From Tree to Oven

On Wednesday, my mom and I and my 17-year-old stepson went up north to the Flathead Lake to do some cherry picking at a u-pick orchard. Although the place I went with some friends last summer wasn’t open yet, we found another great spot – it even operated on the honor system and just left out a scale, some buckets, and instructions on where to leave your money when you were finished picking and weighing up. Oh how I love this great state of ours!


Even though I never buy cherries in the store and don’t much care for eating them, I really enjoy picking and prepping them. I find the whole process to have a high degree of mindfulness built right in naturally. And there are many activities like this, that innately involve a certain quality of mindfulness that you don’t have to work at developing, it simply exists with little effort – like fishing, cooking, playing an instrument, knitting, wood working, painting, photography, and so on. I find that picking cherries and then setting to work pitting them holds my attention and focus quite readily.

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Shared Humanity


This drawing was done by a friend of mine who’s currently incarcerated at a correctional facility in Shelby, MT. He sent it a few months back in one of the letters he wrote to me. I keep it in my journal as a symbolic reminder of all those who are pent up behind bars, as a reminder that I should never take my own freedom for granted, as a reminder that there’s no separation between myself and others in the grand and elaborate web of interconnection.

Today I will be going to visit another friend who’s incarcerated at Montana State Prison. We’ve been exchanging letters for over a year now but this will be my first visit. Early this morning, accompanied by thoughts of both of these friends, I wrote this in my journal by book light (I’m thinking of having it be a spoken word piece to perform):

I can’t even imagine
what it would be like
in the confines of prison
enmeshed amid concrete and steel
needing to become as hard and unforgiving
as the materials that bind you,
so as not to suffer the swift consequences
of being weak

inmates, guards, administration,
our government, us
we’re not so easily separated into the
labeled boxes or thick walled cells we seek
no one is foot lose and fancy free of responsibility
for locking someone up and throwing away the key
so they could spend the rest of eternity behind bars
all because they never had the opportunity
to be well taken care of

right now, currently, I have two friends in prison
both for different reasons
both working the system from opposite spectrums:
one who’s full of remorse, shame, and regret
the other who’s not, who’d do it all over again,
and probably will when he gets out –
shoot, he’s still doing it now on the inside –
and neither one is a bad guy,
although many would disagree,
those who believe in some kind of fairy tale version of evil,
which to me is taking the easy way out

we’re all unfolding products of a myriad of situations
a living, breathing, physical manifestation
of everything that has even happened
passed down through our cultural influences
and blood relations

now, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be jails
or that everyone should be set free
or that there aren’t certain people who are wired
a little bit differently and might always pose a threat
but I’m not ready to discard anyone from the human race just yet
by raising myself up on a pedestal and casting judgement
with cruel intent looking down through narrow eyes
while we’re all born from the same earth under the same skies

it just doesn’t make sense to me to ignore our shared humanity
by hiding in the flawed guise of justice
I think it’s important to keep in mind that under the same conditions
those we deem as criminals could just as easily be us