MANY WATERS

Many Waters is a collection of stories from writers of the Greater North Woods of Wisconsin. It is a wild place where bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, and where many more species live. Thousands of lakes draw the seeker to its quiet shores. Traditional Indigenous wild rice grows in the water. The area is known as Indian Country. 

I write about the book as a former member of the St. Croix Writers Group. Once a week, the writers meet at the Community Center in Solon Springs. Because it is isolated, many members traveled to get there. I traveled 35 miles each way to attend the group. The writers are a kindred lot. 

Reading the book, I remember writers who have walked on. Kay Karras was an elder, a Poet Laureate, and had a sense of uncanny humor. Weekly she drove to Spooner to visit her sister in the nursing home. That is a 55-mile trip each way. Minong, a village of 516 people, was about halfway. Kay would occasionally stop for short visit and to get her second wind. I loved the impromptu visits. 

Kay invited me to her historical homestead on Karras Road. We visited her beloved roses. She showed me her favorite pine tree, along a walking path, that inspired her to write many stories. Kay showed me the native Lupine and host plant for the Karner Blue butterfly that grew near a pine row. She also taught me where Valerian grew near clear running water. Kay, I remember you in your stories especially Ghost Writers in the Sky.

When I read There is No Cat Like Your First Cat, I can hear Jo Stewart’s voice. Her laughter was contagious. That is how happy her spirit was. Every Christmas season, the St. Croix Writers went to Jo’s home for a Christmas party. Writers shared short works. We gathered in gladness, and oh, I do remember shy outdoor cats at the entranceway where Jo fed the babes she so loved. We miss you, Kay.

Agnes Kennard sent me a note to ask me to submit writing for the project. I am thrilled she thought to do so. The St. Croix writers would occasionally visit Agnes’s home. An artist lives here. Agnes gave me a cement block with glass pieces of a turtle that she made set in the cement. I loved it. It once proudly stood at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. 

Agnes has been writing most of her life as a way of communication. Her stories have traveled near and far. She is a creative writer, as can be read in Coffee and Common Ground. As a thoughtful writer, Ages wrote, I am Buffalo. It reminds me of humanity now and Climate Change. As the Buffalo went, so shall the family of man. My heart feels that pain. 

I wish I could write about every writer I knew. Each was unique, caring, and a giver of gifts. The gift was them. I still communicate with some of the writers on Facebook. Do read the stories. I am still reading the book. I enjoy waking up and reading segments from the past. Some writers are new to me, and I welcome them to St. Croix Writers. May we all walk with them as we read Many Waters

Many Waters is sold on Amazon at Many Waters: St. Croix Writers Stories and Poems: St. Croix Writers, Haislet, Barbara, Nelson, Sandy, Musch, Naomi, Kay, Janet: 9798689126746: Amazon.com: Books

Amazon notes, Many Waters brings voices from Wisconsin’s Northwoods together in this cross-genre collection of stories, poems, essays, and long-form excerpts. Personality and style converge in a shared love of the region and through works that range from the humorous to the historical, from the everyday to the fantastic. Readers are sure to find pieces that resonate in this excellent compilation.

I was a former student and graduate of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College. Patrick Shilds, former professor of Creative Writing, invited the St. Croix Writers to the college to present a program for the writing students. The Writers who attended: Pat Shields, Jo Stewart, Agnest Kennard, Mary Ellen Ryall, Kay Karras, and two others I can’t identify.

Agnes Kennard and Jo Stewart

SARATOGA SOUL BRANDTVILLE BLUES

Carol Daggs is the author of Saratoga Soul Brandtville Blues. 

I loved reading about the black farming life and learning about Carol’s family. Her mother, Ruth, and aunt Ethel were beautiful women. The Daggs resided in Brandtville, located on a map in 1879, named after Isadore Brandt, a Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, in 1880. Brandt owned a large area in Brandtville, named for him. The families in Brandtville lived an organic farming lifestyle and caring for one another. They were close-knit and humble, hardworking families who lived there for over a century. 

copyright openstreetmap.org

The rich culture of simple farm life is worth noting. There is no more generous gift than healthy, organic produce and nutritious living soil that nurtures life for all beings. Sustainability is the only way we are going to survive and prepare for future generations.

To replace parts of Brandtvillle with expensive homes with manicured lawns does not support sustainability. Recently, I looked at a Googe Map and saw Doten Avenue, which is in the middle of Brandtville. The whole area is built-up now. One removes a vital living neighborhood that consists of several generations of the same families, and culture is lost. One can never go home again. Brandtville needs a sign to honor the farming community that once thrived there. 

Carol’s book highlights the Urban Renewal of the 1960s and 1970s and what the black and less economic communities suffered. 

Carol Daggs writes, “From August 1891, Dyer Phelps Memorial A.M.E. Church remained on Maple Avenue until 1975.” The church was adjacent to the Saratoga Police Department. Now an empty parking lot. A sign needs to stand here that shows that a historically Black church proudly stood there, in the middle of downtown Saratoga Springs. The church was the 2nd oldest church in Saratoga. Can you imagine how the parishioners felt losing their historical church? The second oldest Church in Saratoga Springs has a long history. Carol Daggs points out in her book that the A.M.E. Church was organized in 1862, pages 33 – 40.

I am from Saratoga Springs, as were my ancestors since 1866. The house I grew up in at 40 Madison Street still stands in a long-established east side neighborhood. I lived there from 1945 to 1962. Then the family moved to a farm out Route 29 in Middle Grove. I lived on the farm until 1964. It was my father’s dream to own land. Mine was to explore the world. 

40 Madison Street copyright Realitor.com

The Discussion Guide at the end of Saratoga Soul Brandtville Blues inspired me to write about growing up in Saratoga Springs and my relationship with people different than me. When I was a child, I remember being outside in a playpen, in the front yard, under a large Maple tree. My mother believed I should get lots of fresh air. Two boys walked by. One was White and the other Black. The White boy asked, who was the most handsome? I pointed to the Black boy. They laughed as they walked away down the street. 

Even before I went to school, I would visit Mr. Blue, an elderly Black man who lived down the street on the corner of Madison and Wright Street. He lived in a dilapidated historic farmhouse with a horse barn. We used to sit on his back porch. He took the time for a lonely child, and I made him my friend. It was a tragedy when he died in a house fire. I was a few years older when it happened, and it affected me deeply and still does. Mr. Blue was such a lovely elder. 

Another time, when I was about seven years old, I was sledding down a snow pile that went into the street in front of my home. Neither the driver of the car nor I saw each other. A nice black man barely missed me. He rolled down the car window. He gently said something like, don’t sled into the road. I could have hit you because I couldn’t see you. I was scared enough to never slide down into the street again. Instead, I built a snow fort in the mountainous snowpile and would burrow inside on winter days. I remember a lovely stone house on the corner of Cresent Street and Madison Street. A quiet black family lived there.

I left Saratoga Springs for New York City to work at the World’s Fair when I was 19 years of age in 1964. I returned to Saratoga Springs for two short bursts before I left on assignment for South America. When I occasionally came home to visit my family, I noticed that much of the old neighborhoods I knew were gone. I wondered where did the history of the Black citizens go? It was a question I have asked myself for years. Finally, I can answer some of the questions, thanks to Carol R. Daggs. 

At 75 years old, I never heard of Brandtville. To make matters even more mysterious, Brandtvile was not that far away from where I grew up. As a child, I would ride my bike on Madison Street to Cresent Street, the South Corporation Line. There were woods there, and I didn’t see any roads to Brandtville. I also rode my bike out Jefferson Street to Cresent Street and never knew that the community existed. Carol mentions that one could reach Brandtville that was west of the Recino. Today, Brandtville is accessible from Cresent Street if one turns on Joshua Road, next to Doten Avenue. 

The mention of Congress Street. Many young Saratogians knew where the action was in the early days. Eddie Walczak owned the Golden Grill. On Friday nights, Skidmore College students and local young people gathered to dance to Harlem’s jazz bands. It was fabulous. You wouldn’t tell your parents where you went. I felt utterly safe and danced my heart out with my friends. It was the best music ever. In 1969, the Golden Grill relocated to Phila Street, but it was never the same again. There was no more live music. I felt the soul was gone. To learn more about an outstanding citizen, read Eddie Walczak’s obituary at Edward Walczak Obituary – (1936 – 2015) – Saratoga, NY – The Saratogian (legacy.com)

After a night on the town, we would go to Hattie’s Chicken Shack, owned by Hattie Moseley Austin, on Federal Street. I remember Hattie in an apron smiling at us while waiting for the chicken to be ready. I think she knew perfectly well where we had been. According to Charles Wait, chairman, and C.E.O. of the Adirondack Trust Bank, in an article at Saratoga.com, “Hattie’s always represented a place where everybody in the community felt comfortable, and it didn’t matter if you were the president of the bank or a groom at the track. You would go there cheek to jowl, sit down, and enjoy some good fried chicken and are being treated the same, and everybody had a good time.” Hattie’s was one of the few African American businesses saved and relocated to Phila Street after 1969. 

Miss Hattie copyright Michael Noonan

I remember the delicious smells from Max Fallick’s Jewish Bakery on Congress Street. My dad drove there after Sunday Mass, at St. Peter’s Church, on Broadway. We went for the Kaiser Rolls. I swear I haven’t smelled or tasted anything as delectable again. Fallick’s Bakery was gone during the Urban Renewal. Think of all the Black, White, and Jewish businesses gone forever because of Urban Renewal. How does one justify destroying businesses? These colorful businesses made Saratoga what it was. Saratoga was a city for all people, rich and poor, many ethnic groups, and it was an enriching experience for a girl growing up. 

Reading Saratoga Soul Brandtville Blues, I wondered about some neighborhoods that disappeared during the Urban Renewal? In high school, I had friends that lived on Pavillion Street, the street behind The Saratogian newspaper. A friend wrote, she missed the old neighborhood. She said it was a nice neighborhood. According to Matthew Veitch in the Times Union article, Putnum Street and Henry Street’s property also suffered Urban Renewal. 

Matthew Veith’s grandfather, Donald Veitch, was the city’s Urban Renewal Agency executive director. Matthew has a lot of information on this period. He said, “Frankly, the social story, the social problem, the people part of the story is not recorded,” Veitch said. “You don’t hear that story…. [There is not a] tale of the folks who lived on Congress Street and their experience with urban renewal. We all kind of look at today in hindsight and say we don’t know what it was like to be affected by it.” Source: Times Union Before urban renewal, much of Saratoga Springs was a different world (timesunion.com)https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Urban-renewal-shaped-Saratoga-Springs-landscape-15940059.php

Saratga consisted of affordable housing before Urban Renewal, even if some neighborhoods were poor. It is 2021, and Saratoga Springs still does not have sufficient affordable housing. We are an aging population and need to think about where the older citizen is going to live? Will many have to leave Saratoga Spring because of the high price point? And just like Carol Daggs, history, many could suffer the same fate. 

I am grateful to say I live in sustainable housing at Embury Apartments, Wesley Retirement Community. I have several black friends here. One is a writer, and we are writing our own Saratoga family histories. Carol Daggs has inspired us to continue in our pursuit to write about our ancestors, who were part of the building of Saratoga Springs in the early days.

WATER HAS MEMORIES

We are born with genetic memory. Recently, Wil Darcangelo commenced a meditation next to a river in Vermont. Hearing the water flow and seeing the ancient glacial rocks transported me to a place of my youth in the desert and at the base of Anasazi Cliff Dwellings. The site name is lost forever, but tangible water memory remains.

A gentle stream flowed in the desert sand. Thin fingery leaves blew softly in the breeze. Ever so quietly, water flowed, and the space felt sacred. I looked at the Anastasi cliff dwellings and wondered who once lived there in peace? Where did they go and why? I thought I would never willingly leave this place. It was so entirely peaceful.

Darcangelo mentioned that the river in Vermont was a sacred site where Native Peace Gatherings once took place. Sacred sites need to remain silent to protect them. It does not surprise me that the Vermont woodland’s river resonates with the Anasazi stream in the desert. Living water speaks to us in memories.

You feeling this too?

I think the Earth is being reborn. Read Lara/Trace Blog and maybe we will understand better what is happening. Be sure that staying positive in the midst of darkness is OK. As long as we remember to pray, meditate, see the beauty of nature, and go out into it daily to replenish our spirits, we will be OK. Don’t get lazy and forget to exercise. It is a time of trauma on many levels, but we can stay safe at home. Be thankful not to out where the air virus germs can reach you. Do things you love. I am making a bandolier bag by crewel work with wool thread. It is floral and someday hopefully it will be my herb collecting bag. Stay well.

SWEET MORNING

The air felt like an early fall morning. The sky was soft on inhaling the breathable, invisible substance of life. Walking sticks, a large brim hat adorned with dark blue tie-dye scarf, and sandals on my feet, I explored the morning. The Blue Jays called out a warning. Were they telling each other, watch out the crows are coming? And, that was the next sound that filled the sky. Beneath my feet, dew beads glistened on the underside of grass. The silent brown rabbit was still and huddled in the tall field grass being present.

I don’t need anything else to make the morning perfect. A reflection in prayer is sight, sound, and beauty. May you know the joy of nature where you walk in gratitude. Photo copyright Google Images

The Garden is Rich by Chinook Psalter

Pastor Melissa O’Brien posted this wonderful prayer on her Website for The Peru Church at https://www.theperuchurch.org/sunday-gathering

The garden is rich with diversity
With plants of a hundred families
In the space between the trees
With all the colours and fragrances.
Basil, mint and lavender,

Great Mystery keep my remembrance pure,
Raspberry, Apple, Rose,

Great Mystery fill my heart with love,
Dill, anise, tansy,

Holy winds blow in me.
Rhododendron, zinnia,

May my prayer be beautiful
May my remembrance O Great Mystery
be as incense to thee
In the sacred grove of eternity

As I smell and remember
The ancient forests of earth.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Our Injustice Eyes are Opening

A poem, a prayer of the heart, is significant because my eyes are open, which is why I speak. I watched the inhumane news about a black man, George Floyd, treated as less than a human. He was suffering as he was dying on the cold pavement, at the hands of police officers. His cries were unheaded. It was at that moment, as he died, that I realized the injustice to Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, and anyone else that I haven’t mentioned. I knew it was going on, but this was the catalyst of change. We are still living the reality of Colonialism. White America is just living along with no thought of suffering humanity.

It is 2020, have we not come any further? There is no excuse now. I hope others like me, white and privileged to live in security, heard the cries spilled on the street. I hope our eyes are open to Americans being prejudice. 

Perhaps the Global Pandemic came to teach us that we need to awaken and change our behavior towards others that are not like us. No one should be beneath us. I could cry with the agony I feel for that poor man who died at the hands of injustice. I couldn’t say it any better. Here is a poem by Maya Angelou. The Poem was posted by Pastor Melissa O’Brien, at The Peru Church, Wednesday Prayer Service at https://www.theperuchurch.org

Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

My wish for you

Is that you continue

Continue

To be who and how you are

To astonish a mean world

With your acts of kindness

Continue

To allow humor to lighten the burden

Of your tender heart

Continue

In a society dark with cruelty

To let the people hear the grandeur

Of God in the peals of your laughter

Continue

To let your eloquence

Elevate the people to heights

They had only imagined

Continue

To remind the people that

Each is as good as the other

And that no one is beneath

Nor above you

Continue

To remember your own young years

And look with favor upon the lost

And the least and the lonely

Continue

To put the mantel of your protection

Around the bodies of

The young and defenseless

Continue

To take the hand of the despised

And diseased and walk proudly with them

In the high street

Some might see you and

Be encouraged to do likewise

Continue

To plant a public kiss of concern

On the cheek of the sick

And the aged and infirm

And count that as a

Natural action to be expected

Continue

To let gratitude be the pillow

Upon which you kneel to

Say your nightly prayer.

The video is graphic and disturbing. The reality of George Floyd losing his life is even more disturbing. Learn more at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/26/us/minneapolis-police-man-died.html

You feeling this too?

I like Lara’s writing and deep thoughts. I think the world needed resetting. Only mother nature can stop the madness we were headed to. Now everything is on hold. I find this new space tranquil. I am doing handiwork again after 50 years. I am planting a Victory Garden of native plants and crops such as potatoes. Setting the seed potatoes out tomorrow. I finally have enough time for me at 75 years of age. Be grateful we are slowed down in our tracks. We were going nowhere anyway, even if it felt like we were on Top of the World in a New York Minute. Now we are one with nature and it is sustainable. Be Grateful that this time was chosen so each of us might know silence and meditation.

Eating on the Wild Side

Recently I saw a recipe for pasta with chickpeas, tomato, and spinach. Instead of spinach, I added dandelion leaves. With a dandelion digger and carrying an aluminum chair to the flowering dandelion field, I dug up roots and leaves. The common bumblebee and European honeybee were at play in the field, gathering nectar, from the first flowers of spring.

At home, the flowers were placed in a container to enjoy for a day before they faded. The roots were separated for drying for winter medicinal tea. The leaves were chopped and fried in garlic olive oil that I made a while back. Talk about good.

The Global Pandemic reminds me to return to my roots in herbalism, environmental education, master gardening, and wild foraging. I love returning to my roots. Thank you, Mother Nature, who provides for us.