Improvisation: A Formula for Teaching

Artwork by the inimitable Victor Juhasz

Winding up spring term’s college classes, I ask students what they know now that they didn’t know ten weeks ago.

The weight of ideas learned in one class is stunning, but what’s more impressive is how students learn how to make sense of concepts in framing and communication.

For example, a critical element of how information gets framed in mass media arrives on the heels of who has an interest in how the story unfolds.

Researchers call this frame building–a practice when frame sponsors create a narrative that gets broadcast widely.

Frame Building

A classic example of political framing arrived when the term inheritance tax shifted to death tax.

It is remarkable to discover that the term death tax didn’t appear in mainstream news randomly:

The phrase death tax was created by a smallish tribe of super-wealthy Americans (frame sponsors) who hoped to shirk their duty to pay taxes: taxes that fund community schools and roads.

Who pays inheritance taxes? One percent of Americans.

A gross estimate–based on the US Census of roughly 335 million–would be about 3,335 people impacted by the inheritance tax.

That’s about the number of endangered wild tigers remaining in India and the student population at the University of North Carolina in the small berg of Asheville.

For my Oregon readers, the number of millionaires affected by a death tax is about the size of the towns of Oakridge or Jefferson.

Still: Republicans struck down the tax which could help build communities at no cost to 99 percent of Americans.

Shysters at Work

During our class, hard evidence revealed that a handful of shysters hoped to reframe the 2020 US election.

Emails to the departing White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, urged his help to fabricate a fib that the election was fraudulent in order to reinstate the loser.

Meadows’ emails were turned over to the committee investigating the January 6 mêlée at the United States’ Capitol, where five souls perished because of The Lie.

One of the shysters is Ginni Thomas, who epitomizes the frame builder: an individual with leverage, courtesy of her political and social position, and courtesy of access to resources.

She has the power to boost The Lie.

Thomas’ emails were reported widely in March–from the Associated Press to the New York Times–calling the election “the greatest heist in our history” and framing Joe Biden’s win as “the end of Liberty.”

Thomas–who is married to Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas–is considered a “vocal right-wing activist,” according to Jane Mayer, a New Yorker magazine writer. Mayer writes:

“[Ginni Thomas] has declared that America is in existential danger because of the ‘deep state’ and the ‘fascist left,’ which includes ‘transsexual fascists.’ Thomas, a lawyer who runs a small political-lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, has become a prominent member of various hard-line groups. Her political activism has caused controversy for years” (Mayer, 31 January 2022).

Improvisation Enriches the Experience

Students got the chance to see real life unfold, breathing energy into theory.

I could pivot the class in line with current events, thanks to training in improvisation and yielding to the moment.

While Ginni Thomas will be a minor footnote in American political history, she embodies a real moment in time when the powerful few–regardless of how or where they gained their power–attempt to sway opinion.

We learned in class that the Teaching Moment is not theoretical.

The Teaching Moment is practical.

We need to ask: Who are the folks empowered to leverage change?

###

7 June 2022

Image Credit: Victor Juhasz

Today’s blog is dedicated to the students who plunged into the Framing class and leaned into improvisation: Jenette, Audrey, Dante, Frank, Nathan, Grace, Nya, Benjamin, Leah, Faith, Reese, Lola, Emma W., Jill, Cassidy, Chioma, Benardo, Marilyn, Katy, Dennis, Emma V. and Lindsey.

With acknowledgement and gratitude to the Native peoples on whose land I live, write and teach: the Multnomah, the Clackamas, and the denizens of all Indigenous nations

#framing

#framebuilding

#massmedia

#ginnithomas

#clarencethomas

#deathtax

#january6insurrection

#janemayer

#nativescience

#defendpdx

#nodapl

#nativewaysofknowing

#indigenouswaysofknowing

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#kiyuska

#osage

#oglala

#lakota

#pineridge

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

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All Things are Relative in Camp Land

Our humble cabin

Our long weekend trip to the East Coast from the West took an unexpected turn: camping.

I had booked an AirBnB that would be a close drive to our family–son and daughter-in-law–and one that welcomed–even encouraged–dogs.

Photos online showed a hand-made wood cabin with a quilt-covered bed next to a wood-burning stove, surrounded by trees, creeks and wildlife.

It looked inviting.

I read that we would wash dishes with bottles of water they trekked in, and that the shower was outside.

I reasoned we could always complete our ablutions at son & daughter’s.

My decision was based on my uncertainty about the pooch: would he behave in a modern hotel with linens and bedspreads and carpeting–even in a pet-friendly place?

This was our maiden voyage with the pup, who had never before travelled far, much less stayed in a hotel.

So we settled for a semi-outdoor adventure during a warm Spring weekend in what the owners call the Magic Forest.

Pooch growled at the goats, frolicked in the grass, chewed on dandelions and obeyed the potty rules like a trooper hound.

Me? Not so much.

Turns out people’s potty was a short trek from the cabin to a wooden outhouse.

Last outhouse I remember using was at the Rez during Sundance before the Pandemic.

And at Pine Ridge we weren’t staying overnight, so the outdoor privy was fine in a pinch.

But facing a four-day weekend in the forest surrounded by mosquitos and ticks and beetles and deer and porcupines and geese and lions and tigers and bears gave me pause.

The outhouse was clean and relatively bug-free, not too smelly, and offered plentiful paper and bottled water for cleaning.

I imagine myself a brave soul, not just for taking the toilet in stride, but for finding a tick behind the pup’s left ear: a hitchhiker from our potty trek.

Husband-doctor brought tweezers in his carry-on, so the pooch was soon saved.

We decided to take the pup into town for a bath and made our bed while Husband scoured the pillows for bugs.

He smashed a spider, and I cried: Hey, that could be a relative!

Not everyone is cut out for camping.

###

Photo of the Magic Forest cabin and outhouse by the author

#Nativewriter

#Nativescience

#Osage

#cynthialcoleman

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Little Theories

The Duality of Science and Morals

Hand-painted multiple screenprint with collage on panel by Shepard Fairey, 2016. Please see the end of the post for more information

Science and morals have something in common.

Both cling to a common foundation.

That is, scientific and moral-ethical theories each wrap around core beliefs supported by experience, practice and everyday existence.

For example, Natives of the North-East American continent apply their experience living in snow and ice to forge shelters and make clothing, hunting and fishing supplies.

Like Western scientists, Indigenous folks place weight on suppositions supported by evidence.

Science supports a rationality that weaves experience and evidence that create our knowledges.

But science is not enough.

Moral and ethical foundations exist to steer us to behaviors that help—not harm—human and animal creatures and our environs.

Such thinking segues to how experience and evidence are harnessed to understand how our planet is warming with alarming effects.

In Portland, we learned our region earned first place for the worst air pollution on earth after two summers of wildlife fires.

The scale of Portland’s changing climate makes sense to those of us who have lived through the fires, the haze, the smoke and the falling ash.

The New York Times reports that our heat wave “would almost certainly not have occurred without global warming,” according to experts.

Qualified folks with the training, experience, brain-power and knowledge of the warming planet—those most skilled at addressing the problem and the solution—are often silenced by the cacophony of politics, ideologies, beliefs and rumors.

The rationalists face off with the brutes.

I learned this week that one voice of reason has been silenced by a squawk of greed.

In Portland, we learned our region earned first place for the worst air pollution on earth after two summers of wildlife fires.

A senator from West Virginia—one whose “family fortune is largely derived from coal” and who holds the record for taking “more money from fossil-fuel interests than any other senator”—said he would refuse to support President Joe Biden’s pick for the Federal Reserve Board, according to Jane Mayer, writing for The New Yorker magazine.

The democratic senator’s vote means a loss for Biden’s choice, due to the makeup of Congress: 50 republicans and 48 democrats, which means the democrat from West Virginia holds the ace.

That’s assuming Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Angus King of Maine, who are independents, would vote with democrats.

Hands down: Manchin votes with the republicans.

The ruckus raises the question:

How does an appointment of a qualified, seasoned expert to the Federal Reserve Board scare senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia?  

The connection, according to Mayer, is that Biden’s pick to serve in the top ranks of the Federal Reserve Board—Sarah Bloom Raskin—said publicly that climate change poses a threat to our economic stability.

And Manchin’s personal interests in drilling for oil, fracking for gas and mining for coal—combined with his well-known ties to the fossil fuel industry—put greed above ethics.

As the central bank of the country, the Federal Reserve System—or “Fed”—is responsible for careful planning and thoughtful policy-making on managing threats to the US economy.

In other words, managing our national banking system requires sobriety, rationality, experience and evidence.

Global warming impacts the financial system in myriad ways: from making decisions to replace fossil fuel use with sustainable options, to responding to extraordinary risks from extreme heat, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and more.

Manchin’s brutish move to block Raskin’s appointment to the Fed is a gut-punch to rationality borne of experience and evidence.

His actions can be explained by corruption: fraternal and moral.

Climate change poses a threat to our economic stability.

By fraternal I mean his responsibility as an elected official to his publics for their sound welfare.

He has corrupted this responsibility by putting his greed first.

By moral I mean his duty to uphold personal integrity and honesty.

He has corrupted this morality by abandoning integrity and honesty.

The loss of rationality laced with deceit undermines our democracy.###

18 March 2022

Image is from the Mutual Art website, which featured a 2016 work called “End Corruption” (2016) by noted artist Shepard Fairey

I acknowledge the Native peoples on whose land I live, write, and teach, including the Multnomah, the Clackamas, and other Indigenous communities in my region of the Pacific Northwest

#janemayer

#sarahbloomraskin

#federalreserve

#ustreasury

#defenddemocracy

#whatstrending

#dirtyjoe

#occupypolitics

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Twisted Truths

M.C. Escher image, untitled

Twisted Truths

I just learned about a bill that will allow Florida schools to restrict how faculty teach American history in primary and secondary schools.

The news report notes Governor Ron DeSantis says “woke ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and our institutions.”

What is “woke ideology” and what does he mean by “our history?”

I checked a few websites where DeSantis refers to “woke.”

Being “woke” is “dangerous” and needs to be “defeat[ed] on all fronts,” DeSantis says, as quoted in Mother Jones.

The danger, the governor claims, is that wokeness “delegitimize[s] the founding of this country, the principles that the founders relied on, our institutions, our Constitution, to tear basically at the fabric of our society.”

If being woke means being aware, then teachers should be encouraged and rewarded for scrutinizing how histories are interpreted

Seems that “woke” means to denounce generally, and specifically, shows a willingness to re-frame what the founding principles mean.

Framing the argument of “woke” as a way to restrict what we teach in schools is a feeble rhetorical move on the part of the governor.

The governor has seized the word “woke” from progressives to suit his own agenda.

Woke emerged from Black American lexicon in the 1960s to mean “self-aware,” according to the media platform Mashable.

Today the term means “aware.”

Re-imagining “woke” as a clarion call for doddering politicos in Florida reveals two things: a ham-fisted ploy to co-opt the rational class’ verbiage while attempting to confuse viewers and voters.

If being woke means being aware, then teachers should be encouraged and rewarded for scrutinizing how histories are interpreted.

You cannot delegitimize history but you can twist truth to meet your needs.

Historians—competent ones—discern histories through the lens of context and try to leave their biases at the door.

Politicians—incompetent ones—harness their ideologies to histories that never took place and allow their biases to shape their truths.

As for “our” history, DeSantis’ forebears on both sides of his family emigrated from Italy, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The governor has seized the word “woke” from progressives to suit his own agenda

The Tampa Bay Times says DeSantis’ great-great grandmother arrived at Ellis Island shortly after Congress passed The Immigration Act of 1917.

“Among other restrictions on ‘undesirable’ immigrants, it barred illiterate people from entering the United States,” says the newspaper.

DeSantis’ relative could neither read nor write, and despite the newly passed law, America embraced her.

Today in Florida, her great-great grandson chucked the welcome mat, taking a radical position on immigration by blocking “illegal aliens” from entering Florida, reports the Miami Herald.

So: considering DeSantis’ history, what is “our” history?

For DeSantis, the narrative is clear: all his ancestors emigrated to America.

In turn, he slammed the gate on “aliens.”

“Our” histories are not the same.

During winter 1917, DeSantis’ great-great-grandmother sailed for weeks and weeks before arriving in New York.

That same winter, my great-grandmother—Eva Agnes Herridge Grove—gave birth to her fifth child: Bill Junior.

While Agnes and William Grove were raising their children in Osage territory, The United States attempted to divvy-up Native American lands and sell the remaining territory to folks who settled North America from places like Italy.

As members of the Osage Nation, Agnes and her children were entitled to parcels portioned off by the Federal Government.

Any Osages who weren’t counted on the rolls lost their land to the US government, which auctioned off Indian properties.

All told, some 90 million acres of land were stolen from Native Americans during the four decades of the Dawes Act.

That’s about the size of Italy—with the island of Corsica thrown in for good measure.

Being “woke” means being aware of the truths of history as well as the twisted narratives that—in DeSantis’ words—“tear at the fabric of society.”

Those who truly “tear at the fabric of society” pass laws that restrict citizens from voting, judge individuals based on which bathroom they choose, dodge paying their taxes, and use guns, knives and bludgeons to strip Congress of its power.

Yes: it boils down to the job of teachers.

Our duty requires us to be “woke.” ###

11 March 2022

#nativewriter

#osage

#trending

#floridalaws

#saygay

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Don’t Feed the Rats

Uncredited image from Pinterest

Signs in town remind you not to feed the rats.

A reminder, it seems, that cities have their own culture, lingo, pests and pestilences.

Chicago boasts the title of the best city in the United States for its rat problems, according to the pest control company, Orkin.

Seems any community dense with people and housing suffers from an abundance of rats.

Walking the streets you see signs posted on fences and lawns to pick up dog poop because rats feed on it.

And bodegas have signs on their doors to wear masks—although Chicago is slowly adopting mask-optional policies and waitstaff are still masked.

And the pestilence?

Cases and hospitalizations peaked in January this year, compared to the past two years, according to the city’s government website.

Deaths in January mirror deaths last January, although they fell markedly in the months between.

And despite the cool temperatures today—it’s about 32 degrees Fahrenheit—there’s no snow or ice on the ground and the walk to Damn Fine Coffee bar lifts my spirits.

The coffee is wonderful, and I grab a cup and few doughnuts for the family (you cannot eat inside yet) and practically skip to their home.

Chicago is legendary for its doughnuts and the website Kitchn—a purveyor of appliances and recipes—ranked it the Number One City for the best doughnuts—above New York and my beloved Portland.

One day, after learning about heaven in Sunday School, I asked my mum about the mysterious place.

I revealed my greatest concern.

“Mama,” I asked. “Are their doughnuts in heaven?”

6 March 2022

Chicago, Illinois

#

Damn fine coffee

Doughnuts

Doughnuts in heaven

#osage

#sciencewriter

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Environmental Issues in Indonesia

I was thrilled to spend a chunk of an afternoon in a virtual meeting with a group of writers, scientists, analysts and academics from Indonesia who work with communities on environmental issues.

My role was to offer some notes on my experience with environmental writing, teaching and research in mass media, but—to be honest—I learned more from the Indonesian experts than they learned from me.

The conversation took part courtesy of World Oregon, which brings together people from across the globe to “broaden and deepen public awareness and understanding of international affairs.”

A range of workshops, travel programs, zoom talks and meetings is offered throughout the year to local residents in Oregon and to visitors willing to zoom into meetings.

(Its mission is much like the Fulbright Program—funded by the State Department—that enabled me to spend a recent semester working on Indigenous issues in British Columbia as a visiting scholar.)

Perhaps the most striking element I saw during the meeting is the passion each person brought to the discussion.    

One of the participants, whose expertise is research, said she wanted to speak to me in her own language so I could hear the lilt of her cadence.

She said her efforts make her appreciate her country more and more: from the coastal ranges to the nation’s diversity.

[I’m not sharing names and identities because some of the participants receive threats because of the work they do.]

Palm Oil Culprit

Indonesia is a vast archipelago with 17,000 islands spread across an area of 734,400 square miles: about the size of Mexico.

And it boasts the world’s fourth largest population, behind China, India and the United States.

Another presenter remarked that change comes slowly, in part because the islands are widely spread.

Yet industrialization is chugging along.

Several speakers talked about their frustration over destruction of the country’s hardwood timberlands—including the famous mangroves—tropical rain forests, wetlands, wildlife and sea life for the sake of an economic boost. 

Wikipedia notes that Indonesia is now “the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases” (a result of vehicles and industries) and that poor communities with high poverty rates are trading the country’s lush resources for short-term financial gain.

One flourishing industry is the planting and growth of palm tree plantations that produce a lucrative oil used in an array of products, including shampoo, lotion, soap, ice cream, chocolate bars, cookies, animal feed and biofuel.

Problem is, the plantations replace old-growth forests, which, according to Human Rights Watch, have been “decimated.”

“Indonesia lost 24 hectares of forest cover, an area almost the size of the United Kingdom” in exchange for the plantations, the organization notes.

Today, Indonesia is the world’s leader in crude palm oil production, even though the plant is native to Africa.

Another participant added that the destruction of the tropical forests has hit Indigenous peoples hard.

Such activities are documented in a Human Rights Watch report by researcher Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu, who says that Indonesia’s Indigenous peoples “have suffered significant harm since losing their ancestral forests to oil palm plantations.”

When residents refused to leave their communities, their homes were burned to the ground.

Forests have been irrevocably changed, the report says.

Indigenous Folks in the Cross Hairs

Many Orang Rimba (an Indigenous community in Sumatra) “are now homeless, living in plastic tents, without livelihood support” which disappeared when plantations appeared.

Once self-sufficient, the Orang Rimba “now live in abject poverty.”

Working with the Indigenous communities left one expert feeling “beaten and defeated.”

Government players appear to ignore environmental clashes, and Human Rights Watch reports “they have turned a blind eye to widespread forest clearance” resulting in a “human rights tragedy.”

Indonesia suffers from a “patchwork of weak laws…poor government oversight, and the failure of oil palm plantation companies to fulfill their human rights responsibilities,” which makes the task of pursuing environmental justice Sisyphean, according to the report.

Still, the small band of professionals I met is keen to make an impact on attitudes and drum up support among publics.

In a word, they have…guts.

Sharing Tips

World Oregon asked me to share tips I’ve learned that could help the group’s efforts in environmental integrity.

Here is the transcript of my notes:

I am honored to be invited talk with you today about some of the work I’ve done in environmental communication. And if you have questions after today, please feel free to email me; I would very much like to learn more about Indonesia: and I am confident I will be able to explore your beautiful country one day.

Today I’d like to give you a glimpse at three environmental issues we face in Oregon, which I hope will let us talk about ways that we can communicate about environmental issues more skillfully.

I will offer you a few hints—or—bullet points to help guide you with your communication efforts.

So, to begin, I’d like you to imagine three important features that affect all of us—and that we cannot live without:

•            Fire

•            Air

•            Water

Let’s begin with fire.

This week, Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, wrote an editorial for The New York Times that is titled:

The West is on Fire.

It’s Past Time to Act on Climate Change.

Kate Brown wrote about how more than 600,000 acres have burned in Southern Oregon, and that 22 out of the state’s 36 counties were declared drought emergencies.

She notes that half of Oregon—30 million acres—is forest land.

What was her point in writing the editorial?

To put pressure on the the Federal government to act more quickly on climate change, and to improve infrastructure.

What we need now, she said:

“Is bold action from Congress.”

I’m bringing this to your attention to illustrate one way that you can get your stories out to mass media.

The Governor is smart: she’s taking advantage of an issue that has already captured the news, and adds another element to keep the issue in the public eye—an opinion-piece in the country’s leading newspaper.

This is something that you can do as an environmental advocate:

#1 Cultivate your networks

You can cultivate experts to write opinion pieces and letters to the editor to help present your side of the story, and this can be a way to reach important publics. For example, The New York Times is read by policy-makers and elected officials, as well as other news editors and reporters around the world.

Now let’s move from fire to air.  

Last year—just about this same time—Portland had the worst air pollution than any other city in the world—worse than Delhi or Beijing.

And while the air pollution story has been a big one in Portland, the deeper issue is that Portland has sustained poor air quality for decades.

The reason?

Like Indonesia, Oregon has industries that release—not hundreds—but millions of pounds of toxic chemicals that affect the air quality.

Despite Portland’s poor air—especially in neighborhoods with African-American, Native Americans and Hispanic populations—most Portland residents are not aware of the pollution.

How do I know?

One of my graduate students at the university where I teach wrote her master’s thesis on the disconnect between the quality of the air and the opinions of Portlanders—who consider the air…

Just.

Fine.  

Her research raises a really questions:

Do we want publics to know about air pollution, and…

How do you communicate with publics about air pollution?

This leads us to another query:

How do you communicate effectively about environmental issues?

One piece of advice comes from efforts to acquaint publics with climate change:

#2 Make it personal

Here’s an example from the Guardian newspaper:

Ella suffered from severe asthma. She grew up and went to school close to the busy South Circular Road in Lewisham, and had cough syncopea condition usually associated with long-distance lorry drivers who’d been driving for decades. She died at age 9.

You present a story that’s hard to ignore.

As an advocate, you can cultivate news stories for reporters that feature individuals. Reporters are always looking for human interest stories.

OK: we’ve covered fire and air.

What about water?

Oregon—like much of  the western United States—is short on water. Severely.

We are seeing some of the driest weather ever in our state, which has become critical in the Klamath River basin—an area that borders on two states: Oregon and California.

The problem is decades old, and it gets covered in the news media as a conflict with no solution.

The problem is that the resource—water—is scarce.

Water is currently being reserved rather than flushed through the dam where it can be accessed by stakeholders.

The local Native American tribes—in Oregon and in California—depend on the salmon and other fish whose numbers are dwindling rapidly.

For Native Americans, the fish are an essential part of life.

Fish have kept the Klamath and Yurok peoples alive “for all time.”

Fish represent life: We are “Salmon People,” one tribal member reports.

Salmon is more than food: salmon is life.

But the water that has dwindled in the Klamath River is also used for irrigating farm and ranch lands.

It’s a complex issue, and water rights continue to be challenged in the courts. For example, Native Americans are guaranteed first access to fish, but the farmers need access to water for peppermint, potatoes, onions and horseradish.

And ranchers want water for cattle.

Local government agencies blame National agencies; farmers blame American Indians, and Liberals blame Conservatives.

To make matters messier, a group of armed “anti-government” protestors has threatened violence.

One activist told a reporter, “We’re going to turn on the water and have a standoff.”

Is there a way to clean up some of the messiness of the discourse?

One expert suggests: 

#3 Reframe the story

This piece of advice—to shift or reshape the story—comes straight out of advertising. Clever cigarette advertisers found ways to reframe the story to shift attention away from health to one of freedom:

The freedom to choose to smoke.

So, one way to re-consider the water issue in Oregon is to try to see it through a new lens—a new perspective.

Now I am asking our friends from Indonesia a favor:

How would you reframe the water crisis at the Klamath River Basin to ensure that audiences understand the environmental impacts?

To wrap up: today we talked about fire, air and water, and I have shared three bullet points:

#1 Cultivate your networks

#2 Make it personal

#3 Reframe the story

Thank you for listening, and I look forward to seeing you again. ###

National Native American Heritage Month

Image (above) vintage mangrove

#nativescience

#Worldoregon

#nativeamerican

#Indigenousenvironmentalism

#Indonesia

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Habits, Norms and Horns

Uncredited photo from Pixels.com

The good thing about traveling is that it encourages you to view foreign places through a new prism.By foreign I mean the United States.

We spent the last few weeks visiting the East Coast, practicing the native tongue and observing unusual customs.

As we lingered over ice cream one afternoon at an historic mill town in New Jersey—now a refurbished tourist attraction—a car horn blared, interrupting the quiet.

The driver seemed stuck to the horn, angry that the car in front had slowed.

The ice cream vendor ran out to the street, yelling, “You are not welcome in our town! Get out!”

We found the noise level much louder than in our berg in Portland.

Our home cacophony is usually the crows making their morning run to the Columbia River, and their evening-time return.

In New York and New Jersey, car horns blare, trains roll through towns, and sirens seem ubiquitous.

Folks speak with much more vigor and emphasis than our neighbors—yelling in the book shop, grocery store, espresso bar and gas station.

The din rose even higher thanks to piped-in music, which seemed to play everywhere; most notably at the outdoor pub where we shared salads and we could hardly hear each other.

When we drank sweet tea at a diner that looked like a postcard from the 1950s, a piano-player serenaded the lunching locals.

And more than once, we chowed down in a cafe with three big-screen televisions tuned to sports.

Drivers were much more aggressive than what we’re used to—weaving in and out of traffic at break-neck speed.

Yet small towns posted speed limits of 30 miles or less, making our feet feel like lead.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the lack of masks in the towns where we tarried.

While staff at bodegas and eateries were mostly masked, the locals were mask-free while walking their dogs or buying vendables.

Did they feel risk free?

We learned that COVID-19 rates were moderate to high (depending) so we reasoned the rationale for mask-wearing (or not) was a cultural norm.

Maybe we are all—in the end—simple creatures of habit.

#pandemic

#whatstrending

#nativescience

#nativewriter

#noise

#travel

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Pandemic PTSD

Template for the bee block print
A friend admitted she suffered PTSD because of the pandemic.

I first learned of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from news about Gulf War soldiers returning home and feeling miserable…disconnected.

And PTSD implies that you may feel the effects long after the insult—hence the reference to “post.”

We talked about the myriad ways lockdown felt stressful.

Outings were limited to walks in the neighborhoods where even the children’s playground was wrapped in yellow caution tape to prevent swinging and sliding.

When we spied another person on the sidewalk we quickly crossed the street to avoid contact.

With restaurants and coffee-houses closed, we shopped for groceries from home—where we now cooked all meals—and ventured out only when grocery stores allowed special access for high-risk patrons.

And when we did shop, we’d find empty aisles where the toilet paper, baby wipes, latex gloves and paper towels were once abundant.

There was even a shortage of bread yeast.

My friend and I were sequestered with our respective partners with no clue when we would once again talk to another soul in person.

Our house is plenty large for two grown-ups and yet we seem to need the drawer or the fridge or the shower at exactly the same time.

The craving for time alone was quashed, yet, somehow, we managed to co-habit without killing each other.

Indeed, our fondness for one another grew.

As the 12-month anniversary of the lockdown—the month of March for us—was checked on the calendar, I thought about how the Pandemic brought some unexpected delights.

For example, I was able to take language classes sponsored by my tribe that were offered online for the first time.

Each Monday I would listen to my teacher speak in Wazhazhe, and I was able to add a few more words to my scant vocabulary.

Because the classes were taught in Oklahoma, sometimes one would be cancelled because of a tribal event, and, once, because of a sleet-storm.

It made me feel like I was back in Pawhuska.

The pandemic brought me a new appreciation for our gardens, where my husband plants tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, while I bury the bulbs: garlic, onion, sunchokes and potatoes.

We set aside space for herbs and vegetables, including thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, basil, chervil, parsley, cilantro, mint, rosemary, lavender, verbena, bay leaf, bloody dock, arugula, lettuce and spinach, and we planted edible and decorative flowers like calendula, violets, poppies, nasturtium, peonies, dahlias, daisies, statice, lantana, chrysthanamums, tobacco, marigolds and cosmos.

The honey bees love the poppies and lavender, and when the herbs bolt, bees flock to the flower-buds, which dip from the weight of the critters.

The bees inspired me to carve their likeness onto a linoleum block, and I inked some greeting cards with a rendering of their fuzzy backs and delicate wings.

Many sunny afternoons I sit outside with a cool drink and carve out images or paint with watercolors: my reward for sludging through another day of disconnectedness.

The healing comes slowly: a golden lily blooms in the soil, a finch darts to the bird feeder, and the yellow tape disappears from the playground.

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5-6 September 2021

#pandemic
#whatstrending
#wazhazhe
#nativescience
#osage
#nativewriter
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Cicada Invasion Vacation

We found terrific coffee within walking distance of our temporary lodgings in Chicago this past week and the first few days greeted us with mid-70s (Fahrenheit) weather, clear skies and low humidity.

Unlike Portland, which is often in the 60s in summer mornings, our Chicago search for coffee and breakfast begs for shorts and sleeveless tops, with temperatures in the low 70s at 7 a.m.

We stay close to Palmer Park in the northern berg of Logan Square, where we walk to daily, often with a 20-month-old toddler in tow, whose current expertise is climbing.

When we return to the park in the afternoon, our skin toasted and brows sweaty, we hear the the strum and buzz of the cicadas.

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Entering the Age of Transaction

We feel the heartbeat of Google and Apple and Facebook throb while visiting family in Northern California.

My husband and I take a short walk early every morning to find rich-roasted coffee and sweets before the family rises, and share good mornings with hikers, bikers and—no surprise—engineers.

We strike up a conversation with a retired engineer about media and identity, and ponder about what has altered the current state of communication.

When I teach introduction to communication I tell college students that communication folks define it as a transaction.

Transaction means that the sender and the receiver are engaged in an exchange, but the exchange doesn’t require symmetry or even reciprocity—just some sort of exchange.

A sender could take the form of a magazine article or a college professor.

That means a magazine article may be a passive sender, but it’s not without some influence.

Still: the reader may or may not engage fully.

The relationship isn’t—traditionally speaking—equal.

I think equality or symmetry is the essential point in our morning discussion.

For example, a professor expects to lecture to engaged students.

But the transaction is asymmetrical.

Let’s face it: the lecturer is center stage.

We all bring our baggage of expectations to a transaction, and there’s plenty of room for disappointment.

As a professor, I try to impart information, hoping students want to learn.

So you can see where I am headed: not all students have the same willingness, and the transaction can get…wobbly.

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