Burning Sage in a House of Mirrors

Tonight I am burning some of the sage I found this past week, and remembering that nothing happens according to schedule; when life coincides with schedules, we are in some way, living according to the rhythms and patterns of nature. Nature doesn’t care what’s in our notebooks, calendars or e-mail. If I made it to all those meetings, coffees, and ran all those errands, by the time the weekend comes around, nature will show me what’s natural–that I need to rest.

And despite our human predilection to tear down and build with the elements we take from nature, as much as we strive to be “masters” of nature, we are not. At best, we can be stewards, but even that is difficult when the way we live is intricately interlaced with our excessive use of water, fuel, and ‘things.’  Even when I am gardening, it is so incredibly connected to buying things.  But those beautiful plants are so faithful, even when they live under the fickle will of what I “want.”

There was a time when I took the time to burn sage every single day, when I tied my prayers into small bundles, and when I gave away more than I kept. Right now I’m aware how taking my “professional” life too seriously is exactly that–taking it TOO seriously. I am not my work, nor am I governed by its expectations on my time. When my life has become compressed by my busy schedule, I need to remember that I am the one who walked into this house of mirrors, and not to believe what I see is real.

When I burn sage, it helps me see the smoky nature of everything, and I am invited to come back to the world of wind and water, wood and stone. I am reminded that there is a choice, but that I am never without insight unless I fail to let myself see, so busy colliding with my own reflection that I can’t tell where I’m going unless I connect with the ground, the earth.

Finding Fort Stockton…Don’t Try to Do it in a Travel Magazine, Though

fortstocktonFort Stockton, Texas.

This is my hometown, written about in a recent issue of Texas Highways, “The Travel Magazine of Texas.”  The article is entitled, “Finding Fort Stockton: Old West, wine and fast cars intersect at this crossroads.”  What is missing from this story? For my family, and many more who lived here and in the nearby towns of Marathon and Alpine, onward to Marfa and Presidio, life did not begin with the fort. And yet, note: there is no name for the town prior to the U.S. military decision to keep away the Indians. This is how history gets written to erase…history. And how identity gets limited to that which can find its place in the narrative provided.

I love the earth and the sky and the wind and rain of this place, the smells of greasewood and the taste of mesquite, the memory of dirt roads from my childhood, when we were still oh-so-slightly connected to a history that would vanish as quickly as the pronunciation of our names and the stories of struggle to have a right to live, study, and work with dignity in the home of our ancestors.

Do not learn your history from tourist magazines.

But still, I celebrate the thrill of seeing photos that take me home, as complicated as that is for me. Having left there after high school never succeeded in removing the awareness of what it meant to be able to stay there. But what does it mean to stay when the public history erases you?

Remembering Our Ancestors, January 12, 2015

Jan. 12, 2015 has been selected as Remembering Our Ancestors Day, as the trial of Wayland Gray, goes to court resulting from an effort to use sacred tribal lands in ceremony. Their efforts have been framed as activist, terrorism, vandalism, and attempted arson, with absolutely no evidence or effort apparent in published commentary acknowledging the validity of cultural spiritual claims or actions.  The story can be read here.

John Trudell has been sharing a series of poems he has entitled, “Coyote Logics,” as the date of the trial approaches, and I took up his call to remember our ancestors.

It crosses my mind how easily this could become just another day commemorated virtually with Facebook posts and tweets asking us to #rememberourancestors.  What would it take for me to make a significant and impactful effort to remember –before I even begin to focus on my ancestors– how easy it is to FORGET.

How to remember the Ancestors… that is the question.  How to bring them back together, re-member them.  Locate them in the here and now. In our own lives and bodies. it comes to me that I must find the space and time to listen, to see, to notice, to re-member.

It is a heavy and beautiful task of love.

Like so many other spiritual aspects of life, this began before I was conscious that it was what I was doing.

Phase 1 was the clearing of 5000 items from my home last fall. This was followed by Phase 2, when I experienced the gradual shock of the disarray that this clearing of my material possessions created in my home and inner world.  I became aware of how much more I have, and how I’d like to live the life to enjoy what I already have. I became aware of how much of what I have is not material, and is rooted in who I was born to be, my ancestry, my history, my culture.  I reconnected with old friends and relatives from whom my academic life had distanced me for decades. Phase 3 has been the gradual discovery of space, both inner and outer, that gives me room to breathe, to move, to rediscover, along with my old relationships, old ways I was taught by my elders–old ways that give me comfort. And in this comfort, I re-member them, in my own life, in my body.

Throughout all of these, I have ventured into the beautiful abandonment of childhood thinking and adolescent and young adult approaches to opportunity. I have come to recognize the way maturity and being an elder are not structurally, interactively or socially, encouraged. And yet, as a woman in my fifties, seeing the horizon of the sunset more clearly than the sunrise sometimes,  that is increasingly where my gifts are now. What I have to give comes from the life I’ve lived, not only from the new things that I “can do.”  I am not concerned about a “bucket list,” as if life is running out.  I am concerned less with kicking the bucket than filling it for others who might be thirsty for whatever lessons the Creator put on my path in my life to learn.

The transition of this year for me is about the discovery of the springtime of elder life, the opening to sunrises on days full of the life I’ve lived and rich with inspiration. I see the folly in cultural work trajectories that set up career paths that do not allow one to live a human life of seasons, with attention to the winds of natural change. Those who have chosen me as their mentor honor me, but they honor my ancestors, too.

Tomorrow is a day for remembering our ancestors, but rather than limiting it to one day here and there with commercialized ritual and time-intensive artistic displays for fickle audiences, I realize it’s the way I live and work every day of my life that honors, and therefore, re-members my Ancestors. For they live in me. Every act I take, every word I speak, and thought I nurture, is drawing on the DNA that is their legacy inside me.

The meaning I create for this, the narratives I spin or repeat…these are less important than what I’m actually DOING. It is far better to abandon the building of an edifice to which one committed when under a cultural trance than to be bound in captivity by one’s own collaboration with that which binds. It is worthless to be able to cite Butler, Fanon, Foucault, Marx, Moraga, Anzaldúa, Jesus. Buddha, Kristeva, Fox, King, and others, while one’s body and resources are used to live a life in contradiction to what is championed.

I’ve “said” such things before. But the body-self is speaking now. And it is the voice of joy expressed through the beauty of a life well-lived, love acknowledged and undenied, and confidence in the power of what is bigger than my ideas or CV to see me through the life I live…WITH my Ancestors.

Smart Learning When the World Around Me is Not a “Fit”

This blog is never really going to be finished–there’s so much more that I could add.  So I”ll likely revise and continue this as the months and years go on.  But for now, I’m sharing my initial reflections, having been stimulated to thought by the Forbes article I’m sharing below.

I personally have had the hardest lesson about how to be a ‘smart learner’ in my experience with what is commonly held to be “teamwork” or “collaboration.” I think it might be interesting to consider how one can maintain his/her cultural and spiritual values when working in an environment or culture that is at odds with it. For me, the challenge has not been so much in keeping my own values clear, but in resisting the obvious need to let go of a belief that I could ever be fully seen or embraced as part of the dominant culture and values system which permeates the field I work in. I have a lot of skills which I’ve come to recognize have served to ‘hide’ my difference, and so routinely, over the years since my latter years in college, I’ve had to do major “re-boots” of the way I was spending my time. With an absence of cultural mentors and elders in y field who share my background, there really has been no source of learning to recognize what was happening but my own reflection and observation over the years. Now, as I move into my elder years, and as my energies are filtering into a more permanent pattern of dedication and commitment, it is painfully apparent how very little “fit” there is culturally between the field in which I obtained my degree and have worked, and my worldview. It has been my interest and dedication to learning about the topics within that field that has sustained me–but my ideological and epistemological colleagues have existed in the humanities, in ethnic studies, in theatre, dance, and the arts.

So what I would venture to say is the first aspect of smart learning for me, as a heterosexual Chicana in the field of human communication is to realize that I am a visitor, no matter how long I have been in the field, and that the notions of collaboration and teamwork, of group dialogue and creativity, initiative and recognition, are aspects of my work that must be nurtured and fostered outside of my field. Except for a few instances, working with some rather outstanding individuals, the majority of “opportunity” in my field invites me to assimilate and reflect norms for human relationships and social routine that distance me from myself if I do not have a ‘second’ or ‘third’ life where I can be replenished and restored on a routine basis. Over time, this is exhausting.

The second thing I would say that I’ve learned as part of ‘smart learning’ is that the work to which I dedicate myself should be work that replenishes me, rather than work that requires me to perform an adapted anglo-American socio-cultural self for the majority of my interactions. So, my work with the Four Seasons of Ethnography, Art as Meditation, Mindful Heresy, and Self-Reflection as Method….all of these are concepts and domains in my work that I can continue to work with regardless of who is, or isn’t, collaborating with me.

Third, I think that one of the most vital aspects of smart learning for me, given that these are the conditions of my professional employment, is the nurturing of a spiritual life that allows me to continue to value the human spirit, and to recognize it, especially when present in cultural bodies and routines that are harsh and difficult for me, despite the years of experience I have with them. To be a smart learner, I have to see that I can learn from everyone, that even the least supportive and culturally sensitive of my colleagues has something of value to offer with his/her presence. But that does not mean that I can, should, or will, ever become part of that culture. As much as I can come to understand it, it is still not the way I see the world when left to my own reflexes.

Fourth, as a smart learner, I rest. And I don’t lie to myself. Because in many respects, I’ve come to learn that being a smart learner is like being a spiritual warrior. And that’s what makes my life, even when the most challenging, absolutely beautiful—and why I love learning, and value my life.

Everybody wants to be smarter. Unfortunately, not all of us will get there. There is a distinct line between smart learners and those who just learn. The former become…

Defying My Own Foolish Self-Defeating Rules

Rosa Parks, Image from the Southern Poverty Law Center
Rosa Parks, Image from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Well, my mind is made up.
No more convention papers, and not writing anything just to try to get it accepted somewhere, or because I think I must. When I think of the amount of time and words I’ve wasted through my job, producing excessive verbage for the sake of “being a part of the field,” I am wearied. My grandfather told me never to write unless I had something to say. I guess that is why I find more pleasure writing on Facebook sometimes than writing the majority of things that I must write for work. That sort of writing prevents me from working on what I really want to write, what I really need to write, what I really MUST write.

I write on Facebook because I can do so between those other mundane times of writing-for-work. It’s telling that I need to express myself after writing that somehow  feels as if it leads to compressing, not expressing, myself. And with major writing projects that are long-delayed, the large blocks of time I need in order to arrive and stay in the appropriate frame of mind are lacking.

So what is my solution? I suppose that it is to radically alter the underlying ethos for the way I have largely engaged my work and my life for a very long time–since getting my degrees. My work in the university has somehow worked together with the obligation I have so often felt to sacrifice my own desires and needs if someone else needed or wanted something from me. If I am hired to do something, it adds another layer of obligation. And if it’s a profession, as is my career, there is almost no portion of my life that is not “someone else’s. Whether it is my job, my students, my family, or my community, I was raised that it all comes first, because I was the first–first-born, that is.

I was fortunate to have grandparents and aunts and uncles and teachers as a child who gave me ample opportunity to express myself, my father and mother nurtured my love of the arts and learning, and travel. But I learned through religion and culture that despite these things, it was others who mattered more, and that to believe this was virtuous.

It’s amazing that I’ve written much at all, given this compunction in my life. I have many unfinished works that have been interrupted by putting myself second, third, or beyond. Add to that some challenges with memory and attention, and before you know it, it is only the need or person knocking on my door, texting my phone, or sending an email with a request, that will get my dutiful return to the page.

Yesterday, I listened to Cherrie L. Moraga speak about writing, and about our work as artists, performers, activists, teachers… She spoke (as she writes) as if reaching with a penetrating awareness into my core. And she stirred in me a pain that I must feel in order to return to my writing as my first love, not my work for hire, or servitude.

I bear the brunt of the responsibility for the way I’ve wasted my time. I must believe that this extended period of distracted incubation has its own purposes. And I must forgive myself and realize that the horse isn’t going to come back to me; no, I fell off (or jumped off) and just didn’t get back on. And so now, as I learned from my grandfather, I have to go out and find it, in the field somewhere…and that only happens by doing it.

It feels incredibly uncomfortable to dedicate myself to my own work. I can almost feel myself cringe, as if waiting for someone to scold me or tell me to “get back to work” or demand that I do something for them. I don’t have the time to spend another year of my life trying to learn how to ‘say no.’ I need to learn to feel comfortable doing and getting what I personally want, rather than accumulating a lifetime of memories and items that were somehow given to me as my dutiful clutter.

So I’m going to take that lonely and difficult trek out to get my horse, and I’m going to caress its face, and feel the strong muscles just the way I was taught as a child. Because a horse is like us, my grandfather told me. And it acts like we do, will do what we tell it to do, even when we aren’t aware we’re doing it. And my horse has become barn sour, leaving me out in the middle of nowhere. It’s time for me to unlearn some really bad habits, and to feel the discomfort of unlearning. And to write and learn to be selfish. Because no matter how much I do for others, if I’m not writing, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing for others.

I’ve got to make my mind up that it’s more important than anything else in my life right now. Because it is. Even before I knew how to write, I wanted to spend all my time writing. And when I have written from that place within my body that has no doubts, it has always been something that has helped others. I can’t put it off any longer. Someone else can be on that committee, and if anyone’s upset I don’t show up…well, they’ll get over it. There. I’ve said it.

Autumn Lungs and the Heresy of Admitting Delayed Grief

autumn leaves 2We live in a society that for all its industry in medications for mood disorders, amusement parks and bars that advertise the ‘good times’ going on all around us, and the deluge of feel good Facebook posters and quotes from Louise Hay entrepreneurs, we are not very good at dealing with our sadness and grief.  In fact, “get over it,” might be the unofficial mantra of our society when it comes to lingering or resurfacing wounds and grief that have not healed.  Get thee to a therapist!  Or to some other fee-for-service outlet for thy sadness…for we do not wish to see the evidence of our human nature.  Not in this country that is rooted in the distortion of ‘pursuit of happiness.’  For many, the right to pursue happiness is interpreted (and perhaps socially enforced) as being  happy.

I believe that it’s possible to be happy even in the midst of deep grief and tragedy, but it’s not your smiling-face brand of happiness or ‘sweet sister’ high tea chattering and giggling that is apt to confront many women in U.S. culture as evidence of ‘happiness.’ And if we wish to find the type of deep and abiding happiness that is the result of cultivating gratitude and healing in our lives, it requires that the dark side of our emotions and lives be acknowledged and felt–not necessarily dwelling in them, but learning to open our minds to the good nature of paying attention to how they feel, why we’re grieving, and what it is about life that our experience is asking us to acknowledge–good or bad.

Since culture and society are not on our side when it comes to letting these emotions surface and share their wisdom with us, it is often our bodies that will be our greatest allies.  And for me, at least right now, my attention is going to the lessons that my lungs are urging me to heed.

Because it’s autumn, and…my lungs are talking to me again.

They’ve been calling out for a long time.
Not continuously, but when they ‘speak out,’
it’s hard to ignore.

In the fall–in late September and in October–is when these afflictions have visited me. Coughs, laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, ‘whooping cough,’ anaphylaxis, and now…what appears to be asthma.

Chinese medicine is pretty clear on the somatic aspects of these ailments, and their recurrence at the same time of the year, no matter where I am living, if it’s north or south of the equator, desert or wooded…is kind of hard for me to ignore. The lungs speak up. According to Chinese healing wisdom, it’s about grief. Straightforward, but not so simple.autumn leaves 1

In the 1990’s, I was blessed with the opportunity to be part of a group of indigenous healers who worked in the world of recovery. We worked with recovery from addictions, trauma, battering, and most significantly, delayed grief. Through the work we did with our mentor and teacher, Dr. Jane Middleton-Moz, we were trained to work with individuals healing from the injuries stemming not only from the typical 12-step maladies, but from the injuries of witnessing and experiencing the horrors of history, even through those events we did not personally experience, but which become part of our subjective and experiential memory. These were the traumas of our loved ones, our people, our land, our DNA, which we might collectively and symbolically experience just as powerfully as if we’d lived through them. Complicated by the mixtures of emotions and attempts to make sense of things over which we are vulnerable because of the actual or narrative absence of power to change or affect histories, these things live on, very often unconsciously. Yet they affect and have impacts on our experience of the world, of current events, on our personalities, our relationships, and our health, to name a few areas.

And along with these experiences and the worlds we have created and inhabited, shaped by these traumas of life and memory (some would say life and memory are perhaps the same thing?), there is the grief. There is grief for what we have lost, for the people, opportunities, experiences, homes, possessions, lives, languages, relationships… And in a large proportion of trauma-related scenarios, this grief was often not acknowledged (by others, or the self), and equally, not expressed except through the ways our lives come to reflect the pain, the anger, the fear, the silence of worlds shaped through trauma.

Trauma is a natural part of our lives, and if properly processed through any variety of supportive and healthy approaches to integrating our disrupted sense of reality and sensibility, it can help us to exist in life as it is. But when trauma is repressed, suppressed, denied, or ignored and silenced, sometimes through formal narration and imposition of the realities we must heed and live, the ways it can affect us are like a frightened cat–we can’t really be quite sure what it will do, or why–much less how to treat it.

I learned from Jane that the best way to approach a trauma, or a surge of grief, even when we aren’t quite sure where it’s coming from, is to “turn into the skid.” She worked with us for days, in the luxury of safe space together, where we ate and rested and “did our work” with others wanting to help their people by helping ourselves to be whole. As a Chicana woman of Spanish and Native American ancestry, my Lipan Apache, Tarahumara, and Comanche roots were largely repressed by the Texan experience. But thanks to my grandparents, I had learned to listen to the earth. What I learned with Jane and the brave Native leaders in NANACOA was that the wisdom of our Creator can, and will, heal me…and most often through the simple attention to creation. Just as we can’t control a storm but must respond to it to survive, what is stirring within me requires prepared wisdom and the ability to ‘turn into the skid’ so I can make it through. For my people.

There have been numerous losses in my life over the last several years, but if my body’s responses over my lifetime are telling me anything, it’s that whatever has happened in the last few years is in addition to grief I’ve held unexpressed since childhood. And it takes a lot of energy to hold things in check when we are trying to keep even ourselves from knowing what’s going on. And my personality is a bit like the land my ancestors and I have known as home for centuries–like a desert, where you need to learn to pay attention to the subtle signs of the seasons.  That desert-like subtlety is coupled with the drama of the way nature wakes us up in the desert–with flash floods, dramatic dust storms, scorching sun, and icy indigo night cold.  The desert expects its compatriots to know how to read the signs.desert autumn 1

My LifeWork with the Four Seasons this autumn is to harvest, not accomplishments or achievements, but to harvest my grief that I might be able to make it through the winter, unimpeded by disruptive shadows. So when I breathe, I am not attempting to catch my breath from losses that I’ve never acknowledged, but breathing fully in gratitude for surviving and thriving through my life. We are all such amazing, strong, beautiful creatures, and I will cling to the beauty of life as I welcome the spiritual help I seek on this path. No more asthma, whooping cough, pneumonia or bronchitis, okay? My precious lungs, I’d like to let you do your work, and I’m giving my ego permission to let you do just that.  I hope that others will, too.

And if when you sincerely wish to express your grief, you are met with a litany of happiness platitudes that feel like a bitter attack on your soul’s work, there’s nothing wrong with you.  No matter how well-intentioned, the new orthodoxy of happiness can not help us be happy if we cannot learn to understand the full scope of life’s experience.

Find an outlet that can help you, and if you need some starters, I’ll be posting some of the books and approaches that have helped me over the years on a separate blog page by October 1.  Until then, feel free to write if you’d like to be in touch.

In the Company of Creation

I sense that there will be a day when these photos will be the evidence of a major transition in our society that is accompanied by an absence of sound response and discourse. 

I once saw myself as having many children in my lifetime, with motherhood a beloved outlet for my gifts, skills and talents. My body and life had other responses to those visions. But I ponder how I would feel if I had children and grandchildren growing to live in this society that is emerging and devolving around us. 

I spoke with my mother of these things last night, and we thought of the young people in our lives and the passions they express,  with little said of any responsibility for others,  for caring about or loving their neighbors,  for taking time to comprehend and appreciate the delicate interdependence that creates the necessities of a good and secure,  happy, and serene life. 

We continue to give to others, and we wake up temporarily in the face of tragedy and crisis,  disasters and horrors that befall even the most different from us.  But rapidly the discourse springs back like a rubber band pulled to its limits, snapping us into an awareness of the of xenophobia, prejudice,  entitlement,  threats of violence,  and fearful claims of superiority over anything we don’t understand,  that have become the basis for identity. 

When our elected leaders begin to pride themselves in disrupting our government,  privileging corporations,  empowering those who are killing nature and destroying the earth,  we are not in good hands.  When the brightest of our young believe they are thinking critically to believe what makes them feel superior or right with no evidence or sound logic,  we have a very shaky future.

We do not have a clean history,  despite the narratives of  Independence,  victory, heroism,  and freedom we have been encouraged to cherish.  And the very sordid ideals that we have hidden away,  denied,  and failed to formally decry and denounce with collective vehemence–bigotry, racism,  class idolatry,  ridiculing of knowledge,  and fear of our bodies and nature–these ideals are beginning to burst out in mighty force.  They are like weeds we never worked to eliminate from the garden of what sustains us. And we can no longer tell the difference,  and have begin to poison ourselves off the fruits of our neglected gardens.  We now plant the weeds and eliminate the food.

My mother and I talked of the absence of prayer that soothes and moves us to care… How spirituality is devoid and religion has become medieval at its core.

We aren’t going to “win” regardless of which “side” we think we’re on,  or who we blame, or who we want to punish. It’s easier to go with the flow of a river washing over us.  We transform ourselves into mouthpieces for scripts and hold back our heartfelt concerns.  We don’t connect except out of desire to be on the right “team. ”

That game isn’t working.  That game hasn’t worked.  That game doesn’t work. 

So when I see these images and hear the abominable claims and logic around us,  I’m going to try to respond from the part of me that can still feel love and that knows how people wake up when they learn of their own beauty and potential with others.  I can’t accept an invitation to stir up ugliness inside me,  even when ugliness is being spewed in my direction or injustice spun around me.

I have to learn to be a heretic to this orthodoxy of madness around us.  A mindful heretic,  aware that I’ve chosen a lonely trail,  but only if I am longing for false companionship.  There is a world of creation out there supporting a logic of interdependent life and death,  and it is beautiful,  and it is my world,  my community.  We can be part of it, too.

Looking into the Obsidian Mirror

Yesterday, as I worked on my novel, I had a breakthrough as I realized that I was holding back the intensity of how I felt the characters would actually be experiencing things. I was keeping secrets for them. After several hours of writing and revising, I felt the difference in every part of my body, felt as if I had just opened a door to a room that I decorated when I wrote Maria Speaks, but never went back to spend time in.

I had the same kind of feeling when I spent some time looking at the images in one of Vicente Romero’s paintings that I’d posted on Facebook, the one I felt the most drawn to. romero-vanity-2I realized that I have an antique vanity and embroidered cloths and crystal vases, and that I haven’t created the room I want even though I have acquired everything I would want to have in that room. The themes of the five journeys that I tapped into when writing Maria Speaks were valid, but I seemed to have forgotten that I ended the book by asking myself, “now what?”

It is now ten years since Maria Speaks was released, and I am humbled by the awareness of how self-awareness and personal growth is not the product of an industry of self-help workshops and memorized memes. It is both out of my control and the product of commitment to seeing myself in the mirror over and over again until I see what I have not been seeing. Not like Narcissus, in love with the reflection, or the evil queen in Snow White seeking self-confirming images and messages, but like what I imagine the black obsidian smoking mirror to show me, in the tradition of Tezcatlipoca, the god with no definite image, who sacrificed of himself to create his people in the Aztec tradition… what I see in this mirror are the sacrifices that I’ve made in order to be “of the people,” and how they have often very much come to cloud not only my capacity to see myself as I am, but in time, to cloud how I actually spend my time, express myself, and script myself to *be* in this world.

Today, I am awakened, with the new moon in the month of May–the month of the mother, but also the month of Tezcatlipoca, the month of transition between spring and summer, the month leading to the summer solstice and traditional times of the heaviest of labor. This idea that summer is my ‘time off,’ is out of synch with nature, out of synch with even my own conceptions of how I use the four seasons to guide my work.


So, as I rededicate myself to the labor of completing my novel by summer solstice, I also rededicate myself to seeing the reflection in the obsidian mirror, to creating the life space I yearn for, and shedding the sacrificial life scripts that do not create new life but only put it in boxes. It is never too late to learn again, to become renewed.

It’s a Day for the Dogs

It’s a day for the dogs.

Zonked-out dogs lying all around me after an hour of active vigilance, guarding and protecting me from the invaders. A neighbor banging on my door tells me he has been chasing a man who broke into a house blocks away, just moments earlier. “He’s in your yard!” The burglar was just seen jumping the fence into the yard of the home I’m house-sitting, with police and helicopters in hot pursuit.

With police at the front door, their cars up and down the street, I decide to enjoy my cup of coffee that I’d left sitting on the kitchen counter, after securing the doggie door so the dogs wouldn’t get caught in the fray. Just stay indoors, keep the dogs inside. I hear the amplified voice from the helicopter telling people to stay in their homes. The police are working on it.

The Phoenix K9 support did the job. One of the dogs found the guy, who jumped the fence here, into the neighbor’s yard. “Took a bite out of him, did his job,” the officer told me just moments ago. He assures me all is safe now, big smile on his face, proud of the brave dog.

Shaken a bit, the tears in my eyes right now are less about what has just transpired than about the desire to have trusting and positive relationships that work with our law enforcement officers. I know we are feeble and flawed as humans, but we are at our best when we work together and community holds us in a safe space.


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