Back in 1980 we had a gigantic apricot crop in Seton Village. We were all trying to give them away to our neighbors who already had too many. One aggressive neighbor, standing in our patio trying to give me a bag of apricots, declared that he would make an apricot pie and that it would be the best pie in the village. Hackles raised, I challenged him. I had my own apricots, far better than his, and I was no mean baker. We would have all the villagers judge, and there was no doubt in my mind that I would win. He was just as sure. This was the birth of a tradition, the Seton Village Pie Bake, held annually during the summer months. We just held our 38th, but more about that later.
I put flyers in all the village mailboxes (about 20) announcing the contest, and inviting any neighbors who wanted to compete to bring a pie. My rival and I were not worried. Other pies would only highlight the superiority of ours. The day came and villagers arrived on our “plaza,” the small open space on which our houses face. There were several pies, and once they were finished off we voted with secret ballots for the best one. (more…)
The reintroduction in 1998 of the Mexican Gray Wolf in New Mexico and Arizona has been controversial to say the least. There are those who praise the federal action and are rooting for the endangered species to make a full recovery. And there are those who see the wolf as a predator, threatening their livestock and rural way of life. The fear has driven some to put their children in special wolf-proof cages to wait for the school bus at the more remote stops.
For the past 20 years I have watched the conflict rage, the two sides digging in, littering the landscape with fear, insults, and righteous outrage. Always looking for the common ground, my mediator self has been pretty discouraged.
But there was one bright spot. Kevin Bixby, founder and executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center (SWEC) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, asked me to facilitate a workshop in Alpine, Arizona, near the border between the two states and epicenter of the wolf battle. As an environmentalist, he had a lot of nerve to even drive through Alpine, let alone convene a day-long workshop for local ranchers. I was fascinated. Why would any wolf-hating local give this guy the time of day? (more…)
There are intractable conflicts rooted in history all over the country. Conflicts over flags, over statues, over celebrations, over naming of public places, over school curriculum, and on and on. Sometimes it seems that only a miracle could resolve them. Well, I am proud to announce that a miracle has happened, right here in Santa Fe. But I must begin with the history, because as with many conflicts that’s where it all began.
In the late 1500’s Spanish conquistadors marched from what is now Mexico north in search of the famed cities of gold. Anyone they met along the way was astounded at the sight of these armored, spear-carrying, bearded strangers and sent them on. “Oh, the cities of gold? Yes, they are about 100 miles to the north.” Reaching as far north as what is now Colorado and as far east as what is now Nebraska, they finally gave up the search and settled along the Rio Grande, running north to south through what is now New Mexico.
My mother was born in 1914 and was raised in between the wars to love the American flag. She remembered fondly parades on the Fourth of July and other occasions where the flag was carried with loving pride. She was an activist in the 60s, and critical as she was of our government for the Vietnam War and for civil rights abuses, she hated to see the flag defiled. She always saw it as a beautiful symbol of our best intentions and held that affection for it through protests, marches and demonstrations.
From a generation younger, I missed out on that innocence. Burning the flag, your draft card, your bra – it all seemed fair game to me. For me the flag came to represent a blind and heartless nationalism. In fact, like many of my kind, I chose not to display a flag on the Fourth of July, or any other time. It seemed to have been high jacked by “the other side,” or more accurately, I abandoned it and let them have it.
My husband, a Vietnam veteran, has hung onto the flag, refusing to let it become a pawn in the “us versus them” battle. He realized after a few months of combat, that he and the others were not there to defend democracy but to support an unpopular government. Like so many in every war, he fought for his fellow Marines and to survive until his tour was up. Angry as he was at the US government for the lies it perpetrated to justify that war, he never gave up on the flag and wears a flag decal on the back window of his truck.
The great thing about yard sales is the element of surprise. Will you sell that top-of-the-line jig saw made in Switzerland, only used a couple of times, still in its fancy case? Will someone not be
able to resist that shawl in beautiful earth tones from Bali? What about the Japanese vase made out of a fat section of bamboo, so simple and elegant?We had a yardsale today and none of the above sold. No matter. It was a great day, and I’ll tell you why.
I was selling a dozen or so Easton Press books. They are the classics, leather bound with fancy gold (real gold, they say) lettering and designs on the covers, gold edged pages and elegant illustrations. I inherited them and although they are handsome on a bookshelf, they just didn’t look comfortable on our bookshelves. They needed another home where they would be loved.
Two sisters came along, shorts, pierced ears, cute purses and ball caps. The younger one saw the books. “Ohhhh. I love books! These are so great! I just love them!” and she picked up one, petting the cover, fingering the gold embossing. She opened it lovingly, cooing over the print, the illustrations, and generally being a really enthusiastic teenager.
“Do you have Of Mice and Men?” She was almost afraid to ask. It was a long shot that it would be one of the dozen in the box. (more…)
If you live in New Mexico, you have probably gone to at least one feast day at a nearby Pueblo. And if you have gone to one, you have probably gone to many more. They are wonderful events where the Pueblo and its people are blessed for the coming year, with traditional dancing, singing, and drumming. They are open to the public and although the sights and sounds are deeply satisfying, your Pueblo hosts will not let you leave with an empty stomach. They welcome strangers into their homes and seat them at a table heavy with bowls of red and green chile stew, beans, posole, potato salad, baskets of bread, plates of cakes, brownies…I can’t go on! My mouth is watering as I write. See my previous post for more on Pueblo dances http://lucymoore.com/always-was-and-always-will-be/
It is a really awesome thing, to be welcomed into a home and fed. There is a bond between you and your host(ess) and the others eating with you that is like none other. As a facilitator I have come to appreciate the role of food in resolving conflict. Sharing a meal, or even a snack, offers a chance to relax, be nourished, and build a relationship with that person who might look like an adversary on the other side of the negotiating table. It is also a leveler. Lawyers, scientists, community members, tribal leaders, elected officials, cooks and janitors are all equal at mealtime.
And so it is a major frustration for me that federal agencies with whom I often work are not allowed by law to buy food for anyone outside the agency. This has led to such absurd situations as federally sponsored community meetings held from 5:00 to 8:00 pm on a weeknight, where the attendees might have to drive an hour or more and then arrive to find not so much as a cookie and bottle of water waiting for them. This drives me crazy. If I am facilitating, I bring plentiful snacks myself – fruit, vegetables, crackers, cheese, trail mix, juice, coffee, and yes, cookies, lots of cookies. I am not about to try to facilitate an angry crowd that is also a hungry crowd.
Over the years I have worked with the Forest Service as they revise their forest plans. Here in Region 3 (New Mexico and Arizona) there have been dozens of community meetings, public forums, tribal summits on all kinds of topics. I have consulted on some projects and facilitated others, bringing snacks when needed. Forest staff and I have talked at length about building strong partnerships with other jurisdictions – local government, private landowners, other federal agencies and tribes – in order to maximize the impact of land improvements on Forest Service land. I have emphasized the importance of honesty, clarity, and a personal relationship based on mutual caring. They have been willing students, and have implemented the ideas as best they can, within the limits of the law.
Recently, Region 3 Forest Service staff invited me to a tribal summit in Albuquerque to offer my observations on their relationship with tribes. Over thirty tribes were represented by about fifty leaders and staff. They sat politely and listened to a series of Forest Service presentations on a wide variety of subjects – wildfires, endangered species, forest thinning, pest management, recreation, and more. There was a question or two after each presentation. The atmosphere was a little formal, a bit restrained. Everyone is going through motions, I thought.
And then the Forest Service chief announced it was time for lunch. Tribal members gathered their things and prepared to leave the building, get in cars and drive to Wendy’s or McDonald’s or wherever. They knew from experience that the feds don’t feed people, by law. A fact of life. The reality of working with the federal government.
But when they turned around, what did they see? A line of Forest Service employees coming into the room with dishes, platters, bowls and baskets, heaped with food they had made themselves. There was a huge pan of enchiladas and one of lasagna, a bowl of red chile and one of spaghetti. A man had made spanakopita and stuffed grape leaves in honor of his homeland. A woman had fried chicken as her grandmother had taught her. Another brought a vegetable tofu stir fry, and another a turkey meatloaf. There were endless salads and desserts, all brought by Forest Service staff in a gesture of hospitality to tribal neighbors. They were saying, with this abundance of food, thank you for the hospitality you show us every year. But more importantly, they were saying we understand that a solid, trusting relationship includes sharing food, and not even our employer, the federal government, can stop us from making that happen.
The look of surprise on the tribal faces said it all. Jaws dropped. They set down their briefcases and their jackets, and headed to the long tables in the back of the room, now heavy with lunch. The mood was light, the room filled with chatter, as people exchanged stories, often finding unexpected common ground. And when the paper plates and plastic ware were deposited in the trash cans, and the leftovers covered in aluminum foil and the Tupperware snapped back in place, everyone made their way back to the front of the room. The presentations continued, but I swear there was a palpable shift from the morning. There was an openness, a relaxation, a feeling of camaraderie between the podium and the audience. All that good food and the spirit with which it was offered had made the difference.
I’m pretty old. Like many of us, I’ve been talking a long time. These last few weeks I have realized that it is time to listen.
The older generation often looks on the upcoming generation with curiosity and a dash of terror. How could they be so – fill in the blank — foolish, immature, unfocused, superficial, and on and on. How can they possibly function with their noses (and brains) buried in some device, a device that we in my generation are proud just to be able to turn on and off? They will never learn to communicate, we despair. They will lose all ability to relate to another human being. Look at them, texting each other while sitting shoulder to shoulder on the bus!
I confess I’ve said all this myself, but no more. Since the Parkland shooting, I have closed my gaping jaw and listened to some of the most articulate, smart, committed voices I have heard in a long time. Strong, passionate voices. Fearless, young faces. They command the stage, the podium, the press conference. They demand that we listen. They are laser-focused and they mean it.
The West is riddled with place names that are offensive to Native Americans. There is Squaw Peak, Squaw Valley and hundreds of others scattered about the landscape. At the request of Arizona tribes the Forest Service is taking on the task of changing place names that contain the word “squaw” on Forest Service lands in that state. This is not an easy task.
Geographic place names are designated and changed by the US Board of Geographic Names through a strict process that is initiated by those living in the area. The Board does not choose the name; they simply verify that the name they assign for official maps and records is supported locally. In the case of the “squaw” named features the Board is authorizing tribes within a certain radius of each feature to choose a new name. (If they fail to reach agreement on new names, the old “squaw” names will remain.)
Enter the mediator. I will be gathering interested tribes together in coming months to take on the job of renaming geographical places. Of course, these tribes already have their own names, probably in their own languages, for these places. The names may refer to some specific characteristic, like color, shape, size, vegetation, etc. Or the names may commemorate an event, from legend or history, where something significant happened. Or, they may honor a fallen hero, a mythical figure, a great leader, etc. (more…)
Imagine this. Two ten-year old boys, sitting at a laptop screen watching hotshot skiers on YouTube racing down the mountain, in and out of slalom poles, leaping around every turn, poles stabbing the air, snow flying in their wake. Nothing could be more thrilling, glamorous and seductive for these two who live in the Philippines in the heart of Manila, one of the densest, hottest, muggiest and flattest places on the planet.
Now imagine these boys have convinced their parents to take them somewhere to ski over Christmas break. Yes, their dad is my son and I am the grandma, and so they came to Santa Fe.
Comments to my last post http://lucymoore.com/no-need-to-worry/ gave me a lot to think about. My critics accused me of butting in where I had no business when I criticized a man for leaving his car running for over 45 minutes while parked. They called me a lot of things but “self-righteous busy body” sums it up. And of all the things to be called, that really smarts, because that is precisely my least favorite person. But I guess this is not surprising, that we would harbor those traits that we abhor in others.
I’ve always hoped that I would get some pushback on my posts to liven things up, and I guess this qualifies as a “be careful what you wish for” moment. But it was very enlightening for me, and here is what I learned:
Critics have a point: That perspective from the other side is worth considering, no matter how tempting it is to defend yourself and blast them back. In this case I have to admit that I would probably do it again on the basis that sometimes it is worth being a self-righteous busy body. After all, the line between good citizen and busy body can be fuzzy. But I will think twice next time, which is probably good advice for us all.
Humor disappears: I couldn’t seem to convince my critics that putting potatoes in the exhaust pipe was a fantasy, that I would never do that…well, almost never, but certainly not in that case. Writing style is tricky. I try for easy, clever, entertaining, maybe with a little surprise. But when you have offended someone as I did, the humor is lost and the lens is literal. Another insight to remember when I take something literally that may not be meant that way.
Stereotypes take over: I assumed that my critics were all …well, I don’t need to go there. Let’s just say I assumed beliefs and values that are different from mine. I actually don’t know if that’s true, but making those assumptions was the easiest way to distinguish myself from them, to make them the “other.” On their part, they made it clear that they were assuming I was a rigid, humorless, strident, politically correct snob. I plead guilty to busy-body but not the rest…well, let me think about it. Anyway, it hurt to be stereotyped, and I’m sorry I stereotyped them.
Dismissing comes next: After stereotyping comes dismissing. “I know who they are and that’s enough.” No need or desire to keep talking, to learn more. The comment that hurt most – yes, even more than self-righteous busy body — was “Just ignore her.” To be dismissed as not worth another breath, another word, that really got me. I wanted to know more about my critics, and I wanted them to know that I wasn’t the monster they thought I was. How often do I hear friends say they hope they never meet someone from the “other side.” They would never want to talk to them or hear their story. This kind of dismissal hurts. Take it from me.