarding fossil fuels, global warming, jobs, the meaning of justice — and of humanity.

O SON OF SPIRIT! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.

The Hidden Words

Playing with the durm und strang

My daughter has been wearing earrings in the form of black cats, spiders, pumpkins and ghosts for a couple of weeks now.  She works at a pre-school, where naturally a dress-up holiday featuring yummy snacks is a Big Deal.  When I visited the pre-school earlier this month the walls of all the rooms were covered with kids’ renderings of colorful leaves, witches on brooms, fluttering ghosts and lots of other scary things.  Piles of  drying leaf cut outs  were painted and puckered on stacked trays, ready for tiny fingers to squash them into new collages.

This isn’t a holiday I’ve had enthusiasm about over the past few years, since we stopped finding bunches of kids at the door.  It’s become such a commercial event  for adults on the calendar.  It’s fair to mention that my dad was in retail while I was growing up, so a jaded attitude about over commercialization of traditional events occupies space in my mental territory.  I love seeing the fun kids can have with this season, though.

One of my last jobs featured annual decorating contests which got so extreme that long, wide sheets of black plastic were hung from ceiling to desk height in a big central area everybody had to pass through, making it tricky to walk around.  It was supposed to suggest a castle, but the impression was more landfill.  Desks got wrapped and speckled with protruding skulls, swords, broomsticks and rear ends of witches.

Costumes were not quite a job requirement, but came close.  Not everyone working there flourished amidst the hoopla of people racing around demanding admiration for their efforts, leaving their work for others to do.  A few of the Native Americans were distressed — in certain traditions a few Halloween symbols are reminders of darkness, evil, even.  Hispanic people might be saving energy for the highly colorful and more spiritual tradition, the Day of the Dead at the beginning of November. People cook for loved ones who have passed, bringing food to the graves.  Amazingly decorated sugar skulls are way less scary than realistic ones.  Edible artwork.

This year I’m not expecting much activity around the condos.  The west coast has gotten into a rainy spell, for one thing.  Which all causes me to consider how to illustrate the familiar theme of A Dark and Stormy Night for a Facebook creative group I participate in.  This gentle California rain is what the Navajo would call female rain.  New Mexico, where I spent twenty four years of life, rarely gets that, abounding instead with crashing great downpours called …. guess …. Male rain.

Which evokes images of regiments of alpha males, duking it out  up there till the battered clouds are squeezed and crushed out of existence, pouring their misty lives out onto the unready desert below.

And will this appalling US presidential election never end?  Durm und strang, every day dominating news  outlets with its addictive reality show quality.

It sneaks in and sucks people’s brains out — or so it seems. Pay attention to who we really are in our hearts and heads, or we’ll turn into a nation of political zombies.

The essence of male rain, to me, is streams from fire hoses colliding with rooftops, trees, the unprotected.  The soil can’t absorb that much water slamming across it in so short a time, which causes flash flooding and the erosion that gives the Four Corners its amazing mesas and cliffs.  If only something also amazing — and enduringly good for people — would come out of the election…

California rain feels more the way things should be.  Quieter, offering the earth time to open up to it, plant roots the opportunity to take in the bounty without losing their hold or getting their leaves torn off.  Given the multi-year drought in the region, soaking rain is a great bounty.

But… it doesn’t conjure up the kind of image I wanted for a Dark and Stormy Night picture.

What I finally did was pick a favorite model (Elf the Willing Corgi), a window in the condo, and a stormy evening sky from New Mexico.  She’s got a big ball nearby to whack around  AND a biscuit she dropped onto the window sill in her eagerness to see where all the racket was coming from.

Elf on a Dark and Stormy Night.  Drawing by Emily Lee, via iPad and Procreate

Roadrunner seasons: Fall

This is the second installment about Roadrunners in the desert west.  The season this time is fall

Roadrunner atop the donkeys’ cement block shed, hollering his war cry.  Quick sketch by Emily A. Lee

In our early years in unincorporated county south of Albuquerque one roadrunner frequently enjoyed a sunbath atop the shed in the corner of the weedy paddock.  Lizards, horned toads, garter snakes and grasshoppers abounded below in the days before our growing long eared herd finished chewing off the weeds.  The view was clear and the flat roof offered shade, thanks to a vigorous young Siberian elm.

One day the bird sought the roof after his morning round of hunting, packed full of grasshoppers and Iams for Less Active Dogs, the latter from our patio.  Skilled stalker, he’d been indulging in a favorite activity, shadowing neighborhood dogs.  Pace for pace he pursued them, freezing inches from a waving tail if the owner paused, gliding when he ambled, matching motions as perfectly as a distorted shadow.  Dogs unfailingly conducted business with no suspicion of what brought up the rear.

The bird’s performance could very well be the reason why cops and detectives “tail” someone.  Except they’d have to follow superlatively invisible to match the skill of Roadrunner.

Now Roadrunner fluffed raggedy feathers, bared a dark patch on his back and dozed.

Jasper, the donkey, had recently joined our family.  Black on top, white on belly and nose, hot in desert sun, he paused for a snack at his hay tub in front of the shed .  I left yard chores to scratch his neck and ears as he munched.  And then…

Above us the bird opened white-gold eyes to pinpoint the source of crunching.  A cautious step brought him to the edge of the roof, where abruptly he let out a sharp, rattling “ZZZZTTTT” — much like a power screwdriver.

Jasper in 1995, about the time of this event 

Jasper levitated, ears whirling.  Whamming backwards, I hit the shed.  Four hooves landed, aimed precisely 180 degrees away from the hay tub as donkey streaked across the field, volleys of heehaws expressing his state of mind.  Moments later the bird raced from the roof, hot on the trail of lizards.   No glee for him — this was all in a day’s work.

There was I pressed against the sun-warmed concrete block shed with the echoes, alone.

Weeks passed, bringing the area a late fall cold spell.  One windy day the roadrunner took another nap in the sun, this time on the good warm ground.  He fluffed pointy feathers and veiled his bright, white eyes.

Jasper noisily shook his ears as he edged along fences, nibbling weeds.  By now these were his fences.  He knew the way around inch by inch, including the dried remains of every bindweed that wove its way through the wires in summer.  Hooves silent in the loose soil, he munched ever closer to the dozing bird until he stood just behind, his shadow angled away in the honey glow of the sun’s late afternoon rays.  Up went his head.  With a mincing step forward the donkey set a hoof gently down on the roadrunner’s back.

Tailfeathers from … guess!

Feathers flying in all directions, the startled bird took his turn shooting across the field.


After that a truce took effect:  that particular roadrunner did his ground sunbathing elsewhere and he never hollered from the shed roof again, either.


And here with the musical thought for this post is the remarkable Silvio Rodriguez of Cuba.  The music of his long career as a folk singer and guitar master never fails to inspire creative visions.  This song could be designed for Roadrunners — as it is called I Dream of Snakes.  Sueño con Serpientes.

Sueño is a metaphor about ridding oneself of nasty things only to find them coming back bigger than ever.