Saturday, May 26, 2007

May 19, 2007

Dear Friends,
There are times when the fences of Carswell press on me and I feel as if i can't move or really breathe. I feel hemmed in. It is then when I have to look up at the's spacious and wide....Right now, the light blue calms me and the orange-tinted clouds of pre-dusk still the restlessness that haunted me today. There was a fight on our unit last night. Now this is not the first fight I've witnessed but it is the first one I've seen in our unit. No one was seriously hurt, thank God. But in the flash of an eye it happened and the jeering and encouragement of some of the other women bothered me a lot. We were all locked down and confined to our beds after that. At first no bathroom breaks were allowed and then bathroom breaks were granted. There are times the cruelsness of this place astounds me. I found it hard to sleep then. When I did, I kept having dreams about having to leave and not be allowed to enter. I'd go, in my dreams, someplace pnly to be told I was not allowed. I'd turn and try another way. I'd take Thunder (my dog) with me and the dog was not allowed. Needless to say, not a very restful sleep.

I keep busy writing, mostly letters to you all, some poems and now trying to write something on healing and stories. I have found toward the latter half of my stay at the Carswell Hilton, a prayer spot under an old cottonwood. It is still too close to the compound but no one walks right by. I have seen this tree every day but only today when I was so in need of a hug and a quiet conversation that I wandered over to this tree. I can feel the rootedness of this ancient tree. It helps root me in the present moment. I also close my eyes and I see myself under a tree of my childhood relishing a late spring day like I've done since I was a young child. I find the outside healing...inside the echo chamber of our unit I sometimes feel stifled. I will so need to canoe down a quiet Missouri stream when I get home.

I want to tell you the story of a 23 yr. old woman who came here about 2 weeks ago. Lisa just found out the cancer they found, at another prison, has spread to her brain. Originally it was in her sinus cavity but delays in treatment have made it such that they will have to perform extensive surgery now. I can not imagine at 23 yrs of age being told I have cancer w/o the support of family or friends...she was alone, save a strange guard, when the doctor gave her the news. Now she will have to have this enormous surgery and when I asked when, she said they won't tell her for security reasons. She will be shackled to the bed, shackled in the van. Shackled after surgery. One woman told me when she went outside Carswell for tests, she had to sign papers that said should the van become disabled or there is an accident en route, she will wait by the roadside for security to pick her up! She is a very trustworthy source.

My heart hurts for Lisa. Please, please hold her in prayer. She is such a sweet woman. Very brave. She is teaching me so much about FAITH--practical that is REAL not words but honest to goodness real life.

In three days I will observe my birthday (It was the 22nd). I don't think there will be a fiesta. I told Alec (my son) that I wanted them to go out and celebrate for me. I think I will celebrate in my heart with gratitude for being alive, for all the gifts this past year of life has brought and for the gifts of this present moment of life. I have given up counting years and instead use it as a kind of landmark. A time to say thanks for what has been and a hopeful yes to what is and what will be. At first I thought it will be a bit of a depressing birthday given the place but then I thought of what I am celebrating and that does not preclude any place...besides Carswell has given me gifts and has been and is a teacher. Maybe that day I will look for SPECIAL gifts. Each day brings gifts of its own. Some days I am able to recognize the gifts better than other days. So really I think it will be a fine day-that part is really up to me, isn't it?

I want to share with you all some poetry and writings of Thomas Merton from the Book of Hours, which by some miracle reappeared in the chaplain's office. I want to also apologize to you all b/c it is a bit long. Mostly I apologize to Beth who has to type this up!

"Go tell the Earth to shake
And tell the thunder
To wake the sky
And tear the clouds apart
Tell my people to come out
And wonder

Where the old world is gone
For a new world is born
And all my people
Shall be one.

So tell the Earth to shake
With marching feet

Of messengers of peace
Proclaim my law of love
To every nation
Every race

For the old wrongs are over
The old days are gone
A new world is rising
Where my people shall be one

So tell the Earth to shake
With marching feet
Of messengers of peace
Proclaim my law of love
To every nation
Every race

And say
The old wrongs are over
The old ways are done
There shall be no more hate
And no more war
My people shall be one.

So tell the Earth to shake
With marching feet
Of messengers of peace
Proclaim my law of love
To every nation
Every race.

For the old world is ended
The old sky is torn Apart.
A new day is born
They hate no more.

They do not go to war
My people shall be one.

So tell the Earth to shake
With marching feet
Of messengers of peace
Proclaim my law of love
TO every nation
Every race.

There shall be no more hate
And no more oppression
The old wrongs are done
My people shall be one."

Then I close with the end of Victor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning" (no underline or italics available on here!)

He writes, "So let us be ALERT-- ALERT in a two fold sense:

Since Auschwitz, we know what people are capable of,
And since Hiroshima, we know what is at stake."

Thanks for your love and prayers...I will write again soon...please call your congresspersons and let them know about SOA and issues I have mentioned, please. Read between the lines, you know what I mean--
With love,

P.S. Another young woman in need of support...SHe has 3 young children and is SO trying to do right by them. Encouragement would be wonderful for her.
Katrina Rodgers #04521-063

Two writings Tina included in the last letter. These are her personal poems typed on a typewriter originally.

"Doing Time" by Tina Busch-Nema
Here in prison we're all doing time
serving an arbitrary punishment
for a crime, real or imagined.

But while doing time, how to measure time?
Crossing days off a borrowed religious
calendar seems as impersonal, dehumanizing as
the prison itself.

Measure, perhaps by the blossoming cottonwood tree
Pregnate with grape-like pods
Sending downy white balls floating gently
down to litter the earth.

Or maybe measure by the gift of ripening
fruit of the mulberry tree.
Where for days, birds, squirrels and humans alike
pluck dark purple berries
And savor an unexpected sweetness from a bitter place.

Perhaps measure by the daily antics of the raven
fledglings who just weeks ago lay as eggs in
messy, toilet paper strewn nests
Now frantically they flap around squacking
Noisely, demanding food from weary mothers

And so it goes, days fade into the dark of night
And nights give way to the light of day
as seasons come and go.

And trees shed their seeds
and bear fruit
and baby birds leave their nests
All while we're doing time.

"Through the Razor Wire" by Tina Busch-Nema
Blurs of yellow and black feathers dip and soar
playfully chasing their mate or their supper
through the razor wire

Some perch gently, as light as air
Watching, waiting, singing without a care, all the while we watch
through the razor wire

From inside the fence I watch in wonder and envy at
how these tiny finches escape the glint of the blades meant
to slice and mame

And as I watch the women corralled by this wall of deadly wire
I notice that inmates, too, fly, in their mind's eye
through the razor wire

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