January 2013

Coming back to center after a couple of big ones

By Art Goodtimes

THE TALKING GOURD

Freckles
for mf

No, it wasn’t your tattoos that drew me to you, Mary Faery, though your will blazed a fierce rainbow blue

with galaxies dark as your Scorpio purse of balm & obsidian. Hailing from a long lineage of Dakinis

Guanyin, Green Tara, Our Lady of Guadalupe Privy to angelic transmissions beyond my ken

You embodied for me Kali & sweetness Giggling between greetings. Intractable stone.

A girlish smile. Indigenous traits learned at Nagponi where you waged bureaucratic aikido

peace-corpsed in the Philippines & through high drama, death threats, Marcos & Aquino

found your band of Ati title to the village plots they called home. More a Kennedy than a Fried-

berg.
And no, it was not for your warmth, tale be told, for you, lass, were direct as a dart shot

in the quick of the goddess hunt. If need be, you spoke icy truth, regardless of consequence &

calmly apprehended even tongues you’d not known under stress, in a mob, knife at your throat. And

though my internal Japanese obaasan didn’t like the velvet fist in your mama’s gypsy brogue, I admired

you for your brazen gracelessness, fearless, ’specially when it cost me in argument – a price most dear for

those like Jimbo and I who prize disputationem – that rational gaming crucial for our coming to under-

standing,
but which you despised, much preferring the blink of gestalt. Of channeled silence over sophistry

But, yes, I did fall in love with your kindness & wild poof hippie hair. And we made haste

in our kindnesses. Called them children Danced in fairy mushroom rings. Drummed

& ommed together even unto your last breath A candle. Hot wax. Freckles of lavender & myrrh

HIATUS … Forgive me for being absent from the Free Press for a couple months. It was a hectic end of the year for me. In early November I won re-election to an unprecedented fifth four-year term as county commissioner in San Miguel County. It was a hard-fought race, with a Dem and a Repub both trying (unsuccessfully) to unseat me. The Dem’s slogan was “A Public Servant, Not a Politician” – implying that he was a public servant and I was merely a politician, a bit of integrity-tarnishing that didn’t win any friends in my camp. I like to think of myself as a committed public servant AND a savvy politician. But then one is not always a good judge of one’s own strengths or weaknesses … Suffice to say, a plurality of local citizens felt I was doing a good enough job after 16 years in office to elect me for four more. That was a big one in my life … But not the biggest. In fact, it was hard to run at all, after learning in late summer that my (separated) wife and excellent co-parent Mary Friedberg had terminal cancer. For many reasons, it added a bitter edge to campaigning. In late November, Mary passed away, with family friend Marty Schmalz-Hollinbeck and me providing home hospice at her Wilson Mesa rental. I was there holding her hand as she left us … It’s been a chaos ever since, dealing with all the legal, social, parental and financial issues post-bereavement. It’s also been a time of deep remembering, as I try to reflect on our time together and what happened and what it all really meant. And it’s led to a deeper closeness with my children. And my friends … In the end, it’s not the toys or the kudos or the goods one has that ride with you into the mystery, it’s just the ones you love.

PES … Having successfully completed my Practitioner Fellowship project with the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, I was honored to be invited to give a 20-min. presentation at the University of Florida’s annual ACES and Ecosystem Markets conference in Fort Lauderdale last month. I’d never made a scientific presentation at an academic conference before … The title of my abstract (and presentation) was “A Payment for Ecosystem Services Pilot Project Surveying for Rare Plants on Private Lands.” Almost everyone at these events does PowerPoint, so I kind of stood out speaking extemporaneously about my project, tossing in some poetry for good measure … My fellowship award from 2009 covered the cost of travel, hotel and the conference, so it didn’t cost county taxpayers a cent. And I probably would have enjoyed Florida’s beach, pool and amenities – except for my first cold in several years, which kept me in bed for the first two or three days of the conference. But then it’s been an exhausting couple months, and I probably needed the sleep more than the workshops I missed … But I did make a lot of great contacts and got a lot of new ideas so as to start working on expanded county Payment for Ecosystem Services projects for 2013.

ECOSYSTEM SERVICES As a poet, I know that language constantly re-invents itself. Every generation renames things to suit the moment’s tastes. “Ecosystem services” sounds pretty scientific and modern. But as Carol Hasburgh, a Haudenosaunee by birth and an environmental scientist with the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council by profession, explained at the Plenary Panel Discussion on “Native American Views of Ecosystem Services and Markets: Challenges and Opportunities,” it’s a very old concept. It really means “Nature’s gifts” … As Hasburgh and Diné elder Steve Darden noted, traditional people have long recognized and honored the gifts that the natural world provides to humans. It’s only been in the last few hundred years that Western cultures that have lost their connection to the natural world, and have ignored natural inputs into their systems of “economics” and taken these gifts for granted. Now, by giving them this new name, folks are beginning to recognize the value and importance of these gifts, and their foundational worth to maintaining the health and balance of the entire ecology of the planet … It’s about time that we as a culture attempt to quantify the value of these services within the framework of our capitalist economics and begin compensating those who provide them. I’m not sure how we can kickstart that idea in San Miguel County, but I’m really interested in trying over the next four years.

GENERATION R … I hadn’t heard this term used for the upcoming crops of leaders and followers, but – overhearing it in a conversation at the ACES conference – I think it makes sense, and I sure hope it’s true, because the future depends upon it … Out with Generation X and in with Generation Responsible.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.