2 February 2017

Being Sheep

Being Sheep

A lion doesn't concern itself with sheep, wrote George Martin. It's better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life, wrote Elizabeth Kenny.

For centuries now, sheep have generally taken a beating among writers, including me. I enter the pasture every day with two border collies at my side, and this is the way I have known sheep for years now, we really have had no other relationship. I am the man with the dogs. They are the object and purpose of the dogs.

With the arrival of the Romneys, the gang of four, that has changed. Romneys don't concern themselves with dogs, they are too busy being independent and imperious and I respect them for that.

There is something noble about the sheep. They are stoics, defenseless but accepting creatures, they harm no other animals and treat one another with dignity. They have walked with humans for many thousands of years. I'm not sure it's better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.

When I see the sheep spread out in the pasture, sitting so calmly, chewing their cuds, I think it might be okay to be a sheep. Lions, like humans, have complex lives.

Sheep, unlike humans, have very simple lives, they ask for little, need little, require little. They serve us in many ways, and always have. Sheep,unlike humans, never mean to do harm. They just want to get by.

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Fiber Chair 2.0

Moving Quickly

The first fiber chair took two years for Maria to finish, this one is rocketing along, it seems almost half done to me. Maria is working faithfully on it every morning, I imagine one day we will have a Fiber Chair Gallery. For Maria, there is little daylight between art and life.

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Passage To India, Warnings, Truths

Warnings, Truths

We are learning that the idea of a trip to India is a frightening thing for some people,  unimaginable, distant, very foreign and dangerous. Maria couldn't even get her vaccinations without paying a doctor $200 and listening to an hour's litany of horrors and dangers, from snakes to diarrhea, to tetanus and food poisoning, cholera,  deadly mosquitoes, deadly air, sex traffickers and rashes.

I don't know if this happens in other cultures, but America has become a fearful nation, everyone uses warnings almost as a greeting,  we are a country of victims.

I could not count the times we have heard – don't drink the water, don't use  toilets, don't put your pocketbook down anywhere, hide your money, never go out alone, don't be nice to beggars, avoid stray children, stay away from trains, don't buy tickets on Indian airlines, beware of people with feces-stained hands, don't touch any food on the streets, don't breathe too much air.

These fears and cautions may or may not be justified, but it is strange that warnings become the focus of people's conversation, not the wonder and magic of this wonderfully complex country, which millions of visitors come to every year, with very few bad results. Warnings are everywhere, from tour guides to pamphlets, airlines and travel guides, websites and videos. There is no shortage of warnings, but it is rarer for people to share in one's excitement.

Yesterday, this very thoughtful woman send me a message for Maria, she told me that she took her two daughters, they were 5 and 7, to India last year and they traveled together across the country (they were from San Diego) for two months on trains, busses, local places, even carts pulled by horses or donkeys.

"We had the most wonderful time, we drank bottled water, or boiled water, which is everywhere and made sure the food we ate was cooked thoroughly. The people were wonderful, the country overwhelming in its beauty, friendliness, wealth, customs and poverty. People have never been nicer to us, so much nicer than here in America. They kept asking us if it was safe to travel in America, there were so many guns and so much violence there. We told them it was safe to travel in America, just as it is safe to travel through India. If my two young daughters loved it so much – they can't wait to go back –  I don't think Maria will have much trouble, I see from your blog that she is a hardy farm girl. We just had the most wonderful time."

There was a lot of wisdom in that message, and I realized again how smug we often are in America about the rest of the world, we think our lives are so safe and perfect, everyone else's life is dangerous, filthy and inferior.

I think Maria will have a wonderful time in India, she will take good care of herself, as she always does. I will remember the next time someone tells me they are taking a trip to a distant part of the world, I will say, "how wonderful, have a great time." I'll leave the warnings to the many people who are happy to keep track of them and pass them along.

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India Fabric: A Quilt Is Born, The Journey Begins.

India Quilt

Last week, I bought some fabric from India as a birthday gift for Maria, I thought it would be helpful for her to start getting close to India and the wonderful color and fabric that comes from there. I imagine her mind will be spinning for months when she returns. I wondered if she might make something in advance of her trip.

One of the fabrics had elephants and birds and beautiful symbols inside, the other was a tall beautiful tree. She hung the tree fabric on her wall, she said she couldn't bear to cut it up, but the other fabric got into her head, and when I went into her studio today to see her, I was surprised – and happy – to see that she was deep into a new quilt, the Indian fabric all over the center, the heart of it.

It is filled with color and light, as is India itself. It did get into her head, and although she never mentioned it, a quilt was born. I suspected those elephants would trigger something, but you never know with her, she is not predictable and I would never try.

I am happy she is already getting close to India, and has made her first Indian Quilt, though not, I imagine the last. A week from Sunday, the 12th, she leaves for Calcutta (now Kolkata) to teach the victims of sex trafficking how to make her now famous potholders. But in truth, the journey began today. The quilt is still being worked on, it is not yet for sale. You can follow it on her blog.

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Meet Hope, Who You Have Helped: This Is Who The Tough Guys Are So Afraid Of…

Hope

I'm calling her Hope, but that is not her real name. It seems that even in America, some people now need be afraid to show their faces in public.

Hope is five years old and she comes from a country where it is dangerous to have your photo in the paper and she has come to a country where it is not supposed to be dangerous to have your photo taken, but somehow, it now is.

So I can't tell you much about her, except that her family has been thoroughly screened, and  has suffered greatly. They worked and waited for years to come here, they are here legally.

(Donations of the day: Amazon Gift Cards, Rolling Cart – from $20 to $50. Also pre-paid phone cards, $6)

They are frightened and confused by the hysteria sweeping the country – our newest national witch hunt – about refugees. They have lost everything, and are so grateful for your help – your donations bought all of the things in the photograph that they so desperately need. Simple things, the tools of living: a shopping cart, a hand vacuum cleaner, a care seat and soccer ball for Hope. Her family wanted you to see what you have done.

The special Amazon Refugee Gift Page was set up by the U.S Committee on Refugees And Immigration, it is easy to use. Donations of needed items can be made for as little as $6.

Hope's parents are so touched by your support that they put aside their fears and agreed to let me put her photo on the blog. I have agreed to say nothing more about her right now. I wanted you to see what the big tough governor of 19 states and the big tough men in Washington are so afraid of, and are so determined to keep out of our country.

I am learning to re-think my ideas about courage.

I am grateful to Anne O'Brien Carelli, who has been working so tirelessly on behalf of refugees in the Albany, N.Y., area, for trusting me with this work and helping me meet with these refugees, my brothers and sisters in America. These are the people our government has decided must be kept out of our country, out of this new vision of America.

Today, I am happy to introduce you to Hope, the first of the refugees I can introduce you to. I hope to learn more about her. I am broken-hearted to see that in  my country, the world's first democracy, being photographed is now also considered too dangerous for innocent people, as is the case in Syria and Afghanistan.

Hope and the other refugees desperately need your help, now more than ever. You have been remarkably generous, showing these people what American values really are. I do not wish to spend my time arguing with people who cannot hear me or don't wish to talk with me, I want to show my own soul and do good.

Your generosity is unprecedented, the refugee officials and volunteers – they are working so hard – are overwhelmed with gratitude, they are as shocked as they are busy. You are filling up their warehouse every day.

Donating to these families is inexpensive, easy to do and the essence of doing good in a positive way in a divided world. You don't need anyone else's agreement or approval. Your beliefs are not an argument. You can help right where you sit. Your donations go straight to the people who need them, every penny.

Thanks to you, Hope's family has a car seat and pots to cook in, a cart to shop with, and she has a soccer ball to hold and play with, a comforting reminder of home for her. You have made an enormous difference in their lives. It is not simple to come to a strange country with little more than the clothes on your back.

So this is the first of a continuing series of pieces about the truth about our refugees – who they really are, and how much love and support they need and deserve. If you wish, you can help them here. You can't imagine the difference you have already made, and thanks.

And welcome to the Army Of Good. Thanks for showing up.

(Amazon Gift Cards are appreciated, they take up less space in a crowded warehouse.)

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