Author Archives: backfromtheborderlands

About backfromtheborderlands

These writing pieces and a few photos are from my experiences and messages I have gathered from living in the borderlands.

Garden Distractions

(Found this poem on my computer from last year)

I’m trying to get some work done

Only to be interrupted by 

Bunny rabbits in my yard

First a little brown wild one

Then a big fat white one

Looks like it was someone’s pet

Then as I try to set up my computer

Song sparrows in the front yard and 

Spotted Towhees in the back

How am I to get any work done today? 

My yard is in sore need of attention

I managed to convince my 9 year old grandson

Mowing the lawn would be fun.

With a push mower of course

It was fun until he got distracted with something else 

So I took over and finished it up

His little brother helped me pull some

Grass out of the flower bed

I’ve all but given up on planting

Any vegetables anymore

My yard is too damp and shady

Not enough sunlight gets through

The slugs and perhaps rabbits

Managed to chew enough of everything

Last time I planted vegetables

There wasn’t anything much left over

And tomatoes never ripen – ever

Even in my windows. 

The only things that survived 

Were the herbs

I’ll stick with them

and the flowers for now

Especially the hardy types

Oh and the sweet, tiny

Strawberries as well.

Categories: Birds, children, growth, Poetry, Seasons | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A North American Historical and Contemporary Response to Chinese Boarding Schools 

by Julie and Bill Clark

A full scale genocide is taking place now in Northwest China. Uyghur, Kazakh, Tibetan, and other minority families are being traumatized through the assimilationist policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  These policies include children being forcibly separated from their parents and put in boarding school where they are systematically stripped of their language, culture, and religion. There are estimates of 900,000 children in these schools with a similar number of children in Tibetan regions. However, before we spend the effort to understand the situation in China, it is vital for us, as people of good will in the US and Canada, to examine our own history with Native American boarding schools. 

On May 11, 2022 the US Department of the Interior issued a 106 page comprehensive report on the boarding school era. The era began in 1819 and continued until 1969. The US Federal government was responsible for 408 schools scattered over 37 states. Roughly half of these schools were run by Christian denominations. All the schools had a clear mandate of suppressing the language, culture, and indigenous religion of its students. There are both marked and unmarked burial sites at 53 of these schools. The oral histories of living survivors of these schools are vital for understanding the grief of the children and their families. In this short oral history video, it is possible to see the heartache in the story of Andy Windyboy, a Chipawwa Cree American and a boarding school survivor : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDshQTBh5d4

The Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, herself an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico,  goes on to say, “The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old—are heartbreaking and undeniable. We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal.” https://nativenewsonline.net/currents/interior-department-releases-indian-boarding-school-report

It is hard to overestimate the power of a US Cabinet official, who is herself Native American, to speak in such clear language acknowledging the genocidal policy of previous administrations. Of note is that 75% of the Canadian schools were run by the Catholic church and 50% of the American schools were run by Catholic and Protestant groups. The church was deeply complicit in an institution that targeted the most vulnerable members of their Native American neighbors, the children. 

The Chinese government spokespersons are already throwing the facts of the historic Native American genocide in our faces, saying we have no moral high ground to criticize their policies towards their indigenous peoples. In this recent China Daily piece the Chinese government spokesperson admonishes the US to heal the trauma caused by the Native American boarding schools: China urges US to adopt serious measures to truly help ethnic minorities get over trauma – People’s Daily Online. Our soul work, as Americans and Canadians, is to first acknowledge our history unflinchingly, and then ask for the Creator’s forgiveness and mercy on us. 

When we acknowledge that we are not innocent then we can advocate with integrity for the children and their families currently suffering under these genocidal policies in China. Survivors of the North American boarding schools say, “the first step of healing is acknowledgement”. Let’s make that healing start together. Below is a prayer of lament we have written to help us get started:

Lament for the Native American Boarding Schools

Creator have mercy on us and hear our prayers

As we become more aware of the sins of our ancestors

Towards the Native Americans of this nation

Help us to acknowledge the harm we have done

Help us to not delay any longer the healing

Native Americans and our nation needs

Creator hear our prayers and have mercy on us

For the harm we have done

For the trauma we have caused to many generations

By forcing Native American children into boarding schools

By trying to erase their language, culture, and religion

We acknowledge and repent of these great wrongs

Forgive us in your great mercy

For snatching children away from their mothers and fathers

From their grandparents and extended families 

From their community and their customs, religion and language

We confess our nation has sinned against Your children

For the physical, sexual, emotional abuse these children endured

For the sickness and deaths that occured

For the generational trauma that continues to this day

Forgive us

Many of these abuses were done in the name of Christ by the church.

We confess we have sinned against these children and families

Using your name

We ask for forgiveness for thinking our English language was better

For thinking our customs and culture was better

For the arrogance we displayed 

For the great harm we have done

We ask for forgiveness

We ask for healing for all those harmed by this practice

Amen

Categories: children, Faith, lament, Peace and Reconciliation, Prayer | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Like Gold

The quietness 

the stillness 

the soft lapping of the water 

a little flock of Bufflehead ducks 

swimming to and fro 

diving and resurfacing

the sunset changing the colors 

of the world 

These are like gold to me

Categories: beauty, Birds, Photography, Poetry, Seasons | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Two Years In

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Two years in

Not normal now 

never will be

Never was

We can’t go back 

Normal was never 

Ever

Normal

For everyone

All we have is

Now

Today

What will we do

With it?

We can’t get our

Dead back

Whether

From disease or

Gun shots

So we must

Grieve and lament

Mental health?

Anyone not 

Been depressed or anxious

Lately?

So we must

Seek peace and community

Two years in

And a million miles away

From what any of us would 

Choose for ourselves, 

Our children

And grandchildren

What choices do we have?

We can choose

Love, kindness, forgiveness 

We can choose a path

Of generosity and peace

We can turn our weapons into

Tools for living, farming, building and

caring for 

One another

It’s time for a new pledge

Not to a flag

But to our Creator

To our common humanity

To the planet we share

A pledge to share our resources

To help those less fortunate 

To make amends

For our wrongs

No more excuses

No more denial

To Restore the earth

To take care of this

Precious planet

We call home

To be makers of peace

Not war

Categories: children, Faith, grief and death, lament, Life, Love, pandemic, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Dream Gift

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

(Every now and then I have a dream that really sticks to me. I sense there is a message for me. In my dream I am cleaning my friend’s mountain house. We are leaving and she and her family are on their way. They arrive before we are finished. I keep cleaning. She says to me “I have something for you”. I have to stop cleaning to receive the gift she has for me. It is a beautiful bracelet.)

Sometimes we have to stop

To stop being useful

To receive the gift

The gift of being

Truly loved

Categories: dream, Love, Poetry | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Palm Branches

Here is a reflection poem on Palm Sunday.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Palm Branches

They thought they knew

How it would all play out

When Messiah came.

When He did come

He did not do what

He was supposed to do.

They did not have room

In their hearts,

Hardened by certainty.

No room for adjusting

And aligning

Their thoughts

Their actions

To God’s.

What about me?

Do I have room?

Or am I so certain

I know the way –

That I miss it?

Mary had a choice.

She heard the invitation

And sat at his feet,

Became a disciple,

Learned 

She had room

In her heart.

Her acceptance

Of the words and teaching

Upturned the Patriarchy,

And helped her brothers

To have room as well.

But the palm waving

Crowds shouting

Hosanna, quickly turned

To Crucify him

When he did not do

What they thought 

He was supposed to do.

Categories: Faith, God, growth, Lent, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Caught Between

Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com

As winter begins 

It’s slow retreat

As blossoms unfold

At an unhurried pace

I find myself 

Wondering

How will it all end?

With a bang 

And a flash

A nuclear waste

An eternal winter or

Never ending fire?

Or will goodness

Once again prevail?

With a slow push

Towards the light

Towards love

With captives

Being freed

With grief and loss

Giving way to hope

And tears of relief

With lessons learned

Will the cycle of life

Begin again?

The little bird chirps

From its perch 

In the tree

“You choose

You choose”

Caught between

Hope and despair 

I choose hope

Categories: Birds, Faith, Hope, Lent, Life, Poetry, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This War

Photo by Sima Ghaffarzadeh on Pexels.com

Mother’s in labor

Birthing their babies

In the subway stations

Away from the bombs

Exploding above ground

Bombs hitting

Maternity hospitals

Children’s hospitals

The elderly making their way

Across the rubble

Leaning on their canes

The tear streaked cheeks

Of children saying goodbye

To their fathers

Through the train windows

These images

We are seeing

Broken hearts, broken lives

Anger at this waste

Of precious lives

We are angry

I am angry

Trying not to hate

Hate will do no good

For me or those I love

For this world

Already steeped in it

Why this war, this way?

How does this one leader

Live with himself?

Is this how he wants

To be remembered?

The cruelest of tyrants

Inflicting his insanity

On the vulnerable?

Is there a shred 

Of the soul left to appeal to?

To lament and pray for?

He is not the only tyrant

Still alive today

Perhaps, it’s not too late

To hope

To pray

Categories: grief and death, lament, pain, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Let the flowers

Let the flowers

Do their work

Inviting you to smile

To enjoy their beauty

When you see them

In the vase

On the stem

Or blooming from the branches

Stop and let them

Share their joy

If there is any time you need it

It is now

Their joy

Their beauty

Can birth hope

In your heart

In these dark days

Waiting for spring

Let them do their work

Then you can do yours

Categories: beauty, Hope, Poetry | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Reduction

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Reduction

Simmering on a back burner

Evaporating

Diminishing 

To concentrate flavor

And thicken the broth or sauce

Aging, chronic illness, plus the pandemic

Reducing me

Refining is painful

Simmering on the back burner is no fun

Pruning makes me sore

Yet

Hopeful to become

More truly who I am

A thicker, more flavorful me

Let it continue

Grow and stretch

Let the trials 

The isolation

Turn me into

A highly concentrated glaze 

A viscous

Honey or roux

Categories: growth, Hope, Life, pain, pandemic, Poetry | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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