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 www.motorcycleroads.com.  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...

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