Boozhoo, indinawemaaganidog! Aaniin! That is to say hello, all of my relatives! Welcome to another edition of An Irritable Métis. One of the benefits of dumping all my social media and unsubscribing from alert emails and all that churning hubbub is that I’m not constantly being bombarded by the relentless tidal wave of bad news from the wider world. That doesn’t mean I don’t see what is happening, I just pick when I want to peek out from my cave and see what’s going on. Which is to say I know this has been another particularly bad week, friends, and I hope you are all taking care of yourselves. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone. If you aren’t struggling, reach out to someone. I don’t want to rant and rave about these continued horrors, and the soulless arrogance of “officials,” and the superhuman cruelty of governments. I just want to remind everyone that not everyone is like that – most of us aren’t, in fact! – and there might be someone you know who would really love to hear from you, and that it could make all the difference in the world to them.
I saw a bumper sticker today I loved. It said, “Tell your dog I said hi.” If you can’t think of anyone to reach out to, well, you can at least tell your dog, you know, for me….
My efforts to get in 1000 hours outside this year are rewiring my brain and for the better, I think. I have been beginning most mornings out on the little road that connects where I live to Mullan Road, the main route to and from Missoula that will get you here. I particularly love the contrasts between the dark of night and the dark of morning, and how the starscape is so different at each interval.
The morning is quieter. Today, for example, I ventured out maybe thirty minutes earlier than usual; my goal is to wrap up forty minutes outside before the surly children start queueing up at the bus stop to make their sullen trip to Frenchtown. The stars were still bright and aligned in a way unrecognizable from the night before. I won’t say too much about the soundscape in the morning, as the monthly sentences post that will appear next week, I’ve realized, focuses quite a bit on that. But it doesn’t take long for the stars to retreat against the growing light to the east, pale and first cold and blue and gorgeous.
Nighttime is the opposite. It’s often a bit noisier with human activity and barking dogs and the like, but on a clear night – as it has been lately, with Nookomis bright and waxing toward full – the way the stars emerge is glorious and inspiring. The pale light has moved to the west, and wisps of cloud that almost look like, and may sometimes be, virga – one of my absolute favorite phenomena, not to mention words – take the breath away. Thanks to one of my favorite movies from last year, NOPE, I’m regularly on the lookout for “suspicious” clouds too, and there are plenty. Just last night in fact there was a BIG one. It was there as I was headed in one direction, then when I turned around and headed back, POOF!, it was gone. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a cloud.
In just a few weeks I’ll have to get up way earlier and be out way later to see these extremes of rising and setting sun, but everything in between will be just as gorgeous and compelling as well. That’s what I mean about rewiring the brain. There is just so much magnificence we miss because we aren’t paying attention to this gift of a world.
“It’s crazy how much time we don’t spend outside,” my friend Evelyn said to me yesterday when she paused to chat while I was sitting in the sunlight on the porch of my lair taking a lunch break. It truly is. Humans weren’t meant to live shoved away indoors under flourescent lights all the time, chained to glowing screens, scrabbling for handouts from our moronic middle management overlords, looking at screens and interacting with bullshit. Rise up, my friends. Rise up! The revolution will not happen indoors, and its leaders won’t be wearing oxfords and khakis and caring about best practices.
TW: Food Porn
Last week the four wonderful teachers in Ronan who let me spend twelve weeks hassling their students gave me a big homemade thank you card complete with signatures from all of the kids. I felt like the Grinch when his heart grows and all but bursts out of his chest. There was an envelope stapled inside and I was told it contained “a couple gift cards.” I was grateful and figured maybe they were Amazon cards, or even Wal Mart. I put the card on my desk, where it remained for a couple days before I got back to it and looked inside the envelope.
So much better than Amazon or Wal Mart gift cards!
Hand-laminated treasure from literally one of my favorite eateries on the planet. Lynn’s! I went all the time when I lived in Ronan 20+ years ago. I still stop almost every time I pass through town, if I can time it right. It’s just a little roadside drive-in mere feet off the highway – northbound, it’s at the first of the two stoplights as you pass through town, you can’t miss it – where you pull up to a speaker and place your order, then they call you to the window when it’s ready. I am overjoyed.
It’s immensely gratifying to be truly SEEN by people you care about, isn’t it?
Rewilding Bodies, Rewilding Writing via Zoom is ON
My upcoming workshop for Freeflow is going down Tuesday evenings 6:30 – 8:00 PM, April 4 – 25, 2023, which means it begins less than one week from today!
We are still taking registrations for it; more details and registration information available by clicking HERE. I’d sure love to have a few more people participating. I think you can get scholarships for online Freeflow courses too; it’s worth checking out. But don’t wait! I think the deadline for that is April 1st!
This particular workshop is kind of experimental and I’m not sure how it’s going to work … which I suppose isn’t that different from most of the workshops I do. Katherine May recently said of the retreats she leads, “They are absolutely not writing retreats - there are plenty of good ones out there, but I don’t offer them :).”
While the things I do are ostensibly “writing” retreats and workshops, they also aren’t. I hope people write, but I’m more about finding ways to help people look at the world a little differently. Like I tell the 4th graders, when it comes to writing, for my purposes the least important part of the whole process is what ends up on the page. That’s almost beside the point and is often anticlimatic. I’m not qualified to help you write better. But I think I can maybe help you find a different perspective to bring to your writing.
As for this workshop, I put together THIS PDF that describes it a little better. Check it out and, as I said, please do consider participating, even if it means contacting Freeflow to see if you can work something out payment-wise, scholarship-wise, whatever-wise.
I’ve really come to enjoy the occasional workshop over Zoom. The last couple I’ve done have been wonderful with interesting, engaged people. They’re worth it!
Don’t Forget About Yellowstone!
This in person Poetry as Spiritual Practice workshop is barely a couple months out. It was supposed to occur last summer at Lamar Buffalo Ranch in Yellowstone National Park but was canceled due to the historic floods and has been rescheduled. It will go down May 22 – 25, which should be a gorgeous time in the area. It might be spring! It might be teasing summer! It could even still be the height of winter! Odds are, we’ll experience all three seasons that week!
Anyway, all the details, including opportunities to register, may be found HERE. I’d love to see a couple of you there. I’ve done this workshop three times now via Zoom and I’m looking forward to a chance to do it in person. Besides workshopping, there will be ample time for solitary reflection, group outings out into the Lamar Valley, etc. What an opportunity for all of us! Buffalo! Moose! Otters! American Dippers! Coyotes! Maybe even wolves … and possibly bears!
Dingus of the Year
Every week Lyz posts a “Dingus of the Week” award for what should be obvious reasons, then at the end of the year does a “Dingus of the Year” where she asks other writers to submit their personal DOTY choices. She asked me to do one for last year but somehow we crossed our wires and it didn’t happen, which is fine. However, earlier this week I was looking for something else and found what I’d written and decided it deserved some attention. This entire practice is meant to be somewhat lighthearted, if also incredibly serious, and truly an exercise in punching up to the powerful. So here’s my offering, stripped of the profanity it originally included, because I don’t want to offend anyone (*cough*)….
DOTY: POPE FRANCIS
He may look like the soft, always-smiling retiree volunteering as a crossing guard at your kid's bougie private middle school, waving and leering while creepily handing out hard little suck-on-root-beer-barrel candies to all the passers-by, but Pope Francis is still the pope. That makes him head of one of the oldest, largest, richest, and most powerful institutions in the world. Conversely, that makes him one of the most powerful people in the world too. Call me cynical, but no one achieves that degree of capital-P Power by being a swell guy, especially when it comes to leading something like the Catholic Church, an organization that has never seen an unexplored region of the map and not thought, “Oh, I bet there are some people there we can make truly miserable while taking everything they have for ourselves.”
But even Francis couldn’t ignore it when the bodies of children started turning up in unmarked graves – a process barely getting started – surrounding Christian boarding schools rotting across Canada and the United States. This ongoing horror is testament to the diabolical efforts these two vicious colonial governments employ in their ongoing genocidal campaign against the Indigenous people of Turtle Island, fully aided and abetted by villains like the Catholics.
So last summer the pope trundled aboard his private jet and made a quick trip to Canada and back as an act of so-called “penance.” Did he do more than mutter some vapid rhetoric? No. Did he rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, perhaps one of the most evil arrangements his church has ever initiated, a papal bull that essentially says it’s okay to initiate genocide whenever you feel like it? No. Did he have the gall to wear a sacred tribal headdress when a tribal government, always eager to hump the leg of someone in power because tribal governments are generally little more than leg humping colonial pawns, offered it to him? Yes!
These are all dingus acts, so Pope Francis is my dingus of the year. And he will remain a dingus until he directs the Church to do something meaningful like, as my Métis artist relative Christi Belcourt suggested at the time, fully fund immersive Indigenous language schools across North America for the next 100 years, minimum. Maybe then I will consider exdingusicating him.
I was approached last week during the final day in Ronan by the grandmother of one of my students, who happens to be the great niece of Victor Charlo, an elder of the CSKT who is a wonderful poet. Not only did I teach one of her grandchildren this year, but also last year. I loved hearing from her. I’ve had the pleasure of reading with Vic on a couple occasions. He is a treasure. Here, from his book Put Sey (Good Enough), published some years ago from Many Voices Press, is his poem “Dancing Boy”:
And here Vic is reading at the dedication for Grizzly Bear Tracks Bridge last fall in Missoula:
Miigwech, as ever, my relatives, for your time, attention, and support.
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The revolution will indeed not happen indoors! But if it requires tater tots, that might be my downfall.
Wish I could come to Yellowstone, but hope others will and am wishing VERY much that you get to see some wolf pups. 🐺
So much to love but the dingus of the year is [chef's kiss] perfection. "The revolution will not happen indoors, and its leaders won’t be wearing oxfords and khakis and caring about best practices." I want this bumper sticker. 💜