Tidal Basin

Germination Detail Part III, by Leslie Shellow

contemplations about what stays in the net

Sunday, October 11, 2015

a love letter for autumn

a day without capitalization

i spent the day with gabriel, lapping sunshine on a sandy beach on the banks of the potomac --
a place where no one usually comes save the friends I bring there once in a while. gabriel learns to swim little by little, letting water absorb into his desert skin while his attention focuses fully on the stick i've thrown; forgetting in the moment his intrinsic fear of water, eclipsed perhaps by a fear of not pleasing me by returning empty-handed. you know dogs.

the sand and sun and sparkling water conspire to relax us both until it is time to taste wine at the coop where they offer it some saturdays, organic from italy, and fruity tart like autumn

the irish inn is down the road.
so far, i've been there three times in the past year: once with a monk, once with a kurdish activist, and once with two school teachers, each enjoying different parts of the same me. the teachers met my collegial side; the kurd, the part of me who listens and talks about literature and writing; and the monk, he saw my sense of humor and my soul's deep yearning. it's funny how the mind spirals on a day like this.

i came home, drank a glass of the wine, and watched a movie recommended by a friend: Into the West, an Irish drama about how a horse and two boys escape the container of their lives through the power of their belief in each other. it is now that i don't know what to write, afraid as i often am to show the container of my life, but that is what is required eventually, isn't it? and so i will.

in another world, i would have courted a man i thought i recognized and had begun to love against logic and reason; but i hold the arrow still now when the target is moving. i put the arrow down and return to finding love in the water that shines and sparkles of god; my gabriel, his smile full of stick and sand, the love letter.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Save Oak Flat: Standing in Support of the San Carlos Apache People and All Indigenous People Who Face Threats to their Cultures

 This is the seed op-ed piece from which I am writing a much longer essay for Atticus Review. To be published soon!

Religious Freedom for All: Help Save Oak Flat, an Apache Sacred Site

We are taught that we learn history in order not to repeat mistakes made by those who came before us. History, we may note, rolls along in waves. Issues rise to the forefront and then recede. If left unexamined, the same issues rise again, causing injustices to manifest once more. Presently, a very old story in American history is playing out in a predictable way: Native American ancestral land that was once protected has now been given away--and to a foreign mining company, no less. A land-swap bill that will desecrate sacred Apache land through copper mining was passed because pro-mining senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake attached a rider to a giant must-pass defense bill at the eleventh hour and the rider was overlooked, as military funding depended upon the passage of the entire bill. Who will privately own and mine this land? The company is called Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, a British/Australian mining company. It should be noted that Congress was not in favor of this bill as a stand-alone and had voted it down repeatedly in past years. The land itself has been protected since the 1950’s when President Eisenhower signed an executive order protecting Oak Flat from mining, recognizing its value to Native people. As such, it is unfathomable that in 2015, Indian Country is still being torn from our Nation’s first people—land that is holy to them. Land they call home. While history may repeat itself, it must also be rewritten.

Rules cannot apply indiscriminately. Freedom of religion means freedom and safety to practice religion in a mosque, in a church, in a synagogue, a temple, and on hallowed, sacred ground, which is what Oak Flat is. This land-swap aims to rip open the earth in the heart of ceremony and will erase a tribe’s traditional food supply, destroy access to medicinal plants, and literally blast out of the Earth a particular place that connects them to their source—all in the name of money and the shallow promise of jobs. There is no amount of money great enough to pay for the psychological damage already done to a people still reeling from the cultural genocide of their tribes committed by the government in our country. We have a chance to make reparations. This moment is an opportunity for healing. 

As a former high school teacher at the Santa Fe Indian School, I have seen firsthand what a difference it makes when indigenous people are able to maintain their cultures and values and their connection with their own land. As a nation, we need to support the people of Oak Flat in saving what is rightly theirs and what is sacred to them, so that their culture and ways may be preserved for generations to come.

On Wednesday, July 22, a group of San Carlos Apache, joined by members of other tribes and supporters from Congress, environmental groups and allied citizens, staged a peaceful protest on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. What was evident during the protest, which was ceremonial in nature, was the quiet and powerful way in which all speakers came forth with the truths of generations. They were willing to be vulnerable and bear their pain rather than lash out. Each speaker explained the issue, the history, and the effect of this bill, not only on their tribe, but on everyone. If this land-grab happens, one speaker said, it will set a precedent that says it is okay to destroy a religious building or site. No one will be safe from corporate greed.

This was a peaceful protest against a violent action. This was a prayerful ceremony for the Earth’s healing and for our own. This was a healing ceremony even for those who deem it acceptable to ravish another’s sacred site, for it was understood that they were clearly hurting from within, too. The speakers modeled how to take responsibility for ourselves and for the Earth. We must learn from those who are our leaders in this realm, and we are fortunate in this country to be in the presence of those who have this wisdom.

When a former student told me about Oak Flat, I had not heard of this particular struggle. I am guilty of being unaware of something I especially care about. I personally know how easy it is to forget, especially when issues seem far away, but I am reminded again of how necessary it is that we remember. This message is for all of us who forget our collective history and have to be reminded.
In the words of San Carlos Apache Chairman, Terry Rambler, “We must stand together and fight those, like Resolution Copper, that seek to take our religious freedom, our most human right. If we do not, our beliefs, our spiritual lives, the very foundation of our language, our culture and our belief will no longer be in balance, and we will become undone.” (Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Media Network, Jan. 27, 2015)

The Native people at the Oak Flat protest came a long way at their own expense to tell the government their story and to remind us all that we are all stewards of this Earth. Every one of us. The only way to rectify this error is if members of Congress express support for H.R. 2811, the Save Oak Flat Act, introduced by Arizona representative Raul Grijalva, which would repeal the bill that puts Oak Flat in harm’s way. Please ask your representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 2811. We can begin to heal the wounds of the past together.