Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way
Rio.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Psychodelic Cypress Knees

Downtown Indianola, Mississippi is home to the banks of Indian Bayou, which flows between Main Street and Percy Street.  The bald cypress tree, so named because it loses its needles in the fall, forms "knees" with age that grow up out of the water from the roots.  There are two primary purposes hypothesized for cypress knees, that of stability in the swampy area in which cypress trees are found, and that of a root aeration function.  According to Martin & Francke (2015, Root aeration function of baldcypress knees (Taxodium distichum), International Journal of Plant Sciences, 176(2), 170-173), 
[Oxygen] concentration of air extracted from submerged roots was compared when attached knees were above water and when they were submerged.  When roots were submerged, the root internal O2 concentration was much higher when the knee was above water than when both the knee and root were submerged.  This result unambiguously supports past assumptions that cypress knees do indeed function as pneumatophores in supplying submerged roots with oxygen.
Cypress was valued for its resistance to decay and insect infestation, and among other things, was used to make dugout canoes, albeit after "properly seasoned" or else cypress wood is heavier than water...and we know what that means (Bragg, D. C., 2011, Cypress lumbering in antebellum Arkansas. Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies, 42(3), 185-196).

I recall a cypress knee "souvenir" that my grandparents once bought on one of their vacations after they retired.  I did not have an inkling what a cypress knee was, but I was intrigued by its irregular shape and the smoothness of the wood.  As a child, I would sit in the floor and "pet it" because I liked the way it felt. 
...decades of colonialism and new-found American demand had taken their toll on the cypress groves along the Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi River.  For example, an early account reported that '[s]uch being the character of the primitive forests of Louisiana and Mississippi, with respect to the quantity of cypress timber, it must be obvious that much of this wood has already been exhausted; and as it is of very slow growth, the day cannot be very distant when it will altogether fail to furnish a sufficient supply for the markets of the above named states. (Dickeson and Brown, 1848, as cited in Bragg).
That's right--in 1848, lumber producers were concerned about the sustainability of cypress forests, for reasons related to ability to supply the desired product, but nonetheless, 169 years ago, we knew this was an important issue.  In 2015--only 2 years ago--evidence of the purpose of those knees was finally determined empirically--you cannot "harvest" those knees without risking the death or damage of the tree. 

 I did not start out this post to campaign for the baldcypress and its knees.  I just like to find a little context for the times I take a photograph of something that draws my attention.  Every trip into the Delta with its unique geographical terrain, I would spot these trees and knees, and say "someday I am going to photograph those."
Someday finally came in downtown Indianola along the banks of the Indian Bayou.  But what about the possibility that if we do not honor those trees and their knees with at least some semblance of balance, they might not be there someday?  As a social worker, I think in systems: so go the trees, so go the rest of the system.  And where exactly will that leave us as a world?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Blessings cleverly disguised as problems

 Late last Monday, sis let me know Mom was headed to the ER in Wichita Falls via ambulance, after an ER visit there at home, where she had been sent from the medical clinic.  I packed and early Tuesday, left for Texas, arriving at the hospital at 9 that night.  My view from the window for the next 3 days, looking out at the rain gave me plenty of time to think when we were not trying to grab a few minutes nap between all the medical personnel visits. 

Tuesday night was a night of no sleep for Sis or me and surgery was scheduled for 8 AM; prep began at 4 AM.  Preparing to send your 90 year old mother into surgery is always a sobering thought.  We felt reassured by her doctor's manner, explanation, and warmth and caring, but the reality was there was no choice.



That afternoon after Mom was resting comfortably in the room, I went to get some pillows for Sis and I to try to make sleeping in a chair a bit more comfortable, and pick up some lunch.  Naps ensued, followed by showers and clean clothes.  Mom was doing so well, so cheerful, and right across from the nurses station, so she insisted we go out and eat a decent supper.  Surprisingly, we agreed it was a good idea, and though we were not gone long, it was a needed break.
Finally Friday we were able to take her home.  As Sis is Dad's night time caregiver, when they are both needing help at the same time, I get the Mom shift.  

Tinka had missed her terribly while she was gone, and quite despondent to not be allowed on the bed with her after being so happy to see her back home.  Mom always worries after a bout like this about "Who will take care of Tinka when I die?"  As always, I remind her that I have promised I will take care of Tinka, and this time I added, "Mom, Tinka is going to die before you do; it probably will not be an issue."  She agreed.

Dogs and children: they just do not understand when things change.  Sometimes, neither do the adults.
Dad was happy to see Mother home again, too.  She actually felt well enough to go sit in his room a while.  It was a glimpse of the early years to hear them talking.  Saturday was busy with chores, and a few times to sit by dad's bed and talk briefly, though he sleeps much of the time now.  He still knows who we are, but not where he is.  He thinks he is in a new house, and the current experiences no longer connect with the older ones.  He asked constantly where the kids were and when we were going to get them.

Every time I passed the window or walked outside with Tinka, or to sweep the deck, I looked at Rio's empty corral.  Every morning and evening, I automatically thought of time to feed, even though I know Rio is not there.  I still walked down to the gate, looked out over his pasture where the trails are now obscured and said hello to his spirit where ever it is, or is not.

One more opportunity to demonstrate love and support, and to be grateful for 'being in the workshop' as we try to "become more effective human beings" (Gerald Corey).

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rio, Sis and I mowed your pasture

While I was in Texas this past week, I mowed Rio's corral--the small pasture that surrounded his hay barn, stall, and feeding/watering area.  It was late in the evening, and with a breeze blowing.  The sun had sunk below the rim and a dusty orange haze lingered over the tall grasses along the creek where his hooves carved little chips in the stones that lined the bed.

The smell of the prairie sage as it fell to the blades of the tractor infused my nostrils and my memories and Rio was behind me, following in the trail of the new-mown grasses, patiently waiting for the treat he always knew was in my pocket once the chores were done.

His spirit swirled around me as the dust rose up in front of me, enveloping me in the dry northwest Texas air in August.  Once, I overturned a clod of grass to discover one of his last piles of horse apples, still slightly green because it has been protected from the sun by the 18 inch grasses that have not been grazed nor mown since April.  I told my sister about it, and she became teary eyed.  Who gets sentimental over horse shit?  We both did, wondering how it could have been protected these past few hot and dry  months, only to surprise me in a vulnerable moment when I had been breathing in Rio's essence along with the dust and the sage.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Retiring the Lottabusha County Chronicles

Sometimes, it is hard to let go, even when we need to.  Sometimes, it requires a little nudge or even a great big push to help us to see that.  I will not repeat the stories here (you can read them over at Suzassippi about shutting down the windmill and saying goodbye to Rio), but being in Texas 3 weeks ago and once again dealing with letting go helped me to reach the point to let go of Suzassippi's Lottabusha County Chronicles.  I have struggled with it for a while, as somehow, it seemed like another loss in the face of so many losses these past 14 years, and especially in the past 4.

Lottabusha is just a different place to me.  It was a place where I shared my efforts to make sense of the things in Mississippi that did not make sense to me, but also, a place to celebrate the gifts it brought.  Making sense of things and celebrating the gifts of understanding can be a reason to take action for another change.

If you have been a long-time reader, thank you for continuing during all the sporadic posts these last few years and recent months.  If you are someone who just stopped by on occasion because a search brought you to the blog, thank you for stopping by.  To both types of readers, I appreciate the connections--both deep and continuous, and those where I might not have even known but for a comment.  I hope you will step over to Suzassippi for a visit.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Reflecting on Reflective Social Work Practice

Several years ago, one of Rand's co-workers sketched a "super-hero" of him as Random Access.  It was a tribute to his accessibility and willingness to help with technology issues.  First of all, I think RA the person rocks, and second, RA the super hero does willingly make himself accessible--not just at work, but to his family and friends who are always calling on him for help with our computer issues.

Frankly, I am a little jealous.

As hard as I try (and I do, constantly reading about teaching and coaching and supervising and professional development and educating, and consulting and dialoging with my mentors and mentees about all those things, and researching and publishing about those concerns--3 so far in the last 6 months), I seem in a "slump" these last few weeks.  I am not only not a super-heroine, but not even a heroine.
  It reminds me of my tiger metaphor.  I am torn between wanting to jump up and attack a jugular, and the awareness of needing to lie down and wait for the prey to come to me.  Kind of reminds me of my first mentor when I started teaching social work.
Anyone who thinks teaching in a university is a plum job has never done it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Cat Light on a Dark Night

It has been another weird week around Lottabusha County.  Wearisome.  Last night I was tired and cold.  I had to catch a ride with R to work as J needed the car.  He dropped me on the corner several blocks via a long detour.  Construction.  A nightmare to drive and worse to walk.  Fences, detours, closed streets, half streets--all worsened by the multitude of folks who do not understand (or else do not care) about the rules for a 4-way stop.  Folks who cross the street by walking diagonal through the center of the street, tying up 4 lanes of traffic.  It was raining, and windy, and I had a book bag and my computer because because none of the work computers will work in the makeshift temporary classroom.

At 5, R texted to see when I would be ready.  I asked where he wanted me to meet him.  He said he could get to where ever I wanted, so I said I wanted in front of my building.  Time passed--25 minutes of it with me on the curb, in the wind, holding that heavy book bag and computer.  I put my hoodie up and stood with my back to the wind.  I watched the guys down the street loading and unloading giant dumpsters with a semi to haul off the debris from the day's demolition work and get ready for the next.  I watched them lock up the construction site fences.

I had expected it would take a while, because traffic lines are lengthy on all roads, and there are long waits at the intersections.  I finally pulled my phone out of my pocket to check with him, and saw where he had called 1 minute prior--but the phone had not rung.  "I can't get to your building."  I called him back and asked where he was.  "In the parking lot by the chapel."  I said I was on my way--trekking back the same several blocks, up a flight of stairs, down a flight of stairs as from the morning traipse.  Another 20 minutes to get off campus and 10 more to get home.

We were standing in the kitchen talking when the electricity went out and we were standing in the kitchen in pitch black dark.  I felt for the flashlight, and lit a couple of candles.  All lights were out at our neighbors (believe me, around here, it could have been something else in this house going wrong) so we sat down to wait it out.  It was a long wait.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Metaphor for Aloneness and Togetherness: Waterfowl in New Orleans City Park

 Yep, doing all right here by myself.  I'm cool.  I'm chillin'.  This gives me time to think thoughts, and dream dreams, and envision visions. 
But at some point in time, we need to consider togetherness and connection.  Without that, all the thoughts and dreams and visions do not amount to anything other than noise in our heads.  Social Bridges said it nicely yesterday:
...memory is crucial to connectedness in the world and our sense of having a place within that.