The CEBU Viral Video “Thriller:”
As some of you may know, I am working on editing Frog Gravy at the moment. Sometimes, I have difficulty locating my own posts in this site, because there are many, and lately, many are unrelated to incarceration, so believe it or not, I have to google to search for some of my own Frog Gravy writings.
If you are new, or if you are interested in reading about incarceration, here is a list of a few posts you may find interesting.
Before I begin, I would like to show you the GoodReads statement I made regarding Three Cups of Tea. My GoodReads list is in the lower left part of this site:
This book is controversial because investigations have greatly questioned its truthfulness. In fact, the author has been ordered to pay back some charities, due to accusations of misappropriation of funds and misrepresentations of activities.
The book remains on the list, and it is unrated at this site currently.
From Frog Gravy:
The Hole, The Chair And The Holding Cell (this will likely be Chapter 1 in the final version).
Unrelated to Frog Gravy:
At this point, I would like to ask readers what, if anything, you would like to see more of. My site stats indicate that people are interested in incarceration, but also, in topics related to living in poverty. If you have specific requests, please do not be shy about asking. For example, if you once read a Frog Gravy and would like to see it again, but cannot find it, I will try to help with that.
As I said, I am posting this, because the story, Frog Gravy, is sort of lost in this site and takes some searching and back-surfing to find.
Just a brief note on the legal case: It is headed to the United States Supreme Court as a Petition for Certiorari. The United States Supreme Court rarely grants these petitions, and the issues are very specific. Of course, we believe the constitutional issues in this case [insert litany here] are significant, or we would not disrespect or waste the Court’s time in filing the petition, but again, such petitions are rarely granted. I will speak about the next step in the legal case at the appropriate time.
The Kentucky Supreme Court denied our Motion For Discretionary Review of the Frog Gravy legal case without opinion or comment. Here is a copy of the order:
10 02/15/2012 ORDER DENYING DISCRETIONARY REVIEW: DD
11 02/15/2012 FINALITY: FL
This means we have reached the end of the road on the direct appeal in Kentucky and the published opinion by the Court of Appeals is the law of the case. The briefs filed by the parties will be available online at the Chase Law School in Kentucky at some point.
Documents in this case, including the briefs and the published opinion (pdf), are also available here:
The suppression hearing is here:
The first order denying suppression:
And the second, and the third:
What is the next step in this case?
There are three options right now:
1. Do nothing. The case no longer specifically impacts our day-to-day lives one way or the other. Fortunately, I am not on death row. The case will impact others in the future, because it is published and it sets precedent. One option is to do nothing.
It will be interesting to see how this case will impact future cases.
This latest result is entirely consistent with the patterns and practices of the case so far, as evidenced by these documents.
Jail art rendered from an art card that my family sent to me. I am unable to find the name of the original artist, but I loved the card, with the frogs on the tulip.
Jail religious pamphlet, McCracken County Jail.
Internal fixation, right calcaneus- 10 screws and a plate. In the hole, I wrapped toilet paper strips around my ankle to fend off the arthritis from the cold. I also have a healed L-1 burst fracture; arthritis from these injuries was aggravated by constant cold and lack of activity in the jails, particularly in McCracken County Jail, where real recreation in an outside cage was a rare event.
A 52-second long Cannes Film Festival winning short about love, and illness:
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
Inmate names are changed.
McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, Lenten season, 2008
I have learned that Catholics are disliked in a subtle, ill-defined way in this jail. Some of my family members are Catholic, and it took some, uh, doing before I received Catholic materials in this cell. Look to your left, look to your right. From reading the religious materials in the cell, I surmise that the Catholics are doomed, with the caveat ‘That’s not to say that there are not some very nice Catholics in the world,’ a statement that is roughly akin to the statement, ‘Some of my best friends are gay.’
For the sake of personal survival, I have learned to memorize a few, select, key Bible verses that explain, distill, sanitize and simplify the core mysteries of existence such as: living, dying, loving, creation, faith and parenting. If anyone asks a question about anything, I am supposed to say, “Show me where it says that in the Bible.”
To keep from flying apart at the psychiatric seams, in addition to wearing my terry cloth towel tin foil hat all the time for no clear reason, I compose music and mandalas in my head. To fend off the pain of physical deterioration, I ponder concepts.
I have a copy of the peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, that I read in secret, because another inmate “rebukes” it. She says it is “Catholic” and she “rejects” it, or rather she rejected it with the statement “Get thee behind me Satan,” which was a pretty clear message that I should keep the prayer to myself.
I study the prayer, and decide that hatred leads to injury, injury to discord, discord to doubt, doubt to despair, despair to darkness, darkness to sorrow, and sorrow to regret. And, that love leads to pardon, pardon to harmony, harmony to faith, faith to hope, hope to light, and light to joy. So, without love there is no joy.
But, love also leads to sorrow. In fact, love can lead to sorrow, darkness, despair, doubt, discord and even injury. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is apathy. Complacency. There is no mystery and no magic in apathy and complacency. Love, however, is powerful, and potentially destructive or even violent.
I decide that hope and imagination are connected, and that hope’s unfair close relative is doubt. I cannot describe any of the concepts in the prayer with words- all are part of me and all of us. The more I study the more I learn and the more I learn, the less I know. I decide that I could spend the rest of my life studying this prayer so that when I die, I will know nothing about what living means.
As I study the prayer, a war-like atmosphere of sick, lunatic din surrounds me, and I believe that the prayer may have been inspired by the pain and crisis of humans, who never learn anything. I wonder why humans need pain and crisis to evolve spiritually. Just when we get content, something in our body goes awry, something sad, maybe associated with aging, or actively dying while living, some ache or pain that tells us that we will never go camping again, or see the ocean again, or comfort an animal again, or make love again, or that maybe the best sunrise or the most beautiful sunset is behind us. Things will never be the same.
Regret is never having lived a single day to the fullest because we have never actually stayed in any given single real day.
Regret is knowing that my son may never see me happy.
But, regret brings realization. And realization simplifies: I do not have much, but then, I no longer want much or need much. I would rather cradle a bird than to die with fancy clothes in the closet.
If my son could see me happy, that would be enough.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.
Inmate names are changed.
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
McCracken County Jail, Spring, 2008
Christie has been denied drug court for her nonviolent drug-related charges, and issued a 24-year sentence. Her treatment denial was based on one of three counties wanting her to do time, rather than engage in the rigorous monitoring of drug court.
Drug court is not a joke, nor is it a get-out-of-jail-free card. The person must be employed, and available for drug testing on the spot, at any given time of the day or night. The person calls on the telephone, twice a day, to report to a counselor. In-court meetings are required, as are, I believe, twelve-step meetings. Drug court is time-intensive, and heavy with documentation. In order to be considered suitable for drug court, the candidate must plead guilty to her crime, and must agree to serve a lengthy sentence if, for some reason, she fails to follow the rules to the letter.
Here are ten essential components of drug court, from wiki:
The 10 Key Components
Drug Courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.
Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety. Participants must waive their due process rights to a speedy trial and sign a pre-emptive confession before being allowed to participate.
Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the Drug Court program.
Drug Courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug and other related treatment and rehabilitation services.
Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.
A coordinated strategy governs Drug Court responses to participants compliance.
Ongoing judicial interaction with each Drug Court participant is essential.
Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.
Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective Drug Court planning, implementation, and operations.
Forging partnerships among Drug Courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances Drug Court effectiveness.
Drug court is notable in the inmate community for what happens to inmates who relapse. They can end up serving more time than they ever possibly imagined, more time than killers, even. For this reason, some inmates who truly want to get clean and sober, but who have a tendency to slip and slide during this process, will choose to do the time instead. I have seen some spectacular drug court failures. Inmates who get served out on a sentence behind drug court failure consistently report regret.
There are also some wonderful drug court success stories. Here is the site with more information. People who successfully complete the rigors of drug court often become mentors in the recovery community.
Shortly after Christie was denied drug court, she was shipped to prison, and while I was happy that she was going to a better place than the jail, her departure broke my heart. Never in my adult life had I been close to women, but in this disaster situation, I came to love Christie (and Tina) like sisters. Later on during my incarceration, after my fake release on parole, Christie, Tina and I will spend time together in prison, at PeWee Valley KCIW.
I cried when Christie left. Such is the nature of incarceration. You exchange the most intimate details of your lives with each other and then….poof. They’re gone. After a while, you learn not to get too close to anybody. People may think that you are arrogant, but really, it is a simple matter of self-preservation.
After Christie leaves, I keep to myself and write. This morning, I did some standing-in-place exercises. Then I read Wisdom 3:1-12. For breakfast we had eggs, one slice of toast, cream of wheat, sausage and half a banana. I write everything down, inane, meaningless stuff, to keep from coming apart with grief. For lunch we had chicken, one slice of bread, corn, peaches and cole slaw.
Harry is screaming for help from his isolation cell and I am having difficulty focusing on my notes.
One time, Christie and I fashioned chess pieces out of scavenged paper scraps from the cell. We drew a chess board onto the steel table with a bar of soap, and then we played chess. That made my day.
A while after Christie departed, she wrote me. Inmates are allowed to write each other, but I have not been allowed to contact Christie since my release on parole (I asked my officer about this). I miss her, and so I have her letter, and I read it over and over, even now.
She starts with: “What the hell? How come you haven’t wrote me yet?”
I have an answer. The answer is, it is just too painful. All of this. It’s just too much.
Anyhow, I did get a kick out of her description of some of the men who responded to her trick ads:
…some interesting individuals- one in Oregon, NM, Colorado, Maine- is very interesting. He is a marathon runner. Speaks Italian and French- very smart. One from Texas. He looks like he came straight out of that movie “Revenge of the Nerds…”
In prison, Christie, Tina and I discussed Frog Gravy at length. This memoir would not exist without these two wonderful women. Disaster brought us together. Disaster taught each of us a little more about love, and how it feels to lose something that matters to you. It is probably safe but sad to say that disaster taught us each a little more about being women. And I am grateful for the lesson.
“I can’t get out. He won’t let me out…”
In The Mouth of Madness
“It’s probably an apocryphal story,” he said. “But he deserves it. And those people who deserve an apocrypha, well, I find a peace in them. Even in the men who fuck me, I find peace, in all the lies of their lives, because they’re only living when they can hold a smooth blushed cheek against a blackness in their loins, and then they return to their fat wives. I love them. You can’t ever know what peace, what hope they give me…”
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.
Inmate names are changed.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
McCracken County Jail, late winter/early spring, 2008
We are watching the news. This is rare. I savor it. I am not even really sure who will be running for president. But I can tell you how much weight the blue team of fat people lost last week on The Biggest Loser.
We hear about a pot bust at the BP station on Alben Barkley Drive. I say, “It’s dumb to get busted at that station. There’s always a cop car parked there.”
“The cops do that,” says Christie.
“Park cop cars at gas stations, at WalMart, at the mall, and just leave the cars there. There’s no cops though. They just want people to think there are.”
“How do you know?”
“I realized it when I was smoking crack in the WalMart parking lot one time. I was like, there’s no cops there.”
“Seems to me that this time there were cops there,” I say.
During the news I return to my task-at-hand, at the steel table where I am seated. I have a religious handout titled, HELL- What is it? Beneath the title is a list of definitions taken from scripture, along with the citations. I am checking off, with a no-shank pen, each description that fits this jail. For example, I am perpetually congested, and many nights I awake coughing, from the pepper spray being inflicted on the mentally ill man down the hall in his isolation cell. Pepper spray permeates all of the cells whenever they spray Harry. I check off:
A lake of fire (Rev. 20:15)
A lake of fire into which people are cast alive (Rev 19:20)
Down the hall, Harry screams from his isolation cell, all day and all night, every day and every night, “PLEASE!! Let me out! Somebody please! HELP ME!”
I have never seen Harry. When they spray him, he yelps and yells, like a whipped dog. His yelping amuses his tormentors. On my list, I mark:
A place of torments (Luke 16:23)
Where they scream for mercy (Luke 16:24)
Lea returns fromthe nurse. They want to change her blood pressure medicine, and add a new medicine. They have checked her blood pressure exactly one time in five months.
I say, “They charge you to go see them, don’t they?”
“They better fuckin’ not. I didn’t ask that. I can barely afford to wash my ass, I can’t afford two prescriptions. I know ten dollars ain’t that much but I cain’t afford it. They didn’t charge us nuthin’ at PeWee. The whole fuckin’ time I been here, this is the only time they checked my blood pressure to see if the medicine’s working.”
On the TV, we learn that the nine Amish men who were cited for not displaying a large orange triangle on their horse-drawn buggy will fight the charges.
I say to Lea, “That’s nuts, only checking your blood pressure one time and then adding a new medication.”
I star and underline Luke 16:28:
A place where they did not want their loved ones to come.
Lea says, “Now they want me to take another pill and I don’t like the way it does me. You’re a nurse. What do you think the problem is?”
“I am not a doctor. I just know my body. When I took too much blood pressure medicine on the outside, before they got the dose right, I felt sick. Maybe it’s too much for you, if it makes you feel bad. But, I am not a doctor. Frankly, I think they want the five dollars for the visit.”
A place of torments (Luke 16:23)
Several months ago, I slammed my index fingertip in a door. The blackened nail now finally loosens, and falls off. I pick it up. I want to reattach the black nail, because it is a reminder of and a connection to freedom.
While I am trying to figure out how to reattach my blackened fingernail that connects me to freedom, inmates in the cell next door begin to yell at Harry and torment him, and so, I make another adjustment to the terry cloth towel on my head. Maybe the towel does not keep everything out but it is better than nothing.
A place where their worm dieth not and fire is not quenched (Mark 9:48)
Lea says, “I think you’re right. I done lost all that weight, and I know my body, and I don’t need that shit.”
I go into the bathroom and climb onto the toilet and peer through the slit in the ghosted out window at the dumpsters. I have not slept well. In my dreams, I relive my accident over and over. I am in a wheelchair, and I cannot run from the tornado. I find a dumpster. In the dumpster is a beautiful porcelain doll. I retrieve the doll and send it to my mother because she has always loved dolls, and she collects them.
I realize that Lent is near. What do I give up for Lent? I decide to give up bread. The sun shines outside, onto the dumpsters. I wipe tears from my face, climb down from the steel toilet and return to the steel table.
A guard comes and gets me from the cell and takes me to the nurse, because I have filled out a medical request, for exercise or recreation time outside of the cell. I have cited the rule, that inmates are to have one hour of recreation and exercise each day.
The nurse tells me that this is not her department.
The jail extracts five dollars from my books for the visit, and I return to the cell.
When I return to the cell, I learn that the jail has confiscated an obituary that my mother sent to me. A classmate of mine (Lakeridge Class of 1978) has died. The jail claims that the obituary is a news item, and that all news items are considered contraband.
I say a silent prayer for Ada.
A place of damnation, world without end (Mark 3:26)
Author’s note: My dream about the doll actually came true after my release. As soon as I can find the photos I took of the doll before I sent it to my mother, I will post them.
Update: here is that doll:
Bone with a bow, hand-drawn copy of caricature by Crane-Station on flickr. Prison art, colored pencil and ink.
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
KCIW PeWee Valley, Winter, 2008-2009.
Wherever you go, there you are, and you just hope that God sets you down someplace and leaves you with a really good story. Kentucky courts bend over backward to help with this.
I love prison. It is helping me to discover who I am and who I am not. I never realized this before, but I really, really enjoy tutoring, particularly in the subject of basic math.
Growing up I had the best of all teaching worlds. My mother is an elderly retired high school Honors English teacher who taught me to write. If there is a better writer in the world than my mother, I would like to see it. Without her, I could not write my way out of a sack. To this day she helps me. My father is an elderly retired chemist and pathologist who ultimately founded a medical laboratory in the Pacific Northwest. He took his training at Emory, and I have yet to meet a more intelligent, methodical and ethical physician of his word. When I was young I often visited him in the basements of hospitals. Ironically, my mother went on later in life to found a center for addicted and incarcerated mothers to obtain treatment and skills needed for transition to a better life, on the outside. The center is in Portland and it is named after her: The Letty Owings Center. Both of my parents are gifted teachers.
I never thought of myself as gifted at anything. But in jail, and particularly in prison, I discover my penchant for teaching.
Tory is a mother of two who never completed the tenth grade. She loves school and wants to sit for her GED. She is enrolled in Algebra and has asked me to help her.
We sit at a table in the crowded, noisy day room of Ridgeview Dormitory, and begin our lessons.
In my mind, however, I am not in prison. I am in a town called Lake Oswego, Oregon, on the deck of my childhood home with my father. He is patiently teaching me math. I learn math in a place that God created called the Willamette Valley, in the shadow of pre-1980 Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Hood, and with the Willamette River so close you can hear the water ski boats.
My father demonstrates, in a humorous way, that dividing by zero is not allowed. He starts with allowable math, and then slips in the zero, underneath the dividing line and I fall for it. My father is laughing and I laugh too, because I have been tricked. I will never forget that you cannot divide by zero. I will draw a pastel picture of Mount St. Helens, not knowing its fate.
In prison I try to be my father, but I cannot remember the sequence of equations and letters and lines that he set before me, all those years ago and so, I am a poor imposter.
I say to Tory, “Rest assured. This question will be on a test. Look at the answer choices. If there is ever, anywhere, a zero underneath a dividing line, eliminate the answer choice. Here. Try it on the calculator. Pick any number and divide it by zero.”
Tory punches in some numbers, and the word “error” appears.
“Why is this?” asks Tory.
“It’s just one of those things that is not allowed. You cannot divide something by nothing. You can come close. If you divide something by something small, very close to zero, the number will be very large. But divide by zero and there is no number. There’s not even nothing, because it is just not allowed.”
My explanation is insufficient on its face and I know it. I have insulted my father and I am ashamed.
The lesson continues and I say, “Here is another neat trick. Pick a number. Any number in the world. By the end of this lesson you will be able to multiply and divide any number in the world by ten. You will be able to eliminate some of the answer choices this way. And eliminating multiple choice answers is half the game on a test. The process of elimination will increase the chances that your guess will be right. Are you penalized for guessing on that test? Do you know?”
Tory tells me she will find out.
We continue. I explain how to call an unknown number by the letter ‘x.’ “The object of the game,” I say, “is to get the x onto one side of the equation and get everything else onto the other.”
Turns out Tory is a natural at Algebra. She quickly understands the beginning steps to every problem, no matter how convoluted it looks on paper.
At the end of the lesson, Tory says, “God divided by zero. And he got the universe.”
I begin to wonder if someday, when all of this is behind me, I can return to prison, to teach.
note: Tory was shipped to Otter Creek Prison, just one class shy of sitting for finals and completing her coursework. I received a thank you letter from her while I was still residing at Ridgeview Dormitory. Her spirit was not broken; Even though her schooling had been interrupted and she had to start all over, after she was shipped, she immediately looked for classes to enroll in, at the new location.
Update: Here is what my father taught me all those years ago. I spoke to him yesterday on the phone for Thanksgiving, and he walked me through it. I would like to share it with you here, because of all of the explanations and demonstrations and teaching tricks I have seen and heard, this is the best one.
This is a gem, and if you are teaching algebra to your children or to others, you may want to jot it down.
Let’s start with a simple equation. The quantity on the left is equal to the quantity on the right.
a = b
What we do with one side of the equation, we must do to the other side, so let’s multiply both sides by a:
a squared = ab
Subtract b squared from both sides of the equation:
a squared – b squared = ab-b squared
Now, we can factor this. Here is what that looks like:
(a-b)(a+b) = b(a-b)
Now divide both sides by (a-b):
a+b = b
Okay, now let’s assume that a is equal to b, and substitute:
b+b = b
Well, b plus b is 2b, so:
2b = b
Now, divide each side by b:
2 = 1
But wait! This does not make sense. What is wrong here? It appears mathematically sound, right? Well, our answer tells us that the problem is not mathematically sound, and that there is a fallacy or a false statement somewhere.
The two starting quantities are equivalent, and so a minus b equals zero.
The flaw occurred when we divided by a minus b, or zero. When we did this, it was downhill from there.
One way to teach this is to present the problem like this:
a = b
a squared = ab
a squared – b squared = ab-b squared
(a-b)(a+b) = b(a-b)
a+b = b
b+b = b
2b = b
2 = 1
And simply ask the student what is wrong with the problem.
A round of applause and gigantic hat tip to my father for helping me remember this fun math problem!
Nikko, our Humane Society rescued African Grey Parrot, by Crane-Station (as masonbennu) on flickr.
Teddy Bear, Bee, Bluebird, Snowflakes. Prison art by Crane-Station on flickr.
note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language.
KCIW PeWee Valley women’s penitentiary, 1-20-09.
The birds know me. The inmates know that the birds know me, and everyone calls me Bird Lady.
As if by unwritten rule, many prison inmates are assigned nicknames; most often the names are apt. Pickles, Bam-Bam, One-Tit, Wheels. You can sort of get an idea where the name came from, if you know the inmate. I suppose fellow inmates changed the gender of the Bird Man of Alcatraz, dropped the Alcatraz part and left it at Bird Lady. At any rate, this is my name at PeWee. Many people will never know my real name. Since I am an ‘older lady’ by prison standards, some of the inmates combine a respectful Southern greeting with the name and call me “Miss Bird Lady.”
The incarceration experience is a bit like being a passenger on a train, in that people enter and exit my life like ghosts. I will learn the most tragic and intimate details of women’s lives, and they will learn mine, but then they are gone, and I will wonder if I imagined the whole thing. The woman whose nineteen-year-old son died in a boating accident and she attended his funeral in shackles. The woman who moved during count and was taken to the hole, where she labored alone and birthed a baby son. The passing parade of women in the overcrowded jail cells, who sometimes spent years warehoused in cement. Lasting impressions. Fleeting.
Over and over I am told to ‘do the time, don’t let the time do you.’ The prison birds, who do not have to be here, help me with this.
Starlings are very smart, and when I come up the path at 5 PM every day I whistle at them. They must know my walk or something, because they come when they see me, but not other inmates. Lately it has been bitter cold. When I come up the path the birds wait on the fence for me. They wait on a stretch of fence topped with coiled razor wire that serves no purpose.
The fence is a wall within the walls of the prison. You can walk around the end of it to get to the other side. The razor wire on top of this non-barrier barrier adds to dramatic effect and reminds me that I am in prison. If the fence could talk it would say, “You are a scumbag. Haha, of course no one would ever dream of climbing over an open-ended fence. I am here to snag the occasional bird, and remind you that you are a scumbag.”
The birds on top of the purposeless yet dramatic non-fence fence say different things to me. They say, “Bitch, look. We are here to show you that you are one of God’s children, but dangit, we’re hungry. Toss us some crumbs and we’ll show you a good time.”
A mockingbird who has graduated to the top of the utility pole gets my attention when he shouts, “Ebert!! EbertEbertEbertEbertEbert. Eeeee-bert!” He launches himself into the air like one of those cliff divers, does a perfect back flip, and returns to his perch. He acts as if this day in prison is the happiest day of his life.
Acting as if. As if life is good. As if all of the world is a perch, to dive from. I have heard that if you suit up and show up for long enough and act as if, that sooner or later your attitude will change, and you will be in the heaven of possibility and not in the hell of your own making. (I heard all of this on the outside, in twelve step meetings. In here, I am unable to attend meetings.) I begin, in earnest, to look for the good in people, and examine the irony that tragic events often bring out the good in people who would likely never mix in any other setting, or at least the sense that such events are an effective leveler.
My birds help me find my own humanity, but at the same time they must eat like everyone else, and so other inmates bring cornbread crumbs and other treats to the central distribution hub: the waistband of my khaki pants.
Starlings work together in a cunning glossy flock. Crows plot and plan and also work together, although they post up separately and communicate. Sparrows are my sweet scavenger; cardinals are the royalty; mockingbirds are the clowns; bluebirds are shy; woodpeckers act like they own the pole.
None of them have to be here, and all of them contradict the message of the fence.
Worth the watch. Nature By Numbers with hat tips to Kelly Canfield and Mary McCurnin:
Plants That Go bad hilarious video of nature:
Ahem. Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account that contains graphic plants.
I would like to give a shout-out to Miss Heavren, the amazing JCTC Horticulture instructor for her stellar teaching and saint-like patience, as well as her dry sense of humor. One of her sayings remains with me: “Well, in a perfect world…”
This post is for Stan.
Barn. Jail art by Crane-Station on flickr. colored pencil and magazine ink.
Daffy. Jail art by Crane-Station on flickr. My favorite cartoon character. Colored pencil, ink, magazine ink.
Pine Bluff Dormitory Study Room, KCIW PeWEE Valley Women’s Penitentiary, Summer 2009.
I am in the study room of Pine Bluff Dormitory trying to design a soccer field for one of my Horticulture classes, and my friend Lindsay is helping me.
Lindsay is serving out a sentence of fifteen years and will be released in 2016. She is a delightful woman, full of energy and really smart. Lindsay is an honor inmate who is now a literary braille translator working on maps (this may be called tactile translation) and, since she already completed the Horticulture program and remembers the content of the classes, she is invaluable to me.
I am trying to design a soccer field, which pales in comparison to one of Lindsay’s previous golf course projects, and I am jealous of her, floored really, in the same way that Patrick Bateman is floored when Paul Allen’s business card is shown in the American Psycho business card scene.
Turns out that golf courses involve complicated design and maintenance, particularly the green, but even the fairway, which is why golf course superintendents make a lot of money.
I have chosen a soccer field because I love soccer, and played on two indoor and three outdoor teams in Seattle at one time. Old People’s Soccer is a sport for heathens who dish out a stunning variety of bad behaviors on a nightly basis, and then, the next morning, show up for work and blend in with the passing public. I used to carry an extra ACL knee brace in the trunk of my car, to the brutal coed indoor games, so that someone else could borrow it.
As an aside, I think that Old People’s Softball may be even more brutal than Old People’s Soccer, if that is possible.
I want a grass field because turf makes the game so fast. Lindsay helps me with the drainage design.
After a long stay in Ridgeview Dormitory, I requested the transfer to Pine Bluff Dormitory because Pine Bluff, which houses honor inmates and others serving lengthy sentences, is quieter and softer on the psyche. I miss my roommate from Ridgeview, Miss Pat, and I did not really want to leave her, but I was beginning to slide into depression at Ridgeview just because of the constant chaos.
I do not qualify to apply for honor status because I go up for parole at the end of the summer, but still, being housed with inmates in the honor dorm is much better. The study room we are in, for example, is quiet, and I can concentrate. While I earned A’s in Horticulture ultimately, it is a wonder I did not flunk out of school while I was living in Ridgeview Dormitory.
After we study, Lindsay goes to a bookshelf and retrieves an encyclopedia and opens it to the topic of The Riviera.
She explains to me that she has a male pen pal who is also in prison, and they write each other about all of the wonderful imaginary trips that they take, all over the world, on a regular basis. To take a trip, Lindsay uses the encyclopedia, and writes to her pen pal, the details of the coastline they see, the food they eat, and the side trips they will take.
Lindsay’s imaginary trips make an impression on me because she is so happy when she describes them, as if she is actually in these various beautiful places.
A few days later, I check out from the prison library The Diving Bell And The Butterfly. It is, without a doubt, the most poignant and inspiring memoir I have ever read. Author Jean-Dominique Bauby was working as the editor of the french Elle style magazine, when he suffered a devastating stroke that left him with a rare condition called ‘locked in syndrome,’ where a patient is fully aware and awake but cannot move or talk.
If ever there was a prison, this author was in it. He could communicate only by blinking one eye. A speech pathologist constructed a chart of the French alphabet, in order of the most-used letters first. A communicator would point to the letters as they appeared and Bauby would blink at the letter that he wanted to use, and so, letter by letter he wrote his story.
In his story he takes trips to beautiful places where he tastes his favorite foods, all in his mind, and he is thus freed from his devastating physical incarceration.
After release I obtain my own copy. Lindsay’s imaginary trips and Jean-Domonique Bauby’s memoir will change my view of prison.
That is, there need not be walls to make a prison, and there are no walls in the mind.
This is the third and last part of the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic series. If you are just tuning in now, no worries, there is a bit of interesting information here.
I would like to give another shout-out to the JCTC Biology instructor by name, but I cannot quite recall his name (it may be Burke- not sure), so if someone knows it, please tell me, so that everyone in the blogosphere will know about his good work and dedication to prison education. I think his wife may also be involved in prison work as well.
That inmate education for nonviolent Class D Kentucky offenders is being eliminated is tragic. I wonder what the rationale is for eliminating education, treatment and job skills training and ability to exit incarceration with vouching work references in hand is. Class D nonviolent offenders will be released into the community. As a member of the community, what would you prefer: an educated person, with references in hand, who is excited about turning the second half of her life into a positive, or a warehoused, traumatized person who has spent several years on the cement floor of an overcrowded jail cell learning a new criminal skill set?
note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.
Rocky Mountain Vista by Krossbow on flickr under Creative Commons.
Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic Related terms Of Interest
boreal- of or pertaining to the North (think Aurora Borealis). Forest areas of the North Temperate Zone.
endemic-of animals. Prevalent in a particular region.
epidemic- A rapid spread, growth or development (ie: United States incarceration rates)
pandemic-epidemic over a wide geographical area.
silviculture- the cultivation of forests.
carbon sink- a natural carbon vacuum or reservoir.
xeriscape- water-conserving landscaping.
defensible space- The area around a structure that is treated or cleared, to reduce or slow a fire.
verbenone- a “no vacancy” pheromone sign.
chlorotic- yellowed or brownish red due to diminished chlorophyll and cell death in leaf tissue.
Carbon and temperature
As atmospheric CO2, in parts per million, rises, so does the earth’s surface temperature. This, in turn, leads to drought and stresses trees, making them more susceptible to infestation. Killed trees then become a fire-prone fuel source, susceptible to intense-heat fire. In cyclic fashion, more fire leads to more CO2.
The Canadian Forest Service no longer lists its huge forests as a “carbon sink,” because at the moment, the opposite is true: they have changed from natural carbon vacuum (sucking up 55 million tons per year) to producer (245 million tons per year).
Silviculture, human perception and intervention
In terms of forest management, who or what caused the current forest decline is irrelevant. Nature is taking its course without regard to political views. Since humans are an integral part of our North American forest ecosystem, forest management is a necessary and responsible activity, and not a waste of time or money. Any cascading event such as a forest beetle pandemic will affect current and future timber and recreation industries, raise safety concerns, and motivate further study.
US government grants to the US Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service, can promote meaningful research and forest management. Since no known activities will stop the natural course of the current outbreak, we may need to accept the fact that our future forests will reflect a radical shift from past decades. With that in mind, damage control, safety and public education are primary objectives.
Management efforts include:
-Removal of hazardous trees.
-ongoing public education.
-management and rules for temporary roads and trails, to prevent civilian misuse and injury.
-thinning and reducing fuel load.
-managing fuel breaks.
-monitoring natural regeneration.
-conducting prescribed burning.
-putting blue-stained wood to use.
-continued study, data collection and evaluation.
Ironically, “beetlewood” has created a temporary sawmill industry boom. Beetles have killed so many trees that some officials have “more than doubled their allowable timber harvest” (Struck, Washington Post). This economic industrial boost will ideally lead to long-term balance and consistency, for environment and industry alike.
Campbell, N., Mitchell, L., Reece, J., Biology Menlo Park, CA, 1997. 38.13, Carbon dioxide and other gases added to the atmosphere may cause global warming.
Amman, G., McGregor, M., and Dolph, R., Mountain Pine beetle. Forest Insect and Disease. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, “Forest Insect and Disease Leaflet.” 1990.
Marcus, N., and Halford, M., Our Future Forests 2008 Guide for the landowner. NW Colorado Forest Health Guide, 2008.
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Record of Decision, Vail Valley Forest Health Project, March, 2006.
Brown, J., Report: Warming cuts trees’ life in half. 1/23/09.
Bentz, B., Western US Bark Beetles and Climate Change. May, 2008. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Climate Change Resource Center.
Fox, M., Pine Beetles May Affect Climate Change- Study. April 23, 2008.
Struck, D., ‘Rapid Warming’ Spreads Havoc in Canada’s Forests. March 1, 2006.
Washington Post Foreign Service.
Clayton, M., Carbon Sink Springs a Leak. March 11, 2009. Christian Science Monitor.
Glick, Daniel. The Big Thaw. National Geographic., September, 2004.
Once again, a hat-tip to my amazing nephew and Vail resident Ray, who provided references. He has worked to help control the epidemic in his area. Plus he is the most amazing extreme skier I have ever seen in my life. He does things on skis that would leave me talking through an electronic voice box for the rest of my life, including, but not limited to being towed, on skis, by a galloping horse, my hand to God, and there is a photo.