Trees

Trees Reach for the Heavens

It seems that trees are abundant. There are so many kinds and sizes and they change predictably season by season. It would be easy to take them for granted and I probably did at one time. During the early 1990s, I had an experience that changed that. I now look at trees through a different lens, respecting their fight for survival against the many odds such as weather, fire, and most destructive of all, humankind. 

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While walking on a two-lane country road, I witnessed the disfigurement, the destruction of trees along that quiet little community. A few limbs needed to be trimmed to ensure drivers’ vision would not be blocked in the future. It could be done piece by piece, but the road department workers apparently thought that was too slow so they devised a way to chew off the intruding growth expediently. Using both a bulldozer and a Bush Hog in a vertical direction they sped along the road shredding, disfiguring and raping the trees. These are my notes upon my return from that walk so long ago. 

Trees, arms flailing, bones cracking, leaves gurgling under the weight of more bodies piled up. 

Giant, crashing ahead, beeping back, ahead again belching his awful breath. 

The birds cry out as Godzilla stamps through their homes. 

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“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” Martin Luther

 

 

 

 

Decades Behind Bars – Book Review

“Decades Behind Bars – A 20 Year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons”  by Gaye D. Holman

This book is written by a professor of Sociology who spent decades teaching college-level courses to prisoners in Kentucky. She also teaches a “Corrections” course at Bellarmine College through the Veritas program. This is where I met Holman, a bright and warm individual who has a passion for criminal justice.

(See “Corrections” 1-3 earlier in this blog)

Her book is excellent on two levels. First, she follows fifty prisoners for twenty years who had been convicted of felonies. Her study of these fifty men began in 1994 when they were her students in college degree programs which she coordinated for a local college. When she followed up on these men seventeen were still imprisoned after twenty years. Her interviews with most of the original fifty and excerpts from their letters are very enlightening and sometimes heartbreaking. Holman helps the reader to see this population as humans rather than just prisoners.

Secondly, the author includes interviews with many who are involved in the criminal justice system so there is much more than just her opinions and the prisoners’ side of things. She quotes correction officers, wardens, Parole Board members, chaplains, and others.

Gaye Holman, now retired, remains involved with ex-offenders helping them to successfully re-enter freedom.

The book includes a very helpful glossary of prison terms along with chapter notes and bibliography. I recommend this book if you are interested in the subject of criminal justice.

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“A duty to the public must be to stop prisoners reoffending through successful rehabilitation.” Sadiq Khan

White Sands, NM

New Mexico, one of the “Four Corners” states, is a great place to visit. The climate varies from alpine mountains in the north to arid desert in the south. Santa Fe, the capital is full of history, like stepping back in time, while Albuquerque the largest city is very metropolitan.

When we traveled the state a few years back my favorite location was White Sands. It had special meaning for my husband who had been stationed at the White Sands Missle Base there many years before. The attraction for me was the white sand the area was named for. It was beautiful with sand as white and powdery as snow. We played in it like kids. 

“The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn’t know enough to take a vacation.” Clarence Day

 

Title photo by Pixabay

Book Review – All The Light We Cannot See

“All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

This book has it all. It is filled with science and technology, mystery and poetry. It is a story of survival and love. “All the Light We Cannot See” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 and the author has received other awards too numerous to list. 

The setting is WWII in Germany and France. There are two main characters, a blind young girl in Paris and a small boy in an orphanage in Germany. The way their lives are entwined is brilliant and endearing. Both young people bravely face near impossible odds against surviving and one of them wins. 

This story was riveting for me and I rank it as one of the best books I have read.  

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Kids Are Listening

Never doubt that kids are listening to what adults are saying. They may appear to be in their own little worlds, but they hear us. An example of this (based upon contemporaneous notes) goes way back to 1993 when I was visiting the cemetery at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church with my daughter and toddler granddaughter, Katie. 

As my grandmother had done before, https://crookedcreek.live/2019/05/14/kids-2/  I walked from grave to grave telling my daughter of the lives and deaths of those buried there. There were the graves of two generations of grandparents, many aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as my parents and a young brother. Katie played nearby running around and singing. 

At one point she interrupted my dissertation and was told by her Mom to wait her turn.  A few moments later we asked Katie what she had wanted and this is what transpired: Katie squatted down in front of a random tombstone and began, “See and when my uncle, he came to work and he had a wreck and see he died.” She was listening and learning and at a little over two-years-old, she was replicating my actions and words in this place of sad memories. 

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“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Charles Swindoll

Hollyhock Photo by Pixabay

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CELEBRATION!

Today Crooked Creek has 300 followers!

Other bloggers have many more, in the thousands even, but this is a sweet milestone for me. Thank you readers and followers for your interest and your encouragement. It has kept me going when there were times I wondered if I would continue.

Thank you!  Sue

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Kids 2

Kids and Grandmothers and Flowers

The other flower that I distinctly remember from time spent with Mammy  https://crookedcreek.live/2019/05/12/kids/   was the peony. The peony is a large bush with lush blossoms in shades of red or pink or pure white. They bloom in May and were always ready for Memorial Day, known as “Decoration Day” out in the country many years ago. It is also worth mentioning that peonies were incorrectly pronounced pee-ON-nies as opposed to PEE-on-nies back in the day. 

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I would help Mammy cut all the peonies off the bushes and then we would assemble them in bouquets to take to the cemetery at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. While we walked among the graves of my grandmother’s parents, brothers and friends she would tell me about each one. Often the details included the way they had died as well as the way they lived. We would lay a bouquet of peonies on each grave. My favorite bouquets for Decoration Day were made up of the snow white flowers.

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It never occurred to me that one day I’d walk in that same cemetery with my own granddaughter. See Kids 3 coming up.

“Sweet April showers do spring May flowers.” Thomas Tusser

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NOTE: A reader sent this photo to me via email and I wanted to share it with you. It is regarding the last post about hollyhock flower “girls” and the ones in this photo are very similar to the ones I made with my Grandmother. The main difference is that ours wore bonnets. Thank you, Gerri, for the photo that demonstrates what I was trying to convey.

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Photos by Pixabay

Mystery Blogger Award

Mystery Blogger Nomination

I am so honored to have been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award! Thank you to Sharvi who nominated me. Please check out her blog “Tips from Sharvi.” It will make your life easier.  https://tipsfromsharvi.com/about/

Here are my answers to Sharvi’s questions to me: 

1. What motivates you to blog? Exchanging thoughts and experiences with others. 

2. Do you actually follow your set blogging schedule? I do not have a schedule. That would make it seem like work. 

3. Who inspires you the most? Other bloggers and people of courage who I learn about inspire me, but most of all I must say are my readers. 

4. Which is your favourite vacation destination? Anywhere in nature, but especially the ocean.

5. Funny one… Honestly, can you sneeze with your eyes wide open? First, try it out to see. If you can, then teach me how to!  I can say with certainty that it cannot be done!

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Award Creation

The Mystery Award was created by Okoto Enigma who has a delightful blog about “Lifestyle, Beauty and Fashion.” Check it out and learn more about her and this special award.  https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com

Award Rules

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules.
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Things About Me

  1. I have been fortunate to have traveled to many different countries.
  2. Other than my family the thing that brings me the most joy is nature.
  3. I love to write and blogging is a wonderful way to share thoughts, doubts, questions and experiences with others. I cannot imagine being conformed by one subject.

Bloggers Who I nominate for the Mystery Award

  1. Beauty Beyond Bones  https://beautybeyondbones.com
  2. Life Just Happens  https://lifejusthappensweb.wordpress.com/author/debmrst/
  3. Parallax  https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/46393402
  4. The DIHEDRAL  https://thedihedral.com
  5. Christine’s Collection https://christinegoodnough.com/about/
  6. The Struggle  https://thestruggle247.wordpress.com
  7. Elan Mudrow https://tricksterchase.com/about-2/
  8. Tom’s Nature Up Close Photography and Mindfulness Blog  https://tom8pie.com
  9. Memoire of a Writer  https://thememoirofawriter.com/2019/05/12/what-you-too-qotd/
  10. Ankit Verma  https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/105525070/posts/574
  11. Sandstorm Click https://sandstormclick.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/pinata-time/

Questions for My Nominees

  1. What influenced you to start blogging?
  2. Have you ever thought of discontinuing your blog?
  3. What do you do when you are not writing?
  4. What is your biggest challenge to blogging?
  5. And, the “weird” one: If you were not a human what do you think you’d be?

My Ten Best Posts (in my opinion)

  1. The Landing  https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/02/jacksonville-landing/
  2. The Good Wife https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/03/the-good-wife/
  3. Phillip https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/27/little-blue-bird/
  4. To Read  https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/07/to-read/
  5. Death – Decisions  https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/
  6. The Half Has Never Been Told https://crookedcreek.live/2019/02/01/book-review-2/
  7. Spring  https://crookedcreek.live/2019/04/15/spring/
  8. New Harmony 2  https://crookedcreek.live/2019/04/08/new-harmony-2/
  9. Solar Eclipse  https://crookedcreek.live/2017/08/23/solar-eclipse/
  10. The Green Book  https://crookedcreek.live/2018/12/16/movie-review-2/

I look forward to hearing from my nominees and seeing their responses. Again, thank you Sharvi for the nomination! 

Kids

Kids and Grandmothers

When I was a little kid my maternal grandmother, “Mammy,” spent a lot of time with me. Not only did I learn practical lessons about life from her, I subconsciously learned what it was like to be a loving and giving person. While I haven’t always followed her example, I know she was a big influence on the adult I became. 

One of the things that I recall about Mammy is that she always offered visitors to her humble home, whether family or friends, something to eat. It might have only been a homemade biscuit and jam or perhaps a glass of iced tea, but something from the kitchen would be provided. 

She was also a good neighbor. My grandmother could be called upon to help deliver a baby or sit with a sick friend. She had no telephone but would be fetched in person by a knock on the door of her tiny little house.  

Many memories of Mammy include flowers. She raised various types and two kinds stand out in my memory. First were the hollyhocks:

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Hollyhock is an odd name for a flower, but oh the potential of these plants in Mammy’s hands. She spent hours with me making beautiful “girls” who we then used in all kinds of pretend stories and adventures. All it took was a toothpick for the backbone that held everything together and a stalk of hollyhocks. Different size blooms, inverted, made the attire and a head was fashioned from an unopened bud. Facial features could be made by piercing the bud with the toothpick. The puncture points then darkeded for eyes, nose and mouth. Each girl ended up looking like a southern belle ready for a plantation ball. I wish I had some hollyhocks so that I could create one for you, but this marked-up photo is the best I can do. I hope your imagination does the rest. 

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“I know what it is like to be brought up with unconditional love. In my life that came from my grandmother.” Andre Leon Talley

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Photos by Pixabay

Ramadan

Ramadan Mubarek (happy, blessed)

Sunday, May 5, 2019, marked the beginning Ramadan. In Islam, this is a month-long sacred time when we commemorate Allah, the Arabic name for God, giving the first verses of the Quran, the Muslim scripture, to the Prophet Muhammad in the year 610 A.D. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and lasts 29 to 30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.
Much like the holy occasions of Lent for Christians or Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is a time of year when Muslims the world over reflect on their relationship with the divine. This reflection comes in the form of fasting, refraining from sinful behavior, engaging in service to the community, and, of course, prayer. It is a time of inward reflection and spiritual renewal intended to acknowledge our appreciation for God’s many blessings. It is also a time of celebration of our shared humanity on this earth.
Fasting, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, during Ramadan is required for observant Muslims. (The other pillars of worship are: the shahadah, which is the declaration of faith; salat, the five daily prayers; zakat, or almsgiving; and the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.) At sundown the daily Ramadan fast ends with the evening meal Iftar. 
As we, a community of many faith traditions and cultures, commit ourselves to peace and compassion in this often confusing and hostile world, Muslim Americans for Compassion prays that all of us talk respectfully, treat others kindly, walk modestly, and pray sincerely. May these simple acts of compassion toward one another and toward ourselves infuse us all with the courage to overcome life’s adversities.
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SOURCE: Muslim Americans for Compassion (MAC)
Graphic & Photo by Pixabay

Corrections 3

Murder

I ask you to think about this terrible word, one that strikes fear in most of us. Can you imagine living near a murderer? What about having a person convicted of murder as a friend or family member? Should those who have committed murder ever get out of prison? Should they even be allowed to live? Can a person who has committed murder ever be a worthwhile citizen?

These are serious questions and ones we casually ponder at different points in our lives. It might be when a well-publicized murder takes place or when the circumstances are more unforgettable or perhaps when it has been geographically close to us. Today when probably none of those situations are present, let’s answer the hard questions.

  1. Do you support Capital punishment? I never have. During my studies of the criminal justice system over the past several weeks I did not change my mind on this matter.
  2. Do you believe in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole? As a result of these classes, reading, and research, I have changed my mind and no longer believe that this should be a punishment. If there is no incentive for release where is the incentive for rehabilitation? It’s not “corrections.” It’s not “criminal justice.” It is simply punishment.

3. Have you ever been mad or afraid enough to take the life of another person? I cannot say that I have, but I can imagine how this happens. I believe that a good person can do terrible things under certain circumstances and that they, even murderers, can change. It is worth noting that murder has one of the lowest recidivism rates of all crime categories.

I’m not going to go into great detail, but one day in class two men who had been convicted of murder were our guest speakers. Each had committed their crime while very young and each served over twenty years before receiving parole. Both concentrated on getting an education while in prison and they have used those degrees to find work since released. What’s more, both work now to help others in the prison system and their families. They spoke of their crimes, took full responsibility and voiced their regret. I would welcome either as next door neighbors.

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“Why do we incarcerate? Are we afraid or angry?”  Mark Bolton, Corrections Director, Louisville, KY

The SOURCE of most of the information of the past two posts is a class at Bellarmine University taught by Gaye Holman, Author, “Decades Behind Bars: A Twenty-year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons.” Today’s post is mostly my personal opinion. 

Photo and Graphic by Pixabay

Corrections 2

Recidivism

Can people change? Experience shows that people can and do change and that formal education is one of the most effective means. In 2011, in KY 1,151 inmates attained their GED in prison while in 2015 that total was down to 126. The difference? As the number of inmates goes up so do costs and education funds are one of the first cut. This is unfortunate considering that statistics show that 5.6% of inmates with a Bachelor’s degree re-offend and 0% of those with a Masters. 

According to a psychologist who works with inmates in KY, other keys to reducing recidivism are family support and treatment for addiction. Families tend to drift away after the first year or two and by the third year, few inmates have visits or any contact with their family. 

Is the justice system just?

“No” is the easy answer. In the general population 86% is white and 11% are black and brown. In prison 64% of the population is white and 34% are people of color.

If the goal was truly to rehabilitate and reduce recidivism would prisoners be released without any money, ID, phone or often even a place to stay? 

Parole

Here’s a case history: WRS, a graduate of Seneca HS in Louisville was 21 when he committed a few robberies and one assault. When he was caught he had an empty gun on his person. He waived a plea bargain of eight years to have his day in court.  He was sentenced to 317 years in prison. Now 29 years later WRS has been turned down for parole four times in spite of a good record in prison. The cost of his incarceration is now over $800,000 and that amount gets higher the older an inmate becomes.

Is this a good investment of taxpayer dollars? Is the fact that WRS is African-American a consideration?

NOTE: In KY Parole Board Members (9) are appointed and must have at least five years experience in Criminal Justice work. Members are paid $1,000 per year. They have few or no policies to follow. For lower level offenses they do not see the inmate in person but review their file. The Board files no monthly or annual reports. Most cases are reviewed by only 3 Board Members. (Per Larry Chandler former Board Member.)

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“Poor people, people of color – especially are much more likely to be found in prison than in institutions of higher education.” Angela Davis

SOURCE of most of this information is a class at Bellarmine University taught by Gaye Holman, Author, “Decades Behind Bars: A Twenty-year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons.”

Photo and Graphic by Pixabay

Corrections

United States

There are over 2,000,000 people incarcerated in the US. This country has 5% of the earth’s population but 25% of those incarcerated. At least 2,500 children under the age of eighteen are in prison for life without the possibility of parole. 

Kentucky

Kentucky is seventh in the US for the number of people in prison. Thirteen percent of children in KY have a parent incarcerated compared to the national average of 7%. At this time there are  24,000 inmates in thirteen prisons, one which is privately run. The annual cost per prisoner is $25,594.

Of note, from 1985 to 2015 the overall crime rate declined by 19 percent, but during that same 30-year period the number of prisoners rose by 271 percent!

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It’s called Department of Corrections, but is that a misnomer? Can we say there is “correction” when the recidivism rate is 35-40% and by the ninth year as high as 80%?

Purpose

What is the purpose of locking people in prison for years? Four possible motives for incarceration include:

  1. Retribution and punishment
  2. Incapacitation
  3. Deterrence
  4. Rehabilitation

If #1 how long is long enough? For #2 being locked away is the only answer. Number three indicates that the threat of prison prevents crime, but if that is so why do we have more people in prison than ever before? How much rehabilitation (#4) actually happens in prison? How does it happen?

It is easy to take imprisonment for granted. People commit crimes. People pay. It is not that simple. Each case, judge, jury and parole board is different. There is no “one size fits all” in corrections. 

We will discuss this subject further in the next posts.     

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“America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” George W. Bush

 

The SOURCE of most of this information is a class at Bellarmine University taught by Gaye Holman, Author, “Decades Behind Bars: A Twenty-year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons.”

Photo and Graphic by Pixabay

Book Review – The Night Trilogy

Elie Wiesel

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) authored 57 books. He was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and recipient of numerous other awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

After his time in concentration camps, he received asylum in France where he completed his education. His career included being a journalist and later a professor of Humanities at Boston University. His most important work, however, was as an activist and defender of human rights.  

The Night Trilogy Contains:

  • “Night” – a memoir of Wiesel’s year as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald 
  • Dawn” – a novel about the Jewish resistance in Palestine during English rule
  • “Day” – a novel about a Holocaust survivor’s obsession with death

The novels, “Dawn” and “Day” were captivating. They each reflected the permanent pain and disability from being a prisoner during the Holocaust. There are fragments which one knows are true to Wiesel’s personal anguish. 

“Night” was heartbreaking as the young Elie tells of the horrors of daily life in the concentration camps. His mother and younger sister were killed. His father died of starvation while in captivity during a brutal winter.

Originally a 900-page book entitled “And The World Remained Silent,” it was written in Yiddish then translated in this abridged version to English and thirty other languages. 

The inhumanities suffered by Wiesel and other prisoners are difficult to accept but should be read by everyone lucky enough to live free. 

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“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel