Thursday, June 28, 2012

iPhone Blogging

As I prepare to set out into the wilds of Newfoundland I am exploring the possibility of leaving the computer behind and just using the phone... I can tell you already that if I do this - the posts will be shorter and the spelling mistakes more frequent!!! We will see how the packing goes!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Over hill and dale toward home...

I was up at 5:30AM and used the time to update the blog.  Not long after I was up, Richard joined me and made coffee!  Thanks so much Richard - and for finding the sugar!!  Richard left for work and I puttered on the computer, writing and sending a few emails and on about 8:30AM Linda work and we chatted for a bit as I got ready to head out.  We both remarked on how this CouchSurfing thing seems to connect people with similar values and the conversations quickly engage at deep and substantive levels!  Thanks Linda!  It was so great to meet you, share in some conversation and learn from you and of your life!  All the best!

Now it was time to ride!!

First off I skirted around Burlignton, VT  - pastoral farmland filled with abandoned farms!  Ir is shockingly sad to see so many farms abandoned - one has to wonder how we are able to still feed a nation with all the farms boarded up!  Once past Burlington I turned northward toward Cambridge and soon found myself just outside Snuggler's Notch at the Artful Cup.  I enjoyed a delicious egg and sausage burrito and some excellent conversation with Keefe the owner!  He shared with the story of how he and his wife met (in Scotland) and how they came to start the cafe in conjunction with their work as artist in theatre!  Keefe was also kind enough to share some of the history of Smugglers Notch...

The view from the Artful Cup was worth the stop!  Mountains all around with soft rolling hills and green as far as they eye could see!  A wonderful place to raie a family!  Enjoy Keefe and good luck on your ventures!!  Breakfast was great!  I wish I could have stayed for lunch too!

Before Keefe and I began our conversation I had been reading the paper.  I couldn't help but be struck by the contrast in the headline to my experience on Tuesday.  So sad and tragic on so many different levels!

Before leaving I had to take a picture of the Cafe.  The bright yellow seems to be so fitting for the surroundings!  Good food and good company.  If you are in the area do stop in!!

Leaving the Cafe I headed toward the Notch!  What a neat road.  One lane littered with boulders and I could quickly see why it was used by smugglers: hard to get to and lots of hiding places!

A single lane weaving between the rocks with huge boulders right on the side of the road!  Long trucks and campers and not allowed!!

Lots of folks were parked along side of the road and many looked as if they were going rock climbing and hiking!  The skiing in this area would be world class in the winter time!  If you are reading this Andrew, take note - its not far from your place!!  Once through the notch there are three or four ski resorts and then you come into the village of Stowe followed by Morrisville... and things just kept getting better!  More turns.  More hills.  More beautiful scenery!

In places the road was kind of rough - but the views more than made up for the odd harsh spot!  At Colebroke I cross into New Hampshire and continued eastward.

At Dixville, I passed through another "notch" - not nearly as restricted as Smuggler's Notch - but interesting just the same.

Severe, tight radius turns with quick changes in elevation made for a thrilling trip... so thrilling, I went through once... then turned around and did it again so I could stop and get some pictures.

The picture to the left is looking east - my direction travel.  Then, using the face-time  camera on the iPhone I took a picture of the view from whence I had come - the one to the right.  The picture does not in any way capture the grade of 12%!

Leaving Dixville I entered what is known locally as Mosse Alley.  I frequently passed signs warning people that this was an area noted for a high collision rate with moose.  There were signs everywhere!  And along the side of the road it was not hard to see where the moose had been travelling - the mud was all churrned up and there were feeding places everywhere!  Needless to say I heeded the sign!

On about Adamstown I saw a couple of bikes pulled over - and then I saw why they were pulled over - a young moose was feeding in the pond.  I quickly stopped, turned around and went back and got some pictures!

Believe me - the picture is decieiving!!  This guy was huge!  I cannot imagine what it would be like to hit one of these on the motorcycle - and I don't want to find out.

At Rangley I just had to stop.  What a beautiful view from the side of the road!  The lake opens up and seems to go on for miles.  This would be a great place for a get-a-way vacation.  There seemed to me lots of cabins for rent and the silence was so complete!

The elderly man in the picture below was so involved in his painting - capturing the beauty of the day!

After a little break and a walk to stretch the legs it was back on the bike... I wasn't far from where I was planning to spend the night... unfortunately Bingham wasn't ready for me... there was not a motel in town!!!

 Well... I figured there would be a place in the next town... no joy!  At Lagrange, the young fella at the gas station told me that another hour would get me to a motel... I came to I95, got on it and headed north, thinking I'd just head to the border - but - then I saw the sign for Lincoln and my butt got sore! I was done for the day.  I turned off at Lincoln and found myself a room at the Brierwood Motor Inn - not the cheapest room, but it was clean and the bed was soft and there was a restaurant across the street - just what I needed!

Well, the trip is almost over... it has been a joy, a memorable time filled with new experiences, new connections and new learning!

"All Real Living is Meeting." Amen. Amen.

I was awake early - as seems to be the case most mornings I am on the road!  I had decided not to do any writing this morning - instead I packed up my stuff and went off and filled the bike with gas - thinking that by the time I got back Starbucks would be open!  No joy!  The morning before, staff had been there at 7:00AM and they were kind enough to serve me as soon as the coffee was ready.   I guess that only happens on Tuesdays!!

I wondered over to the meeting space and found that breakfast was set up and early risers Charlier and Pauline (CURE) were there.  It was a delight to share breakfast and hear the stories of these two amazing people (he from the deep south and she from Wisconsin) who met at a Vietnam protest march and have been involved in advocacy all their lives - she even learned to make grits for Charlie!!

Charlie invited me to consider attending the 2013 meeting of CURE International in India as a speaker...  hmmmm.... I must say I am intrigued!  We'll see where this goes.  I am not sure what I could bring to the event - but it was an honour to be asked.

With breakfast in my belly it was time to head off.  Only one other participant was present besides Charlier and Pauline and I - everyone else was sleeping in I guess!  At 9AM I set off on the road home - and what a road it was!!

In my planning I had been intentional about choosing back roads.  I did not want to do any Interstate riding!  I wanted to see the back country - and what a back country it was!

After a quick stop at WalMart to get a nose pad on my sun glasses replaced I began heading northeast on the Stillwater Road.  I passed by farms and woodland, working farms and old abandoned farms!  I travelled behind dump trucks hauling farm by-products away that cleared out my sinuses!  I saw sheep crossing the road and all manner of things for sale in front of houses!  Before long I arrived at Deposit and began to follow Hwy #10 alongside Cannonsville Resevoir - a stretch of beautiful scenic twisty road that climbed at between a 3% and 8% grade in gently sweeping turns!  Awesome!!

Past Walton and the next stop was Delhi where I had to stop and take a picture!  John Perkin eat your heart out... no jetlag... no worrying about street food here... nor is it as colourful either!!  Hope you are enjoying your time in India!!

By this time I was travelling through farmland - either in the valley of the Schoharie Creek or along the ridges that formed the valley.  Just past Middleburg I crossed over Interstate 88 and recalled that Al Wallace and I had travelled that highway together before.

Past Amsterdam and its outlying communities marked by old Dutch Colonial homes and barns I turned eastward on Hwy 9N.  This brought me to Lake Luzene and then onto the bottom tip of Lake George in Adirondack Park.  What a beautiful area - owned I am sure by the rich and famous.  So many of the roads are marked "Private"  "Keep Out" it seems such a shame that the land in not more accessible.  I heard in conversation that this is an issue around lake Champlain as well with properties being bought up and whole communities becoming playgrounds only for those who can afford it!

About 15 minutes outside of Lake George the road opened up and began to climb!  To the right is a shot taken from one of the turnouts!  It is a beautiful part of the world.

Past Crown Point I continued north and crossed over the new Lake Champlain bridge.  What a beautiful view.  Unfortunately traffic did not allow me to stop and take a picture.

At Addison I turned onto 22A and headed north again, passing through Vergennes and past Mt. Philo State Park and on into Shelburne, VT - my planned destination and it was only 4PM.

I was early.  I had arranged with my CouchSurfing host that I would arrive after supper.  Slowly coming into Shelburne on my left was a building that simply said Beer and Pizza on the outsidee... I passed it... and quickly turned around and went back!

See the Brewer Dog!
Matt Cohen
Fiddlehead Brewing and Folinio's make an awesome combination.  As I chatted with the Matt Cohen, the brewer who was pulling beer a couple of other men came in and bought a Growler.    Matt told me the story of the brewery and about a beer they made this spring in which they replaced the water content with Maple Sap... interesting... but there was none left!  He pulled me a sample glass of their IPA and it tasted like more!  However, when I asked for a glass he said he could only sell Growlers... I asked if the Pizza Joint sold his product - "No, but hey do BYOB and they have a fridge full of chilled glasses... "Well," I said, "I will take a Growler and I am sure I can share the remains with soneone else!"  What a fateful wonderful decision on my part!

I took my Growler, and entering the restaurant, saw the two men who had just been in the brewery were sitting at a table.  I asked if I could join them and Jim (as I learned later) quickly said yes.  He introduced me to his friend Jake and what a deep and satisfying conversation we had.

Jim is a retired school teacher.  Jake is a Vietnam veteran.  They are both Lutherans and they have a tradition on Wednesdays where they go and visit some senior folk in their congregation and then have a bite to eat and a beer together.  It was so easy to see the deep friendship that exists between these two and I was so privileged to be invited into the midst of it.

We talked of their community, my travels, Canadian comedy (Jake has relatives in Canada and watched Rick Mercer every chance he gets), friendship and vulnerability... and then Jim make Jake tell some of his story: Jake had been a pre-theology student during the time of the Vietnam War and when his parents fell on hard times he was unable to stay in school.  As a result he had to enlist and when he did he asked to be a Chaplains assistant.  He was assigned as a field medic... and there is a sad, tragic irony there... as it was by the Chaplain he spent much of his time with dying men...

And then... Jim asked me where I was staying and I told him about CouchSurfing.  He said that if I hadn't had a place to stay I was welcome to come to his home - his wife would not mind at all!  After about an hour and a half and two small glasses out of the Growler I gave the remnants to them and with hugs all around we parted ways!

Moments like these are such gifts - when strangers connect, when in our vulnerability we come to the table - and there around delicious pizza and some tasty brew, the world is made a smaller place.  Thanks Jim and Jake - the time spent with you was one of the highlights of the trip!  I hope we connect again!

With my belly full and spirit lifted I headed off to my CouchSurfing host for the night: Linda, a retired social worker who lives with a couple of housemates who responded to my search for accommodations with en enthusiastic welcome email.  After settling in, we sat on her back deck and shared stories: her of her work as a social working in New York city and the move to Vermont and I of my work and travels.  Soon her partner Margaret joined us and Margaret told of her two motorcycle trips as a young woman... Margaret worked as a cabbie in New York City for 30+ years and she alluded to having some stories from that time as well.  Later on Richard, a young single dad who is boarding with Linda for a time as he gets settled in the area to be near his 3 year old daughter came in from work and we shared some conversation!

On about 10PM after another lengthy conversation with Linda about the joys and challenges of parenting (Linda's daughter Holly and her wife Rachel are expecting their first child in September) I headed off to bed.  What a day!!  What a full and rich day!!  I am so blessed to have had this opportunity - to see and experience so much beauty and meet all the people that I have met along the way!

The other day, my cousin Wade and I were chatting on Facebook and he was saying how much he'd like to ride but it is so dangerous... indeed it is... but I told him, " is a risk that I will take... and if I should die on the motorcycle... I will die happy, doing what I love."  Not that I have any desire to die!  I have much to live for: a family that I love and am so proud of, a vocation that challenges and engages me at so many levels... and the next road... the next person I meet along they way.   As said Martin Buber, "All real living is meeting."  To that I can only say:  Amen.  Amen.

This morning I will be heading eastward.  Margaret who knows Vermont like the back of her hand and knows the thrill of riding a motorcycle suggest a few roads to me... "You must go through the notch!"  Well, through the notch I will go!!

Until tomorrow... On the Sabbath Road!!



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Final Full Day...

Tuesday began in the rain - and ended in the rain.  Following breakfast, in Plenary we heard an address by Vicki Shearer.  Here daughter Shannonwas raped and murdered on May 7, 1998 while finishing her first year of graduate school on a full scholarship at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

 Shannon’s killer was not arrested until 2002. He is serving several life sentences without parole in Colorado and Pennsylvania not only for Shannon’s rape and murder but for 13 other sexual assaults as well.

In a very emotional account filled with details about errors the police made and the way that the criminal justice system re-victimized her and her family she told her story and Shannon's story.  She has taught many high school and university classes on abolition, run workshops at state conferences, and published op-ed pieces in newspapers including the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Washington Post.  She also has met with and testified before state legislators in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Vicki is a vocal in opponent to the death penalty, and was long before Shannon’s murderer was apprehended. The Schiebers fought the district attorney and the prosecutors to keep the death penalty from being applied to their daughter’s killer.   “The death penalty is against our religion, a belief system in which life is held to be sacred...”

Vicki is an advocate for restorative justice and is awaiting a restorative encounter with the man who raped and killed her daughter.  Thanks for sharing so openly Vicki!

Following coffee it was time for the first workshop session of the day: Religious Accommodation for Minority Faiths offered by the equivalent of an Assistant Warden for Interventions in a County Jail - with 1200 inmates.  The workshop was a confirmation of much of the good work that we are doing in Canada in recognizing religious rights and accommodating religious practices and the challenges that local jails are facing with diminishing faith communities.  Following Lunch I attended and a presentation by CURE: Advocacy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty offered by Charlie and Pauline Sullivan.  This was a very informative time for me as I was made aware of some of the criminal justice policies in the USA - policies that CURE is working to reform.  One of the hugh issues they are working on now is the location of a Federal Prison.  Plans are underway to open a Federal Faciiity in Alabama to which all Federal female offenders along the east coast would be sent.  This would mean that female Federal inmates could end up being as far as 600 or more miles away from their home and family.

Supper included another great meal and lots of great conversation.  After supper some participants when off to the local prison to hold a prayer vigil outside the gates.  I opted to do some laundry and begin to pack for the ride home before the last plenary session.

We were supposed to have seen a play performed by some female inmates about life in a women's prison, but the director had a personal emergency and was unable to pull it off.  In place of this we gathered for a plenary discussion that was to begin with a video Fr. Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Hearth: The Power of Boundless Compassion (a book I read on my Sabbatical last year) as he spoke at Scranton Unversity upon being awarded the Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Award for Distinguished Contributions to Ignatian Mission and Ministries.  The video failed to work - but you can watched it here on Youtube as I did - a powerful and well spent 20 minutes!  Start at about the 10 minute mark to hear Fr. Boyle.

I finished off the evening watching the basetball game between Oklahoma and Miami with a couple of diehard fans and wondered off to bed just as the fourth period started... they thought I was nuts...  "Aren't you going to see how this ends!?!?"  Nope - I needed some sleep as the road would beckon tomorrow!!

"But this was our life..." Kirk Bloodsworth

Last evening we gathered at Elm Street Methodist Park to hear Kirk Bloodsworth.  The National Methodist Church has a project where it brings those who have been wrongfully convicted and freed to speak at local community gatherings - to inform people of the experience of those who are on death row and hopefully inform public opinion.  Kirk certainly informed us.

Kirk was a former Marie, a Waterman who just wanted to make a living fishing crab as he father had before him when he was wrongly identified by a neighbour who thought he looked like the guy in the composite sketch - a sketch made from an identikit by two young boys...  evidence was witheld in his case... his mother died while he was incarcerated and it was when he attended the wake - saw her for the last time, that he began to be empowered by her words "Stand up."

He stood up.  You can read the rest of his story elsewhere... but let me tell you I was so moved by his ability to put the bitterness behind him.  He told of how every year that he was incarcerated he sent a Christmas Card to the prosecutor.  On the day the prosecutor and others met him in the Burger King to tell him that another individual had be identified as the perpetrator of the crime for which he had been convicted, the prosecutor was speechless.  Kirk opened his arms to her and she walked into them, and they held each other and wept.

There are others like Kirk.  If you visit the Innocence Project website you will see that a growing number of individuals have been exonerated based on DNA testing and other methods.

Systems make mistakes.  Witnesses make mistakes.  People in the system make mistakes.  Mistakes can be corrected.  Tragically, when a state makes a mistake and then imposes the ultimate punishment - the death penalty - there is no correcting that mistake.

As Kirk shared some of the horrors from his time of incarceration he ended each story with a long pause followed by the phrase, "but this was my life..." a life that hid under a bunk and wept in the shadow of death row, a life that found the power to "stand up", a life that is now committed to abolishing the death penalty... Bless you Kirk!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Justice. Justus. Please?!?

The morning began, after coffee and coffee cake with an address by Dr. Todd Clear, Dean, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University.  Dr. Clear offered an informative talk on community justice but failed to identify any practical steps that government and stakeholders can do to assist communities in owning justice that restores persons and relationships that have been harmed by crime.  Some interesting statements from his address:

  • In America the incarceration rate has risen 2% each year.  Crime rates have not risen at the same rate!
  • Pennsylvania is a national leader in rates of incarceration.
  • There are only two factors that influence incarceration rates: the number of people you put there and the length of time they stay there.
  • In the three decades since 1972, there was first a slight increase in crime followed by an increase in the number of identified crimes and the capper is in the third decade the length of stay was increased - generally speaking.
  • In 1972 the average length of incarceration in the U.S. was 15 months, it is not 5 times that.
  • Presently, the same number of persons incarcerated in 1972 is the same as the number of persons serving life sentences in the U.S.A.
 The third point above is the one the worries me in regard to the current regime in Ottawa.  Mr. Harper with Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act is acting in a fashion that will both increase the number of people in prison and keep those who are there longer... and as states like Pennsylvania, Oregon, California and even Texas have discovered - your communities and streets are no safer - in fact they are a whole lot worse off.  Dr. Clear pointed out that when a person is incarcerated their lifetime earning potential is reduced by 40% - that's 40% less dollars entering the economy, 40% less dollars that are available to care for children - and - when you figure in that many of those who are incarcerated come from pockets of communities - that 40% less dollars being spent in that community in places like the local grocery store.

Community justice.  Bringing the community around a victim and an offender - not to talk about a law that has been broken - but to work at naming harm that has occurred and how that harm can be repaired. 

It saddens me as I speak with people here - I hear again and again - "Oh, you are doing such great work in Canada..."  And I am forced to say, "Yeah but... we just initiated new mandatory minimum penalties for seven existing offences... and... Yeah but... we just  increased the mandatory minimum penalties for nine existing offences... Yeah but... we just created two new offences...

Yeah but... and we will watch our prison populations grow... and thirty years down the road when we find ourselves in a similar place of being unable to pay for this monstrosity of an incarceration machine we will be scratching our heads as they are here now, wondering how we can get off the roller coaster... my advice - don't get on it in the first place!!

A Slow Scenic Ride to Scranton...

Sunday began with a hearty breakfast at the restaurant next to the motel - a Roll Ways Breakfast - no cholesterol sausage, eggs, homefries and toast and jam, all washed down with coffee!  It hit the spot.  Eventually the waitress just left the coffee pot on the table!  As I ate I watched a young family at the next table over and recalled with fondness the times we had travelled with our two boys when they were small and the joy of colouring at the table as we waited for our food.  The little girl was none to interested in the crayons - she wanted her juice "Gimmie my juice.  Gimmie my juice." she repeated again and again.  The third time the mom gave her the juice and allowed her to hold it on her own, cause  according to her, she was "a big girl now" the inevitable happened... the juice spilled.

I watched a mom and dad mopped up the juice just as the waitress arrived with their meals.  It was pandemonium!  The little girl reaching for her meal, mom trying to finish cleaning up and dad trying to find a dry place to put the plates... ahhh... the joys of parenting!

With my belly full I loaded the bike and headed west on Route 28.  Before long I was riding along side the Ashokan Reservoir.  Seeing all the water that served as drinking water for many upstate communities I was reminded of the oil spill on the Red Deer River and offered a silent prayer for all affected by that environmental tragedy.

Past Phonica and through the delightful little town of Arkville I came to another large body of water, Pepacton Resevoir.  By now it was a gorgeous Sunday morning and already there were folk worshipping on the water with shinning things spinning below the surface!  I watched from the bridge as one such person reeled in a fish and lifted it toward me with a wave.

Onto Shinhoppie and near Fishs Eddy I stopped and watched a Fly Fisherman gracefully casting his line into the eddies and pools of the East Branch Delaware River - such a peaceful and graceful sight!  Before I knew it, I was in Hancock, NY and then being welcomed to Pennsylvania!  The road turned southward and I was treated to more beautiful scenery as I followed Route 6 toward Scranton.

I must have inadvertently set the GPS to avoid all highways - as the route I followed took me by surface streets, through quiet well kept residential areas.  Eventually I arrived at North American Warhorse  - large and I mean large motorcycle dealership.  I needed new boots and I thought I would have a look and see what was there.  Well, they had one pair in my size- Alpinestars, a waterproof boot, cut a little lower than I would like - but the price was right - and they fit pretty good.  Just as I went to pay for them my hearing aid went dead.  I left the clerk and went to the bike to get a new battery - put that in - No Joy!  I returned to the clerk and she was very understanding.  We completed the sale.  She put my old boots in the box and took them to the trash and I walked out in my shiny new boots and put Wal-Mart in the GPS... I needed hearing aid batteries!

A Wal-Mart Super Centre parking lot on a hot Sunday afternoon is not the place you want to be on a motorcycle!!  People were looking at me like I was some alien!  Wearing a helmet and a jacket on a motorcycle... apparently once you are 21 in Pennsylvania you are allowed to make the stupid choice to ride a motorcycle without a helmet.  Lots of people make that stupid choice!

I enjoyed the air conditioned comfort of Wal-Mart as I picked up batteries, shaving cream and other essential trial size items in the pharmacy section... loaded the bike and then it was off to the University of Scranton.  What a beautiful campus!  Prominently promoting its Jesuit roots the campus occupies a number of city blocks.  Unfortunately at this point is where things got a little frustrating.  There was not a sign to be found anywhere as to where to register, check in or otherwise connect with the organizers of the Convocation.  I drove around, went into three different buildings, even the library and up to the Reference Desk and no one knew a thing!!  Eventually I went to a pizza joint next to the  Green Frog hoping to get WIFI and see if there was an email or something... no luck.

I left the a pizza joint and drove around some more... and saw a guy in a tie coming out of a building that I hadn't been in before.  I stopped him and yes, he assured me - this was the place - go right in there.  Well, right in there were four other folk waiting for someone to register them too!  We made connections and chatted - but I really wanted a shower!  On about 4:30PM someone came along and told us to make our way over to Reddington Hall and look for the "purple shirts".  Well, thankfully the "purple shirts" gave me a code to a room and I was able to shower and freshen up!

At 6PM we gathered back in Brennan Hall for supper.  Wow!  What a beautiful meal.  If I'd been by myself I would have taken a picture!  A fancy salad followed by Parmesan Crusted Beef Filet with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Vegetables... and to top it off... a Chocolate Torte with Strawberry!  Awesome!  With our belly full we moved down to the lecture hall after some formalities the first speaker of the event addressed the group:   Mr. John Wetzel, Secretary, PA Department of Corrections.  The brochure advertised Mr. Wetzel talk as "Implementing Community Justice in Pennsylvania" - unfortunately he didn't talk about this - He began by critiquing the former Governor's administration stating that the state ended up where it was because laws were changed without a clear understanding philosophy or corrections... he then spent the whole forty talking about changes within the department based on budget deficits and fiscal restraint.  I would sum he speech up as follows: In Pennsylvania they have 90,000 people under some form of state or county supervision (incarcerated on on parole) and they need to find ways to save money.  By changing some of the thresholds by which and individual is sent into the state system and giving some money to the counties to do diversion programs the state will save money...  He never did give any indication as to what this Governor's philosophy of corrections is.

I believe that the fundamental question that needs to be answered before we tinker with budgets or change laws is: What is the purpose of any "correctional" system?  Is it to repair harm and restore communities or is it to punish those who have broken a law that the community has created?  If the former, you focus on people and problems.  If the latter you focus on less on the people and the problems those people face and more on laws and sentences and building more prison spaces!  Unfortunately, I see Canada and our present regime moving more and more toward the latter... and the surprising thing is that those in whose footsteps we are following are now seeing the folly of their ways and are making changes... based on fiscal realities... the wrong reasons... but making changes nonetheless.

Many communities in Canada have been engaging in restorative practices for the right reasons... Circles of Support and Accountability, Adult Diversion Programs, Sentencing Circles, Victim Offender Mediation, Youth Diversion Program, Community Justice Forums... and the list goes on... for the right reasons - focusing on the needs of individuals and communities!

Sadly, in an attempt garner votes by appealing to peoples' fear the government of the day has us moving toward a place that Pennsylvania and many states already find themselves in - prison rich and cash poor!

On the Sabbath Road...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Hummingbird in the Window of My Mind...

It's amazing what watching a hummingbird can make you think of!  Yesterday at the base of Mt. Washington as I waited for the wind to subside at the summit so I could make the trek to the top I watched a hummingbird hover at the feeder.  It was blowing 40 MPH outside the window and yet this little bird hover there and fed at the feeder - and - we on our mechanical horses could not be allowed to venture up the hill for fear of our safety.

One of the group of Canadian riders with whom I was sitting said, "Whatever happened to 'Live Free or Die'"  His comment drew laughter from others around the table.  As I think about that experience now, I think - he was free to walk up, free to don his boots and hike the five miles to the summit - but like me he was too attached to his motorcycle and the idea of riding to the summit.

Leaving stuff behind is one of the things that I enjoy about riding the motorcycle.  Three little bags, everything has a place and that's just where it belongs.

Last evening, after supper at the restaurant next door and a drive to the Big Belly Deli (yes, that is the name of the place!!) I had a chance to meet my neighbours Richard and Gloria.  They had just sold their house (after two years on the market) and are in the process of moving to Syracuse, NY to be closer to family.  Richard still works and Gloria is retired - get this - from a position as a clerk in a woman's correctional facility!  So many coincidences!

We talked about stuff last night as she smoked her cigarette and I enjoyed a beer.  It was almost like I was holding confession for her.  She talked of the three story century old home filled with antiques that she and her husband had just sold.  She spoke of all the stuff that they found as they packed things up.  "I have a whole garbage bag of body wash" she said, "what do I do with a whole garbage bag of body wash?"  I wanted to tell her that I was running a little short... but I thought better of it!

She then asked me how long I was gone for and what I carried on the motorcycle.  I went over my inventory and she was amazed!  "I would need a trailer!"  I am afraid a trailer would slow me down and hinder the experience of freedom - from the stuff!  I wish you luck Gloria as you figure out what to do with your body wash in the one bedroom apartment that you are moving to!  Enjoy your retirement and spending time with your grandchildren!!

Speaking of trailers that was a sight that annoyed me again and again yesterday!  There were a lot of bikes on the roads.  Harley's outnumbered everything else 20:1.  And for every 10 Harley's I saw being driven, I saw 2 on trailers being towed someplace!  With one person driving the truck!!
Now I can understand if you are going on vacation with your family and want to tow your bike along to go for a ride... but come on!  A nice Harley Road King strapped on a trailer being towed to a Bike Rally!  There is something wrong with that picture!!

Speaking of stuff... it 7AM here, I've been up for an hour and sure wish I had some instant coffee to make in the JetBoil that I brought along!!!

This morning its off to Scranton via the back roads.  The southern most point may be eliminated depending on the time of day and today's reflection on stuff - it is the local outlet mall!!!  I like to look!!  HAHAHAHA

All said and told I should arrive at the University sometime after 1PM.  As per the schedule, registration begins at 3PM - I should have lots of time!

Well, thats it for the morning!  Justin, if you are reading this I hope you have a good day in Fredericton with your friends and you enjoy your first "long" trip in your car!  Zack, I am sure you are busy at work with Lucy...?  Have fun!  Laugh often!  And Anna, whatever is filling you day, make sure you take time to stop and play with the kitten!!

On the Sabbath Road...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On the road and writing again...

I don't know what it is with me... but after riding for a day, when I get up the next morning I have an urge to write - to put some of the sights, sounds and experiences to paper (Not really paper!  I haven't written more than a To Do List on paper in a long time!!)

Yesterday I covered a lot of miles, saw some rain and a little bit of sunshine - only stopping to fill the bike three times, and my belly once.  You see I had a deadline of sorts.  My host had invited me to an "open supper" at Serenity Steps.

As I found out later, Serenity Steps is a Drop In Centre and Peer Support Network for folk living with mental illness.  Over a meal of tuna rolls, macaroni salad and chicken noodle soup I got to meet some of the clients that my host Lynn had worked with.  Funded minimally by the state, Serenity Steps reaches out to a clientele in the Berlin area - many of whom would not access traditional mental health services. 

I shared dinner with Lynn and Ellen and another man who's name escapes me at the moment.  Ellen, one of the staff members told me about the programs that the Centre offers and how important a role it plays in peoples lives.  We talked about labels and how folk with mental illness are stigmatized - and although not polite dinner conversation, we talk politics and Ellen admitted that each time she cast a vote she was voting to evict the current crooks and welcome the new crooks into office.

As Lynn and Ellen were cleaning up and having a smoke, Larry sat with me and we had a far ranging conversation.  I learned that he has a sister who is a retired teacher living in Bathurst, NB with her husband.   We talked about Church.  Larry now goes to the Episcopal Church here in Berlin and is exploring alternative spiritualities.  Richard Rohr is an author and spiritual guide we know in common.  Larry then told me about the new Federal Prison that is set to open in Berlin, NH (link).  I had driven straight into another example of the prison industrial complex!

Larry spoke of how hopeful many people were that the new prison would revive the fortunes of the town.  In fact as I found out later, there are a lot of people pinning their hopes on the prison to bring Berlin, NH back to life... listen to an interview on NPR here.

"Correctional officials see danger in prison overcrowding. Others see opportunity." so begins an article in the Atlantic Magazine.  I dare say that the hopes and dreams that Springhill, NS had in the new prison reviving its fortunes back in 1960 have not panned out.  Most staff live outside of Springhill, the roads leading to the prison are barely fit to drive on, and Springhill has one of the highest property taxation rates in Nova Scotia... the prison is expanding...

Upon arriving back at the house I set to uploading some pictures and planning for tomorrow's ride.  After talking with Justin for a bit I saw that one of the CAPE students was on Facebook so I wrote to ask how things were.  "The prison is locked down."

I won't go into details, but I am sad for the men that their family social may be in jeopardy - one of two occasions a year when family members come in for a picnic and social time... in jeopardy because of the actions of a few.  And I am sadden for one inmate in particular who was due to have a weekend visit with his brother.  His brother makes the trip (a long and expensive one) once a year to come and see him - and as far as I know was likely in transit when the situation changed and there would have been no way of get a hold of him...  

As I pondered this situation my thoughts turned to the Conference I will be attending on Sunday - there was a little clip on the news and here is a newspaper story from yesterday.  I am looking forward to hearing the story of Kirk Bloodsworth, of the Witness to Innocence Project. A former Marine, Mr. Bloodsworth served nine years in prison, including two years on death row, for first-degree murder and rape before he was exonerated by DNA testing in 1993. His was the first capital conviction overturned in the United States based on DNA evidence.

And then... I began to think about how I would get there - from here.  There is a wonderful resource called  It loads a map, and you look for squiggly lines near where you are and where you want to go.  If you click on one of those lines you can read other people's reviews of the road... and then you go!

Based on all the squiggly lines I saw, I determined that I could touch the most of them by going from here (Berlin, NH) to to Conway and onto Concord, NH and then west to Bennington, south along the border of Massachusetts to Hilldale, NY and then west to Catskill, NY.  The GPS says it is 509KM and that it will take 7 hours... we'll see.  I am in no rush.  The Conference stats Sunday evening and a leisurely drive into Scranton on Sunday may be just what the doctor ordered!

In closing, I continued to be awed and humbled by the people that travelling puts me in touch with - the vulnerability that the open road calls one to, allows for the opportunity of transformation of self, others and the very world that we live in.  In meeting others, such as the folk I met at Serenity Steps last evening I am reminded yet again that we are, "more alike than we are different" and we are all connected.  In experiencing the hospitality of my host and hearing the story of her and her husband meeting and travelling I keep coming back to those words of Martin Buber, "All real living is meeting."  Amen.

On the Sabbath Road...