Rose in the Sun

When the air moves, the chime sweetly sings,
and the butterfly rises on its soft rosy wings.

The sun bends its ray to dance with the rose
and celebrate with you the path that you chose.

For you chose to join as partner and friend,
to follow the path over hill, around bend.

As the song of the chime plays on your heartstrings,
and lifts your heart up on its own rosy wings,

let your love carry you to the place it will go.
Your heart you can trust, it always will know

what brings out the best of the gifts that you bear,
what opens your heart so you fully can share.

Your life will unfold as the rose in the sun
as you walk on together, not as two but as one.


The Universe Is You

A gentle voice comes to me, saying:

“You are leaving your home,
Becoming human so that you may
Experience & learn & advance.
The memory of the paradise you
have dwelt in
will be removed; otherwise you
could not bear the pain and sorrow
of life on earth.
You will forget your true identity,
believing yourself to be
a physical being.
The parents you have chosen
will feed you, clothe you, protect you
and give you love.
Be not deceived by those who will
try to convince you that life on
earth is the important, the only,
or that you must secure yourself
to their beliefs in order to be ‘saved.’
They have been misled.
Open your mind to all things:
experience the many paths,
always do your best,

and you may one day
be granted Enlightenment
and realize that you
have the life of Buddha,
the life of Krishna,
the life of Baha ‘u’ llah,
the life of Christ within you.
Then you will be freed from the
bonds of the flesh, the bonds of
rebirth, of space and time.”

The way is before me,
i will my molecules to slow
their vibration, and
hover above my mother-to-be.
She is sitting in a chair,
knitting.
i slip inside her and enter
her womb,
the unborn fetus,
now my body.

The woman feels a movement
of life
within her,
and she smiles.

* * * * * * * *

The night is lonely, the
air chilled and silent. i
walk the sidewalks slowly.

Wondering, what is real?
studying my hand:
is this body mine?
Probing the bark of a tree
with my fingers
becoming the tree
sprouting buds
soaking up warm sunshine
drawing moist earth up through
my roots.
How am i different from this tree,
from the blades of grass on the lawn,
the stars in the heaven above?
Why do i have a border
why do my molecules not
blend with the air
Why is there always me and it? –
my essence apart from all other existence
where do my thoughts come from?
The shadows on the ground
the reflection in the window say
i am.
Travelling along the myriad roads
so many lead to nowhere
the happiness they bring
is there and gone
after reaching the highest point

they allow
one may go no further.
But the Joy of being
One with the Universe
knows no limits,
for the Universe is without limit.
Absorbing the teachings
of the inspired
brings an understanding:
the Lotus Sutra, the Bible,
Hesse and Rampa, Rembrandt and Dali,
Beethoven & Brahms & Mozart & Chopin
Socrates and Shakespere and the Moody Blues,
the artist and the thinker.

* * * * * * * *

Making good causes
brings good effects:
“Love thy neighbor as thyself,”

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
“Be still and know the I within.”
What would it be like to be
an air bubble,
drifting upward
from the lake bottom
through the deep waters,
and rising above the surface to
burst
then become one with the air
and mingle with the atmosphere
and course through the veins
of the winds?
A great voice speaks:
You have walked your path
with a sincere heart
and an open mind,
you have strived with all your effort
to find truth

never turning from your goal
no matter the obstacles
that lay before you.

Be at peace now,
for you have found yourself
you are fulfilled –
the Universe is You.

VISION QUESTS, TOTEMS AND WISH-GRANTING

I looked up and the moon was so bright as to be blinding as sunlight. It was then that I felt the movement of an insect’s legs on the back of my hand. I quickly looked and saw a large black tick. At the exact moment I noticed it, it spoke to me, saying: “I wouldn’t get rid of me if I were you. You need me. I am your key. I am your guide.”

There was much emphasis on the last word. I couldn’t believe my ears but I didn’t flick it off my hand. It seemed like the tiny thing was actually looking up at me somehow. I couldn’t believe my eyes either. The tick continued, “As I said, I am your guide and you need me. I am your wish-granter. I am the one who will speak to you and I am the only one who can hear you. Do not lose me or you may be lost forever.” The deep voice seemed to come from everywhere; it surrounded me. Now I was confused and frightened. This dream was getting too weird. It was turning into a nightmare and I wanted to wake up. The tick, which had walked up onto my right sleeve, spoke again: “I am very much for real. You’ll see. I am going to grant you your wish as of this moment. If you need to talk to me, you can come back to this spot and I will probably be here – though there are no guarantees.” I could hardly see; the moonlight was blinding me. The tick was gone and I was sitting there in my sleeping bag in the early morning before sunrise.

Rather than feeling tired, I felt strangely exhilarated. I jumped up, grabbed my knapsack and started running down the path heading towards the camp. In a part of myself I actually wondered if the tic had granted me my wish. I was imagining what I would do and the fun I would have if it were so. But then I knew it couldn’t possibly be. This had to be some kind of a dream but it wasn’t a dream. It was real. When I brushed a sharp rock with my left knee, my knee bled. I touched the blood and tasted it. This was no dream! Finally I reached the campsite, expecting to see the people around the table getting ready for breakfast. But there was no one there and no one in sight. Nor were the horses there. The tents were all empty. The sleeping bags were laid out and the backpacks were in the tents but no one was there. I thought that Little Bear, in his great propensity for humor and pranks, may have gotten everyone up early and hightailed it out of there before I arrived. Maybe they had been keeping watch on me all night. This was all I could imagine anyway.

After helping myself to some cereal, I hiked the five miles out to the road where my truck was parked. It was a tiring two-hour walk on tough terrain. I expected to see some people around since it was a central location where people congregated to hike, bike or horse ride on the many mountain trails heading to unknown, wild camping places. But I saw no one at all. Not one person. That was very strange. All their vehicles were parked around but not one person could be seen. I knew Little Bear’s trickery could not extend this far. I became very uneasy and a bit afraid. I had a feeling of dread.

I got in my truck and drove all the way to the Carmel Valley road, then an hour up Carmel Valley to the Coastal Highway without seeing a single car on the road or a single human being anywhere. I turned on the radio to KGO in San Francisco and there was only static; no voice, no music, nothing. I was terrified. What I had wished for had come true! I had gotten my wish: I was the only person on the planet! My mind turned to surviving and that seemed relatively easy. Somehow the electricity was still going; I had been able to fill my truck with gas – for free. I stopped at a grocery store, walked in and took some snacks from the shelves. There was no one anywhere.

I began thinking as the last person on earth might think. It began to sink in that I was really the only person here. I thought, “Well, let’s see, what would I like to do? What would I like to explore and discover? Where would I want to settle? Would I have to protect myself from wild animals? What are the dangers of being the only person and how could I protect myself from harm?” Though feeling a bit paranoid, I also began to feel adventuresome. I would drive down to Esalen and partake of the hot springs there and then stop off at home and then go to San Francisco and explore all the hidden and magical places there. I would eat well and read books and explore and discover new things every day. But there was this sense of dread and of loneliness that was slowly creeping into my awareness. I felt as if I were being watched. The fact that I would never have another person to talk to began to weigh heavily on me. I noticed I was already talking out loud to myself as though I were someone else. I hoped this “spell” would be over and people would come back. I would give it a few days and see what happened.

I drove right down the steep driveway into Esalen. No one was there to stop me. No one was there at all. I walked down the baths and sat there looking over the crashing waves below and wondering how this had happened or even if it was real. It sure seemed absolutely real. I felt terribly lonely. There were some birds I saw in the trees and I thought that perhaps I could find some wild animals and feed them and tame them enough to be my pets, my friends. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to find my dog, since she was just about human to me; I talked to her like she was anyway. I left Esalen and drove north to my home and family in Santa Cruz. They were not there. Nor was the dog. Nor were there any cars on the roads or any people whatsoever. It was so utterly bizarre and strange. Everything was so quiet and peaceful with birds chirping and the sun shining and gentle balmy breezes. There were no traffic sounds or barking dogs or vibrating basses of car radios or screaming children or inane, mundane conversations among adults or blaring TV’s. Everything was quiet and peaceful. In a sense it was perfect. I thought, “This is a veritable Garden of Eden.” But then I realize Adam and Eve got absolutely bored and had to make it so they would be forced to leave. This all had to be a dream, I told myself over and over. It couldn’t be real. And if it was, I didn’t want to be in it.

At that moment I remembered the tick and his words that I could talk to him. I thought that if I begged him, he might take back my wish and make things as they had been. It was dark now and late, but I jumped into my truck with a sense of hope and desperation, and drove straight back to Chew’s Ridge. I got my flashlight and started the long walk back to the camp and then up to the ancient fire circle. I finally arrived at my old camp site with the tarp now flapping in the wind from the top of the flat rock and the sleeping bag in a heap. I sat down exhausted and called out for the tick to come back to me. I shined my flashlight all over myself and all over the ground looking for it, but I could not see any tick. I felt hopeless. I wanted to die. I was so lonely and so empty. Putting my head in my hands, I sobbed. I decided I would just stay there and never leave that spot. I would just die right there and that would be an end to my misery; to the misery that I had brought upon myself.

I don’t know if I fell asleep or not, but I felt the movement of an insect on my cheek and awoke, being aware enough not to brush it away. I put my hand to my face and it walked onto my index finger. It was the tick. He spoke: “I didn’t you’d last very long with that wish of yours. It wasn’t a good wish, was it?” In tears, I shook my head. It continued, “Well, I’m glad you made it back to me without complications. I will undo “your wish if you like.”

“Please, please,, I beseeched the tick; with all the hope I could muster within myself. “OK, » it said. Then he walked to the end of my finger and tumbled down into the soft, dark earth at my feet.

Awaking with a start, I found myself in my sleeping bag with the tarp flapping above me. The sun had risen. In fear, I jumped up and ran as fast as I could down toward the camp, bumping and bruising myself without any notice, all the way down the rocks. My heart leapt as I first saw the horses lined up and then the smoke from the breakfast fire. I was crying; I could feel the wetness on my cheeks. Little Bear had watched me run down the rocky path and knew something had happened. I suppose it was pretty obvious. When I got to the table, he told me to eat first and then tell him. As I told him my experience, his eyes lit up again and again. When I was finished, he said, “You have strong medicine in your family. Who are your ancestors?” I told him I had a great-grandfather who was a Cherokee medicine man, and he somberly nodded. Then he said, “You yourself have strong medicine. Do you know why I say that?” I didn’t know, and he continued, “I am Little Bear. In the forests and homelands of my people, the bear is king of the forest; the strongest and most formidable creature of all. However, there is only one other creature that has the power to take a bear down. Do you know what that is?” “No,” I replied. “The tick.”

VISION QUESTS, TOTEMS AND WISH-GRANTING or HOW THE TICK GRANTED MY WISH AND SAVED ME FROM IT

June, 1995, deep in the San Lucia Mountains. It was the third day of the “Wilderness Experience” led by Tom “Little Bear” Nasen, medicine man and leader of the Esalen Tribe of central California, specifically the coastal San Lucia Mountains and Los Padres National Forest as defined by Carmel Valley to the Big Sur area. Our small group of twelve was camped in Pine Valley, five or so miles in from Chew’s Ridge. We were staying in the ancestral village area of the ancient Esalen people, according to Little Bear, who claimed they lived there five thousand years ago. There was ample evidence of inhabitation from the holes worn into the rocks by grinding flour, the numerous obsidian arrowheads on the ground, the petroglyphs painted on the rocks high above the valley, and the fire-blackened rock walls around the circle of the original elders of the tribe. On this day, Little Bear had built a small sweat lodge and heated the stones to red-hot before pushing them into the covered, dark yurt-like hut, into which we were all huddled and the flap closed. Little Bear was a very large, tall man weighing perhaps 350 pounds or more. He said he was so big because seven of his grandfathers lived in his body and he had to feed them all – all the time. The sweat lodge got so hot and so airless that one of the older men actually passed out. Little Bear said to leave him alone; that he was OK and we could retrieve him when the purification ritual was over. I had pressed my face down into the mud so as not to faint and for relief from the scalding hot steam on my skin.

When Little Bear showed us the ancient fire circle of the tribal elders, he said that they still lived there and that his people were very afraid of that place because of its great medicine, so great it could kill a man or make him crazy. It was a that moment that I decided I would spend that night there to see if what he was saying had any truth to it. At dinner I told him what I wanted to do and he said I was crazy already for wanting to go there because it was “haunted” by the ghosts of the ancestors. He wouldn’t even go there he said. But I was determined. Once he realized I was serious, he told me to “have belief” in some real way lest I anger the ancestors. He said that this amounted to a very high-powered “vision quest” and that I should also have an intention or a wish in mind before I go to sleep. He wondered out loud what animal might talk to me, and if he would ever see me again.

As dusk colored the sky a dark orange, I slowly made my way up the rocky cliff path and between the high rocks at the top of the mountain until I reached the area of the fire circle. Nearby was a large flat rock that looked like an altar stone. Right next to it was a small, gnarled tree that provided some shelter in case the fog misted during the night. I used some rocks to hold the tarp to the top of the flat rock and tied an end to the tree, placed my sleeping bag under the tarp and climbed in. From that spot, I could look out on some small bushes and two dead pine trees about twenty feet apart maybe two hundred feet away. I closed my eyes and before I went to sleep, I thought of what wish I would like to see fulfilled. The wish that came to me was very strange but very strong too. I should preface it a bit. In my work in the business world, I was continually having to deal with people. The sales and endless service to perpetually and relentlessly unhappy, complaining people simply had “gotten to me” and I was absolutely tired of it. On the home front, my wife was unhappy and continually complaining no matter what I did to placate her and I also had to deal with the parents and teachers of the school we ran on our property. I was sick of people. My wish was that I be the only person left on earth.

Finally I thought I would have some peace and quiet and time to myself. Of course I had no real belief that such a wish could ever happen anyway. I slept.

I awoke the first time to see the two pine trees moving closer to me. I blinked my eyes but I could see them coming closer so that they were only twenty feet away. I told myself I was dreaming and went back to sleep. Then I heard voices before I opened my eyes. They were shrill and squeaky – almost like cartoon voices. There were two of them in conversation: “There’s nothing here to eat. Just a flashlight and some clothes and crap”. Then the other voice: “Shhh. You’re gonna wake him up. Keep your voice down”.
I opened my eyes to see two raccoons going through my knapsack. I looked at them as they looked at me in the very bright moonlight. One said, “Uh-Oh, he’s awake and he’s heard us talking. Shit!” I stared at them in disbelief and asked them if this wasn’t just a dream, telling them that everybody knows raccoons don’t speak like humans. They laughed shrill little cartoon laughs and said, “Actually, everybody knows that humans don’t speak like raccoons.” I was confused. They walked away mumbling in fading conversation.

AN ISSUE OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE

I am not sharing this information for the purpose of gaining your sympathy or condolences. No one can take me back to that day, giving me the opportunity to intervene in the events and change the outcome. All the lawsuits filed, won or lost, sympathy expressed, or condolences given could eliminate the pain, the tears, or the pictures I have in my mind of him lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Nor can it erase the heartbreak I still feel of sitting with him for three days and telling him everything would be OK, and then when it was apparent they would not, letting him know it was OK to let go. I assured him I would watch after Mom and take care of things. I held his hand, told him I loved him, and then watched in silence as he took his last breath at 4:37 p.m., March 8, 1998.

On the evening of March 4, 1998 when my mother told me what the VA doctors had said to them that day, I told her not to worry. “I will take care of it first thing tomorrow morning,” I said. Dad didn’t have Alzheimer’s and it was clear there had been an error. He was overmedicated and his symptoms were directly related to that, nothing more. Obviously, I never had the opportunity to make that call. However, as my father lay dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head I again promised that I would take care of things, only this time I’d do better.

You can help me keep that promise in several ways. One, by reevaluating your own perceptions as it relates to quality of healthcare in this country, most especially the plight of our Veterans. Carefully consider the “losses” and “statistics” as you read them next time and in a positive and proactive way proceed in such a manner as to move these systems, operating in such a reckless fashion, to change.

How often have we heard since September 11th “America is at War against Terrorism” ? How often have we heard of our military being called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. Today we have many more just like my father during WWII that lay their lives on the line for the sake of others. Those fortunate enough to actually return home, our Veterans of tomorrow, are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, your husbands and wives. Many have, and many will, continue to return with both physical and emotional illnesses. These are the very ones you are reading about each day in your local newspapers. Is the best we have to offer for their sacrifice the current standard of care at VA Medical Centers ? How tragic for this country ! How tragic for these Veterans !

I have seen no accountability for the sub-standard of care Veterans receive at these hospitals. It is appalling ! We should not allow ourselves to sit on the sidelines of this issue one-minute longer while thousands are suffering and dying needlessly every year, caught up in bureaucratic red tape designed specifically to encourage, no—worse yet, to hide this beast called VA Medical Center. Don’t take my word, don’t take the word of those Veterans fortunate enough to select healthcare outside of the Veterans Administration. Go instead and talk to the Veterans “in these hospitals,” the ones that have to go there day after day.

A positive change will only be realized once we, individually as well as collectively, take an active part and insist on nothing less than excellence from these providers. We should not only expect but also demand an accounting from those in charge of organizing and overseeing the necessary changes in the government’s healthcare systems. We should not expect anything less than qualitative, measurable results! Is the health, and in many instances lives, of ones you love worth any less?

How can anyone possibly ask another to lay their life down, risk their children growing up without a mother or father, or put themselves in a position to be exposed to harmful environmental elements and then turn their backs on this issue?

It appears more and more we have gone so far from the “human” factor in our daily lives that we have become desensitized to and have actually accepted the fact we must tolerate these losses and statistics because that’s just the way things are, it’s the government—–shame on us all!

A few years ago I spoke to a Senator in Washington about what happened. He told me he had already heard the story from other Senators and his next comment to me was that the Salem VA had simply “screwed up.” Those were his exact words to me—-they had “screwed up.” I was devastated. Yes, I know all to well they “screwed up,” now what? What is being done about it? What is being done to prevent this from happening to others? This is not how things could or should be. A thousand superior healthcare facilities, with outstanding programs and providers will never excuse one found to be equally inferior, especially one designed to provide care to Veterans.

The Honorable Lawrence M. Baskir, Chief Judge said:

The United States Court of Federal Claims has endeavored to serve our Nation and to embody the spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s message to the Congress in 1861: It is as much the duty of government to render prompt justice against itself, in favor of citizens, as it is to administer the same between private individuals.

Somehow I just don’t see that happening. That did not happen in this case, and there are hundreds just like it. The government denies private citizens the very rights and privileges that our American soldiers are this very day fighting and dying for, and we allow it to continue. How sad.

Consider this for a moment. If I were to do something that caused you or your loved one harm, would you not likely seek justice ? Justice and vindication for yourself and your family member? Of course you would. Now consider as you begin this journey of seeking justice, you are told that to do so you must allow “my mother” to sit in judgment. She will hear all the facts and render whatever punishment is deserved upon me. If you are unclear as to the definition of justice I encourage you to look it up now. Justice served? I think not.

It’s pretty staggering if you will give it a few minutes thought, and you really should. What happened to my father can happen to you or someone you love at any time. Don’t think for a moment it can’t.

Six years ago, March 5th, 1998 at approximately 7 a.m. when many of you were just starting your day, my father was making his way quietly downstairs carrying his shotgun, still in its case. He walked over to my bed and took the gun out, leaving the case lying on my quilt. He most likely loaded it there and proceeded to a little entrance area at the back door approximately 10 ft. away. Police investigators determined that he lowered himself to his knees and braced the gun against the door jam, placing the barrel to his left temple. He then pulled the trigger, all approximately 13 hours after leaving the VA Medical Center. A 100% completely avoidable and tragic end to a life that had years left to enjoy.

I encourage you to remember him the next time you have the opportunity to make a difference, and don’t. Remember him the next time you sit silently and observe injustices and deficiencies in medical care occur, whether you are directly affected or not, and fail to act. And remember, next time a medical “screw up” takes place it definitely won’t affect my father, but it very well could yours.

I urge you to pass this information along to others. One voice, my voice, heard alone will never make a difference. United however, we may be able to save other families, other Veteran’s, from experiencing the horrors of medical malpractice at VA Medical Centers.

For the sake of those fighting, and dying, on the soil of foreign countries for freedom from terrorism, for our freedom, I really hope we can. You should, too

My Best Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, 1972. I, accompanied by my wife, am driving from Millbrook, New York to Waymart, Pennsylvania for a Thanksgiving visit at her parents’ home. Normally, it is perhaps a two-and-a-half-hour trip, but on this particular day it was thirteen hours.

It was a clear, crisp, sunny early winter day. We moved well in my blue ’62 Beetle, on the weaving highway through the Pocono Mountains. There was traffic but it was moving fast enough. Suddenly, the sky darkened and we were blinded by a snowstorm coming down so heavily we had pull over and stop the car even with the wipers going. It kept coming down and down and down for over an hour, and when it was over the sun came back out, reflecting on more than a foot of snow! We were stuck. Everyone was stuck. The sound of spinning tires prevailed. Even if a car did get moving, it very quickly skidded sideways onto the low shoulders and shallow ditch of the two lane highway.

I was able to get our little, light VW going around the big Cadillacs but, soon enough, I was stuck behind cars lined up in front of me. Our gas was down to half so I turned off the engine but had to turn it on again to warm us up. It was dropping quickly into the 20’s in the late afternoon. After two hours of vainly trying to somehow get out of there, we were really stuck. Everyone was. Some had kept their motors running to heat themselves and were now out of gas. We stood around our cars hopelessly waiting for someone to get us out of there. There was bitching, complaining. Couples with whining children yelled angrily at the kids and each other. People were worried. I could see the concern on their faces. My wife and I didn’t know what to do. Word came “down the line” that some old lady had had a heart attack from the cold and that an old man had passed out, falling in the snow. On either side of the road was forest; there was no place to go. And it was getting colder still – and darker.

Then two things happened. First, the snowmobilers came bearing sandwiches and hot coffee from Alice’s Wonderland. They went to each car and pulled out food and drink from large baskets in the back of the snowmobile and handed both to the inhabitants of the cars, who, by now, had opened their warm cars to those out of gas and had begun sharing whatever of food, beer or cigarettes they possessed. Those handing out the food had come all the way down the line of cars – which extended a few miles! They came from a little store called Alice’s Wonderland about half a mile up the road. They asked us to drop the cups back off at Alice’s and, when I wanted to give them money, they said, “no charge.” Word was that they had packed off the old lady and old man to the nearest medical facility.

Second, I told my wife I was “going to see what I could do to get thing’s going”, and I started walking, albeit a bit numb from sitting in the freezing car, towards the front of the line. I got up to Alice’s Wonderland and saw that other men were also walking towards the front of the line – lots of them. Finally I reached a place where the road went down into a small dip and up a steep hill. There were maybe nine cars all pushed together at the bottom of the dip and other cars pressed up behind them. There were no cars at the top of the steep hill or on the road leading up to it. We all converged on those cars at the same time, and straightening them out and, with ten of us pushing, moving them very slowly up the hill and over the top. Those out of gas were pushed to the side. After a while, we saw a truck up at the top of the hill with a cable and a winch. After two hours or so, the road was clear and we helped each car go down and then up the hill. Someone came with salt and sand and suddenly the cars had traction on the road and could move.

The line was finally moving on its own.

I stopped at Alice’s Wonderland on my way back. It was a little general store with a coffee counter where breakfast was served. Alice, herself was there – disheveled and smiling. She had given away all her food from the fridge and had let people come in and take what they needed from the retail food shelves so that now they were pretty much empty. She had used up all her cups and thermoses and blankets and gloves and flashlights and matches and socks and anything anyone could use who needed it.

In the thirty years plus that have passed since then, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as happy as Alice looked.

SPIRIT WIND AND MORNING STAR

The Moon of Making Fat was full, the grass green and good, the horses again strong, the cherries darkening when the one who came to be known as Spirit Wind was born. That late spring night only women were allowed in the small birthing lodge that Dull Knife’s band had erected for Soft Cloud who was about to become a new mother. That was the custom among the Buffalo People of the prairie.

All men know when they are strong that it is good to honor woman, for her hand helps man’s weakness at the beginning and end of life. So, High Horse, the father of the coming child, rode all night outside the camp on the prairie, as far as the great river as a good father must when his wife gives birth. He was performing the ritual travel the people call Searching for Milk, praying to Wakan Tanka to send him a strong warrior son. High Horse was a respected warrior with many coups to his credit. His eyes were dark and clear and his skin like tanned leather. On his chest the scars of battle were marked next to those of the Sun Dance.

At the first light of dawn he rode up a timbered butte as far up as he could and dismounted to climb on foot to the summit where he scanned the land below. As far as the eye could see herds of buffalo pastured upon the plain. Hundreds of thousands.

It was tatanka’s mating season. Bulls were raising dust, pawing the ground and fighting, and their deep-based mating calls could be heard far. High Horse would soon ride with the hunters for the chase and get all his family would need from tatanka. Skins for a new lodge, real food, and just before winter when tatanka’s coat grows thick and dark he would get warm buffalo robes to make a big soft couch for Soft Cloud and the new little one if it lived through the season. As he contemplated the abundance of life on the plain, he wondered about the invading white man, the Wasichu, coming in ever greater numbers from the east. There had been promises, but would the young ones still be able to hunt and raise families on this rich land among their own people?

For one whole moon mother and child were left alone, secluded in unique closeness to allow the new baby to prove it had come to stay. Soft Cloud’s wise grandmother had made a soft leather moss bag which she brought with a great bundle of fragrant sage leaves and a pack of bison chip powder to keep the baby dry. Her husband’s sisters helped finish the handsomely beaded cradle board. The young mother for the first time chanted to her own son the tribal lullabies as night fell, stretching a shining mantle of stars across the immense land.

“Sleep, little one. The prairie grass sways. Your father hunts milk for us now. The eagle flies high, waiting for your eyes to open and see. Dream, little one, as your mother offers you her breast and her love.”


High Horse had returned to camp with an antelope across his buffalo hide saddle and walked proudly to the birthing lodge as many followed. Soft Cloud came out and watched him climb the gentle grassy slope to the lodge. When he stood before her smiling, she handed him the cradle board. High Horse held it at arm’s length straight before him. The baby awoke and saw his father’s dark, deeply carved face and shining, happy eyes. High Horse raised the child toward the sun and let out a fierce war cry. The baby wailed in response, not in fear but in a rage. Two warriors meeting each other.

“Ah, ho!” exclaimed the father, pleased. He handed the child to his wife and went out to make preparation for the first gathering in honor of his son.

The old one who gave the child his first born name at the Feast of Cradling the Infant was Strong Eagle, and everyone received gifts, but the most and the best went to him. High Horse gave a spotted pony to the old medicine man for giving the child the rare first name of Eagle Plume in a sacred way. All celebrated with food, dancing, chanting, and drums beyond sundown around a bright fire until the half moon was high above the circle of lodges.

A year and a half later in the Moon of Popping Trees when the snow was piled high on the north side of the teepees, there was the First Walk Celebration. The camp was between the forest and the river. Eagle Plume stood up and followed his mother outside where she had gone to fetch more wood for the fire. He stopped, stunned by the blue sky and the blinding white world, then saw the great bird painted on the lodge down wind of him. He watched the hundred smokes rising from the many lodges beyond. What a wonderful sight! Resolutely Eagle Plume wobbled through the snow all the way to the great painted bird and made sounds to it. The honor of this first visit having fallen on Thunder Hawk, himself a father, demanded that his lodge give a great feast for all the people in the band of Dull Knife. A big fire burned throughout the day. Elk meat was roasted and much singing and dancing went on as Eagle Plume slept soundly cradled between thick buffalo robes.

Three snow seasons later was the year when Grandfather made turkey tracks and excited Little Eagle Plume cried out, “I know what those are!” as he ran off holding his bow, ready to shoot.

Grandfather said, “Are you making so much noise to warn Turkey that a dangerous hunter is coming?”

From then on the little hunter followed behind his grandfather, learning to move like a silent mountain lion, and brought back much small game.

Grandmother took him along to forage for food and medical herbs. Eagle Plume helped carry her leather bag stuffed with the best.

“Why do you dig these roots so far from camp, Grandmother? There are many closer to our teepee. »

“The best are here. It is like the gathering of berries. You do not go to the deep forest for those, you go where the sun has been shining on them to make them sweet. Roots and herbs must not be taken where it is too wet or too dry. They have more medicine where the sun has given them strength and not robbed them by making them too dry.”

“You know so much, Grandmother!”

“When you grow into a man who can tame a pony I will tell you many medicine secrets. But you must grow into a good man because medicine secrets are treasures that cannot be given to bad men. I will pray to Wakan Tanka that little Eagle Plume will become a great and wise medicine man when he grows up. To be a brave warrior it is great, but it is greater to become a wise medicine man, and greatest of all is to be both a wise medicine man and brave warrior chief.”

They picked wild rice, roots, berries, and fruits, and little Eagle Plume learned how to find and gather all one needs to live on the land.

On his thirteenth Flower Season Eagle Plume broke and tamed his first pony by taking it deep in the great river and riding it in the water until it was exhausted, then breaking it on shore. To mount a young colt when it was fresh would have been almost impossible on the dry land, but in the river Eagle Plume could easily do this. He had to be very careful though, for horses can drown quicker than a man. His father had told him that if a horse has water running into his ears, it grows weak. As the boy rode he guided the young horse by clinging to its mane with one hand.

That year he had a dream and saw a giant Wasichu with long yellow hair. Half his face was also covered by yellow hair. He carried a flaming stick in his hand with which he burned teepees. In his dream Eagle Plume saw a powerful wind rise which bent down the prairie grass until it was flat against the ground. He saw a great buffalo rise from the earth on its four legs, charge against the yellow-haired pale eye, gore him again and again, then trample him until he was dead.

Eagle Plume told his dream to his father who asked him to repeat it to Grandfather Strong Eagle. The old wise one smoked a pipe and told the boy he must reenact the dream for the people and make himself look as much as possible like the white man in his dream. Long Blade, a great warrior, had heard many stories about what the Wasichus had done to the forest tribes. Long Blade had traveled east with a woman of the Forest People whom he loved. The woman had traveled through Sioux country between the Black Hills and the plains to guide traders who were looking for yellow river pebbles.

Not long after this dream Grandfather told Eagle Plume to go up for three nights to the sacred mountain to cry out to the Great Mystery, Wakan Tanka, for a vision. He cried and cried, a whole day and night, and on the third night he fell asleep.

His grandfather laughed.

Soon after Eagle Plume was given a new name. He had more control of his horse than anyone in the Dull Knife’s band. He made his horse obey the slightest movement of his body while riding bareback. Eagle Plume had taught his mount the war dance that keeps a target ever moving, and the people said he looked one with his horse. So he received his new name: Dancing Horse.



It was in the season after snow has melted on the prairie but is still thick and crusty in the cool shade of the forest, when women and children go after the sweet saps of the maple and darker birch, the bitter medicine sap of the ash, and the rare white thick liquid sugar that the box elder yields, when excited little boys help the women by minding the fires under the precious pots traded for buffalo robes with the eastern tribes in which the mothers and grandmothers boil the sap and form it into sweet candy and crush much of it into leather sacks for the winter.

In that season of renewal when flowers bloom all over the land, the bands met each other and pitched a great camp by a bend of the Cheyenne River for the annual powwow and festivity of the Plains Tribes. Splendid braves in feathers ready for the meeting with their peers from other bands. Dignified chiefs and medicine men wearing majestic war bonnets, riding at the head of the people discussing past hunts and wars, and exploring the the doings of the Great Mystery in their spirit path.

There was much talk on the invasion of Wasichus: the forked tongued pale eyes who taught about their loving God and then had lied, robbed, and killed.

Hundreds of buffalo hide teepees were raised by the women, their doors facing the direction of the rising sun. At the center of each band was a semicircle of teepees in which the medicine and the chiefs’ lodges stood. Hunters had brought plenty of meat for the great camp. Antelope, deer, and elk were abundant and a few of the scattered lone bull buffalo could be seen beyond the river.

The braves of the different bands were making ready for a joint buffalo chase across the water beyond the first rise of the foothills where the grass was thick and lush. The scouts had sighted a mighty grazing herd many thousand strong and found several other herds, but the big one west of the tributary creek would be the first to be hunted. The building of new lodges was assured as were abundant warm winter robes for the people.

The Arapaho band of Black Bear had planted a circle of teepees immediately south of Dull Knife’s lodges. Before the hunt a counsel was held and the pipe smoked. There was much talk of the encroaching Wasichus, of the gold they had found in the Black Hills, and word had come that soldiers were building a fort inside Indian land sixty miles south of Crazy Woman’s Fork, near the Powder River, land that was by treaty with the Great Father to remain Indian territory as long as grass grew green. Chief Red Cloud had allowed a wagon train escorted by the Army to pass but had demanded tribute to reaffirm Indian sovereignty over the land.

Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapas had been alerted.

“When the White Man comes to my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him. There are two great mountains in that country: the Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountains. I want the Great Father to make no roads between them. I have spoken this three times and I now speak this again. »

This had been the message to the Great Chief of the Wasichus sent by Mahpiua Luta (Red Cloud), Chief of the Oglala nation. There was grave trouble brewing, they all knew it. Some spoke of caution and of pursuing peace. Others voiced their anger at the wanton slaughter of tatanka, the bison, in Cheyenne and Arapaho hunting grounds. If the Wasichus were allowed further into the Sioux Nations’ lands, they would keep killing until hunger would bring an end to their free way of life.

Dancing Horse, as a young brave, listened silently, his heart beating faster in rising anger at the realization that his people must live in fear on their own sacred land. He had only one war raid to his credit and had proudly told of his coup against the treacherous Pawnees, the Indian mercenaries of the Wasichus, who had attacked their Cheyenne brothers by leading the Pale Faces deep into Indian country. He had gained an honored first feather.

After the powwow as he walked to his lodge to make ready for the coming hunt, he saw the beautiful maiden for the first time as she was carrying water to her family’s teepee. The river was a distance from the camp. The young warrior felt his heart leap, but he had to make ready for the chase. A man must be great in the hunt before he would deserve the joy of a woman, so he pretended not to have seen her. She quickly glanced his way. He was already a hunter and a warrior, and it was licit for him to think of having his own wife and his own lodge. The thought was fleeting because of the excitement of the coming chase where he would gain even more honor.

In the early morning the hunters gathered five hundred strong on their fastest horses, bareback, and near naked except for their feathers, a loin raw hide, a bow, and a quiver full of arrows. A few carried muzzle loaders. Fewer still had .44 Army rifles.

Dancing Horse had his strongest bow. He knew how deadly it was to ride close to a great tatanka, how the arrow would go in clear to the feathers, cutting the inside as the great beast ran until it dropped.

After fording the river and a ride of some five miles, the hunting party sighted the buffalo. No one must go off by himself and risk disturbing the scattered game. The ground was broken by several round topped buttes on which was a growth of bushes breaking the sea of grass. The hunters dismounted behind one of these that screened them from notice of the watchful sentry bulls. Prayers were offered to Wakan Tanka, the Great Mysterious One, for protection.

The hunters were too many to approach the grazing herd as a single body. After a brief counsel, one third rode off to circle to the east. Another third rode to the west to close in from the south and chase the buffalo north. Riding behind them, the rest would come out of their hiding place and flank the herd until it would likely turn at the river banks. Dancing Horse stayed with the last group and was sent by the older hunters with two other youth to the top of the butte to give the signal when the herd was on the move.

After nearly one hour Dancing Horse saw the dust rising like smoke. The southern portion of herd begin to move, pushing the other ones into action. He jumped on War Wind and remained still for a brief time, half concealed by the bushes. The nearest buffalo were four hundred yards away. Some were still feeding and some were laying down. An army of the rust-colored calves was playing while a solitary old bull, head low, pawed the ground. The thunder of hoofs rose as a tide from a half mile away until they were all taking off to the north. The near buffalo became alarmed, formed into a compact herd, and headed north. Dancing Horse signaled the hunters below to mount their horses. The trained horses became eager and, as the bison passed the ridge, were given free rein, laying their ears flat they dashed after the fleeing animals.

The hunters fanned out. Those with the faster horses pressed in the midst of the pack. The danger was great, but the excitement greater. Riders and bison were moving at the same speed, not more than a few feet from each other. Dancing Horse was surrounded on all sides by a waving sea of dark brown humpbacks, sharp horns, and shining black eyes. To fall would be instant death. Holding on with gripping legs to the bare back of War Wind, Dancing Horse used his bow and arrow repeatedly, seeking the fattest ones. By the time the chase had reached the river, the herd began to swing east. One by one the hunters moved out, letting the living stream of great beasts pass them. Only one hunter, Running Elk, almost lost his life. His muzzle loader had backfired and nearly thrown him off his mount. He had abandoned his weapon and grabbed his pony’s mane just in time.

The rest of the day was spent in skinning, carving, cutting, and dragging the carcasses in great pieces on travois across the river to the vast camp now studded with more than fifteen hundred teepees and more than five thousand people. The Tetons and Hunkpapas had not yet arrived.

After the great work of cutting the meat and stretching the hides, preparation for the spring feasting began. Dancing Horse watched the Arapaho maiden concealed among a thicket of trees.

Gathering courage, he went to his lodge, donned his porcupine-quill, embroidered moccasins and leggings, brushed his long shining hair with the porcupine tail brush, perfumed it with scented grass and leaves, arranged it in two plaits with otter fur as an ornament, and folded his best robe about him. He jumped on his best pony, War Wind, throwing a part of the robe under him to serve as a saddle, and, holding the end of a lariat tied about the animal’s neck, Dancing Horse guided his stead in rhythm to the movement of his body. Wily War Wind snorted and seemed to enter into the spirit of the occasion as if it, too, wanted to capture the eyes of the maiden with its graceful movements in perfect obedience to its master’s.

Dancing Horse pulled his robe over his head, leaving only a slit to look through. He saw the maiden walking toward the river with her empty vessel and took his position directly in her return path. On their first meeting, Dancing Horse did not reveal his face or introduce himself. The maid stopped. They looked at each other silently, his heart beating fast, hoping hers would, too.

In camp they both inquired about each other. She was Morning Star, daughter of Chief Black Bear, a fierce warrior admired by all the bands.

Their second meeting was by the woods where she had come to collect wood. She stopped, and they spoke for the first time, introducing each other. When she left Dancing Horse rode into the distance, exploding with delight. He loved this beautiful maiden. Their meetings continued, and soon they met in the early part of the evening, or drifted from the public dance away beyond the circle of the fire’s light in the shelter of peripheral shadows.

They loved each other, but there were some objections from her family, for it was too soon, and there had been much talk of the coming of the Wasichus into their country and of the need to retreat further west to avoid war before the winter. The Wasichus wanted the yellow gold of the Black Hills. Trouble was coming with many frightening stories of villages attacked and burned, of wagon trains with soldier escorts intruding in their land.

When the large camp broke for the last fall hunting, the Black Bear band went one way and Dull Knife the other. After three days traveling, the Black Bear band made it to the first rise, a few miles southwest of the Black Hills. One evening someone saw Dancing Horse, who had been following his sweetheart and sleeping outdoors all the way, although the nights were already frosty and cold.

The two lovers met each day in secret. Morning Star brought him food, but Dancing Horse would not come near her teepee. Soon the whole band was whispering and laughing, amused at the young man’s predicament. He was asked to accept hospitality in the lodge of High Hawk, the kind old man who knew much medicine and taught his new ward about what man must give woman. The old one gave him a “chotanka,” the magic flute that holds the soft heart of all maidens and makes them slyly turn their heads to its plaintive love serenade calling out into the night.

“Hear, oh, maiden! Listen to him who loves you! Listen, maiden. Hear him who loves you, who loves you. Turn to him who calls you. Listen, maiden, for he who loves you may be gone soon to fight your evil foe!”

One cold evening, hearing the distant call of the flute, Morning Star wanted to go out to find Dancing Horse, but she had no excuse to do this, so she stirred the embers, causing smoke in her teepee. She now had a reason to adjust the teepee’s flaps. She took a long time to do this, moving the pointed ears of the teepee with the long poles first this way, than that, as if on such a quiet night the wind were unsettled. Finally, the “chotanka” ceased to be heard. In an instant Dancing Horse appeared ghost-like at her side.

“So, it is you, is it?”

“Is your grandmother in?” he inquired.

“What a brave man you are to fear an old woman! We are free. The country is wide. We can go away and come back when the storm is over.”

“Ho,” he replied. “It is not that I fear her, or the consequences of elopement. I fear nothing except that we may be separated!”

Morning Star went into the lodge, then slipped out once again.

“Now,” she exclaimed, ”to the woods or the prairie! I am yours!”

They disappeared into the darkness.



Quickly and quietly Dancing Horse took willing Morning Star and rode into the Black Hills with War Wind and two of the horses of her father. 
The Arapaho had a large herd of ponies, nearly three thousand that year, pasturing along the Tongue River. Unseen and unheard, Dancing Horse packed one of them with all that would be needed for travel until they would overtake his people’s band. This silent, undetected maneuver gave him the name of Spirit Wind.

The two lovers traveled two days toward Paha-Sapa, the sacred Black Hills, where the band of Dull Knife could be found camping at the end of summer. His tribe moved there every year with many other bands to commune with the Great Spirit, to seek His compassion and cry for a vision at the center of the world.

Spirit Wind and Morning Star traveled swiftly. They were now moving along the grassy slope of a hill clothed with majestic oaks. They heard the murmuring of a stream in the narrow valley below and decided to make their camp there to be alone for a few days, to feast in the pure joy of their love. This they did. Spirit Wind hunted and both bathed and played together, happy as children. 

On the third day, while roasting their freshly caught meat, they heard horses. Spirit Wind ran to the edge of the grove and saw five riders. At the head of the small party was a Cheyenne warrior, followed by three women and two boys astride a travois. Spirit Wind recognized two of the women as members of the Black Bear band. He showed himself and signaled. The five joined their camp. The warrior was Little Horse whose wife was an Arapaho woman, Red Dove. They had been traveling with their seven summers-old son, Hunting Fox, to the Black Bear camp to visit Red Star’s relatives.

Little Wolf told an alarming story. On their way to Black Bear’s camp along the Tongue River, Red Dove had gotten off her horse to tighten a loose pack and rearrange the travois on which their young son was riding, when, looking up far behind them across a ridge, she saw a long file of mounted men.

“Look!” she warned her husband.

Little Horse shielded his eyes from the morning sun.

“Soldiers!” he said. “Come, let us move quickly!”

Past the rise of the next hill they had abandoned their travois, taken the child on his father’s saddle, and left the trail to ride at a gallop straight across the land directly to Black Bear’s camp, causing sudden agitation in the two hundred and fifty lodges of the peaceful village. They tried to have the crier warn the people, but were not believed.

After all, « This was Indian territory, theirs by treaty! »

« Certainly Little Horse had made a mistake. »

« The riders were Indians traveling to their late summer grounds. »

« Nothing to worry about. »

Even some of their relatives did not believe them. Red Dove’s brother laughed at his Cheyenne-brother-in-law for always getting too excited about things.

That same evening Little Horse and his family moved on, followed by Strong Woman, the grandmother, and Talking Bird, Red Dove’s sister with her child Sparrow Hawk, only five summers old. They were on their way to warn the other villages in Paha-Sapa.

“We go back at dawn,” Spirit Wind spoke.

“It is too late,” said Little Horse. “We heard the big guns talk the next morning after we left. We went back at sunset. The soldiers killed many. “

“My father, my brother!” cried Morning Star.

“They, too.”

There was a deep hollow cry from the young woman. Spirit Wind put his hand on her shoulder as tears filled her eyes. She got up and ran among the trees. Spirit Wind stood and watched her, his jaw set tight.

Little Horse related all that he had seen and what he had learned from the many who had escaped. How they had fought back, scattered the horses, chased the soldiers, but how they could not get back to the camp because of the Howitzers. Women and children were shot down. In impotent anger survivors watched from the hills while the lodges were torn down. Poles and skins were heaped along with their winter food, buffalo robes, pemmican — all the tribe’s possessions — and a great fire was set, burning everything while the wounded, moaning on the ground, lay dying. The Wasichus wanted the winter to kill all those who had escaped their guns and rode after those warriors who had managed to get on a pony. When the soldiers’ horses got tired, Black Bear and his warriors turned and chased the Wasichus, stinging them with their arrows, until Black Bear fell not far from where his son lay dead.

No greater pain can strike the human heart than to live after the defeat and death of loved ones at the hand evil men. The Wasichus wanted all Indian land. They were treacherous men without mercy. For them, there would be no peace until the last Indian and the last buffalo were dead. Spirit Wind felt a rage that expanded his chest with anguished pain. 

SOLARI: Illuminating The Local Economy

My lifelong passion has been about recreating a deeper sense of community, the relationships on many levels that contain the true richness of life. It meant protecting the Earth, caring for one another in a way that guarantees the dignity of all of humanity, and cultivating the inner relationship to a higher power that defines absolute freedom. Money had played a very small role in this journey, but came front and center a little over a year ago when I heard a talk given by astrologer Caroline Casey and Catherine Austin Fitts. The title of the presentation was Magic and Money. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but had been deeply inspired by a talk given by Caroline at the previous year’s Bioneers conference. Catherine is an internationally recognized investment banker, and was the former Assistant Secretary to HUD under Bush I. She refers to herself as a recovering Republican. It was an interesting juxtaposition in worldviews as she and Caroline, an elfin, pagan interpreter of symbols and mythos, stood on stage together, and yet the combination was dynamic and perfect.

Caroline drew in those who didn’t want anything to do with the system and Catherine gave credibility to what might be perceived as ungrounded. Catherine spoke on how our money is being used in the larger system. She said that if the thousands of people who had gone out on the streets in protest over an impending war against Iraq had pulled their money out of Citibank, or similar institutions the same day, the government would have listened. I knew that she was right. As it was we, the concerned and active citizenry of this “democracy” were being completely discounted and there was a deep sense of despair over the current state of affairs. She went on to say that when the government looks at antiwar protesters they discount the protester’s words in deference to their actions, and what most people are voting for with their money is in line with the government’s policies, or business as usual. I am adamant that I don’t adhere to the same value system as those in power. However, my lack of understanding about how money works beyond the basics I need to operate my own life, has by default conceded my power to others who are all too happy to run the show.

In the book, Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country, William Greider theorizes about what brought about a collective dumbing down of the U.S. citizenry around how money works and who controls it. “The confusing economic language employed by the Fed made it easier for citizens to block out the money question–to accept instead the powerful mystery. This was odd but nonetheless true: in a great democracy, where political power depended upon information and every interest clamored for it, the American culture had repressed the knowledge of money. There is no other way to describe the mass ignorance or explain it except as a collective blocking out. . .. The general ignorance created its own political imbalance, enhancing the influence of the small minority who did understand the subject and cared most intensely.”

Greider also suggests this denial around money accompanied the move of self-reliant farmers to the cities during the industrial revolution. There was a kind of faustian bargain that was struck in the relinquishing of their connection to the land, and with it the access to a larger context of life, for material gains and a perceived security through a regular paycheck. This wound to the spirit then created a silent agreement that the source of the money, or how the system operated, would not be talked about so long as one could continue to soothe a sense of the loss of deeper meaning with material comforts.

Although Catherine spoke of the bad news about where we are at in her presentation that night, she also came with a solution and she called it, Solari, meaning to reduce anxiety through illumination. Solari is an economic model for revitalizing communities by brining our money home and investing it locally. Catherine’s creation of this model came after being let go from HUD when she proposed a system of transparency for tracking the flow of money. After leaving HUD, Catherine’s firm, Hamilton Securities Group, Inc., developed a piece of software called Community Wizard to assist communities in tracking money locally, as a way of putting power back into the hands of the average citizen. That software, and all of the firm’s computer equipment, were seized by the government and destroyed, along with other actions against her firm. The following year $59 billion dollars worth of unaccounted for expenditures were reported by HUD, with no effort by the government to determine where the money was or to get it back.

Keeping the Money Local
Solari has two components that make it unique from other community-based economic models. The first is to create a transparent database of the assets belonging to the community. Transparency meaning that any citizen could follow the course of his tax dollars to see how they are being allocated. Community assets are anything your tax dollars and a tax-supported credit and regulation fund pay for, such as, parks, land, water, government facilities, schools, libraries, and housing projects. Once these are identified, the citizens can begin to look at how the assets are being used and where the wealth of the community is being lost. Some of the ways these losses might happen are: community-held resources are sold and privatized (such as water or correctional institutions) at below market prices or in a way that encourages further exploitation; contracts are out-sourced outside of the community at a higher cost than what it could be done for locally; or contracts are “padded” and development “incentives” are given to corporations. One example of an inefficient use of funds is a school district that hired a national executive search firm to recruit their school board supervisors. The cost to the community was exorbitant in a time when funding is being drastically cut for the basic needs of operating a classroom. Knowing what work is being contracted from outside sources provides an opportunity to create new jobs for community members and often times resulting in a better price for the service.

The second unique feature of Solari is to set up an investment advisor to raise and circulate equity capital invested in local businesses. Solari uses a two class structure—Solari A voting shares and Solari B nonvoting shares. A shares can only be purchased by members of the community and are the only shares with voting rights. B shares can be traded on an open exchange, the value of which increases as the “Solari index” goes up. The “Solari index,” a term coined by Catherine, is a different measure of success than the Consumer Price Index. Basically, it measures the confidence people have in sending their child to the corner store alone to buy a popsicle and having them return home safely. The value system that drives the “Solari index” is also about whether the environment, schools, and local businesses are thriving. In other words, the healthier the community and the environment, the better the return on investment in the community’s Solari stock.

When we talk about socially responsible investing, this is as good as it gets. Many of the corporations that are now categorized as “socially responsible” investments aren’t necessarily exemplary in their social ethics. Without transparency we have no way of getting full disclosure on a corporation’s practices. When our investments speak of our faith in each other, and when the businesses we are invested in are in our own neighborhoods, we have the opportunity to lovingly realigned a polluting business, for example, with the agreed upon values. Otherwise, those businesses know they risk not being eligible for the community investment pool and stand to lose customers as well.

There are two other aspects of how money works that help give a better understanding of the importance of keeping money local. There is a game played by the “big boys” and it is about identifying markets where they can extract value and get significant capital gains, or a “pop,” as a return on their investment. Basically, name any big, discount retail operation. We will use WM as an example. WM comes into a community where there are locally owned businesses that have a certain percentage of the market share. WM already has a competitive advantage because of its ability to buy at deeply discounted rates. These expansions into new markets are also financed by the big corporate banks using our retirement savings. Let’s say WM captures $100,000 worth of market share from one of the local, independent retailers. The equity value of that local company is 1 to 5 times earnings ($100,000), depending on its track record, client base, or various other factors that determine worth. The equity value of WM stock is 30 times earnings (also known as the price-earnings ratio), largely because it is “liquid,” and also because of the future expectation of how the company will perform based on significant management infrastructure and political support. Large corporations have these higher price-earnings ratios, because people have more faith in them to continue extracting value and getting big returns on quick turnarounds. Corporations have also taken on a life of their own, so the coming and going of CEOs or other key employees seems to have little impact on the overall trajectory of the company. Investors can also move easily in and out of investment in these firms because they are liquid, or traded through stock. Let’s return for a moment to the $100,000 of profit. To the local business owner it is probably worth just that, $100,000. However, WM takes that $100,000 and leverages it in stocks trading at 30 times earnings and realizes a return (a “pop”) of $3 million. Not only does this further increase the competitive advantage for WM, but it also takes the $100,000 equity value out of circulation in the community, along with some of the knowledge and higher skilled jobs that are lost when local businesses fold. Although these corporations do provide jobs, they often times bring upper management with them, leaving lower-paid service positions available for the local job market. Minimal salaries leave shoppers looking for the best bargain and so they end up returning their hard earned dollars to the discount retailers, again taking the money out of the community and fueling the interests of the big corporations.

Now let’s talk about the circulation of money within a community. Simply put, the value of a dollar is not just a dollar. There is something called a multiplier effect, which means that the more times a dollar circulates the more value it can provide. For example, I spend a dollar at a local market. It gets paid to the local farmer who provides the produce. He then spends it with the local mechanic who repairs his truck, and the mechanic spends the dollar at a play to raise funds for his daughter’s school. The student’s use the dollar to set up a recycling program for their school. On and on this dollar continues to add value, the benefits of which can accrue into future generations. Also, if I put my paycheck in a local community credit union, small business members can borrow that money to start new enterprises, whereas bigger banks may tighten credit terms in favor of their large clients, putting small businesses further at risk in an inflationary economy. Purchases made on a credit card from my credit union also benefit local projects and social services because of their policy to commit a certain percentage of the interest earned on credit cards or loans to these projects. If money continues to be siphoned out of communities the vitality declines proportionately. When I invest my money locally, I am making a commitment to relationships with the people whose well being is tied up with my own.

Applying the Solari Model in Communities
So, how does one start? There are several communities utilizing the concepts of the Solari model. You can find out about them on the Solari Action Network at www.solariactionnetwork.com, where ideas and approaches are shared to accelerate the learning curve and broader implementation of the model. The community that is farthest along in actualizing these concepts is Middlebury, Vermont. Jason Eaton is the inspiration behind that effort and you can learn more about what they are doing at: www.middleburysolari.com. There is nothing to buy or no proprietary agreements to sign. This is just a framework Catherine is offering as a means to restoring integrity to a deeply degraded system. How each community will personalize it to best represent their interests is completely up to them. What I like best about this concept is that it makes the most sense for creating healthy communities, no matter what the political or economic climate. The important thing is just to start somewhere. At times I have felt very frustrated trying to wade through what seemed to be particularly dense economic jargon, but I kept looking for other sources to inform my growing understanding of the subject. I think as more of us start grasping and translating these concepts into everyday language, it will be important to find ways to share that information. Personally, I believe that when mothers really get what all of this means for the future of their children that’s when a movement will really take hold.

It seems relevant to revisit a piece of our history that is extremely pertinent to this discussion. The period referred to is the Populist Movement of the late 1800s. Author William Greider writes, “The founding assumptions of the Federal Reserve System were first championed by a most unlikely group of Americans–not orthodox economists at prestigious universities, not important bankers on Wall Street and not the elected leaders of Republican and Democratic politics. The modern way of thinking about money and credit was first articulated by plain country people–hard-worn men and women, drearily poor and ill-educated, with barefoot children and bleak futures. Respectable opinion dismissed them as backward and dangerous–“hayseeds” sprouting outrageous ideas. Yet, in adversity, these unsophisticated citizens discovered great talents within themselves and, together, they created an original political agenda for the nation…The movement began in 1877 and the founding organization would come to be known as the Farmers Alliance. They “organized to ‘more speedily educate ourselves’ against impending ruin–the day ‘when all the balance of labor’s products become concentrated into the hands of a few, there to constitute a power that would enslave posterity.’”

Historian Lawrence Goodwyn captured Populism’s essence in Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America: “When a farm family’s wagon crested a hill en route to a Fourth of July ‘Alliance Day’ encampment and the occupants looked back to see thousands of other families trailed out behind them in wagon trains, the thought that, ‘the Alliance is the people and the people are together’ took on transforming possibilities.’”

The communities movement is informed by a value system that makes it the most natural birthing place for a populist movement today. Catherine and many others believe we can reclaim our power and align our stated beliefs with actions that quietly unravel the prevailing story. We don’t have to take on some beast of mythic proportions. All we have to do is tend our own gardens and one garden at a time, the world becomes a beautiful place. Lynne Twist, author of the book, The Soul of Money,eloquently states “Money carries the power and intention we give it. Endow it with your stand. Empower it to change the dream.”

ORGANICS Or…Elsie Now Cows Us All

x

Or a fish…or a hairdresser’s product, I might add to the advice from Springfield above.

On Saturday, May 22, the San Francisco Chronicle announced on its front page that there would be changes in the standards for organic foods that would permit the use of antibiotics and hormones. And that’s just for starters.

To say that the modifications in the National Organic Program which were made in April are a weakening of our standards, « weakening consumer confidence in the organic label » (as Nancy Hirshberg,Stonyfield Farm vice president, has asserted), is a severe understatement. It’s the beginning of the end.

The dangerous precedent that was orchestrated lies in the fact that program administrators made last month’s radical modifications sans seeking public feedback. They did not even consult with their own advisers on the National Organics Standards Board. Such arrogance will prove to be disastrous, as it opens the door to deregulation of a truly fundamental force in public health. We will no longer have to wait for Global Warming to do us in; the stage is set for giving concerned citizens no escape from the tragedy of industrial agriculture. See Andrew Kimbrell, ed., The Fatal Harvest Reader (Washington: Island Press, 2002) if you want documentation for this statement.

Prior to the changes, pesticides had to be approved before their use, cattle and poultry sold for meat couldn’t eat non-organic fishmeal in any quantity (this will be allowed even if it contains synthetic preservatives or toxins) , bovines couldn’t be treated with antibiotics or any other necessary drug, and –get this!– any seafood, pet food and body care products can now be called « organic » without meeting any standards other than their own.

If you’ve been wondering why the USDA hasn’t objected to things like « organic » salmon in fish markets, there you have it. By the way, contrary to public perception…it’s not safe to eat any fish these days. Put that in our collective, unconscious fish farmed/fried brain if you have the guts to face the fish-eyed truth. And don’t forget that the dark side of Pisces is being weak-willed and easily led astray.

Neither well-meaning American vegans (see http://www.satyamag.com/contact.html, heartbeats permitting), fasting Buddhists in the Himalayas nor the immensely wealthy international individuals from my new Land of Lexus town (Los Gatos, in the heart of Silicon Valley) –no one– will be able to escape the implications of this latest abomination.

Barbara Robinson, the USDA deputy administrator in charge of the organic program, is telling the public that they can « petition the department to change the regulation » if they can’t stomach this turn of events. Wish it were that simple, yes? The National Organic Standards Board was told of the changes just the day before they were announced to the public. That disingenuous move, coupled with the fact that Robinson has only six staff members and a mere $1.5 million out of USDA’s $70 billion dollar budget to run the entire organic program, should give all consumer citizens pause. To say the least.

You can go ahead and follow Robinson’s advice (« Heaven holds a place for those who pray, Mrs. Robinson? »), and/or you can petition Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, if you like. Just don’t put too much on the outcome at the feet of our Las Vegas roulette wheel-of-a-misfortune administrator.

My solution? I say the Consumers Union, the Organic Consumers Association and the Organic Trade Association (see editor’s note) should take a cue from their French counterparts and commit some civil disobedience along with muscling up their lobbying efforts in Washington. If such an approach had been used by voters following the 2000 elections here, Bush would not have been able to do his particular, peculiarly pernicious form of damage. Everyone I talk to abroad confirms my suspicion that the French would have been on the streets if they had had « a Florida » to deal with and/or « a Supreme Court » to dismantle…in a grande passion for democracy.

Is there a relationship between allowing the Rainbow Warrior killers to get away with murder and allowing genetically modified food to murder the populace? Only my French hairdresser –using « organic » products– knows.

I’ve been giving my activist’s « fishy » two-cents to the public over and over again, ad nauseum. I give direct action advice when I write, as a rule, ’cause I can’t countenance the paralysis of analysis that pervades this country’s political discourse. Perhaps I should use a different tack. What say you pick up a copy of Mike Davis’ Dead Cities (New York: The New Press, 2002), read his « Strange Times Begin » section (about our new neighbors, the hermaphroditic polar bears), and you tell me what our next move is. (1)

Don’t struggle over what the meaning of what « is » is here (a la Clinton); get organically active, please. And by all means, DO « have a cow. »

THE PITTS: A 9/11 Burrow of the American Family

In his epic theater, Bertolt Brecht sought to illuminate the historically specific features of an environment in order to show how that environment influenced, shaped, and often battered and destroyed the characters. Unlike dramatists who focused on the universal elements of the human condition and fate, Brecht was interested in the attitudes and behavior people adopted toward each other in specific historical situations.

In Mahagonny and The Threepenny Opera Brecht demonstrated how people relate to each other in capitalist societies. In Mother Courage, he showed how tradespeople related to soldiers and civilians during war in an emerging market society. In The Measures Taken, Brecht depicted revolutionary relationships in the struggle in China. He believed that with this « historicization » one would have the best possible chance to adopt a critical attitude toward one’s society. Brecht wanted audiences to view present social arrangements and institutions as historical, transitory, and subject to change. Epic theater was intended to show emotions, ideas, and behavior as products of, or responses to, specific social situations and not as the unfolding of the human essence.

When you see Brad Pitt or Jennifer Aniston in the movies or on television, their vehicle –the particular dramatization — is not intended to « estrange » or « distance » the spectator, preventing empathy or identification with situations and characters; a critical attitude toward the actions of a given plot is not encouraged. They are not paid to detour empathetic illusion or a mimesis of reality. Their bosses do not want them to expose the workings of societal processes and human behavior, showing how and why people behave a certain way in this society of ours. And they are paid handsomely for their work in what Brecht labeled « the narcotics capital of the world. » Secular opium for the masses?

I don’t know how much Brad or Jennifer get per picture, but I know that Mr. Pitt — if you average out his annual income — pulls in over a million dollars a day; Jennifer’s take is very thick gravy on their Thanksgiving Turkey.

And speaking of « takes, » I could take or leave Jennifer, but Brad has won me over in a big way a number of times. That said, a million dollars a day is something we have to address, regardless. Not because it says anything about the Pitts being greedy. Rather, it’s something essential to confront because their collective take is peanuts in our present predicament, small fried potatoes in The American Feast. All the fuss about Oprah’s bucks and Martha’s millions notwithstanding, when it comes to the disparity in this land…which is growing each day, exacerbated worldwide…the whole lot of entertainers put together (including Michael Jordan, Madonna. Rosie et. al.) don’t amount to much when stacked up against some of NPR’s sponsors, those Corporate Behemoths.

The greed in Mahagonny and The Threepenny OperaMother Courage’s sufferings, and persecution in Galileo, were all  to be understood as historically specific constituents of a social environment, and dramatic presentations were intended to induce spectators to reflect on « why » these events happened, thus providing the audience with better historical understanding and knowledge.

The intention was to produce a kind of « shock and awe, » if you will, posing questions such as: « Is that the way things are? », « What produced this? » It’s terrible! How can we change things? » His montage of images and other techniques were designed to provoke the desire to implement radical social change. A very far cry from what the Pitts are engaged in, of course.

Brecht’s epic theater broke with the « culinary theater » that provided each spectator with a pleasant experience or moral for easy digestion. He rejected theater that tried to produce an illusion of reality.

Bush pushes the « culinary theater » that Brecht so detested, « entertainment that provides the spectator with a pleasant experience or moral for easy digestion. » His abominations in the real world are presented merely as Spectacle, and Entertainment Tonight –all of its varieties — makes sure that we don’t delve into things like the fact that on July 26, 2001, John Ashcroft had stopped flying on commercial airlines. The Attorney General, just like Janet R. before him, used to fly commercially all the time. So why, two months before Sept. 11, did he start taking chartered government planes which cost $1,600-plus per hour? Why would he choose to go G-3 Gulfstream when he could have flown the way he’d always flown for a fraction of the cost?  And, perhaps most importantly, when the FBI advised Ashcroft to stay off commercial aircraft, why did the rest of us just have to take our chances?

We will not go there, down that baleful burrow. We are too comfortable. We are too uncaring. We are too ignorant, stupid about our own history.

The irreparable devastation, the sheer suffering call out for something other than mere academic debate, waiting for the Electoral Godot, our Grande passion. But why not when we’ve got the Pitts with which to wile away the time? Besides we can point to Paul Newman, eyeglasses akimbo, peering out of a Nation ad advising us to bone up, Tim Robbins pontificating on the pluses of invading Afghanistan on a Donahue show, Garafalo going garrulous over grievances at gargantuan Media Reform Tour fare, and Moore/Franken selling tons of (dead tree) books. It all means about as much positive as the two cents that Ed Asner keeps kicking in whilst applauding the troops. We can still talk tears over Speilberg’s Holocaust, but we won’t allow ourselves a shred of decency respecting 9/11.

All of the Show begs the question of How Who would Hold Up at the next House Un-American Committee session following a 9/11 #2, if things got bad enough. Hardly a Brecht in the bunch I’ll bet.4

In the Irish Times of ’46, Beckett touched upon the River Vire which ran through Saint Lo, highlighting the difference between the mechanical, obligatory building of civilizations and the effect on the human mind of their destruction:

« Vire will wind in other shadows
unborn through the bright ways tremble
and the old mind ghost-forsaken
sink into its havoc. »

Three hundred years from now — should we survive so long — Beckett will be remembered more for his poetry and prose than for his plays. A vision, a conception of humanity in ruins, an inkling of a different way to think about our condition once again is all available to the careful reader. And even though SB would have been horrified if Brecht had gone through with his plans to do a Marxist version of Godot, I’m sure he felt much common ground with the communist. But we can’t say the same about Ground Zero groupies and grief-stricken victims of the world’s so-called terrorists.

Let me suggest what we all are likely to be remembered for, Churchill’s « little Eichmanns » and the rest of us. Recently, the new Hamas leader, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi asserted that « God declared war » against the United States and Israel — but stopped short of saying the group would strike U.S. targets. The Hamas chief, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, renewed threats to attack Israel in retaliation for the assassination of the group’s founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Stopped short of saying that they’d strike at American targets? How can that be believed? Who can believe that? Only by people who don’t want to tear themselves away from their habitual forms of entertainment. Only by people who refuse to acknowledge what’s motivating 9/11-type terror around the globe. Only by people who have Brad as their Baedeker.

I’m starting to hear strains of that old melodic Platters song, « Only You. »

I looked up « Brad » in my Celebrity Thesaurus, and I came way with « charismatic, » « talented, » « virile » and « wealthy. » The telling trouble is that many in America would make the same associations with Bush. With all that’s come down to date, at least half of those polled, about 50% of those about to vote most likely.  But in looking for « the enemy » one should not dwell on Hussein, Osama or GWB.  It’s the American public, not Bush nor bin Laden, my foolish fellow citizens.

Beckett, Brad, Bertolt Brecht and Bush, baleful, baneful and burrow. Alliteration. It’s all so entertaining, isn’t it? 

Steel Yourself to Steal Away: Multiple Corporate Personality Disorder Impact on Traditional Injunctions

« The world can only be turned right-side-up by the conscious collective activity of those who construct a theory of why it is upside-down. Spontaneous rebellion and insurrectionary subjectivity alone are not sufficient. An authentic revolution can only occur in a practical movement in which all the mystifications of the past are being consciously swept away. » –From Spectacular Times (1985)

« I would never have written it if I had honored the injunction ‘Thou Shalt Knott Watt.' »–Samuel Beckett on the writing of the « novel » 40’s novel Watt 1

Following WWI, real life — grotesque and full of disillusionment — demanded something of its theatrical fare that was very different from what had been on the boards forever, from Shakespeare and Moliere through Ibsen. However, George Bernard Shaw –immediately after the war — did not go so far as to disintegrate long-standing theatrical traditions, his art’s inherited techniques, in order to make the necessary adjustments. Rather, resisting the notion in vogue among playwrights at the time, which asserted that the meaningless fragmentation of democratic society was the destined end for one and all (greatly affecting dramatic form), he clung to hope and belief, retaining a very strong dramatic structure in the process.2

I’m afraid the world’s not a very sweet stage these days, and some of « the mystifications of the past » must be done away with, even if it means structure weakening as hope or faith wavers.

As per « Multiple Corporate Personality Disorder: The Ten Worst Corporations of 2003 » by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman (Multinational Monitor, December, 2003, pp. 9-20), with deferred prosecution and pretrial diversion being applied to major corporate crimes today, one has to be truly stuck in the past to believe it’s possible to call on the old paradigms for action in order to turn things « right-side-up. » Harry Glasbeek’s « Wealth by Stealth: Corporate Crime, Corporate Law, and Perversion of Democracy » — also focusing also on « fungibility of responsibility » in the corporate world — seconds the motion I’m about to make. To wit, we’re going to have to consider breaking one of the Ten Commandments ourselves in order to deal with corporate abominations. Only people who have zero « street smarts » can put a hopeful spin on the corporate world having been given institutionalized sanction to adopt what was previously reserved for minor street crimes.

To be more specific, after visiting http://www.globalboycottforpeace.org where activists are encouraged to pressure the U.S. Government through its corporate sponsors, it struck me that something more must be — and can be — done to unsettle and undermine the corporations which rule us.

And speaking of « striking, » David Bacon’s « The Los Angeles Grocery Workers Strike » (ZNet, March 11, 2004) pushed me over the edge. In that piece, while addressing the accomplishments of the workers who made heart-wrenching sacrifices for almost five months, he notes: « In the new agreement, the returning strikers will eventually pay some money for insurance, although not the drastic payments the stores originally demanded. But for those hired from now on, health care will be just a dream. Safeway, Albertsons and Krogers will contribute just $1.10/hour for their health benefits, compared to $3.80 for the existing workforce.In just a few years, those lower-tier workers will be the majority. Most will be unable to qualify for benefits — who will make up the difference between $1.10 and the actual cost of insurance, which is rising at 15% a year. They’ll join the 48 million Americans who have no healthcare because they can’t afford it. But these new additions will be union workers, in jobs that for generations supported a middle-class standard of living. »

You don’t have to have « street smarts » to know that this is NOT a victory. Understatement, yes? It’s absolutely ominous.

What to do? Well, those who are serious about turning things « right-side-up » to some degree during their lifetimes can consider boycotting Safeway (which is listed as one of the top ten offenders in the Multinational Monitor article) AND stealing from them! After all, if products are taken off the shelves they can’t be bought by customers who refuse to honor the call for a strike, yes?

Oh, that’s against the law? One might get caught to boot? In violation of the Ten Commandments? Ah, hah…and you’ve got seven other objections which bring your protestations to a total of ten points of your own in support of The Inviolable Injunction? I understand. But I pity what it means for us.

Whereas I can see what the problem is when it comes to drawing parameters this side of human sacrifice, I’m having difficulty kowtowing to all « the mystifications of the past » at present. And it’s starting to dawn on me that the same American public that can’t locate Afghanistan on a map, or –in some cases– Washington, D.C., doesn’t really know what $2.7 billion in fraud (as per HealthSouth) means. When a corporation is caught fixing its books –whether or not our national security is affected (i.e., Boeing)– they must not be granted immunity from prosecution. But that’s the status quo, and your well-paid elected officials make sure that while you honor the Lord’s Will on the Playing Field of Life they and their paymasters do not have to adhere to the same standards. I guess that’s what they mean by Separation of Church and State; their personal state and stake distanced from your religious rules and rectitude.

Okay, you win. And will continue to lose, unless you get something new on the table. Or…first step is to be willing to lose the Shavian-like hope and belief alluded to above, even if some of our precious structured existence gets threatened. That means refusing to have faith in some of the old modes of direct and indirect action and a few of our sanctified, inoperative institutions. For those of you who would characterize me as no better than Barrabas, I only ask you to show what’s on your List of Anachronisms. People are always asking me what they can do that will make a difference. Well, it wasn’t very pleasant to take this route, but I can assure you — as you cavalierly reject my sinful suggestion — that something equally extreme will have to be adopted, if you are going to think and act « outside the box » and get something significant done.

« Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill one another if it is not done. » One doesn’t have to act on that dictum by Shaw’s Undershaft 3, the man with the arms. But, then, one is obliged to consider Gandhi’s insistence that nonviolent activists must be prepared to willingly die to get something done. On another level, those who plaster SUVs with protest stickers might consider having their message read « Obese Vehicle, » touching upon the fact that overweight Americans have found a mode of transport that fits their shape/attitude, and attempting to embarrass them on a personal level for their communal sins. Going over the line there, are we? Never mind that the owner’s waistline is over the top on several social counts, or that the vehicle itself is unable to honor many lines on the road and in lots. No, let the Injunction to be Polite rule the day. Fine. Still the question remains: What exactly are you going to do today in protest that you wouldn’t have done in the past?

Something new is clearly called for, and (to quote Undershaft once again) « The history of the world is the history of those who had the courage enough to embrace this truth. »4 GBS’s character is speaking of explosives, but I am underscoring the simple need to use a tactic that will be explosive, something that will have an immediate effect. You always have the option of not just loosening your chains, but taking them completely off, and smashing the heavy links across the face of Safeway’s vending machines a la Jesus of The Temple. But you can’t get creative as long as you’re corralled by Corporate Consciousness and Unchristian Christian Insanity.

In talking about how Near Eastern religions arose in a milieu in which control of populations was of paramount importance, Vine Deloria Jr. points out, « Stabilizing societies so that…societal exploitation cannot exist is the first step in determining a new idea of history for humankind. The planet was not given to the pope, and his subsequent division of it to his favorite European sovereigns may have ultimately been illegal in the most fundamental sense of the term. Present unhampered exploitation of the lands and peoples of the world by post-Christian supranational corporations may have been the logical result of Western history, but that does not have to be its final result. » 5

Don’t believe in me, but, believe me, I don’t expect Him to strike me with lightning. I’m not trying to steal His thunder, only Safeway’s plunder. And all the profits from past pillaging that I may be permitted, God willing.