Sunday, December 31, 2006


It’s taking me a long time to look back over the year to recall events, much less decide whether they were good or bad and whether I ought to change my strategies. As far as writing goes, I’ve made steady progress -- or so it seems. But there were surprises, some of them close to derailments.

The hardest is the most recent, my brother surfacing in major distress, only to disappear again, and my other brother reacting as though this were all my fault. I had occasion to call several cousins, reminding me how different we all are, how opposite our goals can be.

My diabetes 2 diagnosis was shortly after Christmas last year -- in fact, I joked that it was “Christmas diabetes” caused by over-ingestion of chocolate, which was the bulk of the gifts to me. This year there was no chocolate, but two very long-time friends got so angry at me -- partly because they misunderstood or wouldn’t tolerate my near-belligerent defense of myself -- that we may have broken the links between us. They are still stuck in the idea that diabetes is simply a matter of being a little pig for sugar and that there’s no such thing as a diet that can’t be abused or ignored now and then. In fact, even my friend here in Valier who has the same diagnosis and restrictions that I do, still doesn’t realize that this is different. This is not something small and personal -- it’s not even reservation-wide or national. Diabetes is a worldwide pandemic that has hit us while we were all fussing around about bird flu. Personally, I don’t even think it can be explained by transfats and lack of exercise. I think something quite sinister is going on, perhaps a virus and perhaps a reaction to a change in our environment that we may have put there ourselves. Were you as surprised as I by the number of ordinary household objects that contain the same radioactive element that poisoned the Russian spy? Polonium?

Both the pharmaceutical and insurance industries have seized hard on diabetes and no doubt will escalate their interference. They are not interested in finding the causes, only selling us drugs, prosthetic feet and “diabetes counselors,” as well as creating many rules disqualifying diabetics and fat people from jobs. There are dire predictions about the impact on Medicare.

Clearly it was time for me to -- not diet! -- change the way I eat. Luckily, I had been moving towards it for years and, in fact, was raised on basic local foods and (truly!) walked two miles twice a day to high school -- sometimes four times a day. It wasn’t until I left Browning that I really gained weight. Now again I can wear all the clothes I wore as a minister in the Eighties. I expect to lose forty pounds more. I’m pleased that my skin is mostly elastic enough that I’m not entirely swags and bags. (I joke that my "double chin" has become a "pleated throat.") But my sense of myself is quite different. I’m on guard all the time. Sometimes I feel more withered and hollow than simply reduced. I’ve always thought I was tough, a survivor. No more.

The new awareness is that my chemistry (blood sugar, blood pressure) is constantly fluctuating through the day and that it reacts strongly to sadness, anger, grief, disappointment, and happiness. It appears that there is a strong tie-in between the autonomic nervous system (the one that sort of corresponds to a subconscious) and the endocrine system. Well, we knew that. But we didn’t know that in diabetics the ends of stressed pain nerves wrap around the Isles of Langerhans, the insulin-makers, and throttle them.

Who am I, this sack of flesh that doesn’t ask me what to do -- just does its own thing? I’m not the only one asking. Everywhere I see articles asking, “What is consciousness?” And how does one relate to community that is almost entirely food-focussed? Christmas feast, New Year’s party, come over for lunch, let’s bake cookies, can we take you to dinner... I keep saying I’m afraid I’ll find that, without knowing it, I’ve eaten something I shouldn’t. Everyone thinks that’s pretty funny. Would they think that if I were talking about alcohol or cigarettes?

This is the year my bio of Bob was actually accepted by a respected academic press. Clyde, who upgraded all my old photos to usable quality, says he has much confidence in the production values of the team now working on the manuscript. All summer there was a major exhibit of Bob’s bronzes at the Royal Alberta Museum, which kindly invited Helene DeVicq to the opening. Doug MacFie, the Clan Master for the MacFies in Canada, says that Bob’s great-uncles scattered across the prairie provinces and I will begin trying to locate the descendants. I’m thinking that Alberta may be a better destination for my small archives than the Montana Historical Society, which stonewalls me.

This is also the year I finished writing “Twelve Blackfeet Stories” and put it on the market through, print-on-demand. It can be bought through any bookstore, including Amazon and Powells, and is on listed Google in German and Japanese! I have confidence that as I do more publicity, as people write reviews, the book will begin to take hold and snowball. I’ll put more books on, many of them of only limited interest, as I work through digesting my father’s photo albums. It lifts the cost off my shoulders and is available even to people I don’t know. Clan Strachan has reconvened and accepted for their archives my manuscript of “Homestead Strachans on the Prairie.” I will still be looking for publishers.

This was a big year for blogging. gets about a thousand hits a week. (For comparison, many books are published in a printing of a thousand copies.) When I was posting stories about being an animal control officer in Portland in the Seventies, I acquired quite a few new readers. The blog community, at least my part of it, is just my speed -- of course, it’s self-selected! Librarians, constant readers, naturalists, archeologists, geneticists, eclectic essayists and grumpy old guys in England. Not at all the shock gossips that the media portrays.

Soon I’ll begin to address my religious materials: the Blackfeet ceremonial bundle, my pastoral care experience, and a manuscript I call “Circuit-Riding,” which is about the nature of congregations and ministers, essentially groping for a theory of community “grounded in place.” There seems to be a high interest in what might be called “the anthropology of religion,” which was my focus at the U of Chicago. I’ve gathered material for a Guide to the Blackfeet Reservation and am sending queries. So my writing agenda is full-to-bursting and going well.

My house is aging faster than I am, though we were both created in the Thirties. The pickiup had to be resurrected -- luckily we have a gifted mechanic in town -- and my teeth are next in line. More money had better come in soon. The yard is still offensive to the neighbors, but I begin to see a bit of understanding developing in my own mind about just what I’m doing with it anyway. These last few weeks I’ve actually been sorting and filing boxes of materials I’ve carried with me for many years.

Maybe the hardest New Year’s Resolution to make is simply “carry on as before.” A new idea might be energizing -- the confirmation of an old one reassuring. But I simply don’t know where all this is going. I love the house, the cats, the computer, the way the light moves across the yard and through the trees. I guess that’s enough.

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