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Features from New Orleans
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Baruch's Blog from New Orleans
by Baruch / photos by Starhawk
Monday 2 January 2006
A small group of clinic staff and neighbors just blessed the new clinic space. It was serendipitous and sweet. The clinic opens at 10 this morning for the first time in the new space across the street from the Mosque.
New year's eve was stressful for me personally, and whacky as all get out in New Orleans on this part of the west bank. It was as surreal as anything I've experienced. I'd spent the afternoon relaxing alone in a friend's apartment; doing laundry, showering, napping, emptying out my brain of thoughts. It was great.
The evening was foggy as it often is on New Year's Eve in New Orleans. I went with friends, and Lasky, up onto the levee to watch fireworks and hang out. Lasky had a really hard time with the fireworks and took off running at around 9 pm. She was there one moment, then gone, in a flash. So we all went looking for her. At around 10:30 it seemed clear that she was probably hunkering down somewhere and would come out when the noises stopped.
The noises. I must have heard hundreds of thousands of explosions on new year's eve. I walked and drove through most of the streets in Algiers Point and the adjacent part of Algiers and everywhere there were people in the street setting off fireworks. These were rockets and m-80's, and sparkly things and LOUD things, lots of loud things. There was thick fog, tons of smoke from the explosives, loud noises, bright lights, people on their porches or in the street...no wonder Lasky went off and hid! It was like a Fellini war zone movie.
At around 12:30 we went out looking for Lasky again but didn't find her, so I went back to the camper to try to sleep for a little while. At 3:30 the cell phone rang. Lasky had showed up at the friend's apartment, barking to be let in. I went and fetched her right away.
New Year's day was my day to hit the wall. I'd held it together with the missing dog, but by the time I was into the clinic meeting (in mid move to the new location across the street) one could see that this was a typical scene of well intentioned human chaos, but I had no patience left so I hit the wall, splat, and spent the rest of the day in a friend's back yard thinking about what I'm doing here, how it's going, what is and is not working, what changes I might need to make. I came up with a few things.
1. I will benefit greatly (and so will the critters) from some time in a quiet wooded place. That can happen next weekend or the weekend after.
2. It would be sustainable if I were not the only mental health practitioner who's on call 24/7. For this one I need to find a local mental health practitioner to share the position with.
3. Along the lines of #2, it will be healthier and more sustainable if there are other people working with me on the overview of mental health programming since I have never done this before, and I can't be putting out individual fires and working on programs development at the same time.
4. I retired from being a therapist, and yet here I am doing this. What do I really want to be doing, where and with who?
Thursday 5 January 2006
I'm camped a bit west of Baton Rouge at the edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp, about 50 feet from the Atchafalaya River. A friend of a friend "owns" this land. There are a few electric lights across the river, and a dirt road with the occasional vehicle, and some air traffic, but it's relatively quiet compared to New Orleans.
The first thing I did once the camper was all set up, around 2 pm, was to go to sleep. I've got the crud; sinus, coughing, low energy. I'm really tired, and glad to have some quiet time. I'm dosing myself with every vitamin and herb that seems appropriate, as well as a lot of pro-biotic. I'm sure with some rest I'll be fine. I go back to NOLA on saturday morning, so I have tomorrow to rest.
I was exposed to black mold spores (which is the reason for taking the pro-biotic) in the lower ninth ward the other day when I was driving around looking for a woman who'd been reported to me as having just seen her house (flattened) and was "catatonic." I never found her but I felt sick after being there. Exposure to the mold is guaranteed if you go to the lower Ninth Ward because it's in the air. There was some blood in my nose today, just a little. I had minor exposure. There are people staying in their houses down there, some of the few left standing. They're heavily exposed to this stuff. There are people gutting houses wearing tyvek suits with respirators, very sci-fi. They're working their asses off, it's hot, and there's the emotional impact of the backfrop, this ruined place where people used to live.
The last week has been really hectic what with the clinic moving and all the clinical flow changing, as well as intensified emotional tone relative to the holidays and the ongoing disaster in NOLA. As more people return to see what happened to their homes they become more traumatized, so there are waves of newly retraumatized people coming to the clinic.
My speculation as to how the feds got the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana to stop blaming the feds after Katrina, is this. Louisiana announced in November that they'd be the next state to receive the new electronic voting machines, the kind Bush used to steal the 2004 election. I figure the feds promised Blanco and Nagin that they'd be re-elected a la those machines if they'd stop making public statements about the deliberate failure of the feds to respond to Katrina and Rita with credible effective disaster relief. Louisiana politics are so historically corrupt that this is pretty much maintaining the status quo. Sick, eh?
I'm hoping that a good night's sleep will make me feel better, and that tomorrow I'll actually be able to relax.
Sunday 8 January 2006
The restful weekend has been good, although the afternoon after I wrote my last entry there were gunshots in the woods where wer were camped, which was unsettling and put Lasky and me both on edge for a while. There were more the next morning, but the plan was to leave then anyway. I came back to NOLA, had some more down time doing laundry and relaxing. Over this weekend I have managed to read a book...first one in a while. That felt good. I've also been sleeping alot, dreaming a lot, and engaged in ceremony last night, out of which came some very clear specific teachings. They are definitely things for me to work with, but they may be helpful to others so I am sharing them here.
I made offering of tobacco smoke to the six directions, and at each turn there was a clear instruction in my mind. The north said...listen more than you speak. The east said...hear what people are really saying. The south said...transform your attitudes which do not work. The west said...flow more. Skyward said...remember where you come from. Earthward said...remember what you're made of.
I am seeing more clearly my path here in New Orleans. I see that I have specific tasks which I am working on, which I intend to have ready to hand off completely by mid April. Once it gets hot here Lasky won't be able to handle it, so we'll need to go. By then I want to have the following accomplished.
Local counselors for: algiers clinic, women's center, Ninth Ward clinic, halfway house,on call rotation, supervision,interns
Belleville house: repairs, garden:
I may not be able to get all these projects to the point I'd like, but I do think it's reasonable (even in this environment) to get these things well enough underway that they'll sustain beyond my being here.
I imagine I'll come back when the hot weather abates, but I have no idea what the rest of 2006 holds for me. I know it's important for me and for the animals to be in the wilderness for a substantial part of the summer.
Friday 13 January 2006
There's a pile of debris burning in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. It started last night sometime and has been allowed to keep burning all day. Was it set? What is it spewing into the already polluted air of New Orleans? Does anyone in the city government give a rat's ass?
I just ate my first meal of the day. This was supposed to be a day off. Instead, I met with a local grad school professor about having counseling interns at 2 of the 3 sites I'm working on. I also did a home visit with a man in the 9th ward, checked up on a man I've been doing some case management with, and am now doing laundry.
Bush was in New Orleans yesterday, brokering some more deals for the wealthy. I'd like to see him turned loose with nothing but some jeans and a t shirt in any city in the US and see how he fares. There's a reality TV show for ya!
I feel pretty wiped out, but am heartened to know that I am making progress towards the goals I set, which will allow me to leave in late April leaving a functional mental health team at the clinic and satellites. I need mountains, woods, quiet, to drink water coming from the earth instead of a plastic bottle. I need to sleep until I'm done, for days and days in a row.
Sunday 22 January 2006
It's been foggy here in New Orleans for the last couple of days, just adding to the surreal quality of life here.
My mind is full with stories, sights, sounds. My heart is full. Sadness and rage are what I feel. Sadness at the suffering which is everywhere, and rage at the injustice, the greed, the selfishness and lack of caring that is so prevalent in our species.
Self preservation is kicking in. It's time for a break... at least a week or two to let things settle a bit within me. Then I'll be clearer about what comes next, whether a return to NOLA or somewhere else.
Try as I may to find more to say, there isn't more. Just please, readers, remember what's going on in New Orleans, and learn what you can so when it happens near you, you'll be at least somewhat prepared.
-- by Baruch
How You Can Help
Donations are urgently needed for all aspects of the rebuilding effort. You can donate directly to Reclaiming folks working in New Orleans via PayPal by clicking this link:
Donate to the Pagan Cluster's New Orleans work.
If you want to support a local New Orleans grassroots group with whom Reclaiming is working, you can donate to Common Ground at their website: www.commongroundrelief.org
For more information
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Photos by Arizona Indy Media, arizona.indymedia.org. Please do not copy, reproduce, fold, spindle, mutilate, or otherwise use them without contacting them. Thanks!