Friday, May 06, 2016


Wounded Afghan boy

Sorrow is a physical wound.  I don’t just mean the slashed flesh that some people say is a mouth speaking and others think is a opening to let the truth in.  Those are poetic ideas and probably true, but I mean something more concrete and scientific, as real as shoveling manure from the insides of some animal.  Just as disgusting, attended by eager insects.

We have the idea that our skins define us, that our circulating molecules are not “thought” but just something like motor oil or radiator anti-freeze.  We think that cells are just cleverly arranged leggos, some of them able to contract or expand, and that the air in our lungs is just passing through, not part of us.  That’s wrong.  The deeper we get into the science of bodies, the more we realize how interwoven we are with the world — air in our lungs is part of us, part of our lungs, keeping them inflated, and our lungs are part of the world, holding tendrils of gas and particles that inscribe the world inside us.

With sorrow, there is loss, sometimes grievous to the point of death.  It can be turned away, denied, but only for a while.  We are as grass.  We all die.  And yet we all stay behind in the lives of others, esp. if we have loved them, if we’ve made memories with them, so that for years you can taste them, hear their voices, and sometimes even see some old dimmed memory in a renewed way so that there is insight, realization.  But the price of that is renewed sorrow.  More torture.  Opening the old wounds.  Regret.  Scab-picking.  Second-guessing.  Would you have rather not loved them?

Of course there is defying the Gods, the horror they impose on us and never feel themselves.  Curse them.  Curse their impervious hides.  They aren’t real anyway, so what else are they good for?  Doorstops?
Raymond Cobell

Raymond Cobell’s obituary was in the paper today.  Died of cancer at age 60.  I remember him in English class.  He was a solid, humorous, dependable kid, someone you could count on.  Good athlete.  At the end he was employed by the Good Medicine Program in School District #9.  It’s roughly the same category as “Show Me Your Life” or “Smash Street Boys” but no cameras for kids.  I should have gone to visit him.  

It’s amazing to read about this, remembering how Mr. Barnard, an excellent counsellor, was fired from the school just for administering a questionnaire about these problems.  The adults in the community would not allow such things to be named.  It would have made them real.  They WERE real.

Montana SOARS: Good Medicine Program

The GOOD MEDICINE PROGRAM provides school based supportive services, Tier 2, case management, and referral services to those students who are being negatively influenced by substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, bullying, suicide or other self- Harming behaviors, homelessness, post-traumatic stress, grief and loss, violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and cognitive thinking errors and other disorders or deficits, to name a few. We believe in the internal strengths and resilience of our children and their ability to overcome numerous internal and external barriers, if given the proper lifesaving interventions. We work with the whole child and help or assist them in the retuning to a sense of belonging to their ability to overcome numerous internal and external barriers, if given the proper lifesaving interventions. We help or assist our students to returning to a sense of belonging and their ability to live in balance and harmony with the world around them. We are also firm believers that people do not recover or heal in a vacuum and therefore, the family is the most important cornerstone of recovery. Recovery is a family affair, and we provide family counselling and referral services to all members of the family. 

GOOD MEDICINE will roll out the NOBLE referral system, which will connect and improve services to the community.  . . . We work closely with Indian Health Service, Drug and Alcohol service providers and mental health providers, to name a few. As well as with natural helpers and healers found within our culture. 

GOOD MEDICINE is also a participant in the community YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID program. This program offers a 2 day training module which provides information, in a non-threatening classroom environment, on how to identify and refer students who may be suffering from mental or emotional disorders, as well as substance abuse issues. 

Blackfeet -- Siksika -- Pikuni

This program stuff comes and goes all the time.  But each one of them leaves a little trace and after a while it builds up and sticks.  At least it destroys some of the fatalism.  Just a little.  But it also means that they lose a little identity every time and join the BaffleGab tribe.

I go by family names a lot, which is sort of a rez thing and maybe I shouldn’t.  But families do get reputations and they tend to develop a kind of family style.  So Cobell is not the birth name of Eloise Cobell, whose maiden name was Pepion — a whole different story.  Rather she married Turk Cobell, who must’ve been in the same class as Ray, or almost.  (Eloise went away to school.)  The very first Cobell, the historians say, was an Italian sailor who left a sea-going ship in order to embark in a flat-bottomed boat, a paddle-wheeler traveling up the Mississippi drainage to Blackfeet country where he stayed.

Cobell and Kipp were the names of the scouts guiding Baker when he attacked the wrong encampment.  Lifelong sorrow and regret.  Lifelong seeking through the theories and tales and immense suffering of little kids running barefoot, bloody and burned through sub-zero cold.  Jesus!  How did they survive?  We’re five generations farther along and still imposing this sort of thing on little kids — just farther away, but we see them close-up these days.  Those cameras.

Omar-Xawar-Helebce Massacre  (Kurds)

A man of sixty who has done a lot of good in his life, as I think Ray did, is one thing.  A little kid dying is another thing.  They both tear our guts out and leave us swearing.  It’s physical.  Emotional, but emotions ARE physical.  Life is stony, sharp as obsidian, unforgiving, and impossible to bargain with.  Ray died surrounded by family and friends, they say.  It’s the Blackfeet way.  It’s not mine.  I don’t want anyone else horning in on my death.  I want to slip in behind the timber and boulders where my skeleton won’t be found for decades if ever.  

I know about a little boy at “Show Me Your Life” (it's a website, not a place)  whom the docs are pretty sure will die soon.  Maybe he hasn’t lived any sixty years, but I don’t think that’s what matters.  He is a full human being, surviving just like those little kids caught in a massacre, because he has laughter and tears and hugs in spite of needing major surgery.  His two front teeth are growing in, he wants to take photos, and the AIDS virus is doing its best — not to kill him — to let life kill him.  And it will.  Those around him are bruised, their breathing is rough.  They are searching their guts for courage, which is a physical thing.  Biological.  Shovel that shit.

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