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Thu May 31, 2012, 04:46 PM

Strange Days

I went to the high school this morning, to take care of some "school board business." When I left, I stopped at a "Quick Way" convenience store, to buy a copy of spiral notebooks .... I still do a lot of outlines and rough drafts by hand. Then, after I got home, I went out for a walk, to try to do a mental outline of a presentation that I have to do on Tuesday morning.

By chance (or not), I found two nice arrowheads .... one Levanna and one Madison .... a chipped fishing net-weight, two decorated pottery sherds, and a sinew stone. It's only the third sinew stone that I've ever found; the first one was stolen from me by a former co-worker in human services, who took about a half-dozen artifacts from me. Had he just asked, I'd have gladly given him some other artifacts, though I'd have kept that first sinew stone -- not only are they rare, but I had found it in a cave behind my parents' home, and so it had a special value for me.

Life is strange, sometimes.

On Memorial Day, a 9-year old boy from our school died as a result of a freak accident. It happened at a local parade, where he and his Little League baseball team were participating. A lot of students were there, including my two daughters. Both of them knew the boy.

One of the reasons that I ran for a seat on the board last year was because now that I'm retired, I have time to invest in something worthwhile. Our school is outstanding: the students get a great education, because we have a strong, caring faculty. It's a tough time for all public schools -- since the republican machine identified teachers' unions as Public Enemy #1. Cuts in state funding hurt all schools, and the rural districts in upstate New York like our's are really up against it.

But this is something very different than tax dollars and Albany bureaucrats. Because my specialty at the mental health clinic was "community crisis response," I immediately volunteered to serve in any and every way to provide support to the school. There has been a good response from the county mental health clinic, and professionals from surrounding communities. And they have been busy. Their work is really cut out for them.

Still, both faculty and administration need an outlet, and I've been glad to serve in that way. The little boy's funeral is tomorrow, and after the weekend, I expect that the shock will wear off, and people will begin to have even more need for support. On Tuesday, among the things planned, will be an assembly featuring speakers from a variety of backgrounds. I'm pleased that I was included in this.

What I plan to talk about is something that I've learned as a result of experiencing too many tragic events in my life, rather than anything I ever read in a text book at college. Without going into too much detail, I can sum it up this way: nothing good happens because of a tragic event, but a heck of a lot of good can happen despite the event. Indeed, that is a big part of the positive of human potential. Such tragic events can bring about the best in people ..... and we often find that in such times, ordinary folks can do extraordinary things.

And that, of course, is what is best in any society -- when people reach out and support one another, not because they have to, but because human beings really are good. And that's something that we should not take for granted.

When I spoke with our new superintendent today, I noted that he had come at a rough time. Not just the usual budget stuff, either. On the first day of the school, we had a flood that washed out the "dead end" road leading to the primary school, a heck of a start to the year. And there has been other strange events. Now this. He reminded me of a conversation we had a while back; a few community members had complained about his style of doing business, in part I believe because he is from a city, and not used to the much slower pace of "country culture." I had told these folks that, considering the crap we are having thrown at us from Albany, I think he might be the exact person we need right now. He told me that he keeps thinking of what I said, and in this difficult time, trying his best to live up to that.

As a parent, community member, and member of the school board, I'm doing my best, too. It's a tough time, and nothing less will do.

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Arrow 25 replies Author Time Post
Reply Strange Days (Original post)
H2O Man May 2012 OP
Robb May 2012 #1
H2O Man May 2012 #3
ManyShadesOf May 2012 #5
H2O Man May 2012 #8
ManyShadesOf May 2012 #10
zeemike Jun 2012 #17
H2O Man Jun 2012 #20
zeemike Jun 2012 #25
ManyShadesOf May 2012 #2
H2O Man May 2012 #4
NNN0LHI May 2012 #6
H2O Man May 2012 #9
Beringia May 2012 #7
H2O Man Jun 2012 #21
Mojorabbit Jun 2012 #11
H2O Man Jun 2012 #22
byronius Jun 2012 #12
H2O Man Jun 2012 #23
Mira Jun 2012 #13
H2O Man Jun 2012 #14
Zorra Jun 2012 #15
Paka Jun 2012 #16
NBachers Jun 2012 #18
stlsaxman Jun 2012 #19
OneGrassRoot Jun 2012 #24

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 31, 2012, 04:53 PM

1. That's a great way to look at it.

I was active in a small community when we lost a young boy to, as you say, a freak accident. It's remarkable what good can come forth after that kind of terrible event.

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Response to Robb (Reply #1)

Thu May 31, 2012, 05:52 PM

3. When I was young,

the police chief told us to ride our motorcycles on an old, abandoned railroad bed at the edge of town. On the day before Thanksgiving, a few workers from the railroad that was near the old one hung a chain across a bend in the abandoned one for a "prank." That evening, they were laughing about knocking a kid off his bike, as they drank in a local bar.

Their "prank" killed my friend. I realize they didn't know that at the time. But some young folk were furious, and torched the depot that night. The local media paid a lot more attention to the arson, than to a teenager being killed.

I organized our friends, and went to the area where my friend had been killed. There was the foundation of an old railroad tower there, and the place was a mess. We worked the following spring, tocreate a park in honor of our friend.

Years later, his parents contacted me. They knew that I was employed in human services, and they wanted to make a donation to something to help children and youth in need. We went through a non-profit agency, and created two programs for "at risk" and abused/neglected kids. Decades later, these programs are still going strong.

I didn't really know my friends' parents before his death. Over the years, we've become very close. Obviously, they would prefer to have their only child. But we worked to make some good out of the tragic event. And it set a pattern that I've tried to follow ever since.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #3)

Thu May 31, 2012, 06:12 PM

5. wow

 

paying it forward.

these folks are fortunate to have you participating, helping them deal and heal.

life is so strange.

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Response to ManyShadesOf (Reply #5)

Thu May 31, 2012, 08:29 PM

8. Thanks, again.

Since I was young -- which was a long, long time ago -- I thought that people benefitted from both talking and doing. That carried over into my work in human services. When I worked with "at risk youth," I found that getting a group together to do something like restoring a pioneer cemetery was often far more effective than sitting behind a desk, and talking to them for an hour. And I did similar things later, working with adults. Human beings frequently are better able to process information, and to express themselves, while "doing" something like that.

Years ago, in the town of Dryden, NY, a freak kidnapped two high school girls, raped and tortured them, then disposed of them with a wood-chipper; he spread the remains through a few miles of corn fields. A NYS Trooper who I was acquainted with through school sports was one of the guys picked to watch where the crows were landing in those fields. Though I only knew him casually, I could see that this had taken a toll on him.

We talked about it quite a bit. His job didn't offer individual or group processing of this type of horrorable experience. That's just way wrong. Eventually, he and the other troopers wanted to put up a monument to the girls, on the state land where they were murdered. But the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that they couldn't.

In one of the interviews I did with Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman, we discussed this. It is important for people to process painful experiences, and to make monuments .... which in this case could honor not only those poor girls, but the people who endured a terrible couple days work, in gathering their remains.

We've made monuments in the forests for thousands of years. Safe to say it is part of a global behavior, for good reason. This culture has cut itself off from these things, in an unhealthy way.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #8)

Thu May 31, 2012, 08:43 PM

10. Quite true

 

working to process and heal, building something to help and honor others than ourselves. powerful stuff. thank you.

i've recently been working with art again, after years in computer graphics. art work has similar power to move, connect, resonate. you're right "This culture has cut itself off from these things, in an unhealthy way."

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #3)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 04:19 PM

17. It is amazing what some people call pranks

Doing violence to someone is not a prank in my book.

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Response to zeemike (Reply #17)

Sat Jun 2, 2012, 10:27 AM

20. Right.

Hanging an old chain across the blind curve, where they knew kids were riding motorcycles, should have resulted in criminal charges.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #20)

Sat Jun 2, 2012, 03:01 PM

25. In a just world it would have.

But I think we have sold our justice on the market...and if you have a lot of it you can buy a lot of it for yourself...always at the expense of someone.

Dammed if the LOVE of money is not the root of all evil.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 31, 2012, 04:53 PM

2. beautiful and heart-warming

 

thank you -- there is no :bows: smilie, so I give you a

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Response to ManyShadesOf (Reply #2)

Thu May 31, 2012, 05:53 PM

4. Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 31, 2012, 06:27 PM

6. On Memorial Day, a 9-year old boy from our school died as a result of a freak accident



Thank you for taking the time to write this well written and thought out thread. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Don

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Response to NNN0LHI (Reply #6)

Thu May 31, 2012, 08:29 PM

9. Thanks, Don!

Much appreciated.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 31, 2012, 07:49 PM

7. that's great you found another

sinew stone. I plan on making a fossil necklace this summer with crinoids. There are lots of them at Lake Michigan.

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Response to Beringia (Reply #7)

Sat Jun 2, 2012, 10:34 AM

21. I've made

necklaces with fossils, with sharks' teeth, and with various artifacts. In May, I found a Lamoka point (4,000+ years old) that was as crisp as the day it was made, the perfect size for a "new" necklace.

I also have a turtle necklace, that an Elder from Onondaga carved out of bone for me.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 01:52 AM

11. I love reading your posts

There is something inherently soothing in them and I come away from them feeling lighter. You are an amazing being.

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Response to Mojorabbit (Reply #11)

Sat Jun 2, 2012, 10:36 AM

22. Thanks.

That means a lot to me.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 11:47 AM

12. Really, man. What he said. You're a great example of how to go through life and not die inside.

Live forever, please.

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Response to byronius (Reply #12)

Sat Jun 2, 2012, 10:42 AM

23. And thank you.

I think that we all live forever ..... not in the traditional, mainstream religious sense .... but in various different forms. That said, it is important to be here, alive, now, and to not die inside. Easier said than done, in this culture/world. I try my best.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 11:54 AM

13. With your permission, which I am assuming,

I will forward this to a close friend of mine who is in deep mourning. His partner of many many years fell over not quite 2 weeks ago and died within a few hours. He was 52.
The man who died was very dear to me, as well, and I miss him and am still shocked.

As I speak to my friend I watch him rally and make the best of this tragedy by carrying on and making changes and finishing things they had started together.

Your post is coming at a good time for both of us.
Thank you H2O Man for writing and posting this.

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Response to Mira (Reply #13)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 11:56 AM

14. Well, sure.

I am honored. Thank you!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 12:12 PM

15. Strange Days become stranger.

They've been around for awhile. I think a lot of us are really tired of having to devote so much time to preventing the spread of fascism, it's been a long struggle, and it never seems to end. I don't want to be thinking about these types of things; I'd rather be contemplating babies, butterflies, and rainbows, than constantly having to engage in what seems to be some cosmically imposed sense of responsibility/obligation to prevent the lunatics from completely taking over the asylum.

Again.

I remember thinking we'd be so much more evolved in 2012, back when I first heard this...
):


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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 02:25 PM

16. Lovely post H2O Man.

Thank you for sharing those thoughts.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Jun 2, 2012, 12:05 AM

18. I always enjoy reading the insightful, detailed, and interesting posts from you

I grew up in the little Erie Canal village of Spencerport. Of all the relics I've lost over the years, the ones I long for the most are the primitive three-sided flint arrow or spear head, or knife; and the hatchet-edged stone tool. Along with all my trilobites.

I could hold that stone tool and it fit the shape of my hand like no tool I've ever held before. The ergonomics were perfectly suited to my physiology. It felt the same in my hand as it did in the hand of whoever shaped and used it all those centuries ago. It just felt so perfect to hold.

I found them along the bed of the Falls Branch of the New York Central. The tracks are gone now; my home town no longer hears the blast of the train horn as it barrels through the center of the village late at night.

But they still hear the Erie Canal barges as they signal for the lift bridge in the center of town to raise and let them pass.

And if I ever get back there, I know the trilobites are still waiting for me in their fossilized slumber.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Jun 2, 2012, 08:40 AM

19. if i could merely aspire to be half the man you portray in this writing...

i would be twice the man i am today.

but this reminds me- maybe i already am.

very inspirational. thank you for this piece, h2o man.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat Jun 2, 2012, 10:57 AM

24. I'm really struggling with this myself these days...

"And that, of course, is what is best in any society -- when people reach out and support one another, not because they have to, but because human beings really are good. And that's something that we should not take for granted."


I, too, believe that there is a core of goodness in most people, though it may be hidden under many layers of fear and manifestations of fear (greed, anger, etc.).

Yet I am forever frustrated that the better angels of our nature come to the fore most often only after crisis and tragedy; and, when the crisis has largely passed, the goodness is buried under the fear again.

As you said, ordinary folks CAN do extraordinary things, and do. I suppose convincing people of this truth -- and that it applies to them -- is the best place to start to cultivate the better angels of our nature. Fear, doubt and apathy can so easily consume we humans.

I was trying to provide that inspiration here -- www.ourcollectivegood.com -- as much to inspire myself as well as others.

I'm going to get back to curating these stories, and asking others to share examples of Our Collective Good, thanks to your inspiration this morning.

As always, I tremendously appreciate your posts, and you, Dear Sir.



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