Hello in There

“Ya know that old trees just grow stronger

and old rivers grow wilder everyday

Old people just grow lonesome

Waiting for someone to say “hello in there, hello”

And so this is how it was told to me one day.

“I had wandered into the back to the hardware store just off Parker Av in our little southwestern Virginia town. It was autumn and all the citizens were enjoying the last breaths of the gentle fall. Winter was coming and it wasn’t far off. If it was anything like last winter, I shudder to think about it as much for my sanity as anything. On the cork board by the restrooms, were thumb nailed notes with everything for sale or trade, from ATVs to knitting needles. This was the poor mans swap shop. I never really needed anything from this board but I always enjoyed reading it. It made me curious about the different lives right here in my town. The lives that were lived behind the doors and curtains. Beyond the hello’s and handshakes.

The one that caught my eye was written as simple as it could be. “Dishes for sale. Not a full set, but none broken. All for $10. The next week I was back again for kerosene for my generator. I was another note with same writing. “Bed sheets and towels, mixed colors $1 each. I wondered why the writer hadn’t written a note with more items at a time. Curious people for sure, and the long winters in backwoods Virginia could do funny things to a mind.

I couldn’t resist any longer. I called the number and the elderly sounding lady said she still had several towels left and a few sheets. I could come over now if I had time. Before I got out of my car, I could see the sheers moving a little and then the door swung open wide. All 5’2″ of Mrs. Pope, or should I say now Ms. Pope was standing there welcoming me in. Coffee? “no ma’m, thank you though”, I told her. I didn’t have to ask questions nor am I that kind, but I began to hear more details of Mrs. Pope’s life than I could endure. I heard about Gerald Pope, husband of 57 years, who got on his tractor one morning and that’s where they found him, without so much as two rows planted. I heard of her daughter Jessica’s baby and Jessica’s divorce. All for the best she said, but wished her little grandbaby didn’t live so far away. Once all of the polite Southern pleasantries were exchanged and with gentle nudging, I paid for 4 towels and 2 sets of sheets. Another offer of coffee. Another “I’m sorry”. Another empty look in her eyes, another empty spot in my heart.

Each week, I saw more of Ms. Pope’s postings at the hardware store. What could she be doing? Why not just have a big garage sale and get it over with? It baffled me. It would baffle any younger person with people in their lives to be with. Friends to call. Places to go.

About 3 months later in the dead of winter, I noticed there were no  more postcards thumbnailed by Mrs. Pope. I thought it was odd, but then thought well she had sold what she needed. Later that week, I saw it in the paper. Obituary for Mrs. Pope. I sat on the old recliner and re read that several times. Feeling empty, somehow like I had lost a loved one, but didn’t know why. The paper said Mrs. Pope was survived by two sons, Harold and Archer of Eugene Oregon, one daughter and one great grandaughter  of  Camden, Al.

I thought I should go pay my respects since I didn’t think hardly anyone would be there. I took a while to get a parking spot at the Miller Brothers funeral home. I ever did find Eugene or Archer. Jessica and her baby had already come and gone. as I spoke to the other folks at the funeral home, I found out that they didn’t really know Mrs. Pope any better than I did. On a table,  by her coffin, was a bowl full of index cards. All in Mrs. Popes writing ! “Lamps for sale, gently used, $5 each”. “Tools, sprinklers and lawnmower all for $35”. I counted over 50 cards, then it dawned on me, and when it did it hit me like a ton of regrets. Poor Mrs. Pope had been selling off her possessions simply for company. Simply to be able to say hello to someone, and maybe better yet for someone to say hello to her.

It can come for us all. This loneliness, this emptiness, where voices and needs once stood. where love had flowed both ways long ago. Now the mailman, the doctor twice a month, that’s about it. It made me wish I had bought everything she had to sell, one towel at a time. One cook pot, one lamp.”

So if your walking down the street sometime

And spot some hollow ancient eyes

Please don’t pass em by and stare

As if you don’t care, say “hello in there, hello”

Thanks to Kent Nerburn from his book “Road Angels” as well as John Prines lyric to “Hello in There”

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Leonard Peltier

#89637-132.  That is the inmate number for American Indian Activist, Leonard Peltier at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Peltier has been incarcerated for the double murder of two federal agents for 35 years. Millions of people across the world, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, believe that he is innocent of the crimes.

I have enough Creek Indian blood in to fill up my hand ! Although proud wouldn’t begin to tell how I feel about that blood, I have no business writing this post, as I have not lived the life of an American Indian. I have not been singled out in the world of white America. Not lived on a Rez, in government housing, or seen first hand the continuing atrocities dealt to a proud people all in the name of “more”. Have not had my culture stripped and stolen away. I have not been the OTHER. I would hope, when you are Leonard Peltier, that any voice bringing even the faintest of lights to your world, would be a welcomed voice. That is my wish to bring a light to Leonard Peltier’s life as well as the continued discrimination and atrocities leveled on the indigenous peoples of this land we call the United States of America.

This post, and I will attempt to keep it short, will focus on the events of June 26, 1975. On that date two federal agents chased a young man onto the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for stealing a pair of used cowboy boots. A huge firefight erupted leaving one Indian supported and two Federal agents dead. Part of the firefight was supported by FBI, BIA and local GOON squads. That’s a lot of firepower for a pair of stolen used cowboy boots. Even more interesting that many of those were in place around the Jumping Bull family compound at least 30 minutes before the eruption. If the basic level of human civil rights isn’t of interest to you, you should X out of this post. If not, and I hope that is the case, simply because if you, like me, want to see America be all that it can be and live up to the ideals we talk about, then we must always pursue truth.

I understand that two agents were killed. Men that had families. That is not to be taken lightly. I would hope  if my father had been killed, I would want the ones that actually killed him, not a representative. I feel for those families very deeply, but I also feel for people who have been getting the short end of the stick for a long time, and with the minerals under their land are still getting the short end. So if this story peaks your interest, there are a few sites for you to check out, as well as a couple of books and movies to see.

Incident at Oglala, directed by Robert Redford

In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen

Thunderheart starring Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard

Prison Writings by Leonard Peltier

You can also google Desmond Tutu as well as writer Harvey Arden.

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to try to find a way to defend your community and your people against an unfair oppression, whether it be in Darfur or anywhere else in the world. To feel so helpless and to have such a small voice. When the ones you love are minimized and dehumanized. When they seem to count for nothing. To me that must be a small taste of the frustration the American Indians of this land must feel.

In the readings I’ve done on this, it seems as if even the government admits that they don’t really know who killed those agents, and admit that so much of the evidence and the trial was fabricated. Someone need to pay, and guess what, Leonard Peltier was gonna be that someone.

So what do we do? What can we do? It’s a helpless feeling really. A tide that feels like it can’t be turned. Perhaps like slavery once was. but it is one person at a time, one vote, one letter to your congressman, president. One open heart, one extended hand. One God, one love.

Please check out the story and life of Leonard Peltier. It’s a tragic portion of all of our stories. Be careful tho, you will lose a little bit of your innocence, but I think maybe we might need to lose a little of our innocence before we can find it again somewhere down the line. Mitakuye Oyasin…we are all related brothers and sisters. I hope you interpret this with the honor and respect for justice in which it was written.

Again I hope for your thoughts and comments. Agreeing or not. Interested or not.

Shine A Light: The Avett Brothers

String band, folk band, rock band, blues ! yup, I’d say a little of each, cause everyone gets the blues. This Shine A Light series has been great to bring attention to artists I grew up listening to, and to rekindle someones love for them. If it just brought one more Jackson Browne or Willie Nelson fan into the fold, then it’s a job well done.

To Shine A Light on new artists is especially awesome. Around Nashville there is always a little buzz going on about underground music. I’m especially fortunate to be surrounded by younger friends that share music with me. Such is the case of the Avett Brothers. A buddy gave me a few songs a couple of years ago “Murder In The City”, and “If It’s The Beaches”. The song “Tear Down The House has one of my favorite lyrics “Ever since I learned how to curse/ I’ve been using those sorry ole words/ But I’m talking to these children/ and I’m keepin’ it clean/ I don’t need those words to say what I mean”.

So hats off to these Concord North Carolina boys. Two brothers and a friend. Great music, hitting the big time, late night TV, sold out shows, all of that. If there is a place for the BIG rock shows and thundering music, then there is a place for groovy, well crafted acoustic music. I love them both!!!! Hold on to your hats and your hearts fellas, the world may try to steal them both.

Check out the Avett Brothers on itunes, then go see them, coming to a city near you.

Labels

Nowhere in the lyric of Imagine, did Lennon say “Imagine there’s no God”. He was just encouraging us to imagine a world without all of the divisions and labels, and to be able to live as one. I guess that’s what turns us to a higher power, and left to our own devices we will build walls instead of bridges.

What’s in a label? I think there is much more than we think, as we sling those terms around. Simply because beneath the labels are people. Other humans living out their own human dramas amidst births and deaths; smiles and heartaches; alcoholics and Godaholics !

We all feel pretty justified in the labels we wear. And there’s a ton of them isn’t there?  Christian, White Collar, Liberal and bleeding heart liberal. Democrat, Tea Party, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Free Will Baptist. Anglicans, Cultists and Republicans. We divide and divide and divide till we are just plum wore out. I get being with people that feel and think like you do, but I know I have learned much more from my friends that think differently than I do. They stretch my mind and shed a light I had not seen, or perhaps didn’t want to see.

I have friends deeply embedded in conservative thinking, both politically as well as spiritually. Some people would slam the door on them, but in the end they really want the same things as any other group of people. Peace. They just want peace and a safe world for their children to grow up in. “How do we get there?”. That has always been the dividing line. When we see the line being drawn, we break out our bag of rocks and start lobbing them into their camps, with pieces of paper attached calling them every name to be thought of. Wow, no wonder societal progress moves slow.

Blacks vs Whites, rich vs poor, Native Americans vs Europeans. Mini Van drivers vs sports car drivers. Rock stars vs Country stars….God vs Godless…Heaven vs Hell….

But among the clutter and confusion of life, I really find that when you get someone alone and quiet, where ideas can be shared, not forced, then we see just how close we really are. The color fades, Denominations embrace, and political lines in the dirt get kicked into oblivion by someones shoe. When we look into another’s eyes, that is when the rhetoric begins to fall apart and you get to the root of a feeling, not just the reinforcement of the CNN or FOX news sound bites.

Frustration is everywhere, patience is the thinnest line we’ve ever seen, and we are desperately trying to find solid ground. A type of ground where we can rest and put up our swords.Where we can let go of the labels, the divisions, for deep in our hearts we know they aren’t right.

Where we can see the simple truth, that we are all in this together, and you ain’t taking none of your stuff with you when you go. We will arrive in the presence of the Maker just as we are. People. human beings, nothing more, nothing less. Loved equally.

Tell me where you are at with all of this. Especially those that might disagree. There are gonna be those out there that are comfortable with labels and division, and only hang out with folks that reinforce what they think. It’s ok, I want this to be an open forum for us all.

Reading List: An Altar In The World

The mystics would say to find anything, you first must lose it. That makes all the sense in the world to me. Like it’s about getting ourselves out of the way first. By getting ourselves out of the way, it’s meant that we let go of all the ways we approach things and our preconceived thoughts. We’ve generally thought of things on a certain plane for so long, we can’t see a way to separate and see it as new.

But this is what they ask us to do. That we need to decentralize the importance of self in order to see a bigger piece of something. That is a lot to ask of us in the Western world. We have specialized in “me”. We operate in a world according to “me”. The abundance in our lives has been a wonderful thing and it has brought us so much, that while we can never complain, it brings another set of circumstances to work around as we search for peace and harmony in our lives.

In Barbara Brown Taylors book An Altar In The World, she delves deeply into a world of finding holiness in the everyday. Religion professor and former parish priest, Taylor has moved beyond the walls of her traditional theology, and began looking through a lens that she hadn’t looked through before. She let go of the confinements of thought and began her journey of finding God everywhere and in everything.

I love this quote from Taylor, “In the second place, too much speech about God strikes me as disrespectful. In the Upanishads, God is described as “Thou Before Whom All Words Recoil”. This sounds right to me. Anything I say about God will be inadequate. No matter how hard I try to say something true about God, the reality of God will eclipse my best words. The only reality I can describe with any accuracy is my own limited experience of what I think may be God: the more, the really real, the luminous web that holds everything in place”

Everyone is on a journey. Everyone is in a different place. Some gravitate to this stuff, stretching, reaching, scratching deeper in to their beliefs. Some don’t, and that’s OK. We all need the freedom and compassion to search in our own way without ridicule. Like Barbara Brown Taylor says, too much speech is disrespectful. To our brothers and sisters that we share this planet with, maybe we should just be good ears.

If you are looking for a good read and you are in a place to let go and look at things with a wider lens then check out An Altar In The World.


Facebook:

So the younger folks had myspace and then came over to Facebook, as I’ve heard because it seemed a little more grown up! The biggest demographic signing onto FB these days is female, age range 40-65 ! That has not brought many shouts of joy from our children.

The children gripe because they don’t like to have to accept their parents as “FB friends”. The big brother, or should I say Big Mother syndrome is monitoring what you say and the kind of pictures you post. My friend Steve Wyer, runs a company called “Reputation Advocate”, at http://www.reputationadvocate.com. He says the general rule is watch what you put out there, because you never know how it will come back to bite you. . Most perspective employers now check FB before anything, to determining what kind of applicant they have. That doesn’t even include some idiot getting on line and saying things true or untrue that can cause great damage to a persons business or life.

For us over 40 folks, its been a great way to reconnect with long lost friends. Not that you have to jump back into someones life, but its kind of cool to see what they are doing and where they live. They are just hard to recognize sometimes !!

Downsides are plenty. Too much time spent talking about what you are doing instead of just doing it, living life. Chronic, addicted posters, letting the world know their every move and thought. Too much, sure I’d say so, then I catch myself spending too much time on FB. You have the game players looking for their lost chicken at Farmville, posters sharing wayyyyy toooo much info, the language issue when it’s easy to be bold on line, etc….I guess it’s like life “use responsibly”.


What do you think of FB? Do you have to detox sometimes? I have a few friends that wouldn’t join FB even on a dare, while others are mainlining it ! So be careful, have fun, and tune out sometime. Good advice for me!

Shine A Light: Upcoming Features

Well I thought since I changed the look of my blog, just for something different, that I’d give a little sneak preview on upcoming artists. This friday on Shine A Light, up and coming North Carolina artists The Avett Brothers are featured. In the next few weeks you’ll see American Indian flutist R. Carlos Nakai, soul legend Aretha Franklin, as well as Brazilian Bebel Gilberto.

So, I hope you are enjoying this series and maybe it has brought back forgotten names from your musical vault as well as turned you on to someone new you like. If you think of someone out there, especially a new artist, send the name on to me. Music is at its best when it’s shared.

Peace, Glenn